Where does AP(E)L fit in Higher Education?
of questionnaire data continued
Use of learning outcomes
Learning outcomes are used where AP(E)L is related to specific modules
or courses, with the expectation in some cases that applicants will
meet all the learning outcomes to a specified sufficiency. Some respondents
stressed that the use of learning outcomes for AP(E)L is conceptually
difficult in a higher-education context where knowledge is not generally
pegged to measurable occupational competence standards. Curriculum
design, syllabus content and assessment in higher education generally
operate from a different philosophy in this regard, and the university
preference is for assessment of experiential learning in-the-round,
drawing on the teaching experience of academic staff and panels of
experts closest to the field of learning in each case. Additionally
the assessment of work-based learning is regarded as problematic since
the requirement to prove transferability of learning is both conceptually
and procedurally difficult. The contextual situatedness of experiential
learning proves challenging, especially where applicants are required
to provide evidence of both practical and theoretical knowledge. Assessment
therefore may need to involve interviews, reflective accounts, analysis
of theoretical document, essays and research assignments.
Numbers of applications
Numbers of AP(E)L applications range from over 100 per annum in
one college down to single numbers in others. Rejection of claims
is rare, and not all colleges have an appeal system.
Tools for AP(E)L include portfolios, reflective logs, performance
tests, written tests, essays and interviews, as appropriate to the
particular context. Colleges do not generally consider claims processed
in other colleges, and only two offer bridging studies.
Contact and mentoring support by the Access or AP(E)L officer are
regarded as an essential strength of a successful system. AP(E)L
allows for consideration of a range of intelligences in a claim
rather than the narrow range in traditional assessment. A developmental
or transformative AP(E)L model stresses the capabilities and potential
of the applicant rather than current competencies. AP(E)L tools
encourage more reflective thinking than taught course tools, with
the expectation of sustainable independent learning as a result.
Accelerated progress through exemptions and credit accumulation
are regarded as a strength for mature students, offering them greater
flexibility and accessibility.
Generally, the data indicated that AP(E)L is experienced as hugely
time-consuming and sometimes over-cumbersome for both staff and
students. AP(E)L claims require sophisticated conceptual skills
that are not always required of traditional learning and teaching
modes, exposing a possible contradiction with schemas of learning
levels such as is elaborated in the NQAI framework of qualifications.
Staff may not be appropriately trained in AP(E)L, and where training
is available it may not be learner-needs driven. Thus the emphasis
may be on the technical and procedural rather than on the epistemological
and developmental. Methods of presenting individual experiential
learning on a case-by-case basis may not be acceptable to traditional
academics, especially in context where norm referencing is used
in relation to cohorts of learners. The lack of fixed assessment
criteria, lack of grading, and apparent lack of uniformity are regarded
as weaknesses of AP(E)L in higher education.