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Subject:

The 'Prior Learning' Edge

From:

Dan Kern <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 1 Mar 2010 07:08:46 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (368 lines)

The 'Prior Learning' Edge 

March 1, 2010 

With the number of high school-aged Americans beginning to ebb, President
Obama's goal of dramatically increasing the number of U.S. citizens with
postsecondary credentials is going to be impossible to achieve without
significantly more adults returning to and graduating from college. 

With that in mind, policy makers are scanning the educational landscape
looking for techniques and tactics that might help draw adults into college
and help them move through -- and a new study
<http://www.cael.org/pdf/PLA_Fueling-the-Race.pdf>  suggests that one such
tool holds promise.

An examination of the educational records of more than 62,000 adult
undergraduates at 48 colleges finds that students who had sought and been
awarded academic credit by their institutions for "prior learning" earned in
the military, corporate training and other non-classroom settings were more
than twice as likely to graduate, and to persist even if they did not
graduate, than were their peers who had not earned such credit. 

In total, 56 percent of the students who entered the 48 institutions in
2001-2 and earned some "prior learning assessment" credit by 2008 went on to
earn an associate or bachelor's degree in those seven years, compared to 21
percent of students who did not receive any PLA credit, according to the
study, "Fueling <http://www.cael.org/pdf/PLA_Fueling-the-Race.pdf>  the Race
to Postsecondary Success: A 48-Institution Study of Prior Learning
Assessment and Adult Student Outcomes." 

"That's a sit-up-and-take-notice finding," said Jamie P. Merisotis,
president and CEO of Lumina Foundation for Education, which financed the
study by the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning. "CAEL's research
confirms that prior-learning assessment can help adults move faster toward
their associate's and baccalaureate degrees. We need to see more
institutions offering this option and more adults participating in it."

The concept of  <http://www.cael.org/pla.htm> "prior learning assessment" is
decades old, and it has grown to include multiple types of mechanisms for
measuring knowledge and skills that students have accumulated through
various types of formal and less formal formats, such corporate training,
work experience, and independent study. The most common types of assessments
include standardized exams developed by the College Board (the College Level
Examination Program exams and Advanced Placement exams), the American
Council of Education's guides for recognizing credit for instructional
programs offered in the military and by employers, and institutional reviews
of individualized student portfolios.

More than half of all colleges award some kind of credit for prior learning,
says Pamela Tate, CAEL's president and CEO, but vastly fewer offer it to
significant numbers of students or conduct numerous types of evaluations
(many recognize ACE military credits, for instance, but nothing else). 

There are multiple reasons for that. Some kinds of evaluation are expensive
to conduct (faculty members must be trained to review and assess portfolios,
etc.). Faculty members at some institutions remain skeptical about the
concept of rewarding credit for learning gained outside the classroom. And
public institutions that are funded in large part by state formulas that
reward them based on the number of students they enroll and the number of
classroom hours those students take often do not see it as in their
interests to award credit for learning gained elsewhere.

But with politicians and policy makers coalescing around the need to get
more Americans into and through some kind of postsecondary training, credit
awarded through prior learning assessments offers an opportunity to entice
adults back to college with the prospect that they can build on learning
they've already gained and reduce both the time and money they might have to
expend to earn a credential.

CAEL and Lumina undertook the study, Tate said, to try to collect wide-scale
data that might "prove what we already believed to be true -- that students
[with prior learning credit] are more likely to graduate and persist." The
study examined data from a broad range of institutions that (through
membership in CAEL) award credit through at least one kind of prior learning
assessment; the 48 colleges included 22 public four-year and two-year
colleges (large ones such as Pennsylvania State University and Miami Dade
College and smaller ones such as Northern Kentucky University), 24 private
nonprofit colleges (such as DePaul, New York and Webster Universities), and
two for-profit institutions, Capella University and the University of
Phoenix.

Of the 62,475 students age 25 or older who entered the 48 institutions in
2001-2, 15,594 earned some "prior learning assessment" credit by 2008.
(Standardized exams were the most common type of prior learning methods
offered by the participating colleges, followed by portfolio assessments and
ACE-evaluated military and corporate training programs. Virtually all
institutions limit the amount of credit they accept toward degrees and some
limit the awarding of such credit to certain departments or programs.) 

The PLA students in the study were less likely than their peers to be women
(52 vs. 59 percent), less likely to receive need-based aid, less likely to
need remedial work, and more likely to have military experience. They were
also slightly older than their peers.

Students with prior learning credits also performed better, across virtually
all types of institutions and all demographics, as seen in the table below.

