Turn on the Lights of Learning with the NEW Kolb Experiential Learning Profile

Expe­ri­en­tial learn­ing is 50! Yes, it has been 50 years since David A. Kolb, then a young MIT pro­fes­sor, test­ed his the­o­ry about an ide­al process of learn­ing by inves­ti­gat­ing indi­vid­ual approach­es with the Kolb Learn­ing Style Inven­to­ry (KLSI). For half a cen­tu­ry, the KLSI has giv­en peo­ple life-chang­ing self-aware­ness of how they approach every­day life, major deci­sions, and inter­act­ing with others.

And now, to kick off the next 50 years, we’re hap­py to announce the new Kolb Expe­ri­en­tial Learn­ing Pro­file (KELP), a brand-new assess­ment that builds on the suc­cess­es of the KLSI and has the poten­tial to reach even more peo­ple with advanced, research-based insights into how we learn and how we can increase our learn­ing pow­er to trans­form our lives.

We at the Insti­tute for Expe­ri­en­tial Learn­ing are devot­ed to build­ing aware­ness of not just how we learn, but that we learn, even when we’re unaware that the learn­ing process is tak­ing place. We want to spread the word that “learn­ing” isn’t just some­thing that hap­pens in the class­room. Learn­ing is change, deci­sions, team­work, tran­si­tions, chal­lenges, break­ing bad habits and set­ting new ones. Learn­ing is living.

As chil­dren, we are taught the con­tent of the 3 R’s - read­ing, ’rit­ing, and ‘rith­metic - but pay lit­tle atten­tion to how we learn them. Like a fish that is the last to know he is swim­ming in water, we lead our lives using an under­ly­ing mys­te­ri­ous, implic­it process or oper­at­ing sys­tem of learn­ing of which we are often obliv­i­ous. Why so mys­te­ri­ous? Because unlike the explic­it, inten­tion­al process­es that we have, our learn­ing process seems to have us. We don’t con­trol it because we’re unaware of it.  We adjust to an approach that works well enough, but what is miss­ing nev­er dawns on us.

Not so for those of us who have learned the process of expe­ri­en­tial learn­ing and have had expe­ri­en­tial learn­ing insights that impact our lives and effec­tive­ness. We know what David Kolb and his foun­da­tion­al expe­ri­en­tial learn­ing schol­ars knew: that peo­ple can man­age their own learn­ing process through a nat­ur­al, life-giv­ing process that allows them to reach their poten­tial and trans­form at any point in life.

For me, the first expe­ri­en­tial learn­ing insight was under­stand­ing that I used my intu­ition as a guide for mak­ing deci­sions. As a strength, it helped me to relate to oth­ers, empathize, and remain open to what was hap­pen­ing in the moment. Yet, as an implic­it oper­at­ing sys­tem, it lim­it­ed my effec­tive­ness. Using the expe­ri­en­tial learn­ing process, I now make the choice to lis­ten to my intu­ition and step back from an imme­di­ate sit­u­a­tion to draw my own con­clu­sions.  I can also observe the mag­net­ic pull to drift into my com­fort zone, and inten­tion­al­ly mon­i­tor how I choose to respond. Every day I have new insights that help me to be more effec­tive or fig­ure out why I am not. Every day, I can become better.

Lar­ry, a retired sales exec­u­tive, dis­cov­ered that, even though he had spent his life in roles that required quick action and per­for­mance-dri­ven results, he pre­ferred tak­ing his time to ana­lyze and plan. As a man­ag­er, this made him the per­fect bal­ance for the dri­ven sales­peo­ple who might oth­er­wise be unchecked with­out a strat­e­gy.  How­ev­er, as a new retiree, it sim­ply kept him stuck. His expe­ri­en­tial learn­ing insight was to take quick­er, small actions to try new things and pay atten­tion to his inter­ests, as he finds his next “career.”

Upon dis­cov­er­ing her pen­chant for seiz­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties quick­ly, Jas­mine real­ized that she auto­mat­i­cal­ly said “yes” to sit­u­a­tions that lat­er made her remorse­ful or even put her at risk. Her expe­ri­en­tial learn­ing insight was to pause and reflect before mak­ing deci­sions.  Damp­en­ing her auto­mat­ic response allowed her to make dif­fer­ent choic­es that were life-altering.

Jing, a col­lege dean, loved to take her time to cau­tious­ly watch and lis­ten before mak­ing choic­es. Her expe­ri­en­tial learn­ing insight was that her ten­den­cy to be care­ful had turned into a per­fec­tion­ism that caused her to miss oppor­tu­ni­ties. To sat­is­fy her need to not make large mis­takes, she began to view sit­u­a­tions as pilot projects that could be adapt­ed once she got some feed­back from the environment.

Raoul, an attor­ney, who was high­ly skilled at using evi­dence to make log­i­cal deci­sions, was intro­duced to the KLSI through a lead­er­ship devel­op­ment pro­gram at his firm.  His pref­er­ence was a per­fect fit for the prac­tice of law; not so much for man­ag­ing peo­ple.  His expe­ri­en­tial learn­ing insight was to learn as much about the peo­ple on his team as he knew about the evi­dence in the cas­es he defended.

Many oth­ers have had life-chang­ing expe­ri­en­tial learn­ing insights, too. For many peo­ple, when they dis­cov­er expe­ri­en­tial learn­ing at just the right time, the lights go on! Whether you are new to expe­ri­en­tial learn­ing or you cur­rent­ly use it in your work and life, we hope you’ll check out the new Kolb Expe­ri­en­tial Learn­ing Pro­file (KELP).  The KELP rep­re­sents a refo­cus­ing of the instru­ment of expe­ri­en­tial learn­ing and the learn­ing cycle process as opposed to a sin­gle focus on the learn­ing styles.

The new sam­ple report pro­vides a look at how you use the expe­ri­en­tial learn­ing cycle, your pre­ferred style, and your flex to use oth­er styles, too.  Con­sid­er this your new guide to life­long devel­op­ment and the key to build­ing self-aware­ness every day of your life. So even if you have not yet reached that “cer­tain age” of 50, it is time to stop liv­ing in unaware­ness.  Turn on the lights to remove your own blind spots and implic­it bias­es of your approach by tak­ing the Kolb Expe­ri­en­tial Learn­ing Pro­file. Thank you, Alice and David Kolb, for con­tin­u­ing to improve over the past 50 years, and for help­ing us to become bet­ter, too!

~ ~ ~

Kay Peter­son is founder and CEO of The Insti­tute for Expe­ri­en­tial Learn­ing. To learn more about the insti­tute and her work, vis­it https://www.experientiallearninginstitute.org/.