Biography of Psychologist David Kolb

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David Kolb is a psychologist and educational theorist who is perhaps best known for his theory of experiential learning. In addition to developing a theory that outlined how experiential learning takes place, Kolb is also known for his learning style inventory that remains quite popular among educators today. His main contributions to the field of psychology include:

Brief Biography of David Kolb

David Kolb was born in 1939. He earned his undergraduate degree in 1961 from Knox College. He then went on to earn his Ph.D. in social psychology from Harvard University.

Today, he is Emeritus Professor of Organizational Behavior in the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University.


Kolb is an American psychologist and educational theorist. He is perhaps best known for his research on experiential learning and learning styles.

According to Kolb, experiential learning is a process by which knowledge results from different combinations of grasping and transforming experiences. We can grasp experience two different ways; through concrete experience and abstract conceptualization. People can then transform experience in two ways; through reflective observation or active experimentation. This process is often portrayed as a cycle.

Kolb's theory of experiential learning also serves as the basis for his four learning styles. Each of the four learning styles is characterized by strengths in two of the four major steps of the learning cycle.

  • People with a converging learning style prefer to learning through abstract conceptualization and active experimentation.
  • Those with a diverging learning style prefer concrete experience and reflective observation.
  • The assimilating style is associated with abstract conceptualization and reflective observation.
  • The accommodating learning style is linked to concrete experience and active experimentation.

While learning styles remain a fairly controversial and oft-debated area within psychology and education, Kolb's theory has emerged as one of the most popular and widely used.

Selected Publications

  • Kolb, A. Y., Kolb, D. A. (2011). Kolb Learning Style Inventory 4.0 Boston MA: Hay Group.
  • Kolb, A. Y., Kolb, D. A. (2010). Learning to Play, Playing to Learn: A Case Study of a Ludic Learning Space (1 ed., vol. 23, pp. 26-50). Journal of Organizational Change Management.
  • Kolb, A. Y., Kolb, D. A. (2009). In Armstrong, S. J. & Fukami, C. (Ed.), Experiential Learning Theory: A Dynamic, Holistic Approach to Management Learning, Education and Development (pp. 50). London: Sage Publications Handbook of Management Learning, Education and Development.
  • Kolb, D. A., Boyatzis, R. E., & Mainemelis, C. (2000). Experiential Learning Theory: Previous Research and New Directions. Perspectives on Cognitive, Learning, and Thinking Styles. Sternberg & Zhang (Eds.). NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
  • Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.
1 Source
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  1. Kolb, A. Y., Kolb, D. A. Kolb Learning Style Inventory 4.0. Boston: Hay Group; 2011.

Additional Reading

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd
Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."