Essay: Learning theories – Kolb, Greenway etc

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  • Learning theories - Kolb, Greenway etc
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The continual demand for the learning of information will always be present. The arrival of new discoveries presented only shows we have yet started the journey of learning. From the early child learner through the adult learner, each requiring their dynamics to understand. The teacher to be effective will after study and experience come to understand what works and works best for their approach to teaching and the venue which the student group learns. Contained in all dynamics of the teaching and learning process contains three basic elements: Why do I want to learn? What do I need to learn? What will I do with what I have learned? The understanding of the learning process is reaching a destination and venturing on from there over a life’s journey process.

A healthy recognition of the total realm of learning developed toward the final portion of the learning journey will deeply assist both the teacher and student, equally. All learning age groups are distinct on the type of journey which will be taken to reach the application part of the journey. Teachers and instructors would be wise to understand the grouping of the learners to serve better and assist them. The adult learner is no exception to the value of understanding just how they learn. A process presented by David Kolb is termed Experiential Learning and explained in his book; ‘Experiential Learning: Experience As The Source Of Learning And Development 2nd Edition (Kolb, 2015). He develops learning as a continuous cycle based and formulated by the various experiences the learner encounters or has encountered. In his Introduction to the book, as he revisits his development of this style of learning, he describes Experiential Learning as a particular form of learning from life’s experiences; often contrasted with lecture and classroom learning. (Kolb, 2015, p. xvii Introduction). By developing this application style of learning, theorized with the adult learners having more life experiences above a child learner, the adult learner has the capability to learn more broadly due to more experiences.

Upon study of the summarization diagram, seen below as presented by (Batista, 2007) he relates three major concluding applications of personal theories of the experiential learning style. Parallels will be seen between Kolb’s Experiential Learning to that of Roger Greenway’s Active Learning Cycle and Chris Argyris and David Schoon’s Works on Theories of Action (Batista, 2007). Each scholar’s labeling for the stages of learning presents an unending cycle. Each part built up the prior then built upon by the next element. For the adult to learn, and to continue to learn an inscribed plan followed, not by a classroom only setting, but with the including of experiences of prior events and times of life. Expressing both classroom and experiences complement and complete each other. However; a question develops when will the student fully know they have arrived at the knowledge destination for which they are studying?

By relating Roger Greenway’s study dealing with management learning and development, we can conclude when a group of learners is assembled and presented with the same information; one can only expect different conclusions and application to be presented (Greenway, 1995). Herein lies a beauty of adult learning on a higher education format. The instructor or facilitator of the class group introduces a topic for discussion and review. Once a theory or nugget of information presented, all members will contribute to discussion based on their past experiences resulting all members of the classroom applying the collection of information to the solving of a problem based upon their personal experiences. The understanding is a unified singular subject presented with the same equality of opportunity for the adult learners to interact made available. However; once again the question develops when will the student fully know they have arrived at the knowledge destination for which they are studying?

Listed we find Malcolm Knowles’ Five Assumptions of Adult Learners. Early in the teaching of Knowles, he used only four assumptions, but in 1984 he added the fifth assumption.

1. Self-Concept: A person matures moving from being dependent toward being more self-directed.

2. Adult Learner Experience: Everyone accumulates a well full of experiences which serve as a springboard for future learning.

3. Readiness to Learn: Life moves forward, and a person needs to adapt accordingly with a recognized need to do so.

4. Orientation to Learning: life changes, with the change, comes matured perspective the need for a person to shift their learning or even postpone learning of a current subject in favor of another.

5. Motivation to Learn: As a person matures, the motivation to learn is internal (Pappas, 2013)

Knowles would use a term arrived for the ancient Greek language, andragogy when defined runs along a side of the common term, Adult Learners.

With the study and application of group learning, G.W. Icenogle writes, In The Modern Practice of Adult Education, Malcolm Knowles, building on Maslow’s “hierarchy of human needs,” declared that the mission of adult education is to help individuals “achieve complete self-identity through the development of their full potentialities … Self-development is a universal human need … an ultimate need of individuals is to mature.” Knowles has defined the chief movement of maturity as growth from dependence to autonomy (Icenogle, 1993).

Though I relate to what Kolb shares in his research, I find myself relating deeper with Knowles’ assumptions. Kolb’s theory shows a continuous cycle of evaluation in the whole process of learning, strongly influenced by personal and outside experiences. As I view the theory of Kolb’s and his contemporary writers as shown earlier, I conclude the high probability of no resulted answer to be fully correct. The instructor presents the direction, allows experiential input, the instructor assimilates the input and tells the class what is to be correct.

Whereas evaluating Knowles’ approach, especially his assumption number three and four. Life is constantly moving forward. The demand for new information must be attained and used. The adult learner must stop in their life’s journey, readjust their direction of travel (learning and application) so equipped for the event requiring their attention. Rather it is for joy and pleasure, personal educational achievement, or vocational skill. I see the reality of the answering my initial three elements of adult learning: Why do I want to learn? What do I need to learn? What will I do with what I have learned? Instead of a cycle ever to be repeated, a roadway is developed leading to a final destination of acquired knowledge. The student whereas instructed the destination to arrive, and now the student is responsible for finding the path for the journey to arrive at the appropriate destination.


Batista, E. (2007, Oct 21). Ed Batista, Executive Coaching. Retrieved from Ed Batista:

Greenway, R. (1995, Dec). Powerful Learning Experiences. Retrieved from Your Guide to Active Reviewing:

Icenogle, G. W. (1993). Biblical Foundations for Small Group Ministry: An Integrative Approach. Downers Grove, Il, USA: InterVarsity Press.

Kolb, D. (2015). Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education, Inc.

Pappas, C. (2013, May 9). The Adult Learning Theory – Androgapy – of Malcolm Knowles. Retrieved from eLearning Industry:

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