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cited in Tennant 1996) highlights, there is a need to take account of differences in cognitive and communication styles that are culturally-based. Here we need to attend to different models of selfhood - and the extent to which these may differ from the 'western' assumptions that underpin the Kolb and Fry model.
The idea of stages or steps does not sit well with the reality of thinking. There is a problem here - that of sequence. As Dewey (1933) has said in relation to reflection a number of processes can occur at once, stages can be jumped. This way of presenting things is rather too neat and is simplistic - see reflection.
Empirical support for the model is weak (Jarvis 1987; Tennant 1997). The initial research base was small, and there have only been a limited number of studies that have sought to test or explore the model (such as Jarvis 1987). Furthermore, the learning style inventory 'has no capacity to measure the degree of integration of learning styles' (Tennant 1997: 92).
The relationship of learning processes to knowledge is problematic. As Jarvis (1987) again points out, David Kolb is able to show that learning and knowledge are intimately related. However, two problems arise here. David Kolb doesn't really explore the nature of knowledge in any depth. In chapter five of Experiential Learning he discusses the structure of knowledge from what is basically a social psychology perspective. He doesn't really connect with the rich and varied debates about the nature of knowledge that raged over the centuries within philosophy and social theory. This means that I do not think he really grasps different ways of knowing. For example, Kolb focuses on processes in the individual mind, rather than seeing learning as situated. Second, for David Kolb, learning is concerned with the production of knowledge. 'Knowledge results from the combination of grasping experience and transforming it' (Kolb 1984: 41). Here we might contrast this position with Paulo Freire. His focus is upon informed, committed action (praxis).
Given these problems we have to take some care approaching David Kolb's vision of experiential learning. However, as Tennant (1997: 92) points out, 'the model provides an excellent framework for planning teaching and learning activities and it can be usefully employed as a guide for understanding learning difficulties, vocational counselling, academic advising and so on'.