1 T H E L I F E L O N G L E A R N I N G N E T W O R K F O R T H E E A S T O F E N G L A N D An APEL Framework for the East of England Developing core principles and best practice Part of the Regional Credit Agreement Ann Jackson Fowler, Maire Maisch and Pam Calabro July 2009
2 Mission Statement MOVE s overarching purpose is to bring about a step change in progression opportunities for vocational learners across the East of England region and to improve opportunities into and through Higher Education at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
3 Foreword The APEL Framework for the East of England has been devised as a practical resource for higher education institutions and employers to inform and guide the practice and development of the accreditation of prior and experiential learning (APEL) throughout the region. This collaborative Framework is based on a set of core principles which set broad parameters for a common approach to APEL. It draws on current best practice and is the result of extensive consultations with stakeholders across the region, predominantly in Health and Social Care and the Creative and Cultural Industries. However, the Framework is intended to be generic and has been designed to offer clarity, flexibility and support to the use of APEL in all employment sectors. It provides a baseline from which employers, providers of higher and further education and training and other partners, can build partnerships to improve the ways in which learners can make full use of existing learning to support personal and professional development and gain access to higher education and skills. The Framework is part of The East of England Regional Credit Agreement (Betts, April 2009) and is supported by a range of further resources.
4 Contents Page 1 Introduction 1.1 General 1.2 Stakeholder involvement 1.3 Stakeholder perceptions 1.4 The credit based modular system in higher education 1.5 Definitions What is the Accreditation of Prior and Experiential Learning (APEL)? What is the Accreditation of Prior Certificated Learning (APCL)? What is the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) and the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF)? 1.6 Non-allowance of APEL claims 1.7 How can APEL be used? 1.8 Who can use APEL? 1.9 What are the benefits of APEL? APEL Protocols in the Eastern Region 2.1 Core Principles, Operational Criteria and Notes for Use 2.2 Section A Establishing Organisational Structures to Support the APEL Process 2.3 Section B The Role of Learning in the APEL Process 2.4 Section C Assessment and the APEL Process 2.5 Section D The Award of Credit in the APEL Process
5 Page 3 Good Practice 3.1 Organisational Issues 3.2 Assessment 3.3 Charging Models 3.4 Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) 3.5 Supporting Learners 3.6 Staff Development 3.7 Working with Employers A way forward for APEL 34 References Bibliography and Useful Publications Appendices 1 List of APEL Principles 2 Glossary of Terms and Acronyms in Common Use 3 Credit and Qualifications Frameworks an overview 4 Members of Stakeholder Practitioner Group for Health and Social Care 5 Suggested Areas of Responsibility for Inclusion in a Role Description for an APEL Adviser 6 Example APEL Audit Template for Employers 7 Example APEL Audit Template for Learners/Employees
6 1 Introduction 1.1 General The East of England Regional Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL) Framework brings together universities, further education colleges, employers and key regional agencies in order to provide a common and consistent approach to APEL. It is designed to support learners and employers in reaching a shared understanding of APEL procedures, practices and processes across the region. It is also designed to increase opportunities for learners progression to higher education or transferring between institutions and so support them in making well informed choices about their personal and professional development. The Framework has been developed through MOVE, the Lifelong Learning Network for the East of England, as a response to the higher skills agenda highlighted in the Leitch Report (2006). The Framework is based on a set of overarching principles and operational criteria which have been derived from the Quality Assurance Agency s (QAA) Guidelines on the Accreditation of Prior Learning (September 2004) and informed by the recent work of the Joint Forum for Higher Levels Overarching principles and operational criteria for a common approach to credit, Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, (2006). The principles (see section 2) have been further refined through a process of extensive consultation with key stakeholders and represent a shared understanding of APEL standards and protocols, which are endorsed by higher education institutions and Sector Skills Councils in the region. It is intended that this Framework and the core principles described therein, will act as a resource that provides information, advice and guidance about all matters relating to APEL. The Framework includes exemplars of innovation and best practice which can be applied to develop future initiatives in the region. The structure of the Framework is designed to provide a consistent and transparent process for learners, employers and education providers to enable future learning and/or career development needs to be met. It provides a baseline from which employers and providers of higher and further education and training, as well as other regional partners, can build effective partnerships to improve access for learners and promote employer engagement. Consistent, transparent, accessible, flexible processes with high quality, valid information, as outlined in the Admissions to Higher Education Steering Group (2004) Fair Admissions to Higher Education: Recommendations for Good Practice, is key to helping learners transform their learning from experience in work, home or other settings into credit to gain relevant qualifications. This is in line with the structure of the East of England Regional Credit Agreement (Betts, April 2009) developed by MOVE Lifelong Learning Network, within which the framework for APEL can now sit.
