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(Answered)-What are your thoughts after reading the article " Prior


What are your thoughts after reading the article ?Prior Learning Assessment in Adult Education?? Of the 10 CAEL standards discussed in the article, whichtwo?do you think are the most significant in terms of educating adults today???Why? For each standard you chose, justify your position.


Prior Learning Assessment in Adult Education

 

(This is an adaptation of an unpublished article that was written by Elizabeth Tice, Ph.D. in

 

1998)

 


 

While formal educational systems have been around since before the 7th century, the

 

proliferation of adults entering formal educational systems is relatively recent. Adults

 

represent an increasing segment of today?s educational market. The number of college

 

students over 25 is close to 50%.

 

At the mid point of the 20th century, virtually all institutions of higher education

 

were operating under the pedagogical model of education. Pedagogy means literally ?the art

 

and science of teaching children.? It developed between the 7th and 12th centuries in the

 

monastic schools of Europe. When secular schools began to evolve in the 19th century, they

 

adopted the pedagogical model, which was the only one available.

 

The basic assumptions of the pedagogical model are that the teacher is fully

 

responsible to impart knowledge, primarily through lecture, while the student?s role is to be

 

a passive receiver of knowledge. As long as the learners were primarily children and youth,

 

this model remained unchallenged. Since most primary and secondary systems were based

 

upon the same assumptions, traditional students anticipated this educational experience as

 

they entered institutions of higher education.

 

Adults, however, were uncomfortable with the system and with the assumption that

 

they were ?blank slates.? They were not. Research consistently demonstrates that adults

 

want to be partners in their own learning process, and will shoulder a lot of the responsibility

 

for their own learning when given the opportunity (Heimstra & Brockett, 1994). The

 

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distinguishing characteristics that make adults different from children have created problems

 

for traditional educators who have relied upon ?blank slate? pedagogical practices (Brickell,

 

1995). Malcolm Knowles (1980; 1990), whose research produced an alternative educational

 

paradigm known as the andragogical model, has demonstrated that adult students are more

 

self-directed than youthful students and that their learning is more meaningful and profound

 

when their pre-existing competencies are acknowledged within the learning process

 

(Carleson, 1989).

 

Fortunately, many innovative individuals and educational institutions saw the

 

problems as opportunities, and a new industry emerged. Many new processes and

 

paradigms emerged with this new industry, one of which is the Prior Learning Assessment

 

(PLA) movement. This paper will overview the evolution of the PLA movement.

 

Historical Evolution of PLA

 

To those who were willing to see, it very quickly became clear that the adult student

 

was not a blank slate. Adults often bring significant knowledge and skills with them to the

 

classroom, knowledge and skills that were not learned at ?the feet of the master.? Life is also

 

a great teacher. International experience from military involvement leads to conceptual

 

understanding of intercultural communication. Working in a business environment for years

 

often leads an individual to significant understanding of business administration. Yet, the

 

traditional mind set would tell the successful, self-taught computer programmer whose

 

product is being marketed worldwide that he needs to sit in a lecture hall and listen to a

 

professor who has studied (but probably never worked in) computer programming. Or the

 

small business owner who has developed a successful retail business that his ?on-the-job?

 


 

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learning of retailing principles is inferior to that of an 18 year old student who has listened to

 

lectures and taken a test. This does not make sense (Tice, 1997).

 

So, beginning as early as the 1940s and gaining impetus in the 60s and 70s, a few far

 

sighted educators started toying with the idea of evaluating the experiential life learning that

 

adult students bring with them for its equivalency and applicability to college credit. At the

 

time (and still today to some), this was a radical idea. Could one possibly learn anything of

 

value that a tenured faculty member did not teach him or her? Ironically, history books are

 

filled with ?self-taught? individuals whose knowledge and abilities in their particular field

 

far surpass their college educated peers. Yet, the time honored, traditional mind set that

 

dominated education since the 7th Century has often found it difficult to accept this learning

 

as legitimate.

