News - Credit Where It’s Due: Prior Learning Assessment Counts Previous Learning Toward Degree Completion

Credit Where It’s Due: Prior Learning Assessment Counts Previous Learning Toward Degree Completion

by Rachel Heston-Davis Credit Where It’s Due: Prior Learning Assessment Counts Previous Learning Toward Degree Completion

When Assistant Professor of Organizational Leadership Mark Thomas began a training program in prior learning assessment (PLA) last January, he expected to bolster his PLA abilities. He didn’t realize the true breadth of skills he would gain.

“I have had about a hundred opportunities to utilize what I learned,” Mark says.

The program, provided by the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL), strengthened Mark’s ability to assess students pursuing degree completion for prior learning experiences that might count for credit in their degree completion journeys. But, he says, it also brought unexpected benefits:

1. Assisting students with unique needs. PLA course material inspired Mark to create different assessment methods for an online student with a learning disability. Although this task wasn’t PLA-related, the PLA training helped him generate ideas.

2. Measuring student knowledge thoroughly. Rather than assess whether students demonstrate “college-level learning” in the abstract, Mark can now equate what they’ve learned to specific courses and expected outcomes for those courses.” It’s a much more precise way to measure what students have already learned.

3. Heightened ability to spot PLA credit opportunities in a student’s background. Thanks to his training on interviewing students and directing student self-reflections, Mark now captures a more holistic view of their backgrounds and identifies prior learning that a surface-level interview sometimes overlooks.

4. Improving the PLA program. Mark drew from his training as he revamped the University’s current PLA plan. His suggested revisions will hopefully be approved this academic year. 

Mark’s new and improved skill set came just in time. He reports that inquiries about PLA credits are increasing among students looking to finish their degree. His observations follow new research that links students with prior learning credit to higher degree completion rates.

 

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This story was published on December 14, 2017




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