Experiential Learning Theory: Previous Research and New Directions
David A. Kolb
Richard E. Boyatzis
Case Western Reserve University
Experiential learning theory (ELT) provides a holistic model of the learning process and a multilinear model of adult development, both of which are consistent with what we know about how people learn, grow, and develop. The theory is called experiential learning to emphasize the central role that experience plays in the learning process, an emphasis that distinguishes ELT from other learning theories. The term experiential is used therefore to differentiate ELT both from cognitive learning theories, which emphasize cognition over affect, and behavioral learning theories, which deny any role for subjective experience in the learning process.
Another reason the theory is called experiential is its intellectual origins in the experiential works of Dewey, Lewin, and Piaget. Taken together—Dewey's philosophical pragmatism, Lewin's social psychology, and Piaget's cognitive-developmental genetic epistemology—form a unique perspective on learning and development (Kolb, 1984).