7 The East of England Regional Credit Agreement offers a common approach to credit and credit processes across the region and should be read in conjunction with two further supporting documents. These are: Learning for Credit: A Guide to the Accreditation of Work-based Learning in the East of England (Betts and Brennan, January 2009) Credit for Learning: A Guide to the Accreditation of Prior Certificated and Experiential Learning in Higher Education in the East of England (Betts and Crichton, January 2009) 1.2 Stakeholder involvement The content of this Framework has been developed through extensive consultations with a wide range of stakeholders. Semi-structured Interviews with key stakeholders emphasised the need for a document which offers guidance to learners and employers in setting standards for all learning providers that offer APEL as a means of accessing units, modules or pathways. The interviews with stakeholders particularly highlighted the need for clarity, flexibility and support in relation to APEL processes and procedures. This document aims to meet stakeholder requirements in establishing coherent APEL protocols, as well as providing a clear guide to good practice. The protocols are embedded in the principles (section 2), which have been circulated to representatives of educational establishments, training agencies, local authorities, Sector Skills Councils and independent, private and voluntary agencies. The principles have been further refined and edited in order to reflect the views and perceptions of stakeholders. 1.3 Stakeholder perceptions In interviews, stakeholders have stated their expectations of how an APEL Framework should be constructed. Some of the statements that follow illustrate current thinking and some of the frustrations in the lack of agreed protocols amongst higher education institutions in the East of England. The key point is to be clear about what is meant by APEL. It is not difficult. Professor of Social Work, university outside Eastern region There is a need for HEIs to be responsive to service need identified by employers. Higher Education Lead, Skills for Health Sector Skills Council Different credit ratings across the region cause problems. Senior Lecturer, East of England university college The key is [providing] information, advice and guidance in a number of different formats. Senior Lecturer in Continuing Education and Lifelong Learning, East of England university
8 Requirements for any regional framework should include: a flexible permissive approach; clarity about expectations concerning mapping against learning outcomes; clear criteria for level and volume; support for higher education staff who know very little about APEL; as little bureaucracy about the process (as possible); a wide definition of portfolios to encompass differing work settings and experiential learning. Higher Education Manager and Head of School, East of England further education college There needs to be flexibility, a look at how long things take both in terms of APEL and gaining awards. There is a need for flexibility in HEIs - organisations have got to be able to compete in today s market. Learning and Development Manager, Workforce Development Team The real difficulty is in academics knowing how to manage evidence most feel fine with APCL, which is relatively straightforward. The difficulty is about being clear about what experience is worth and at what level. Director of Access to HE, East of England validating body There is a lack of understanding and lack of perceived credibility, and a lack of understanding amongst staff relating to APEL. Senior Lecturer and AP(E)L Adviser, East of England university The consensus was that in any framework it was important to ensure there is: Clarity in relation to: the process of mapping against learning outcomes of units, modules and pathways the criteria applied to the level and volume of credit that is recognised publication of tariffs by higher education institutions (HEIs) the information on organisational web-sites the language used to explain terms, procedures and processes charging models used by higher education institutions Flexibility in relation to: the application of the process of mapping against learning outcomes of units, modules and pathways approaches to processes and procedures employed, including e-learning portfolio compilation and production, in order to encompass different work settings the forms of assessment best suited to learners particular experiences the needs of employers competing in today s markets
