Student Learning Styles

The work of Kolb (1984) provides us with insight into differences in student learning styles and how we can assist different learners. Kolb suggests that individuals have a preference for how they like to take in information: through abstract conceptualization or through concrete experience and then how they prefer to consolidate that new learning, either through active experimentation or through abstract reflection. Four learning styles emerge:

Kolb’s Learning Styles:

Concrete/Active Learner:

  • greatest strength is doing things
  • a risk taker
  • does well when required to react to immediate circumstances
  • solves problems intuitively

– may need encouragement to plan thoroughly and collect and analyze data

Abstract/Active Learner:

  • looks for practical solutions
  • needs to see relevance of theory to practice
  • uses factual data to build concepts; little tolerance for ‘fuzzy’ ideas

– may need encouragement to look at other perspectives on problems; to imagine the implications of uncertain situations

Concrete/Reflective Learner:

  • good at generating ideas and seeing things from different perspectives; likes to get the “big picture”
  • takes initiative to seek out answers to questions
  • learns through in depth discussion
  • interested in people and cultural perspectives

– may need encouragement to set and meet goals

Abstract/Reflective Learner:

  • excels in inductive reasoning
  • seeks facts
  • benefits from theoretical models/rationale
  • cautious in applying theory to practice; not a risk taker

– may need encouragement to experiment and to take initiative

What strategies do you find work well with different learners? Let us know


Blackmore, J. (1996). Pedagogy: Learning Styles: An introduction.

Kolb, D.(1984 . Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall Inc.