Portfolio-based prior learning assessment: An exploration of how faculty evaluate students' prior learning
In this investigation of how faculty evaluators assess prior learning portfolios used for requesting college credit, a questionnaire was administered to faculty evaluators at American University and student credit award reports were compiled to create an analytic composite that (1) describes the evaluation behavior, characteristics, attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions of the faculty evaluators, (2) determines the relationships between and among those factors, and (3) reveals underlying concepts and interrelationships among the variables. The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) academic standards (Whitaker, 1989) were applied less often than anticipated, providing impetuous to revisit these standards and examine their current usefulness in light of information about tacit knowledge (Polyani, 1967; Sternberg, 1995), knowing in action (Schon, 1983) and the diverse ways in which knowledge is developed outside of academe. Faculty were most inclined to consider the students' presentation of content and knowledge, analytic and critical thinking skills, writing skills, and evidence of reading and research. They were also somewhat inclined to consider the length and intensity of students' experiences and they tied experience to the learning process, which is in conflict with the CAEL standards, but may reflect an understanding of how learning is connected to experiences and the context in which they occur. Pylori (1998) reminds us that much of the controversy surrounding prior learning assessment comes from the challenge faced by institutions to meet the individualized assessment needs of nontraditional students and at the same time to ensure quality outcomes for all students and to preserve institutional integrity. High quality outcomes assessments provide valuable information about program effectiveness and integrity and also provide information for program improvement. This project provides a model for institutional outcomes assessment for portfolio assessment of prior learning in higher education and for enhancing institutional quality control. Future research includes conducting similar studies at other institutions. As further information is gathered about how evaluators determine if learning is sufficient to warrant academic credit, a broader, more generalizable model can be constructed of how evaluation of portfolio-based assessment of prior learning is conducted.