Prior Learning Assessment: Bringing Adults Into the Academy
Prior learning assessment is based or formulated on the concepts that learning and/or understanding can be from anywhere in or outside a school.
You can learn from all full or part time jobs you have had, all independent reading and studying you have done, all training programs or in service courses you have completed, all volunteer work you have done, your cultural and artistic pursuits, your hobbies and recreational pastimes, all community or religious activities you are involved in, all military service you have completed, any travel study you have completed, your organizational memberships or practically anything and everything that you have experienced.
Warning! It is NOT the experiences in and of themselves that you can get credit for. It IS the learning and successful usage of that learning that will allow you to get college credit towards a degree. There are some colleges that will allow you unlimited amounts of pla credit, including getting the whole enchilada (Associates, Bachelor or Masters Degree).
Most colleges will allow half of the credits through PLA. There are no colleges that will not allow some life experience credits. Part of the life experience portfolio, actually one of the most important parts, is the documentation or evidence for your claims. There are two kinds of documentation: primary and secondary.
Primary documentation or evidence is generally considered actual items you have produced. These can range from: samples of your work, video clips and streaming video, audio recordings, books and articles you published, paintings or photos you’ve made or taken, things you have invented, structures you have built or carved, articles in magazines or publications you wrote, curriculum you have created, artifacts you have dug up or discovered or any similar item.
Secondary documentation is generally in the form of letters or documents from reliable sources that can substantiate or attest your work. Lists would be too numerous to mention, however, some of these are:
- Documentation of job skills
- Letters of verification from employers or others who have first hand knowledge of your abilities
- Descriptions and requirements for licenses and/or certificates
- Scanned documents and certificates and awards
- Certificates of attendance and notes taken in training courses,
- Proof of membership in professional or trade organizations
…and any other material agreed upon with the PLA mentor that offers proof of your college level learning.
The best approach to obtaining letters from supervisors or employers documenting your understanding/s can be found in templates on various PLA websites. However, a basic general idea would be to first inform him/her of the specific intent of the letter saying that you’re asking the college for credit in a specific course or courses related to your work under your supervisor.
You would appreciate it if your supervisor/employer was able to document what understandings you had upon being hired, what you learned on the job and how you are using these understandings to improve the company. What must not be included is a character reference since the college did not ask for one. What also must not be included are attendance and loyalty factors. It must be as job-and-skill specific as possible. Secondary documentation or evidence should not be from any friend or relative due to the fact that they are biased (pro-you).
Documentation must be unbiased, fair and to the point. Other than the exceptions mentioned above, documentation can literally come from anywhere.
Oh by the way… documentation can only be for college level understanding/s. Getting high school personnel to write a letter on how smart you were or that you were a member of the student government or the high school debating society or an editor for the high school newspaper just won’t cut it.