PLA and the Transformative Process for Adult Learners

Prior Learning Assessment and
the Transformative Process for
Adult Learners
A UMUC Pathway for
Competency Based Education
2012 National Institute on the Assessment of Adult Learning
Shawna Acker-Ball, PhD – Director of Experiential Learning
Why Prior Learning Assessment?
• UMUC’s mission and student population
– Open admission university
– Non-traditional learners
– Adult learners bring a wealth of prior learning
experiences to the classroom.
– Prior learning assessment values students’
Why Prior Learning Assessment?
• Adults are actively engaged in learning via many venues
during the course of their lives.
• Adults bring that learning with them when they enter an
institution of higher education.
• Some learning that takes place outside of educational
institutions can be recognized as college level.
• All of that knowledge brings value to the institution by
broadening the base of human knowledge and bringing
more voices and perspectives into the dialogue.
Overview of PLA Program
• UMUC and Prior Learning Assessment
– Program was established in 1978.
– All student portfolios were submitted in hard
copy binders and mailed to each evaluators.
– CD’s were adopted.
– Students now submit portfolios through an
online Learning Assessment Tool (LAT).
Changes Over the Years
•The School of Undergraduate Studies underwent a
division wide assessment initiative in 2008.
•Academic majors and general education courses were
•The Prior Learning Assessment program participated.
•Development of grading rubrics for faculty
•Review of course curriculum
•Creation of common assignments for students
Program Background
• Program eligibility
Degree Audit Team
Official evaluation
Grade point average
Writing requirement
Resident credits
EXCL 301-Learning Analysis and Planning
• The three (3) credit course guides students
through exercises toward the preparation of a
written portfolio that describes and documents
their college-level learning.
– Eight weeks in duration
– Satisfactory/D/Fail - grading method
• If student receives the grade of “D” for the course, the portfolio
is not moved forward for evaluation.
– EXCL 001 - a supplemental course (non-credit)
to submit additional portfolios.
– Up to 30 credits can be earned (15 for second bachelor’s
• Students are guided through a process
that allows them to examine all types of
life experiences and how those
experiences have provided them
knowledge and specific skill sets.
• By taking such a deep look at their lives,
they assign value to experiences and
knowledge they had not previously
Evaluation Process
• Faculty evaluation
– All faculty evaluators are approved by respective
academic directors/disciplines.
– All faculty evaluators are provided an Evaluator’s
Manual to guide the evaluation process.
– All credit recommendations from evaluators are
reviewed and approved by UMUC’s Degree Audit
Evaluation Process
• Faculty members make credit
recommendations based on the learning
narratives and supporting documentation.
• Credit is granted for verifiable college-level
learning from one’s experiences, but not for
the experiences themselves.
EXCL Credit Awards
How many credits are students guaranteed to earn?
• Successful completion of EXCL 301 will earn three credits
for the course.
• There is no guarantee that students will receive credit
from the evaluation of their portfolio.
• The average credit award is between 15 and 18 credits.
– Assessment fees are applied.
– PLA tuition is offered at a reduced cost.
• Assessment process
– EXCL 301 underwent review
• Changes to the program mission, program and course
– Creation of common assignments
– Development of grading rubrics and portfolio scoring guides
– Changed business process
– Established faculty work group
• Adjustments to the course curriculum
• Mapped program outcomes to the course objectives
Shift in Paradigm
• Establish prior learning culture and attitude
– Require substantive written evaluations to
support the recommendation or denial of credits.
• What is considered passing?
• Does all learning have to be “A” level?
– Require that all evaluations are mapped to
course syllabi and learning outcomes.
Shift in Paradigm
– Departmental review of all portfolio
evaluations from faculty.
– Ensure portfolio evaluations adhere to
departmental standards.
– Required participation in faculty/evaluator
training workshops.
Graduated or Currently Enrolled
EXCL 301 Status
Not Graduated or Enrolled
Took, but Did Not Pass
68a (32.2%)
122a (57.8%)
21b (10.0%)
211 (100.0%)
Did Not Take
81a (12.4%)
511b (78.4%)
60a (9.2%)
652 (100.0%)
161a (36.5%)
86b (19.5%)
194c (44.0%)
441 (100.0%)
310 (23.8%)
719 (55.1%)
275 (21.1%)
Among students who took EXCL 301, but did not pass the course, 10.0% have
graduated, 32.2% are enrolled in Spring 2012, and 57.8% have not graduated and
are not currently enrolled. Among students who did not take EXCL 301, 9.2% have
graduated, 12.4% are currently enrolled, and 78.4% have not graduated and are
not currently enrolled. Among students who passed EXCL 301, 44.0% have
graduated, 36.5% are currently enrolled, and 19.5% have not graduated and are
not currently enrolled.
The data set consists of Bachelor’s degree-seeking students who were admitted to UMUC at some point from Fall 2007
through Fall 2011. To create the data set, students who match that description and took EXCL 301 at some point in the same
time period were identified.
Questions and Answers
Shawna Acker-Ball
[email protected]
(240) 684-2890
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