9 Support for: learners, as part of the assessment process admission tutors, in applying APEL processes in relation to units, modules and pathways employers, in helping their staff through an APEL process staff development in provider organisations, to promote professionalism in APEL practices developing learning champions in the workplace, to support learners. 1.4 The credit based modular system in higher education Credit is the term used by higher education institutions (HEIs) to summarise and describe an amount of learning. A credit value identifies the volume (how much) and the level ( the difficulty or challenge) of the learning to be undertaken. A three year full time honours degree is made up of 360 credits, with learners normally studying 120 credits in each year. The first year of a degree is recognised as level 4, year 2 as level 5 and year 3 as level 6 within the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (FHEQ). The diagram at Appendix 3 shows the levels and equivalence of qualifications from entry level up to level 8. A more detailed version of the diagram is available at Each unit or module is used to describe the learning that is required to be demonstrated in order to gain credit at a specified level. Each unit or module may have a credit value of 10, 15, 20 or 30 credits, depending on the university and, sometimes, the course of study. The volume of credit is based on how many notional hours of learning are needed to achieve the credit. Notional hours include all learning activity lectures, tutorials, workshops, individual study and assessment. There is a nationally accepted agreement that 1 credit = 10 notional hours of learning. This means that a 10 credit module equals 100 hours of learning, a 20 credit module 200 hours, and so on. 1.5 Definitions What is the Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL)? APEL is a process of identifying, assessing and accrediting relevant learning that has been gained through experience (such as employment, work experience, volunteering, or experience as a service user or carer) that can be shown to be equivalent to learning within a formal qualification, module or unit. Accrediting learning from experience may enable the learning to be used as part of a new qualification and so prevent learners having to repeat learning that they have already undertaken. What is the Accreditation of Prior Certificated Learning (APCL)? The Accreditation of Prior Certificated Learning is the process of recognising credit for learning that has been gained through a formal course, for which a certificate has been awarded and a qualification achieved. The transfer of credit for prior certificated learning from one institution to another enables learners to access a course at a later stage and complete it in less time than it would normally take.
10 What is Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) and the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF)? The term Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) has been adopted by the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) as an alternative to APEL. The QCF is a new way of recognising skills and qualifications. It awards credit for qualifications and units. This new framework should enable learners to gain credit at their own pace through flexible routes. A learner being assessed, in order to gain credit described in the QCF through RPL, has to meet all the requirements, as stated in the unit standards and qualifications. It allows for the potential for achievement of a whole qualification solely through RPL. (See MOVE chart on Credit and Qualifications Frameworks: - an overview in Appendix 3). 1.6 Non-allowance of APEL Claims There are occasions where academic and or professional regulations limit and/or disallow a claim for APEL. In these situations, professional bodies or the academic institution normally have a requirement for all learning on the unit, module or pathway to be undertaken, in order to fulfil practice or professional competences. For example nursing, social work, allied health and teaching are regulated professions with placements in specialised settings and it is not usually possible to APEL out of the practice component of these pathways. Some courses may have specific health and safety requirements which can also mitigate against APEL. Professional updating courses or units, modules or pathways addressing major change in law, policy or practice, for example, pathways on the recent changes in mental health, will usually not allow APEL, even though a learner may be working in this area. This is not to say that previous experience and learning will not be relevant to any new learning embarked upon and, with the help of a workplace mentor or tutor, reflections on this learning may be incorporated into current assessment tasks. Universities should make it clear in information on the website or prospectus whether or not such conditions as described above, exist in relation to APEL. 1.7 How can APEL be used? APEL is essentially a tool to assist individuals, organisations and providers of further and higher education in identifying routes into employment and/or education, which enable progression by recognising previous learning. It may also be possible to gain recognition for learning that has previously been undertaken i.e. the gaining of credit through APEL may be an end in itself. By comparing and mapping previous learning gained through experience on to educational courses or to requirements for career progression within their organisation, learners may be able to reduce the time it takes to achieve a new qualification or fast track within their career paths. Employers may use APEL to encourage a positive approach to continuing professional development and lifelong learning, by enabling employees to value and document all forms of learning, particularly work-based learning.
