Kolb learning theory combines what a learner experiences and later perceives, it also encompasses a learner’s anticipated actions and behavior. Kolb learning theory can be applied to George Orwell’s autobiographical essay “Shooting the elephant.” According to Kolb (1984), learning is a process where change of experience creates knowledge. These involves coming up with a viable experience, followed by making observations and an expression. The learner forms theoretical concepts that are used to test an emerging situation. Thus, Kolb referred to his theory as an experiential learning that forms a major part of the learning process (Kolb 1984). Kolb’s four stage learning cycle demonstrates how an occurrence can be changed through expression into new concepts, which are used to guide active experimentation, as well as, choice of new experiences. According to Kolb (1999) the first stage requires a learner to become active when experiencing an action. The second stage, a learner knowingly reflects back on the occurrence. The third stage requires a learner to conceptualize a theory of occurrences observed. Finally, the fourth stage requires a learner to make plans of testing a model or theory or make plans for an anticipated occurrence (Kolb, 1984).
Kolb learning theory can be used to analyze George Orwell’s 1931 autobiographical essay “Shooting an elephant.” Orwell based his essay on the experiences he had as a police officer during the colonial period in Burma (Orwell, 2009). He portrays his message with multiple persuasive tools such as irony, metaphors, and symbolism. According to Orwell, he is completely in opposition to the British who were oppressors. Even though he is a British officer at the time in Burma, he hates the empire and the Burmese population. In the essay, Orwell writes about his experience with the elephant and how metaphorical the experience he had concerning imperialism and his personal views on the matter. Orwell is very harsh towards the British and the rationalization of Britain to take over Burma. This experience can be transformed into new concepts by reflection. The elephant can be perceived to symbolize freedom and the victims of imperialism. According to Orwell, he never intended to kill the elephant (Orwell, 2009).
In the second stage of Kolb’s theory, the reader perceives that the officer never intended to shoot the elephant. This makes the reader to move into the third stage of Kolb’s learning theory because, through the observation made, Orwell did not have many options on his actions since the elephant would have caused a lot of destruction to people’s property (Orwell, 2009). It was also known that it could even cause death. Orwell made the correct decision because the poor villagers never had any defense on the matter and relied upon the British government to provide assistance. The Burmese population never had any weapons and was helpless against such incidences; hence, there was nothing else to be done (Orwell, 2009). In the fourth stage of Kolb’s learning theory, the readers are not able to make plans of testing a model or theory or plan for a forthcoming experience (Kolb, 1999).
In conclusion, Kolb learning theory can be used to justify the author’s character both legally and morally by the standards of the colonial government since killing the elephant assisted in restoring and maintaining peace and order in the village. However, in his story, the author proclaims a dilemma since the reader is left to anticipate a fourth coming experience. Thus, the last stage of Kolb’s learning theory is omitted in the short autobiographical essay “Shooting the elephant” by Orwell.