Gretchen Wilbur, Catherine Marienau and Morry Fiddler

Authenticity for Assurance and Accountability: Reconnecting Standards and Qualities for PLA Competence and Course-Based Frameworks

Gretchen Wilbur, Catherine Marienau, Morry Fiddler


An authentic PLA approach for quality assurance and accountability integrates the historical contributions of both course-based and competence-based frameworks and intersects assessment qualities with standards. The authors report on a CAEL inquiry project in which assessors used multiple frameworks to assess PLA portfolios. An overarching theme of the qualitative assessment data was that specific, flexible, and transparent criteria are required for valid prior learning assessment and these characteristics transcend frameworks. Themes from the analysis were located on a matrix intersecting assessment qualities--clarity, integrity, empathy, and flexibility—with standards for quality assurance in assessing learning. The findings suggest that such assessment qualities can guide standards to authentic PLA processes. Authentic PLA embraces multi-dimensionality, in a system that legitimizes multiple authorities whose voices, contexts, and learning dimensions are valued. These guides reconnect, rather than reinvent, PLA elements within the context of the current outcomes and competence-based movements.

Keywords: authentic assessment, prior learning assessment, competence frameworks, adult learning, quality assurance standards, higher education

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