Proper representation - Thomas Edison State College

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PROPER REPRESENTATION
Assisting Students in Making the Case for PLA Credit
Robin F. Shaw, J.D., M.S.W.
Academic Coordinator
Prior Learning Assessment Director
PRIOR LEARNING ASSESSMENT AT MARTIN U.
Martin University, an early adopter of Prior
Learning Assessment, began its PLA program in
1979.
 Martin utilizes the portfolio method of
assessment and accepts credits by
examination and credits from evaluated
programs.
 Martin follows guidelines established by CAEL
and the Higher Learning Commission.

EXAMINING THE ROLES
PLA Student as Client
 Course Evaluator as Judge/Jury
 PLA Course Instructor as Attorney
 Making the Case

PLA STUDENT AS CLIENT
A PLA Student:
 Is often an adult who has never been (or who has
been absent from) formal education for some
time.
 May have limited understanding of experiential
learning and Prior Learning Assessment.
 Must persuade evaluator that they possess
college-level learning in spite of limitations.
 Often needs help navigating the PLA process.
COURSE EVALUATOR AS JUDGE/JURY
The Course Evaluator:
 May have limited contact with PLA students and
only circumstantial evidence of students’ actual
level of learning and/or ability.
 May have limited experience with Experiential
Learning and Prior Learning Assessment.
 May have biases regarding Experiential Learning
and Prior Learning Assessment.
 Must evaluate narrative for sufficient evidence of
college-level learning in spite of limitations and
biases.
PLA COURSE INSTRUCTOR AS ATTORNEY
Has a true understanding of Experiential
Learning and Prior Learning Assessment.
 May act as a liaison/advocate/mediator
between PLA student and Course Evaluator.
 Represents best interest of the student while
simultaneously maintaining program and
institutional integrity.

MAKING THE CASE

In order to assist PLA students in preparing
portfolios which will yield positive results, the
PLA Course Instructor must:
1.
2.
3.
4.
Minimize biases and legitimize the process (turn
jurors into judges).
Identify strengths and weaknesses in the case.
Help students present compelling arguments.
Ensure that “jury instructions” are clear and
“rules of procedure” are followed.
1. MINIMIZE BIASES AND LEGITIMIZE THE PROCESS (TURN JURORS TO JUDGES)



Educate course evaluators and faculty members about
experiential learning and PLA so that they are more like
judges (trained and well informed) and less like jurors (lay
people who may be swayed by emotion).
Do not devalue the “court of public opinion” (ensure that PLA
has a good reputation on your campus with key
stakeholders).
Involve departments and faculty members in developing
criteria for PLA evaluation that is both fair to PLA students
and preserves the integrity of departmental standards and
accrediting agency standards.
2. IDENTIFY STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES IN THE CASE



Don’t ignore “bad facts.” Instead, be realistic with students
about their ability to successfully earn credit through the
portfolio process and ensure that students present their
learning narratives with integrity.
Understand both sides of the case. Both students and
faculty members/course evaluators have strong opinions of
what the outcome of the case (the portfolio evaluation)
should be. Understand what the arguments are likely to be
both for granting and denying credit. This will help anticipate
and ameliorate gaps before they are raised by the course
evaluator.
Maximize good evidence. Be sure that students with great
documentation (evidence) of college-level learning maximize
its impact by mentioning it early and often in the learning
narrative.
3. HELP STUDENTS PRESENT COMPELLING ARGUMENTS




Ensure that students understand the mind of a professor
(narratives should be succinct, key words should be
prominent and portfolios should be well organized).
Use a textbook (if necessary) to ensure that students
understand PLA and how to prepare a portfolio. Earn
College Credit for What You Know by Janet Colvin is a great
option.
Keep it simple. Give students a formula for preparing
narratives and encourage them to “stay on message.”
Inform students that a fewer number of strong submissions
that are more likely to be successful that a large number
that are not well written or supported.
4. ENSURE “JURY INSTRUCTIONS” ARE CLEAR AND “RULES OF PROCEDURE” ARE
FOLLOWED
Ensure that course evaluators understand what
is expected of them and on what basis they are
to grant or deny credit.
 Ensure that course evaluators do not deviate
from guidelines and standards set forth for
them by the institution, CAEL and/or
accrediting agencies.

QUESTIONS/COMMENTS

Thank you!

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