Bell Tower, Marylhurst University
CAEL, the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, published a study last week about PLA — Prior Learning Assessment. What is PLA? Here’s a nifty synopsis of it from the Introduction to the study:
Prior Learning Assessment, or PLA, is another important and often overlooked strategy for helping adults progress towards a degree. PLA is the process by which many colleges evaluate for academic credit the college-level knowledge and skills an individual has gained outside of the classroom (or from non-college instructional programs), including employment, military training/service, travel, hobbies, civic activities and volunteer service. PLA recognizes and legitimizes the often significant learning in which adults have engaged in many parts of their lives.
The summarized results of the study speak to some of the tangible benefits for students:
The data from 62,475 students at the 48 postsecondary institutions in our study show that PLA students
had better academic outcomes, particularly in terms of graduation rates and persistence, than other
adult students. Many PLA students also shortened the time required to earn a degree, depending on the
number of PLA credits earned.
For more information about the study, you can read the article in Inside Higher Ed titled The ‘Prior Learning’ Edge. In the comments section of the article, Tom Flint (formerly from CAEL) references one of my favorite studies about PLA:
…the Fall 2002 article in the Journal of Continuing Higher Education by Maryanne LeGrow, Barry Sheckley, and Marijke Kehrhahn, “Comparison of Problem-Solving Performance Between Adults Receiving Credit via Assessment of Prior Learning and Adults Completing Classroom Courses.” The findings of this study point to enhanced meta-cognitive skills of PLA completers, in that they were found to be able to develop more complex solutions in problem-solving situations than their classroom-educated peers.
Marylhurst University first awarded PLA credit in 1976 — that’s almost 35 years ago! What we’ve found is that while the time and cost savings are certainly appreciated by our PLA students, earning PLA credit is about so much more.
Here are links to Marylhurst’s PLA students talking about their experiences — as you will hear from them, the credit is quite often the icing on the cake: