A Historical Perspective
My Model

When analyzing the historical record, it is apparent that experiential education began with Plato. His recognition of the need to balance the body, mind, and spirit illustrated the need to involve all three in education. Nearly two thousand years after Plato, the Gestalt psychologists, Lewin, and Montessori realized that it was the role of experience to bring them all together. Experience provides people with the opportunity to gain knowledge of the body, mind, and soul. As previously mentioned, Kolb is often considered one of the pioneers in experiential learning. However, his theories and our present day understanding of the subject wouldn’t be possible without Plato, Gestalt Psychologists, Lewin and Montessori. While David Kolb present that experiential learning involves learners in feeling, observing, watching and performing Plato, Gestalt, Lewin and Montessori presented Kolb’s claims through the symbiotic relationship between the body, mind, and spirit. Hence, it is critical to draw the point to the fact that while Kolb’s name is most often associated with experiential learning, perhaps too much of the credit for experiential learning is endowed on Kolb rather than the true pioneers Plato, Gestalt, Lewin, and Montessori.

Hence, building a time machine model that incorporates Plato, Gestalt Psychologists, Lewin and Montessori to provide context into Kolb’s model of the experiential learning cycle is missing from the ledger when it comes to recognizing others besides Kolb for developing our understanding of experiential learning. The following two graphics serve as visual models for today’s understanding of experiential education. Plato’s three parts of the human enter the funnel. Once inside the funnel, the gestalts psychologists, Kurt Lewin, and Maria Montessori shape Plato’s original idea into new framework in which the body, mind, and soul operate as one entity. Kolb’s model is generated from this.

This time line model reinforces the AEE definition of experiential learning on several levels. Recall that the AEE defines experiential education as "...a philosophy and methodology in which educators purposefully engage with learners in direct experience and focused reflection in order to increase knowledge, develop skills and clarify values." Plato’s belief that knowledge is innate, and methodology that aims for learners to gain both "direct experience" and "focused reflection" certainly contributed to the AEE definition. The Gestalt psychologists through direct experiences of their own shaped Plato’s beliefs and clarified values. By taking Plato’s view that the body, mind, and spirit sought to balance one another out, and viewing this balance as a whole process rather than three separate processes, the Gestalt psychologists used their experiences to clarify Plato’s values. Following the Gestalts psychologists, Lewin’s research on experience further reshaped the concept of experiential learning. He believed that participation in groups and interpersonal relations were reflective processes in which individuals change their values and behaviors as the result of an experience. Thus, in regards to the AEE definition, which stresses the terms "focused reflection" and "clarify values", it is clear that Lewin’s view of the importance of action is, in fact, a direct experience that results in focused reflection and the clarifying of values.
Montessori’s teaching philosophies provided students with "direct experiences" through her learn-by-doing style. Hence, these four individuals provided the framework and foundation for David Kolb’s theories, and ultimately produced the AEE definition that highlights the common themes amongst all of them: "focused reflection," "increased knowledge," "developed skills," and "clarified values." This concept can best be illustrated by a pyramid with Plato, Gestalt, Lewin, and Montessori laying the framework for Kolb. Combine, these five lay the bricks upon which the AEE definition is based.