11 Education providers will find APEL helpful in recruitment, retention and progression. Learners will be attracted to programmes where they have the opportunity to have relevant previous learning accredited. The following diagram describes a typical APEL process. The learner has considerable work and / or voluntary experience and wishes to have this recognized as credit or to consolidate it in a relevant qualification t The learner discusses this with employer (if appropriate) and seeks information from their local higher education institutions regarding relevant courses and the possibilities for APEL t The learner locates relevant course(s) and APEL opportunities are discussed t An Admissions Tutor gives briefing and advises on options; learner and APEL adviser / relevant tutor undertake consideration of learning and assessment options t The APEL adviser gives advice on assessment preparation and submission of assessment task and/or portfolio evidence for APEL claim t Assessment decision t Ratification of assessment by appropriate panel and confirmation of credit t The learner continues on unit / module / pathway Fig 1: The APEL Process flowchart for the learner
12 1.8 Who can use APEL? APEL can be used by a wide range of learners, employers, agencies and organisations. These include: small, medium and large organisations across the statutory, private, voluntary and independent sectors providers of further and higher education, who have the specific authority to award credit independent training providers individuals interested in enhancing their career opportunities through the development and recognition of their previous experience and knowledge. 1.9 What are the benefits of APEL? APEL is a powerful and effective way of recognising and accrediting learning gained through experience. There are numerous benefits for learners, employers, higher education and training providers. For learners, APEL will: assist with career review planning, and may increase self esteem, motivation and confidence in lifelong learning remove the necessity of repeating learning already undertaken provide opportunities to progress into and through higher education recognise, identify and accredit work-based and informal learning provide a way of maximising learner potential, by recognising achievement encourage effective use of learning from experience and/or work-based learning, in planning new learning and qualifications potentially, enable programmes of study to be completed in a shorter time. For employers, APEL will: provide a means of enabling in-company training, CPD provision and other formal and informal work-based learning to gain formal recognition make learning and professional possibilities at company and employee level clearer promote collaboration with education providers to facilitate entry to programmes encourage more employees to develop skills to meet employer needs assist in workforce planning, through the targeting of investment in education and development motivate and retain staff, potentially saving recruitment costs add value to the company brand, by providing a means of enhancing employee qualifications and involvement in learning.
13 For learning providers, APEL will: provide flexible learning opportunities, attracting a wider range of students increase opportunities to collaborate with employers improve recruitment, retention and progression rates promote innovation in provision towards becoming more responsive to employers and learners needs increase opportunities for collaboration between educational institutions provide opportunities for staff development.
14 2 APEL Protocols in the Eastern Region 2.1 Core Principles, Operational Criteria and Notes for Use The principles and criteria that follow constitute the basis upon which the APEL core principles and best practice in the Eastern region have been founded. Based on the model outlined in the Joint Forum for Higher Levels (2006) Overarching principles and operational criteria for a common approach to credit, they have been developed through extensive consultation with stakeholders and are endorsed by the Stakeholder Practitioner Group for Health and Social Care, which was convened between May 2008 and June These principles reflect those inherent in all other APEL frameworks in the UK. For higher education providers, they take as their starting point an understanding and acceptance of the QAA (September 2004) Guidelines on the Accreditation of Prior Learning. The consistent award of APEL, through adoption of these core principles, will help to ensure reliability and mutual recognition of achievement, to support progression for learners across the region. This part of the document sets out the six key principles on which the operation of APEL in the region is based, together with the operational criteria setting parameters for use in practice. They are applicable to all accreditation of experiential learning within the Eastern Region. The notes give guidance and information on the thinking behind the principles and criteria and should be used as a guide for practitioners and organisations. These principles align with and build on the Regional Credit Agreement, in relation to definitions, common language and terminology used. 2.2 Section A: Establishing organisational structures to support the APEL process Principle 1 There are clear procedures, processes and criteria in place for access to higher education in further and higher education institutions, where the learner is seeking entry through accreditation of prior learning. Notes This principle facilitates learners entry to further and higher education by providing transparent processes for accessing education, including information regarding the nature and range of evidence which can be used, timescales and fees applied. This is particularly important where learners are providing evidence of experiential learning and/or work-based learning at the appropriate level. Entry via APEL may be to a unit, module or pathway, where the amount of credit that can be awarded is made explicit. Experiential learning must demonstrate learning equivalent to the level of the award for which the learner is applying.