 

The first documented PLA program in the United States actually began at Antioch

 

College in 1942. It was not a fully developed portfolio program, but rather a set of entry

 

examinations. Student earning As and Bs on these exams were immediately awarded up to

 

20 semester credits towards degree completion. In 1954, Brooklyn College introduced a

 

Special Baccalaureate Degree program for Adults incorporating PLA, and a number of other

 

schools began limited PLA programs in the 60s (Keeton, undated).

 

One of the major thrusts in the PLA movement came in 1974 with the incorporation

 

of The Cooperative Assessment of Experiential Learning (CAEL). CAEL began as a project

 

of the Commission on Non-Traditional Study. This study was co-sponsored (beginning in

 

1971) by Educational Testing Service (ETS) and the College Board. ETS had developed the

 

College Level Examination Program (CLEP) and wanted more information on other forms

 

on non-collegiate sponsored learning. During the next three years, the Commission

 

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conducted research into the field of adult and continuing education. Among other things,

 

they surveyed adult learners about their interest in continuing education, and they surveyed

 

educational institutions about their interest in offering continuing education opportunities to

 

adults. In 1973 they published a report with fifty-seven recommendations for projects and

 

practices to promote adult learning opportunities. Recommendation 47 stated that ?new

 

devices and techniques should be perfected to measure the outcomes of many types of nontraditional study? and Recommendation 48 stated that ?systems of quality control should be

 

built into the instruction and evaluation of non-traditional study? (Gamson, 1989, pp. 2324). These two recommendations laid the foundation for what would become CAEL.

 

Warren Willingham, of Educational Testing Service, was called upon to chair a committee

 

charged with developing a proposal for a project to address these recommendations. Morris

 

Keeton, then of Antioch College, James Hall of Empire State College, David Sweet of

 

Minnesota Metropolitan College, and James Brown of Thomas Edison College were also on

 

the committee and later played key roles in CAEL?s evolution (U. Whitaker, personal

 

communication, November 5, 1997). In February 1974, a sixteen month project was

 

approved for $821,000 funding by the Carnegie Foundation, and CAEL was officially born.

 

Grants procured by Willingham and Keeton kept CAEL alive after the Carnegie Foundation

 

project ended (Gamson, 1989).

 

In 1977, CAEL changed its name to The Council for the Advancement of

 

Experiential Learning and published Principles of Good Practice in Assessing Experiential

 

Learning (Willingham, 1977). This publication was an attempt to begin the development of

 

national standards for PLA practitioners. While CAEL itself is not a college and has never

 

awarded PLA credit, it was the first organized lobby for PLA and has shouldered the cause,

 

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lobbying state and federal legislatures as well as regional accrediting commissions, training

 

practitioners, and publishing extensively on the subject of PLA. Its leadership in quality

 

PLA programing was confirmed when, in 1979, the American Council on Education?s

 

Council on Post Secondary Accreditation (ACE COPA) and the American Association of

 

Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) began to formally endorse PLA

 

programs if they were conducted according to CAEL?s principles of good practice (as

 

outlined in Willingham?s book) (Keeton, undated).

 

CAEL?s primary contributions to the PLA movement since 1984 include the

 

establishment of the National Institute on Assessing Experiential Learning, an annual PLA

 

training conference offered in conjunction with Thomas Edison College, continued

 

publication of PLA literature, continued lobbying, and an annual international conference

 

with a strong emphasis on PLA (Keeton, undated). It now claims more than 1400

 

institutional members, most of whom have PLA programs that espouse CAEL?s standards.

 

CAEL ACADEMIC STANDARDS

 

I.

 


 

Credit shall be awarded only for the learning, not for the experience.

 

Probably the biggest problem in PLA programs is the difficulty of distinguishing

 


 

between experience and learning. Whitaker (1989) say that ?this standards is, at once, the

 

most important and the most frequently violated rule in the quality assessment field? (p.10).

 

Not everyone who has had a given experience will learn something significant from that; we

 

all know people who continue to make the same mistakes because they fail to learn from

 

their experiences.

