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Research Domain: Group Two - Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR)

Title of Project: An Exploration of the Current and Future Uses of PLAR

Start Date: April 1, 1997
Academic Investigators: Dr. Alan Thomas (OISE/UT), Monica Collins (University of Windsor)
Community Partners: ACTEW, CAW, CEP, CSTEC, CUPE, GM, OFL
Student Researchers: Sue Vanstone (OISE/UT), Luis Barnola (OISE/UT)

Despite the thirty years of experience with PLAR in the world, there is very little documentation with respect to the experience of users. For example there are surprisingly few longitudinal studies that tell us anything about educational and/or employment achievements of individuals that have made use of PLAR procedures and devices. The latter is only information that, in the long run, will make PLAR both acceptable, efficient, and humane.

A recent pilot-project by CSTEC involving employees of Sidbec-Dosco Ispat Inc., and the Sorel-Tracy CGEP provide extremely interesting insights into the experience and recommendations of a group of steelworkers. Ms Joy Van Kleef, formerly of the Council of Regents is undertaking a documentation study of the use of PLAR in association with several colleges in Canada. Secondary Schools in Ontario are beginning to collect information that would allow the tracking of PLAR participants. But there remains no consistent, systematic, collection of information that would allow inclusive analysis. We do know, for example, how information about the availability of PLAR is communicated; what the socio-economic background of successful applicants is; what experience they have with the PLAR procedures and to what degree they need to be simplified; what the experience is of administrators of PLAR at all levels of education; or what the experience is of "sponsoring" organizations, such as labour organizations, employers, and schools and colleges.

There is some reasonable suspicion that the general patterns associated with users of resources for adult education (those with higher achievement in formal education use it most, as has been the case predominantly with Paid Educational Leave). However the leadership

provided by the First Nations Technical Institute (Deseronto, Ontario) suggests at least optimism that PLAR will benefit hitherto "excluded" groups, as is intended.

What we have largely are the fruits of enthusiasm and hope, based on constantly increasing experience, in Canada, and elsewhere in the world (USA, UK, France, Australia, South Africa)but very little concrete information on which to solidly base those expectations.

Because of the variety of interests, individual and collective, involved, questions of methodology present special problems. Ideally we should conduct longitudinal studies involving various matched groups of applicants, at every level of education, over a five to seven year period. Such a study exceeds any of the resources of the NALL Project, but considerable progress could be made by the following:

  1. designing demonstration projects that would test experience with respect to information, access, experience with the procedures on the part of both applicants and providers. An extension or repetition of the CSTEC pilot would be particularly useful.

  2. identifying what information we will need to track applicants who discover PLAR on their own with respect to their backgrounds, how they found out about it, their experience with the procedures, and their resulting educational and occupational lives, and how to establish cooperative procedures for collecting and sharing such information.

  3. exploring what factors in the PLAR procedures at present are the most helpful and the most difficult for both applicants and providers.


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