Learning frequently occurs outside the confines of a traditional classroom. Many professionals acquire a wealth of knowledge and skills outside traditional educational settings, be it through on-the-job experiences, self-directed studies, mentorship, or informal training sessions. Recognizing the value of these non-traditional learning experiences, the concept of Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) has emerged as a transformative tool for adult education and career advancement.
1. Decoding PLAR: A Brief Overview
PLAR is a systematic approach that awards credit for knowledge related to a specific program of study or technical field. It's not just about recognizing what you've learned but understanding how and where you've acquired this knowledge. The process:
• Identifies how practical experience aligns with learning outcomes (which may be represented as specific skills or competencies).
• Assesses the alignment of skills and knowledge with those learning outcomes.
• Recognizes how experience meets or surpasses learning outcomes by providing credit and verifiable credentials whenever possible.
• Recommends areas for further learning, upskilling, and optimally provides these learning experiences immediately to improve gap training and support ongoing learning.
2. The Mechanics of PLAR: From Inquiry to Recognition
The PLAR journey typically begins with an inquiry from a learner to an educational institution or learning organization about evaluating prior learning. The process may vary by institution but once accepted into a program, individuals often begin the formal PLAR process, identifying learning outcomes and matching their skills to those outcomes. Evidence of prior learning is then compiled, which can range from interviews, portfolios, logs, diagnostic assessments to written tests or skill demonstrations. The crux is to prove that the learning derived from experiences meets or surpasses the course or program outcomes. Upon successful assessment and evaluation, individuals receive their results, which can lead to credits, course exemptions, advanced standings, or even granting of credentials.
3. The Role of Diagnostic Assessments in PLAR
Diagnostic assessments are becoming a critical part of the PLAR process. These assessments are conducted at the outset of learning to gauge what a learner already knows. By identifying existing knowledge and skills, educators can recognize prior learning and then tailor their instruction to address gaps, thereby expediting mastery of learning outcomes. Diagnostic assessments serve as a barometer, measuring the pre-loaded information a student possesses about a topic. They help inform lesson planning, learning objectives, and pinpoint areas that may need attention. In the context of PLAR, diagnostic assessments can be invaluable in determining the extent of prior learning, ensuring that the recognition process is both accurate and fair.
4. The Essence of PLAR: Learning Over Experience
While experiences are invaluable, PLAR emphasizes the learning derived from these experiences. It's not about the duration of a job or the number of workshops attended; it's about the tangible skills and knowledge acquired. The golden rule of PLAR is clear: credit is awarded for verified learning, not experience. This learning should align with workplace standards, professional competencies, or learning outcomes of academic institutions and professional organizations.
5. Preparing for PLAR: Portfolio Development and The Challenge Process
A pivotal aspect of PLAR is the portfolio – an organized collection that records or logs which verifies learning achievements. This portfolio can include educational goals, learning outcomes, competency statements, past learning achievements (artifacts), resumes, written or video evidence and more. The process of portfolio development offers a structured opportunity to review and evaluate past experiences and the resultant learning. Another avenue is the challenge process, where individuals can prepare to challenge specific courses for credit. This might involve standardized tests, product assessments, interviews, performance testing, essays, and more. However, not all courses can be challenged, making it essential to consult the respective institution or organization.
6. The Impact of PLAR: Bridging Gaps and Unlocking Opportunities
PLAR serves as a bridge between practical knowledge and formal education. For many, it's a chance to save time and money by earning credits for what they already know. By recognize prior learning, individuals not only save time, but they're liberated from relearning content that they have already mastered. It's also an opportunity for reflection, allowing individuals to take stock of their skills and set career and educational goals. By recognizing non-traditional learning pathways, PLAR fosters inclusivity in education and employment, ensuring that individuals are recognized for their genuine capabilities.
A Paradigm Shift in Learning Recognition and Career Advancement
PLAR is more than just a process; it's a testament to the ever-evolving nature of learning. Each learning journey is unique and that there's immense value in experiences outside traditional learning environments. Instead of forcing individuals to relearn concepts or skills they've already mastered, PLAR recognizes and validates existing knowledge, ensuring that their learning journey is efficient and respects their prior experiences. By championing PLAR, we're not only recognizing the rich tapestry of learning experiences but also paving the way for a more inclusive and holistic approach to education and career advancement, where every bit of knowledge, no matter how it was acquired, is valued and celebrated.