Separating Level, Style & Process

– S. De Ciantis and M.J. Kirton.

The study examines Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory through a psychometric analysis and revision of Honey & Mumford’s Learning Style Questionnaire (LSQ), using a sample n = 185 of middle/senior managers in the UK and Ireland .

Summary of Findings:

The learning cycle construct underlying Kolb’s theoretical model consists of two bipolar scales in orthogonal relationship (zero correlation). There have been difficulties reported in the literature with Kolb’s measures resulting in psychometric improvements suggested by other scholars, e.g., Honey & Mumford. The first bipolar dimension in Honey and Mumford’s terms is Active-Reflective, corresponds descriptively with Kolb’s Concrete Experience (CE) and Reflective Observation (RO). This Active-Reflective dimension is found to be strongly related to cognitive style, measured by KAI, and is interpreted as preferred style in the information gathering stage of the learning process.

The second bipolar dimension in Honey and Mumford terms is Theorist-Pragmatist, which corresponds to Kolb’s Abstract Conceptualisation (AC) and Active Experimentation (AE). Theorist-Pragmatist is orthogonal to Active-Reflective and thus independent of information gathering style. The Theorist-Pragmatist dimension appears particularly related to the operational (evaluation/decision-making) stage of the learning process.

The study’s factor analysis reveals, as expected, the two-factor solution, supporting Kolb’s originally implied pairs of two orthogonal bipolar dimensions, but using the pairs CE-AC and RO-AE instead of Kolb’s configurative opposites. However, a different interpretation in meaning is now offered that allows even sharper theoretical clarity by separating operant style from process and closer mutual support between measurement and theory.

It is clear now that style and process can be conceived as separate, as has been argued for style and level. Implications for facilitating management learning practice through “operational cognition” are discussed.

Editor’s Note: This work earned de Ciantis a PhD ( University of Hertfordshire )

S. De Ciantis & M. J. Kirton, UK 1993