Around the Theory in 80 Days (#ATTI80)

So I’ve struggled with theory. That’s no secret. But a goal for this summer is to try to get beyond my struggle. So I’m going to share my processing of theory with you.

Now, my plan is for every couple of days to take a theory, a model, a concept, etc. that I believe will help me in my work and dissect it. From today until August 12 (which is my “summer” and exactly 80 days [haha…get it?]) we’re going to get our Jules Verne on with Student Affairs Theory. Hopefully this will  help reaffirm my understanding of it but to also process the previous year and prepare for the upcoming one.

To kick it off, I started with Kolb’s Theory of Experiential Learning and their Learning Style Model. I selected this one because our office has been struggling with truly understanding the increasingly vast variety of learning styles of our students and how best to engage them and retain their engagement.

Now, a bit of history always helps for context. Kolb’s Theory was grounded from the academic point of view while they served as a faculty member at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the learning styles of their students. They first published their theory and model in 1984. And while it has “in the classroom” origins, it has been successfully applied throughout higher education, beyond the classroom.

Now, for myself, it helped to break it down to the very basic foundations. And after reading through several books and journal articles I broadly defined the styles and drew a simple picture to help me remember them.

I learn best with colors and pictures so please feel free to chuckle at my artwork


Accomodator: Gut Instinct Doer (Movie Clapboard)

Diverger: Big Picture/Long Term Planner (Picture)

Converger: Behind the Scenes Worker (Prescription Logo)

Assimilator: Mapper (Treasure Map)

After doing my drawing and laying it all out, I sat back. Almost instantly, I saw the students I worked with this past year falling into learning styles. They each had varying degrees of all four styles, but also had a primary style I could link them to.

After sitting with this, I started to see where the struggle came from. My style of learning is completely Accomodator. I think if I had to pick, I’d place our entire staff into the Accomodator style, which made sense because we struggled the most with the Assimilator learning style this year. Much of our professional development, processes and training placates to the outgoing, people person, immediate action style. Many of our communication styles and teaching styles came from an Accomodator style for Accomodator styler learners. (My premise is that we teach others in ways we are familiar.) Further more, I saw the personalities of each of the students and the conversations I had with them throughout the year made more sense in how I learned about them and their interests.

Now, seeing and understanding this definitely helps me comprehend how and what we need to do in order to work better with our students, but it also helps me understand that we can’t expect them to change learnings styles.  Now, it is contested by several theorists whether or nor students can change learning styles. However, regardless, we need to do what we can to meet them and their learning style.

The primary implication for our office is to be more conscious and purposeful to balance out the workshops and activities for professional development, training, etc., between the various learning styles. Additionally, I need to be better ready, on an individual basis, to advise a student based on their style.

This may be rudimentary but it’s always nice for the reminder. And already I’m learning that sometimes its not the complexity of theories that makes them useful but their foundations and basics that truly is what helps and is useful. 

Until next time!

Peace, Love and Panda!

P.S. Does anyone know where one can get more Expo Marker colors beyond Red, Blue, Green and Black? 😀



Evans, Nancy J., et al. (2010). Chapter eight: Kolb’s theory of experiential learning. Student development in college: theory, research and practice (ed. 2, pp.136-152). San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass.

Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development (Vol. 1). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

McLeod, S. A. (2013). Kolb – Learning Styles. Retrieved from


Published by Brian

I am currently the Assistant Director of Student Life for Registered Student Organizations and Late-Night Programming at Michigan State University. After earning my B.A. from the University of Michigan-Flint, I entered the Student Affairs profession. After a few years in the field, I returned to school and earned my M.A. in Educational Leadership-Higher Education Student Affairs from Eastern Michigan University. In my spare time I blog about my thoughts and musings on current issues in higher education, student affairs, digital worlds, identity development and general life inspirations and observations. I also volunteer a lot for my fraternity and multiple regional and national professional associations.

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