 

It is the responsibility of the student to document, demonstrate, and articulate the

 

learning that has been gained from the experience. This is often easier said than done. Many

 

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schools began their programs with requirements that students submit only documentation of

 

experience. This, however, required the faculty evaluator to infer the knowledge from the

 

experience. To address this discrepancy, many schools require that the student write an

 

experiential essay which not only describes the experience, but also articulates the

 

associated learning. This also proves difficult for students because they did not learn what

 

they know in an organized, academic format. For many, the line between the experience and

 

the knowledge is blurred. The work of another important researcher in the field of learning

 

has been instrumental in addressing this issue. David Kolb?s work on experiential learning

 

produced a model that has been incorporated into a majority of institutional programs

 

(Hopkins, 1993).

 

This conceptual model explains the learning process as a cycle moving from the

 

concrete experience, to observation and reflection, to abstract conceptualization and

 

generalization, and back to the experiential realm with active experimentation. As a person

 

gains more experience in an area, he or she starts to recognize patterns and relationships

 

which lead to more complex abstract conceptualization, which in turn allows for more

 

precise experimentation (Stice, 1987). This allows students to extract the what I know part

 

from the what I did.

 

II.

 


 

College credit shall be awarded only for college-level learning.

 


 

For adults with minimal experience in formal higher education, it is often difficult to

 

distinguish between learning that is personally meaningful and learning that is college

 

equivalent. I have argued this issue with hundreds of students over the years. If the learning

 

was meaningful to them, they believe it should be awarded credit. I often use the

 

comparison of taking a college course in psychology and going to personal counseling to

 

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illustrate this point to students. While the counseling experience was meaningful and

 

probably led to some knowledge, its focus is not the same as a course. The learning is

 

personal, not generalized or conceptual.

 

Sharon (1997) indicates that in order to be college level learning, there should be

 

some counterpart in formal educational systems.

 

III.

 


 

Credit should be awarded only for learning that has a balance, appropriate to

 

the subject, between theory and practical application.

 

Many fields have specific academic vocabulary that the experiential learner would

 


 

not necessarily gain. If a PLA student seeking credit for Child Development can describe

 

phenomonologically developmental processes such as object permanence and conservation

 

but is not familiar with the Piagetian terms, does she have college level learning? There are

 

two schools of thought regarding this issue. Some say no, that the vocabulary is part of the

 

college course. Others say yes, that the vocabulary is secondary to the conceptual

 

understanding.

 

IV.

 


 

The determination of competence levels and of credit awards must be made by

 

appropriate subject matter and academic experts.

 

It is widely accepted that faculty members with expertise in the field are the only

 


 

appropriate evaluators of academic credit.

 

V.

 


 

Credit should be appropriate to the academic context in which it is

 

accepted.

 

With this standard, Whitaker (1989) argues that PLA credit should not be limited to

 


 

the fringes of a student?s credit. ?College creditable learning occurs in the major, in general

 


 

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education, and in electives? (p.16). He argues that to limit credit only to certain areas is to

 

apply a double standard. .

 

CAEL ADMINISTRATIVE STANDARDS

 

VI.

 


 

Credit awards and their transcript entries should be monitored to avoid

 

giving credit for the same learning twice.

 

Duplication of credit is a larger issue that just its application to PLA. It is every

 


 

institutions responsibility to monitor its credit awards to avoid awarding duplicate credit.

 

VII.

 


 

Policies and procedures applied to assessment, including provision for

 

appeal, should be fully disclosed and prominently available.

 


 

VIII. Fees charged should be based on the services performed in the process

 

and not determined by the amount of credit awarded.

 

IX.

 


 

All personnel involved in the assessment of learning should receive adequate

 

training for the functions they perform, and there should be provision for their

 

continued professional development.

 


 

X.

 


 

Assessment programs should be regularly monitored, reviewed, evaluated, and

 

revised as needed to reflect changes in the needs being served and in the state of

 

assessment arts (Whitaker, 1989).