15 10 Operational Criteria 1. The APEL claim submitted must map to the learning outcomes of the unit, module or pathway including, where relevant, specific APEL modules, in order for credit to be awarded. 2. The APEL claim submitted must be at the appropriate level, as defined by the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) and/or the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (FHEQ) (see Appendix 3) i.e. the credit awarded at level 3, e.g. A level, cannot be accepted as equivalent to courses at level 4, (first year of a degree). 3. APEL credits are not normally graded. 4. Timescales and format for submission must be clear to all stakeholders. 5. Learners should be provided with a verified record that clearly identifies the credits they have been awarded and the units or modules from which they are exempted. 6. There are clear APEL statements within individual progression accords. 7. Processes and procedures should be published and be clear to learners, employers and other institutions. Principle 2 Information to learners, employers and other stakeholders concerning APEL policies, procedures and practices should be clear and accessible with terminology defined, and produced in a variety of formats, including on-line facilities. Notes This principle recognises the complexity of APEL for the learner. The learner is entering a minefield of new terminology and unfamiliar procedures and may, sometimes, have unrealistic expectations about their previous learning. A common language with terminology explained, and accessible information about on what basis credit may be awarded, is essential for the learner on their learning pathway. The government emphasis on attracting non-traditional learners into further and higher education necessitates information being produced in a variety of formats, to meet the needs of learners, including those learners with a disability. Individual units, modules and pathways at further and higher education establishments will have criteria for APEL, the details of which can usually be found in course handbooks. Operational Criteria 1. Institutions will need to produce materials and handbooks which clearly explain APEL processes and how to access these processes e.g. how to get started at unit/module/pathway level; how to gain support and advice, including use of appropriate institutional templates; the timescales for submission; the nature and currency of evidence etc; etc. 2. These materials will need to be accessible in a range of formats, including audio, visual and web-based materials.
16 Consideration will need to be given by institutions to learners with special requirements, including students with disabilities, and where English is a second language. The difficulty of aligning overseas qualifications with UK qualifications needs to be taken into account in developing materials and handbooks. Principle 3 Responsibility for determining APEL decisions is vested in known individuals who have had appropriate training and possess the recognised expertise to make reliable and valid decisions, which are open to internal and external scrutiny. Notes Learners need to have access to named individuals (often module or pathway leaders) in order to discuss their claim for APEL. An APEL co-ordinator or person with named responsibilities, who is able to promote consistency in responses and pass on knowledge and expertise, is often a role in further and higher education. Some establishments will use their assessment boards or an internal committee with external representation, to moderate APEL claims. APEL claims are subject to rigorous assessment processes and are open to external review, scrutiny and monitoring. Higher education establishments will have their own procedures for dealing with queries or complaints relating to an APEL claim. This may be considered under the Institution s complaints or appeals procedure (see QAA Guidelines on APEL, Section 35). Operational Criteria 1. Organisations should have transparent criteria for awarding or not approving credit for APEL claims and all decisions should be demonstrably rigorous, fair and equitable. 2. Organisations include APEL as part of their teaching and learning strategy. 3. Applicants will be informed if they have been successful or otherwise in their application, according to consistently applied, transparent criteria. 2.3 Section B: The role of learning in the APEL process Principle 4 APEL recognises that learning gained experientially and skills, knowledge, experience and understanding gained outside of formal education, are valued as having parity with formal learning processes. Notes Learners have often gained experience through personal, career and/or professional development. It follows that learners will bring a considerable and unique range of skills, knowledge and experience to learning situations.
