Policy development and implementation procedures for recognition of prior learning: a case study of practice in higher education
RPL policy approval process
The draft DIT RPL policy document was submitted to Academic Council in May 2008 and made available for general consultation and comment. The final document was passed by Council in June of that year with no significant changes.
RPL implementation strategy
A key element of the RPL policy document, as indicated earlier, was that implementation was designated to School level rather than located in a central operation or unit, thereby confirming the School structure as both the decision-making level and the level of operational implementation. This enabled each School to build on its own academic RPL culture within its existing practices, with policy oversight and quality assurance at central level. A general implementation guide in relation to the approved RPL policy and the text of the nationally agreed principles and operational guidelines was circulated by the author. The rationale for the guide was that it would facilitate the emergence of practices at the level of the academic programme which were ‘owned’ by the School and which were a good fit with approved policy and in line with national guidelines. An example of an RPL implementation planning exercise is illustrated in Figure 4. The text of the principles is presented followed by an exercise which would move RPL from principle to local practice.
The guide included activities to enable academic staff to consider each and every principle and operational guideline in the nationally agreed document of 2005 with the RPL policy agreed for the DIT. In reality, the task of drafting RPL policy at School level fell initially to staff who had an immediate need to integrate RPL into their own programmes. Their experiences were useful in generating case studies and repositories of models, processes and supporting documents for others to learn from and to develop further. This bottom-up meets top-down approach offers a degree of academic freedom to staff to debate the nature of their disciplinary knowledge and to consider how such knowledge can be achieved in the ‘learned’ curriculum of work and life as well as the ‘taught’ curriculum of academic programmes and awards. This essentially is the key business of RPL and indeed the epistemology of disciplinary, professional and sectoral knowledges is the most elusive element of RPL ‘politics’ in the current landscape which revolves around the technology of learning outcomes. Unsurprisingly this is the area of RPL which is the most intellectually engaging for academic staff and which represents a context for discussion of their tacit knowledge which should logically precede development of policies and procedures for relationships among national and meta-frameworks!