Emily Dickinson wrote, “I dwell in Possibility—A fairer House than Prose—More Numerous of Windows—Superior—for Doors” (p. 657). Dickinson’s simple yet profound reference to the expansive nature of poetry over prose may be taken as a metaphor for the possibilities of information and communication technologies (ICTs) over written modes of expression. Whether we identify with this analogy or not, what we can say today with some certainty is that the advent of ICTs has impacted prior learning assessment and recognition (PLAR) by expanding the potential for knowledge acquisition, expression, and delivery. The purpose of this article is to examine the potential of experiential learning e-portfolios to promote connections between several different types of learning – academic, workplace, and web-based. The author contends that this type of PLAR enables undergraduate adult learners to not only articulate and equate experiential learning to academic knowledge but also, and most importantly, to demonstrate knowledge visually and audibly through the utilization of ICTs. Two pilot case studies of e-portfolio development are described to support the author’s position.
This article describes the first phase of a two-phase, mixed-method study. The study, now in progress, explores how and to what extent willingness to engage in learning in mature adulthood is influenced by prior experiences and specific individual personality variables, such as perceived locus of control and degree of self-efficacy. Study participants in this phase are 20 active adults over the age of 50 who participate in various formal and informal programs at a YMCA in a suburb of Seattle, Washington. Preliminary results thus far are discussed with respect to how they may inform educators of mature adults in open education settings. A profile of the characteristics of mature adults likely to be engaged in learning activities is beginning to emerge. A larger sample of participants taken from the same population is now being studied to confirm or refute the value of this profile.
This paper uses the example of an Internet-based advanced studies course to show how the portfolio method, as a competence-based form of examination, can be integrated in a blended learning design. Within the framework of a qualitative analysis of project portfolios, we examined which competencies are documented and how students reflected on their competence development process using portfolios.
A prior learning assessment (PLA) can be an intimidating process for adult learners. Capella University’s PLA team has developed best practices, resources, and tools to foster a positive experience and to remove barriers in PLA and uses three criteria to determine how to best administer the assessment. First, a PLA must be motivating, as described by the ARCS model. Second, it must enable success. Finally, it must use available resources efficiently. The tools and resources developed according to these criteria fall into two categories: staff and online resources. PLA programs can use both to ensure that all departments provide consistent communication to learners about the PLA process, which will foster a positive experience. The PLA online lab houses centralized resources and offers one-on-one interaction with a facilitator to assist learners step-by-step in the development of their petitions. Each unit contains resources, examples, and optional assignments that help learners to develop specific aspects of the petition. By following the examples and recommendations, learners are able to submit polished petitions after they complete the units. The lab facilitator supports learners throughout the units by answering questions and providing recommendations. When learners submit their petitions, the facilitator reviews it entirely and provides feedback to strengthen the final submission that goes to a faculty reviewer. All of these individuals and tools work together to help create a positive experience for learners who submit a PLA petition. This article shares these resources with the goal of strengthening PLA as a field.
Very few studies (e.g., Arnold, 1998; Joosten-ten Brinke, et al., 2009) have examined the ways in which evaluators assess students’ prior learning. This investigation explored the ways that evaluators described students’ prior learning in final assessment reports at a single, multiple-location institution. Results found four themes; audience, voice, presentation of the learning, and evaluation language. Within each theme, further sub-themes are defined. These results are significant for training evaluators on how to discuss student learning and for institutions to consider in relationship to the purpose behind the evaluations. Further research and implications are discussed.
Some forms of prior learning assessment and recognition (PLAR) invite self-reflection and the generation of new knowledge leading to self-growth in granting credit for past experiential learning. This paper examines the experience of a northern Canadian community college using PLAR portfolio development to assist in individual self-growth among people of aboriginal ancestry. The author reviews the theoretical underpinning behind the notion that PLAR may be used in identity construction and reviews some of the historical circumstances affecting the development of aboriginal selves. Divergent views of participants who had completed PLAR facilitator training on portfolio development are examined. Ethical concerns are raised, and guidelines are proposed for the use of PLAR in portfolio development and identity construction.
Within the practice of recognizing prior learning (RPL), language issues –writing, the act of capturing language – are critically important facets of portfolio development. Using data drawn from a study of several postsecondary institutions in three countries, this paper examines the role and impact of language in portfolio development processes. Specifically, it considers the dynamics that contribute to learners’ finding appropriate language and their response to that journey, noting that learners pass through several stages of language growth, beginning with learning the language of academic life and recognizing the importance of that “new” language. The paper also discusses the impact of assessors’ use of language and considers the notion of learners’ transformation as they pass through the portfolio learning process.
