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The view from here: F orward through the rear-view mirror… A presentation to the Gateway Advisory Meeting September 22, 2005 Dianne Conrad, PhD Director, Centre for Learning Accreditation. E is for Excitement. PLAR is by nature innovative and exciting.

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The view from here: Forward through the rear-view mirror…A presentation to theGateway Advisory MeetingSeptember 22, 2005Dianne Conrad, PhDDirector, Centre for Learning Accreditation

e is for excitement
E is for Excitement
  • PLAR is by nature innovative and exciting.
  • PLAR honours maturity, experience, tenacity, and industry.
  • PLAR furthers the thinking of John Dewey…

“the beginning of instruction shall be made with the experience learners already have…this experience and the capacities that have been developed during its course provide the starting point for all further learning” (Experience and Education, 1938, p. 74)

  • PLAR tangibly recognizes the fact that all expertise does not reside in the heads of teaching faculty.
plar an issue of history and philosophy
PLAR: An issue of history and philosophy
  • Liberal philosophy relies on “sage on the stage” theories that promote didacticism.
  • Dewey, Lindeman, Moses Coady, Jimmy Tompkins, and Alfred FitzPatrick advocated for progressive education.
  • Progressivism understands learning as a part of experience.
at athabasca university
At Athabasca University…
  • Who has the knowledge?
  • How is it spread around?
  • Who is responsible for it?

The integrity of AU’s PLAR system is

dependent on sound academic vision and process.

centre for learning accreditation
Centre for Learning Accreditation

Key goals:

  • to proselytize and train
  • to mentor and coach
  • to attract new academic expertise to the process
  • to solidify approaches to and find consistency

among believers

e is for enterprise
E is for Enterprise

Enterprise: “initiative” or just plain hard work.

PLAR involves a lot of work.

  • For learners
  • For assessors
  • For administrators
innovative au
Innovative AU

And innovation is a lot of work too – in its conception,

in its implementation and direction.

Especially in large institutions…

Athabasca University has been innovative in its use of


  • Various models
  • Centrally supported
  • Generous recognition of learning

Gateways has been innovative in its adoption of PLAR

policies and procedures:

  • Partnerships
  • Mentoring
  • Holistic learning
  • Distributed responsibility
future enterprise
Future Enterprise

The Centre for Learning Accreditation will be a hive

of enterprise in:

  • reviewing AU’s PLAR processes policies and procedures with an eye to identifying barriers to learners.
  • identifying barriers to faculty participation.
  • celebrating the energy of success stories from

the relative isolation of their programs into a larger


e is for engagement
E is for Engagement

Engagement = participation = acceptance,

understanding, promotion

What contributes to non-engagement?

an amazing fact
An Amazing Fact!

PLAR’s philosophy is not shared universally by all

who toil in academe.

Some of their concerns:

  • rigor
  • institutional integrity
  • credibility
  • the “educational experience”
  • “double-dipping”
engaging the non engaged
Engaging the Non-engaged
  • A clear mandate strengthened by central support.
  • An efficient structure/a hub of administrative responsibility that itself contains expertise.
  • A strong product (PLAR process):
    • respect for the learner
    • rigor
    • routine and consistency
  • An effective, multilateral communications flow that facilitates information exchange and informed decision-making.
  • A program of education, training, and mentoring that clarifies philosophy, concepts, and process.
  • Internal promotion, profile (committees), and marketing (website, materials).
  • Generation of research and academic presence.
  • Valuing and recognition of PLAR participation.
another type of engagement
Another Type of Engagement
  • PLAR is a learning experience.
  • The best PLAR successes arise from learners’ realization of valuable learning experiences through the PLAR process.
  • This occurs ( in spite of them or to their great surprise) when they enter into a well-managed, well-documented, and well mentored process.
a final word
A Final Word…

... on portfolios.

The portfolio is both product and process:

“… as a well-organized product, the portfolio

enables an individual to ‘showcase’ relevant

achievements in a discourse style that is familiar to

the academic assessor(s).”

(Wong, 2001, p. 166)

But the heart of learning, of engagement, is in the process of making the portfolio.

Quoting Jerald Apps, in Teaching from the Heart (Krieger, 1996, p. 30):

  • Learning at a deeper level requires some distancing and some work.
  • Learning from the heart takes time and often requires solitude.
  • Learning more deeply takes practice and discipline.
  • Such learning can evoke fright as well as elation.
“Learning from the heart combines the physical, the intellectual,

the emotional, and the spiritual dimensions of our being in such a

way that we begin to touch the essence of our humanity. We

begin to touch our souls.”