Kolb’s model is really insightful partly because it is so universal. It applies to every kind of learning, from say, a baby taking her first steps to Einstein discovering his theory of relativity.
If the new terminology of “Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle” is confusing or intimidating, don’t let it be. You know this learning cycle in your bones, because you’ve done it thousands of times. Don’t let the names of the cycle confuse you–think through your own experience of learning something and the cycle will make sense.
Another important way to think about the learning process is to differentiate between lower and higher levels of cognitive development. This is a very important consideration for your Prior Learning portfolio, because your task is to demonstrate college-level learning.
One helpful way to approach your Prior Learning Portfolio is to think about what makes something a higher level of learning. Using that framework, you can talk about your experience in a college-level context, to make your best case that you’ve achieved the course’s Learning Outcomes. The best-known way to differentiate this is by using Bloom’s Taxonomy.
In 1956, Dr. Benjamin Bloom, an American educational psychologist who was particularly interested how people learn, chaired a committee of educators that developed and classified a set of learning objectives, which came to be known as Bloom’s taxonomy. This classification system has been updated a little since it was first developed, but it remains important for both students and teachers in helping to understand the skills and structures involved in learning.
Bloom’s taxonomy divides the cognitive domain of learning into six main learning-skill levels, or learning-skill stages, which are arranged hierarchically—moving from the simplest of functions like remembering and understanding, to more complex learning skills, like applying and analyzing, to the most complex skills—evaluating and creating. The lower levels are more straightforward and fundamental, and the higher levels are more sophisticated.
In order to demonstrate college-level learning, you will need to focus on the top four levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy: Creating, Evaluating, Analyzing, and Applying. Your portfolio will need to make clear that you have reached one or more of these skill levels in the courses you are challenging.
The following table describes the six main skill sets within the cognitive domain and gives you information on the level of learning expected for each. Read each description closely for details of what college-level work looks like in each domain. Note that the table begins with the lowest level of the taxonomy, Remembering, and works its way towards higher levels of thinking. For our portfolio, you should focus on the college-level learning cognitive domains below: Applying, Analyzing, Evaluating, and Creating.
|MAIN SKILL LEVELS WITHIN THE COGNITIVE DOMAIN||DESCRIPTION||EXAMPLES OF RELATED LEARNING SKILLS (specific actions related to the skill set)|
|Remembering||When you are skilled in remembering, you can recognize or recall knowledge you’ve already gained, and you can use it to produce or retrieve definitions, facts, and lists. Remembering may be how you studied in grade school or high school, but college will require you to do more with the information.||identify · relate · list · define · recall · memorize · repeat · record · name|
|Understanding||Understanding is the ability to grasp or construct meaning from oral, written, and graphic messages. Each college course will introduce you to new concepts, terms, processes, and functions. Once you gain a firm understanding of new information, you’ll find it easier to comprehend how or why something works.||restate · locate · report · recognize · explain · express · identify · discuss · describe · review · infer · illustrate · interpret · draw · represent · differentiate · conclude|
|Applying||When you apply, you use or implement learned material in new and concrete situations. In college you will be tested or assessed on what you’ve learned in the previous levels. You will be asked to solve problems in new situations by applying knowledge and skills in new ways. You may need to relate abstract ideas to practical situations.||apply · relate · develop · translate · use · operate · organize · employ · restructure · interpret · demonstrate · illustrate · practice · calculate · show · exhibit · dramatize|
|Analyzing||When you analyze, you have the ability to break down or distinguish the parts of material into its components, so that its organizational structure may be better understood. At this level, you will have a clearer sense that you comprehend the content well. You will be able to answer questions such as what if, or why, or how something would work.||analyze · compare · probe · inquire · examine · contrast · categorize · differentiate · contrast · investigate · detect · survey · classify · deduce · experiment · scrutinize · discover · inspect · dissect · discriminate · separate|
|Evaluating||With skills in evaluating, you are able to judge, check, and even critique the value of material for a given purpose. At this level in college you will be able to think critically, Your understanding of a concept or discipline will be profound. You may need to present and defend opinions.||judge · assess · compare · evaluate · conclude · measure · deduce · argue · decide · choose · rate · select · estimate · validate · consider · appraise · value · criticize · infer|
|Creating||With skills in creating, you are able to put parts together to form a coherent or unique new whole. You can reorganize elements into a new pattern or structure through generating, planning, or producing. Creating requires originality and inventiveness. It brings together all levels of learning to theorize, design, and test new products, concepts, or functions.||compose · produce · design · assemble · create · prepare · predict · modify · plan · invent · formulate · collect · generalize · document combine · relate · propose · develop · arrange · construct · organize · originate · derive · write|
Reading and interpreting learning objectives is a metacognitive act, as the information can help you determine the level of learning expected of you and give you clues as to how you can prepare for assessment.
For example, if your objective is to identify the parts of an atom, you should first recognize that being able to “identify” information falls within the domain of “remembering”; you will need to memorize the parts and be able to correctly label them. Flash cards, labeling a diagram, or drawing one yourself should be sufficient ways to prepare for your test.
If, however, your objective is to calculate atomic mass, you will need to know not only the parts of the atom but also how to account for those parts to come up with the atomic mass; “calculate” falls within the domain of “applying,” which requires you to take information and use it to solve a problem in a new context.
You can explore these cognitive domains further in the two videos, below. The first is from the Center for Learning Success at the Louisiana State University. It discusses Bloom’s taxonomy learning levels with regard to student success in college.
This next video, Bloom’s Taxonomy Featuring Harry Potter Movies, is a culturally-based way of understanding and applying Bloom’s taxonomy.
Familiarity with Bloom’s Taxonomy is important in PLA, because to earn credit you will need to demonstrate that you have achieved college-level learning. You will be relating your learning to existing BAS and IPS courses, all of which are numbered at the 400-level, meaning the highest level of undergraduate study and therefore having more of the upper level skills. Bloom’s terminology will help you to express your learning in terms the subject-matter expert can recognize as college-level learning.
- Wilson, Leslie Owen. "Anderson and Krathwohl - Bloom's Taxonomy Revised." The Second Principle. 2013. Web. 10 Feb 2016. ↵ ↵