Ryerson University’s Prior Learning and Competency Evaluation and Documentation (PLACED) program is funded by the Government of Ontario to engage internationally educated professionals (IEPs), employers, and regulatory/occupational bodies in the use of competency-based practices. In 2008, the authors created a self-assessment tool for IEPs that would build a portfolio reflecting an individual’s knowledge and skills while introducing him or her to aspects of the Canadian workplace and labour market. The authors felt that this tool would be useful to assist IEPs in considering their career options and wanted to create an online workshop that would provide flexibility to users whose priorities were most likely work and family obligations. This short project description will capture a) why the self-assessment tool was developed; (b) how we fostered participants’ self-efficacy; c) how we used Blackboard; (d) what the participants gained from the workshop; and (e) how the workshop has evolved based on facilitators’ observations, participants’ feedback, and an external organization’s request for customizing the workshop. In working together to design the online workshop, IEPs’ Self-Assessment and Planning, we focused on two main concepts: self-assessment and career planning. With that in mind, we set out in the workshop to bolster self-discovery, self-efficacy, individualized research skills, action planning, and ongoing professional development. The learning platform was Blackboard, which is used across Ryerson University in both classroom and online learning.
A fully online prior learning assessment and recognition (PLAR) tool for internationally educated nurses (IENs) was developed and tested by an inter-professional team at Ryerson University. The tool consisted of two stages: a self-assessment component followed by a multiple-choice examination and narrative (vignette) evaluation. The purposes of the study were to describe the demographic profile of the IEN registered nurse (RN), to develop the benchmark responses that demonstrate competency at the entry-to-practice level of the typical IEN RN, and to describe the experience of completing an online PLAR tool. A mixed-method approach was used. Findings demonstrated that IEN RNs who immigrate to Ontario, Canada, are of various ages and come from a wide spectrum of countries. The PLAR process holds promise for an objective assessment of IEN’s eligibility to write the Canadian Registered Nurses Examination (CRNE) and to meet a global need. Further testing of the tool across a broader sample is required.
Adult students often come to higher education with college-level learning that they have acquired outside of the classroom – from the workplace, military service, self-study, or hobbies. For decades, many forward-thinking colleges and universities have been offering services to evaluate that learning and award it college credit that counts towards a degree. However, for a range of reasons, not every institution can offer prior learning assessment (PLA) in every discipline or for every student. With funding from several U.S. philanthropic organizations, the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) is launching Learning Counts, a national online service that will offer students a range of opportunities to have their learning evaluated for college credit. This online service will expand the capacity of institutions offering PLA to students and provide an efficient and scalable delivery mechanism for the awarding of credit through PLA.
Prior learning assessment and recognition (PLAR) is the practice of reviewing, evaluating, and acknowledging the information, skills, and understanding that adult learners have gained through experiential or self-directed (informal) learning rather than through formal education (Thomas, 2000). As our current economy and workplaces experience rapid and continuing change, PLAR offers a vital contribution to supporting lifelong and life-wide learning (Evans, 2000). Beyond significant benefits to individual adult learners in terms of confidence-building and enhanced reflective capacity, PLAR’s process translates personal and workplace learning into a portable format, a common coin suitable for public recognition in many different venues. PLAR has hence become an integral feature of lifelong learning policies around the globe and is closely linked with the implementation of national and transnational qualification frameworks (Morrissey et al., 2008). PLAR scholars have a vital role in ensuring that policy and practice in this important field is informed by innovative research. This brief report describes a workshop on scholarly PLAR research, held in Ottawa, Canada on November 6 and 7, 2010 with funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).
Over the past two decades, American institutions have been expected to include systematic program reviews to meet accrediting standards, either by independent or governmental review agencies. Program evaluation is critical for several reasons: it provides systematic ways to assess what needs improvement or what needs changing and it provides ways to validate practices, whether to internal or external audiences (Mishra, 2007). Most program evaluative models are focused on academic programs, which don’t fit the uniqueness of prior learning assessment programs. This paper proposes an evaluative framework for prior learning assessment programs, which takes into account the type of work within prior learning assessment programs and uses program portfolios, similar to how students are asked to document their work.
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