17 12 The learner will need to be able to document this experience in a way that demonstrates that learning has taken place, against the specified outcomes of units, modules or pathways. This is normally through the compilation of a portfolio or equivalent (see Section 3.2: Assessment Methods, for details of what constitutes portfolio evidence). It is not sufficient to state that an activity or experience has been undertaken. It will be necessary to be able to demonstrate that learning has taken place through that experience. Operational Criteria 1. Learners are supported in identifying learning which may be suitable for the award of APEL through the use of, for example, a workplace mentor, on-line tutor or handbook. 2. The required learning outcomes of units, modules or pathways need to be clearly stated and available to the learner. This is necessary to provide a clear benchmark against which the learner can make their learning explicit in APEL claims. 2.3 Section C: Assessment and the APEL process Principle 5 All APEL claims must be formally assessed. A range of assessment methods should be available for use, in order to facilitate claims relating to a wide range of contexts, particularly where the demonstration of learning in the workplace is used as a basis for the claim. Notes The assessment of an APEL claim will provide evidence that personal or work experience and/or a training course, has resulted in learning taking place. It will also provide evidence that this learning meets the required outcomes for a particular module, unit or pathway. In some establishments, specific APEL modules 1 may be used to assist the learner to evidence their previous learning, through demonstrating individual learning outcomes, which are then assessed and awarded credit. The wider the range of assessment methods utilised by institutions to demonstrate learning, the more opportunity there is for learners to benefit from the APEL process. Operational Criteria 1. The assessment of APEL is subject to the same rigour as the assessment of current learning and will establish that the learner has met the learning outcomes for a particular unit, module or pathway, or learning outcomes specifically designed to recognise experience in order to gain credits. 2. The range of assessment methods in use in the region should take account of the most appropriate mode(s) for the sector skills/subject area.
18 Assessment should normally take account of the usual range of activities undertaken in the workplace, where appropriate. Whatever assessment methods are employed, the result will, normally, be a threshold pass / fail judgment rather than a graded pass. 2.5 Section D: The award of credit in the APEL process Principle 6 All APEL claims will be considered on the basis of establishing equivalence in terms of learning outcomes, its credit value and academic level, irrespective of whether or not the evidence is through experiential, informal or formal learning. Notes Credit is awarded for the demonstration of learning against a set of required learning outcomes, as described in programme specification documents, course/ module, unit or pathway handbooks. The purpose of this principle is to establish that credit is awarded for achievement at an equivalent level to that of current learning. There is no fundamental difference between credit awarded via APEL and credit awarded via taking a module. The only difference is in the route taken to achieve the learning, skills or competences. As an equivalent route to gaining credit, it is subject to the same quality assurance processes as accreditation in formally delivered contexts. All modules within pathways are validated at a level, depending on the qualification and the position of the module within the pathway. In higher education, on an honours degree pathway they will be at levels 4, 5 or 6. Operational Criteria 1. The credit value of formal, work-based or experiential learning is determined against identifiable and published criteria. The description of units, modules and pathways clearly state their credit value and level and, where appropriate, the amount of APEL credit that can be awarded. 2. One credit represents the achievements of learning outcomes within a unit, module or pathway that a learner would be expected to achieve in 10 notional hours of learning. 3. Decisions relating to the accreditation of prior learning are a matter of academic judgement. 4. Statutory Regulatory Bodies may restrict the amount of APEL that can be awarded and this should be clearly stated.
19 14 3 Good Practice In this part of the Framework, issues to be borne in mind by providers when planning APEL provision are discussed in more detail. These issues are covered in specific sections, some of which are supported by Checklists and details of Case Studies of APEL practice that is known to work. It is hoped that, by presenting material in this way, employers and providers generally, will find it a helpful resource to use when reviewing or planning existing or potential provision. 3.1 Organisational issues The diverse practice associated with APEL in terms of arrangements for the application of APCL and APEL processes across the region has been documented comprehensively in Credit for Learning A Guide to the Accreditation of Prior Certificated and Experiential Learning in Higher Education in the East of England (Betts and Crichton, January 2009). This describes practices and procedures employed, as well as key information provided by ten HEIs in the region. In organisational terms, APEL practice is generally implemented either at faculty / departmental level; at faculty level within a wider institutional framework or centrally via a specific department or unit with responsibility for APEL and, as Johnson usefully points out: Although APEL processes are most likely to be based upon externally defined good practice...the particular practice will be idiosyncratic to the individual institution. Institutions will have different committee and reporting structures that in turn affect aspects of the curriculum, including APEL. (Johnson, 2002, p63) Equally, while