 

What all this means to the adult student is a significant savings in time and money.

 


 

Practices vary by institution, but students attending institutions with PLA programs who can

 

provide documentation of college level learning equivalent to the courses that they are

 

required to take can receive the college credit without the redundancy of sitting through the

 

course.

 


 

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Although PLA has assimilated into the mainstream of adult education, it is not

 

without its detractors. Many educators argue that the learning (and therefore the credit) is

 

inferior. They believe that on-the-job learning is too practical and not theoretical enough.

 

Horton (1996) and Ashworth (1996) criticize the widely accepted practice. Ashworth states

 

that most adults do not ?in the course of their jobs perform tasks of such breadth or

 

intellectual substance that the work should be deemed adequate to constitute a university

 

credential or credit toward such a credential?(p. A88). Horton argues that education is not

 

about credentialing, but about expanding students? minds. Personally, I would argue that it

 

is both. These recent criticisms echo the early critic who called PLA ?credit for life

 

experience? (Sam, 1979) and ?credit for living? (Under Attack, 1979). Critics typically use

 

the example of a mother receiving credit Social Science credit for Psychology Parenting

 

because it tends to amplify the theory verses practice argument. However, research

 

indicates that in the U.S., most PLA credit is awarded in business and management, a less

 

vague area (Sheckley, 1988).

 


 

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References

 

Ashworth, K. (1996, September 6). Virtual universities could provide only virtual learning.

 

The Chronicle of Higher Education A88.

 

Brickell, H.M. (1995). Adults in the classroom. New York: College Board Publications.

 

Carlson, R. (1989). Malcolm Knowles: Apostle of andragogy. [On-line], xx. Available:

 

http://nlu.nl.edu/ace/Resources/Knpwles.html

 

College campuses getting grayer. (1996, October 17). The Arizona Republic, p. A12.

 

Gamsom, Z. (1989). Higher education and the real world: The story of CAEL. Wolfboro

 

NH: Longwood Academic Publishing.

 

Hiemstra, R. & Brockett R. (Ed.) (1994). Overcoming resistance to self direction in adult

 

learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

 

Hopkins, R. (1993). David Kolb?s experiential learning machine. Journal of

 

Phenomenological Psychology, 24(1), 46-62.

 

Horton, S. (1996, Summer). Pitching real world learning. Ocotillo: The Journal of Adult

 

Learning, 1.

 

Knowles, M.S. (1980). The modern practice of adult education. New York: Cambridge

 

Knowles, M.S. (1990). The adult learner: A neglected species (4th ed.). Houston: Gulf

 

Publishing.

 

Lamdin, L. (1997). Earn college credit for what you know. Chicago:CAEL.

 

Marienau, C. & Fiddler, M. (1996, Summer). Diminishing distinctions. Ocotillo: The

 

Journal of Adult Learning, 1.

 

Sam, N.H. (1979, February). Life experience--An academic con game? Change, pp. 7, 62.

 


 

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Sharon, A. (1977). Assessing occupational competencies: A CAEL handbook.

 

Chicago:CAEL

 

Sheckley, B. (1989). Institutional policies and practices for assessing prior learning:

 

Results of a national survey. CAEL Forum and News, 11 (5), 8. Chicago: CAEL.

 

Stice, J.E. (1987). Using Kolb?s learning cycle to improve student learning. Engineering

 

Education, February, 291-296.

 

Tice, E. (1997) Educating adults: A matter of balance. Adult Learning, Sep/Oct 1997.

 

Under attack: College credits for living. (1979, April). U.S. News and World Report,

 

p.82

 

Whitaker, U. (1989). Assessing learning: Standards, principles, and procedures.

 

Chicago: CAEL.

 

Willingham, W. (1997). Principles of good practice in assessing experiential learning.

 

Chicago:CAEL.

 

Keeton, M. (Undated). High points in the history of assessment of experiential learning.

 


 

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