Prior Learning Portfolio Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

learning experience. The writer demonstrates how to put together a prior learning and prior experience portfolio for the purpose of demonstrating current knowledge due to that prior experience.

A comprehensive look at the management of one's personal finances; covers budgeting, use of and cost of credit, life and property insurance, income and state taxation, housing, wills, trusts, estate planning, and savings and investments.

You must recall and write one or more "learning events" for each of the key terms listed on the course description you have obtained. By using Kolb's model to guide your storytelling, you will assist your faculty assessor, the person who will evaluate your PLA portfolio for credit, to locate and appreciate your learning outcomes.

In short, your task in writing your PLA portfolio essay is to address all listed course content areas and to do so via specific stories told in terms of the Kolb Model.

In the following sections, you will find this challenging task broken into clear-cut phases.

As a starting point in your essay planning, remember that to merit the award of college credit, you must discuss learning that is of appropriate breadth, depth and complexity and blend theory with practice.

Therefore, your PLA portfolio essay must show that you have learned not only how to do things, but also why. Your learning should, therefore, be "transferable," which means you can apply and refine the learning across many settings. Avoid discussion of learning that only "works" at the location where it was learned.

David Kolb on experiential learning

David A. Kolb (with Roger Fry) created his famous model out of four elements: concrete experience, observation and reflection, the formation of abstract concepts and testing in new situations. He represented these in the famous experiential learning circle (after Kurt Lewin):

Kolb and Fry (1975) argue that the learning cycle can begin at any one of the four points - and that it should really be approached as a continuous spiral. However, it is suggested that the learning process often begins with a person carrying out a particular action and then seeing the effect of the action in this situation. Following this, the second step is to understand these effects in the particular instance so that if the same action was taken in the same circumstances it would be possible to anticipate what would follow from the action. In this pattern the third step would be understanding the general principle under which the particular instance falls.

Generalizing may involve actions over a range of circumstances to gain experience beyond the particular instance and suggest the general principle. Understanding the general principle does not imply, in this sequence, an ability to express the principle in a symbolic medium, that is, the ability to put it into words. It implies only the ability to see a connection between the actions and effects over a range of circumstances. (Coleman 1976: 52).

An educator who has learnt in this way may well have various rules of thumb or generalizations about what to do in different situations. They will be able to say what action to take when say, there is tension between two people in a group but they will not be able to verbalize their actions in psychodynamic or sociological terms. There may thus be difficulties about the transferability of their learning to other settings and situations.

When the general principle is understood, the last step, according to David Kolb is its application through action in a new circumstance within the range of generalization. In some representations of experiential learning these steps, (or ones like them), are sometimes represented as a circular movement. In reality, if learning has taken place the process could be seen as a spiral. The action is taking place in a different set of circumstances and the learner is now able to anticipate the possible effects of the action.

Two aspects can be seen as especially noteworthy: the use of concrete, 'here-and-now' experience to test ideas; and use of feedback to change practices and theories (Kolb 1984: 21-22). Kolb joins these with Dewey to emphasize the developmental nature of the exercise, and with Piaget for an appreciation of cognitive development. He named his model so as to emphasize the link with Dewey, Lewin and Piaget, and to stress the role experience plays in learning. He wished to distinguish it from cognitive theories of the learning process (see Coleman 1976).

David Kolb on learning styles

David Kolb and Roger Fry (1975: 35-6) argue that effective learning entails the possession of four different abilities (as indicated on each pole of their model): concrete experience abilities, reflective observation abilities, abstract conceptualization abilities and active experimentation abilities. Few us can approach the 'ideal' in this respect and tend, they suggest, to develop a strength in, or orientation to, in one of the poles of each dimension. As a result they developed a learning style inventory (Kolb 1976) which was designed to place people on a line between concrete experience and abstract conceptualization; and active experimentation and reflective observation. Using this Kolb and Fry proceeded to identify four basic learning styles.

Kolb and Fry on learning styles (Tennant 1996)

Learning style

Learning characteristic



Abstract conceptualization + active experimentation strong in practical application of ideas can focus on hypo-deductive reasoning on specific problems unemotional has narrow interests


Concrete experience + reflective observation strong in imaginative ability good at generating ideas and seeing things from different perspectives interested in people broad cultural interests


Abstract conceptualization + reflective observation strong ability to create theoretical models excels in inductive reasoning concerned with abstract concepts rather than people


Concrete experience + active experimentation greatest strength is doing things more of a risk taker performs well when required to react to immediate circumstances solves problems intuitively

In developing this model Kolb and Fry have helped, along with Witkin (1950), have helped to challenge those models of learning that seek to reduce potential to one dimension such as intelligence (Tennant 1997: 91). They also recognize that there are strengths and weaknesses associated with each style (and that being 'locked into' one style can put a learner at a serious disadvantage). However, there are a number of problems with the model.


Here I want to note six key issues that arise out the Kolb model:

It pays insufficient attention to the process of reflection (see Boud et al. 1983). While David A. Kolb's scheme 'has been useful in assisting us in planning learning activities and in helping us to check simply that learners can be effectively engaged', they comment, 'it does not help... To uncover the elements of reflection itself' (ibid.: 13), see reflection.

The claims made for the four different learning styles are extravagant (Jarvis 1987; Tennant 1997). As Tennant (1997: 91) comments, even though the four learning styles neatly dovetail with the different dimensions of the experiential learning model, this doesn't necessarily validate them. David Kolb is putting forward a particular learning style. The problem here is that the experiential learning model does not apply to all situations. There are alternatives - such as information assimilation. There are also others such as memorization. Each of these may be appropriate to different situations (see Jarvis below).

The model takes very little account of different cultural experiences/conditions (Anderson 1988). The Inventory has also been used within a fairly limited range of cultures (an important consideration if we approach learning as situated i.e. affected by environments). As Anderson (1988, cited in Tennant 1996) highlights, there is a need to take account of differences in cognitive and communication styles that are culturally-based. Here we need to attend to different models of selfhood - and the extent to which these may differ from the 'western' assumptions that underpin the Kolb and Fry…

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