Percent of Students Who Earned Degree


Student Characteristics 

Students With PLA Credits 

Students Without PLA Credits 


Institution Type 

  

  


Two-Year Institution 

53% 

13% 


Four-Year 

55 

24 


Private For-Profit 

74 

23 


Private nonprofit 

58 

43 


Public 

49 

14 


Remediation Need 

  

  


Took Remedial Courses 

58 

17 


Did Not Take Remedial Courses 

55 

28 


GPA 

  

  


Students With 3.0 GPA or Higher 

70 

64 


Students With 2.0-3.0 GPA 

28 

24 


Financial Aid 

  

  


Received Financial Aid 

82 

24 


Did Not Receive Aid 

48 

17 

Among other findings in the study:

*	Students who received prior learning credit earned their degrees
more quickly than did their peers, saving on average between 2.5 and 10.1
months for bachelor's degrees and up to 4.5 months for associate degrees,
depending on the amount of prior learning credit they had been awarded. 
*	The differences in the graduation rates for PLA and non-PLA students
varied based on the policies of their institutions regarding prior learning
credit. The gaps were largest at institutions with more permissive policies.
At colleges where prior learning credits can be used to gain advanced
standing, for instance, students with such credit were four times likelier
to graduate than were their peers (56 percent to 13 percent), while the gap
was 48 to 35 percent. 
*	Even when students did not graduate, accumulation of prior learning
credit appeared to help students stay in colleges. Fifty-six percent of the
PLA students who entered college in 2001-2 but had not earned a degree by
2008 had accumulated 80 percent of the credits they needed for a degree; the
comparable figure for non-PLA students was 22 percent. 

While the study suggests that students who are awarded prior learning
assessment credit progress through college and toward a degree more than
their peers, its authors make clear that they are not close to showing a
causal relationship, and that they are left with many questions.

"Do PLA students have higher graduation rates because PLA enhances the
self-esteem and motivation of students by showing them that they have
already mastered college-level learning? Is it also because PLA students
already possess characteristics that are associated with better academic
outcomes? What institutional policies are influencing whether and how
students are using (or not using) PLA, and whether or not this helps them
achieve a shorter time to degree?"

Those questions aside, CAEL's Tate hopes that the data will prompt more
adult learners to seek credit for prior learning and more colleges to
consider awarding such credit. The council is developing a plan, she said,
to create a centralized system through which students could present the
various documents (standardized test reports, corporate training results,
etc.) to be reviewed and a national group of experts would assess them, with
the goal of building an infrastructure for prior learning for individual
institutions that cannot afford to do their own reviews.

"Our hope is to start a national center that will scale up the number of
students getting credit," Tate said.

More fully tapping into the learning that American adults have derived
outside the classroom could provide a wise and cost efficient way to speed
progress toward the Obama administration's completion goals, said Peter
Smith, senior vice president for academic strategies and development at
Kaplan Higher Education and author of a new book,
<http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0470538074.html>
Harnessing America's Wasted Talent: A New Ecology of Learning (Wiley). "In a
work force where there are roughly 60 million men and women with a high
school diploma and, in many cases, some college, assessing this learning
would recognize their unrecognized knowledge and tap their untapped
potential both for college and for work advancement. And for people who
value testing over deeper assessment, this data suggests the value of
prolonged and interactive thought about what one has learned as a part of
the learning experience."

-  <mailto:[log in to unmask]> Doug Lederman 

Related Stories

*	 <http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/02/01/private> The Private
Role in the 2020 Goals
February 1, 2010 
*	 <http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/01/26/gender> Gender Gap
Stops Growing
January 26, 2010 
*	 <http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/01/21/freshmen> Freshmen
Abandon Business
January 21, 2010 
*	 <http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/01/14/flagships> Flogging
the Flagships
January 14, 2010 
*	 <http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/01/13/males> The Men Are
Back
January 13, 2010 

C Copyright 2010 Inside Higher Ed 

 

Source:  http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/03/01/prior

 

 

 

 

Dan Kern

CC12, Reading

East Central College

1964 Prairie Dell Road

Union, MO  63084-4344

Phone Direct:  636-584-6607

Fax:  (636) 584-0513

Email:  [log in to unmask]

ECC main phones:  636-583-5193 & -5195

ECC web address:  www.eastcentral.edu

 

http://www.studentveterans.org/

 

www.vietnamwomensmemorial.org

 

Veterans Day 2009: http://www1.va.gov/opa/vetsday/

 

Do not condemn the judgment of another because it differs from your own. You
may both be wrong. (Dandamis, sage [4c BCE]) 

Cowardice asks the question, 'Is it safe?' Expediency asks the question, 'Is
it politic?' Vanity asks the question, 'Is it popular?' But, conscience asks
the question, 'Is it right?' And there comes a time when one must take a
position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it
because one's conscience tells one that it is right. (Martin Luther King,
Jr.) 

Instruction begins when you, the teacher, learn from the learner. Put

yourself in his place so that you may understand what he learns and

the way he understands it. (Kierkegaard)

 

To freely bloom - that is my definition of success. -Gerry Spence, lawyer
(b. 1929)    [Benjamin would be proud. I think, I question, I Bloom.]

 


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