Skip to main content

Distinguishing Higher Order Learning Processes

The two forms of learning outlined, adoptive and adaptive, are prompted by different assignment tasks and have different assessment criteria. It is suggested that adoptive learning is a widely practised form of learning and actively taught, while adaptive learning using higher order thinking is a development process, which is personally undertaken by each student. As the criteria for identifying higher level learning or "expertise" are complex and often require judgements that are not readily reduced to simple rules, adaptive learning, in many cases, may only be determinable by a professional expert. A form of categorisation of the cognitive processes involved in each of these two forms of learning is offered in Table 2.

The two forms of learning assist in the distinction between those skills and abilities, which may be applied in various contexts, and the 'capabilities to transfer', which assist in the recognition of those aspects of unfamiliar contexts that allow such skills to be applied appropriately. High achievement in adaptive learning rather than adoptive learning forms the basis of expertise. The extent to which the development of adaptive capabilities is balanced against adoptive learning outcomes is likely to determine a student's ability to respond effectively to undefined and unfamiliar situations within and beyond the discipline context. We would suggest that adaptive learning encapsulates some of the capabilities that employers are increasingly seeking to obtain from university graduates.

knowlege and practice of ... Formation and Generation of
Facts, Assertions, Rules and Laws Personal Interpretation and Meaning
Terminology, Language and Protocols Evaluation and Decisions
Techniques and Procedures Arguments, Reasoning and Justification
Organisation and Structure Synthesis and Conceptualisation
Established Principles and Relationships Originality, Creativity and Innovation

Table 2: Two distinct forms of learning