Friday, July 22, 2011

Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) 

Here is an interesting example not only of Prior Learning Assessment (PLA), but of an institutional approach to it's provision. The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) (United States) "is a national, non-profit organization whose mission is to expand learning opportunities for adults. CAEL works to remove policy and organizational barriers to learning opportunities, identifies and disseminates effective practices, and delivers value-added services." Scroll down to see their research and publications. Note the three tiered approach they take. I also find the CAEL's 10 standards for PLA assessment really interesting, and reproduce theme here in full:

Ten Standards for Assessing Learning
  1. Credit or its equivalent should be awarded only for learning, and not for experience.
  2. Assessment should be based on standards and criteria for the level of acceptable learning that are both agreed upon and made public.
  3. Assessment should be treated as an integral part of learning, not separate from it, and should be based on an understanding of learning processes.
  4. The determination of credit awards and competence levels must be made by appropriate subject matter and academic or credentialing experts.
  5. Credit or other credentialing should be appropriate to the context in which it is awarded and accepted.
  6. If awards are for credit, transcript entries should clearly describe what learning is being recognized and should be monitored to avoid giving credit twice for the same learning.
  7. Policies, procedures, and criteria applied to assessment, including provision for appeal, should be fully disclosed and prominently available to all parties involved in the assessment process.
  8. Fees charged for assessment should be based on the services performed in the process and not determined by the amount of credit awarded.
  9. All personnel involved in the assessment of learning should pursue and receive adequate training and continuing professional development for the functions they perform.
  10. Assessment programs should be regularly monitored, reviewed, evaluated, and revised as needed to reflect changes in the needs being served, the purposes being met, and the state of the assessment arts.
Note that in the Australian HE sector, charges cannot be made for RPL assessments (point 8 above). I have noticed that Charles Darwin University is now requiring students to enrol in a PLA-type subject to gain RPL, and perhaps this allows them to circumnavigate the no-fee problem.

I would however add others, particularly
  • The evidentiary requirements for granting PLA should not exceed the evidentiary requirements of a student enrolled in the subject acheiving a pass grade assessment.
  • The evidentiary requirements should be based on equivalence of content, theory and learning outcomes; not on sameness.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Is lifewide learning a new idea?
Although gaining currency as a term through Barnett's recent work, "lifewide learning" has been around for a very long time under a number of other names. Adult educators have been talking about informal and nonformal learning, experiential learning, experience-based learning, workplace and workbased learning, volunteer and service learning, and authentic learning for decades, and questioning the ways in which formal educational institutions respond to (or largely exclude and ignore) learning conducted by potential students through incidental, accidental and self-directed learning processes in their own time and on their own terms. The whole debate about "what is learning" that took place in the 1970s and 1980s in the adult education field lead, for example, to educators like Brookfield, JarvisKolb (amongst many) to write about experiential learning. Since then many authors have written about related issues - such as authentic learning, work-integrated learning, field placements, "the reflective practitioner" and so on. All attempting to understand, in one way or another, the nexus between experience and learning.
Problems remain when this question enters the institution. Is experience (informal and nonformal learning) automatically of lesser value and quality that formal learning? Or is it simply different? Can experience be theorised by the person in the experience. Schon would argue "yes" - it is the whole point of the reflective practitioner. If experience can be reflected, reflective and informed, then what assessment mechanisms do institutions need to embrace this learning within a formal program of study?
Universities in Australia have remained remarkable resistant to valuing experiential, informal and nonformal learning designed by learners themselves, despite many debates of theoretical and practical work in this area. The growth of Open Education Resources, and high quality learning experiences on the web mean that adults now have increasing access to self-directed, student-centred learning, designed by the adult - yet Universities contrinue to struggle to develop a pedagogy responsive to this learning.

Blended and flexible learning through the recognition of lifewide and lifelong learning

What does "flexible learning" mean? There are many different answers to this question. Listen to my podcast exploring one approach to flexible learning - adding lifewide and lifelong learning into the mix through the recognition of prior informal and nonformal learning. To read the pdf version, click here.

Part 1
A/Prof Merilyn Childs talks about using recognition as a BFL strategy to encompass lifelong and lifewide learning (mp3)
Part 2
A/Prof Merilyn Childs talks about using recognition as a BFL strategy to encompass lifelong and lifewide learning (Part 2) (mp3)

Dialogue about blended learning

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