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Accrediting Prior Learning: Strategy, Pedagogy, Process

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  1. Accrediting Prior Learning: Strategy, Pedagogy, Process Mel Joyner Associate Dean (Teaching and Learning) Faculty of Health and Human Sciences Plymouth University

  2. On the Accreditation of Prior Learning (aka APL)… The QAA Definition: “The identification, assessment and formal acknowledgement of learning and achievement that occurred at some time in the past (perhaps as the result of a previous course, self-directed study, or active experience), which is taken into account when admitting a student to a course of study.”

  3. More on APL… • A quality and standards process, typically set out within an education institution’s academic regulations • A matter of academic judgement • A pedagogical approach • An aspect of workforce development

  4. Assessing “Prior Experiential Learning”: The Pedagogical Challenges • Recognition of the workplace as a legitimate learning domain; the “learner-worker” (Solomon, 2005); facilitating the translation of experience into something that can be evidenced and assessed against specified learning outcomes (Trowler, 1996) • Reconciling “competence” with “level descriptors”; “vocational” vs. “academic” learning; “credit exchange” vs. “developmental “ models (Butterworth, 1992); “Angels in marble” (Trowler, 1996) • The “Knowledge Question” (Cooper and Harris, 2013); signature pedagogies (Shulman, 2005); academic tribes and territories (Becher and Trowler, 2001)

  5. Practical Challenges • Individual nature of the claims: ensuring transparency and consistency • Process-driven; the management of uncertainty • Academic and professional support staff skillsets and workloads • Assessment, credit weightings, degree classification • Advising and supporting potential applicants; managing failure • The role of the “employer” • Professional, regulatory and statutory body standards • Costing and pricing • Reputational risks

  6. Thinking Through the Challenges A Canadian International Rugby Player who has signed to play for the local Aviva Premiership Rugby Union team asks for direct entry into Level 6 to complete his honours degree in History by doing the dissertation A former member of the local council, defeated in the recent election, requests APEL against the M.A. in Public Policy Management A hairstylist with an NVQ Level 3 in Beauty Therapy who has been running her own mobile salon business requests direct entry into a Level 5 Foundation Degree in Salon Management A laboratory technician and demonstrator employed by the University requests APEL against the institution’s HEA-accredited Teaching and Learning PG Certificate.

  7. The “Plymouth Model”: Post-Registration Health and Social Care • “Professional Development”: Named senior administrator for APL and named academic lead for post-registration; named external examiners looking at APEL portfolios • “Working in partnership”: recognition of workplace training through tariffs • “Levelling up”: uplifting of credit-rated achievement • “APEL modules”: a learning process for experienced healthcare professionals • “Voucher Scheme”: assessing the impact of professional development activities on practice settings for academic credit

  8. References Becher, T. and Trowler, P. (2001). Academic Tribes and Territories: Intellectual Enquiry and the Culture of Disciplines 2nd ed. Buckingham: SRHE and Open University Press. Butterworth, c. (1992). “More Than One Bite at APEL”, Journal of Further and Higher Education 16:3, 39-51. Cooper, L. and Harris, J. (2013). “Recognition of Prior Learning: Exploring the ‘Knowledge Question’”, International Journal of Lifelong Learning 32:4, 447-463. Shulman, L.S. (2005). “Signature Pedagogies in the Professions”, Daedalus (Summer), 52-59. Quality Assurance Agency (no date). “Glossary: Accreditation of Prior Learning”, at (accesssed 28/5/2014) .

  9. Solomon, N. (2005). “Identity Work and Pedagogy: Textually Producing the Learner-Worker”, Journal of Vocational Education and Training 57:1, 95-108. Trowler, P. (1996). “Angels in Marble? Accrediting Prior Experiential Learning in Higher Education”, Studies in Higher Education 21:1, 17-30