Using Kolb’s learning styles to improve a lesson

In my little part of the world, there has been a lot of conversation on how to improve instruction. Recently, I learned about Kolb’s learning styles and I felt they are a great tool to help learners grasp what you are presenting.

One night in a class on adult learning theories, we were introduced to David Kolb’s learning styles. Dr. Day explained the learning styles and how they could be used to organize a lesson. He used a ski lesson as an example for how he incorporated the learning styles. We were then asked to take one of our lessons and apply Kolb’s learning styles to create a new lesson. Before I discuss how I applied them to an upcoming lesson, I will first explain my understanding of the learning styles.

Kolb asserts in his learning theory that learners have a preference for learning. These preferences sit on two continuums,  perception and processing. On the perception continuum, it varies from thinking to feeling, and on the processing continuum, it varies from doing to watching. Here is a diagram to show the relationship.  Kolb believes that people tend to gravitate to one or more styles compared to others. However, in a lesson where all styles are used, learners will benefit throughout the lesson.  Using the diagram as a reference, Kolb incorporates a four-stage cycle of learning model where the instructor would start at the top of the diagram and rotate clockwise through the diagram so all four different learning styles are implemented. Eventually a learning style favorable to the learner would be used.

Starting at the top, learners would discuss an feeling or reaction to the topic being presented so that they could tie their experiences to the instruction topic.  This would relate to the feeling learning style. During the watching learning style, the instructor would explain the principle and students would observe and reflect on what is being presented. Moving on to the thinking learning style, learners would use what they learned to solve problems and answer questions. Finally, in the doing learning style, learners would apply what they have learned in a hands-on application.

Here is how I am applying Kolb’s learning theory into an upcoming lesson.

Next week, I will be giving a Webinar on Criterion Objectives. This is part of a series I am preparing for extension educators. If history is any reflection, I expect to have 10-20 participants.

1. Feeling – At the beginning of the lesson, I want the participants to provide examples of instruction where the objective was not clear or missing. Additionally, I want them to point out why this has been a problem. They will do this in the chat window of the Webinar tool. In this case, I am using Elluminate.

Sections two and three will be repeated for each part of the criterion objective – performance, conditions, and criteria.

2. Watching – In this section, I will introduce each part of the criterion objective as well as provide acceptable examples.

3. Thinking – In this section, I will check learner understanding by display examples of each part of the criterion objective with at least two items per display. The participants will be given an opportunity to select the correct response. If there are differing answers, we will discuss them.

4. Doing – Finally, after learning about each piece of the criterion objective, participants will have an opportunity to write an objective in the chat window. Asking for volunteers, we will then critique on the whiteboard.

I will also be weaving in strategies from Wlodkowski, however, this task was to focus on Kolb.

Is there anyone out there using Kolb’s learning theory? Since I am just becoming familiar with his theory, I would like to see more examples of this in practice.

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