Thursday, June 2, 2011

The "not manufactured here" phenomenon

Prior to developing the UWS RPL Policy in 2003, I did a survey to try to understand the points of resistance amongst staff to recognising equivalent learning outcomes. (It's interesting and hopeful to see Paddy Forde engaged in a similar conversation at Curtin in 2010).

Here are some:
  • "not manufactured here" - many academics felt that if learning was not developed within their frame of reference, and within the codes of the subject or course, it was of lesser value. For learning to "count" it had to be developed in sight of the academic, on their "watch" so to speak
  • "not reflective enough" - many academics felt that informal or workplace learning was, by its very nature, unreflected
  • "not good enough" - many academics felt that the approach taken to the discipline or profession within their course was unique, different and better than any other approach at any other institution - so even prior accredited learning at another university was dismissed. The "not good enough" narrative relegated all learning gained outside a university as of lesser value; and RPL as a policy only of relevance to the vocational sector
  • "not my content" - many academics felt that the textbook they had chosen was an essential component of learning - if a student could not reference that textbook, or preferred theories, the learning was not good enough
As a result of these values, the few students who requested RPL for prior learning experienced the following:
  • flat refusal, regardless of policy
  • over-assesssment of prior learning (for example, a first year UG subject might have been assessed via 2 x 2,000 word essays and could achieve a 50% pass with fairly mediocre work - but a student seeking RPL could be asked to do the equivalent of a 10,000 word essay, plus an interview, plus a portfolio of evidence; and then refused recognition
  • lack of knowledge on the part of the academic, of alignment to Learning Outcomes. Students were assessed against content, and textbooks and theories and unstated academic values about both....and this means all students, not just those applying for RPL. The RPL applicant was simply penalised more heavily.
With these findings in mind, and as a policy activist for students, I developed an RPL and Accreditation policy - but I also determined that I needed to understand the way in which each of the 38 Australian Universities interpreted the AVCC Guidelines for RPL. I began a study to determine this. At the same time the Australian Qualification Advisory Board Research into RPL and accreditation commenced (Wheelan et al 2003) to which I contributed. I remember that at the time those of use who were policy and practice advocates of RPL felt the moment had come for a change. How wrong we were!

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Dialogue about blended learning

Visit a project I built using Wix in 2010 where colleagues and I explore the meaning of "blended learning"