some universities have detailed processes in place for recognition of a wide range of experiential learning activities, for others, this is a marginalised area and often only located in specific pockets of the curriculum (for example, nursing), while in some institutions APEL is still not recognised at all.. The Principles noted earlier offer guidance as to how institutions can best organise themselves in support of the APEL process and it is worth summarising key points here: systems need to be clear, transparent and open to scrutiny learners need to know how to navigate through them information needs to be clear, up-to-date and accessible support for learners needs to be readily available the learner needs to clearly understand their role in the process. Some of the above will be discussed in more detail in the sections which follow. However, it is perhaps useful spending some time here discussing the institutional framework itself as, without
20 15 this, the organisation or training provider will not be able to offer any coherent or meaningful support to APEL learners. Institutions or organisations offering APEL may find it helpful to reflect on the following questions: What percentage of APEL will be allowed? How will APEL claims be assessed and monitored? Who will quality assure the process of awarding credit through APEL? How will staff be trained to establish and maintain professional standards in assessing APEL claims and managing the APEL process? Who will be responsible for each stage of the process from initial learner enquiry through to final award of credit? How will it be costed? How will the review of APEL processes be managed? What will be done to ensure that methods of assessment used for APEL claims are reliable and valid? What will be done by the institution / organisation to ensure that it is operating to minimise barriers to access through APEL? What will be done to ensure that APEL processes are accessible and transparent for all potential learners? Organisations will vary in terms of their answers but it is hoped that the good practice outlined in the Case Studies in this section will both help raise awareness of some of the successful initiatives operating, currently, in the region and highlight examples of good practice. What now follows is a Checklist, which organisations / training providers using this guide may find helpful in developing / benchmarking their own provision. C h e c k l i s t The role of APEL is clearly explained within all main organisational literature, including that which is published through the internet. The ways in which all potential learners can make APEL claims is clearly and accessibly described within all literature promoting courses, modules or units. Costings are readily available and the rationale for these charges clear to learners Staff with specific responsibility for APEL are identified. Staff with responsibility for APEL engage in regular training to maintain professional standards. The maximum amount of APEL which learners can claim against named awards is made explicit. Appropriate records are kept of each applicant s claim, including the outcome for formal assessment purposes. Yes/ No
21 16 Individual claims are verified by an independent assessor and / or APEL Board set up for this purpose Trained staff are made available for supporting, advising and guiding learners. 3.2 Assessment Assessments are an intrinsic part of the learning process and learners are assessed for a range of different reasons motivation, creating learning opportunities, to give feedback, to grade and as a quality assurance mechanism (Rust 2002). The assessment of APEL is generally to determine its equivalence to current learning of a similar nature, volume and level. The assessment for an APEL claim should not be more onerous than submission for a standard assessment. Criteria for determining the appropriateness of evidence for assessment The Quality Assurance Agency (2004, p5) suggests that in determining the nature and range of evidence appropriate to support a claim for the accreditation of prior learning, higher education providers may consider the following criteria: Acceptability is there an appropriate match between the evidence presented and the learning being demonstrated? Is the evidence valid and reliable? Sufficiency is there sufficient evidence to demonstrate fully the achievement of the learning claimed? Authenticity is the evidence clearly related to the applicants own efforts and achievements? Currency does the evidence relate to current learning? Where higher education providers and/or professional, statutory or regulatory bodies have specific requirements and/or time limits for the currency of evidence, certification, or demonstration of learning, these should be made clear and transparent. Methods of assessment Methods of assessment need to be reliable, valid and relevant (The Admissions to Higher Education Steering Group, 2004). In other words, a method should always lead to the same outcome if applied in a number of instances by different assessors. Methods need to measure what they are intended to measure. The method of assessment should always be appropriate for the learner, and the context of the experience, so as to provide evidence of the learning which has taken place. There are a number of ways of assessing an APEL claim such as: a portfolio of evidence with reflective commentaries a focused interview or viva based on materials submitted for assessment submission of a piece of work and a reflective account of the learning achieved an artefact such as a sculpture, a design, a painting, a model, with an explanation of its relevance to the learning outcomes of a unit, module or pathway
22 17 encapsulation, which permits additional work to be completed to make up the difference between a professional award and the receiving pathway. Flexibility and a degree of permissiveness in assessment facilitates learners to optimise their previous learning and demonstrate knowledge, skills and values relevant to the unit, module or pathway they are applying to undertake through the submission of APEL. Johnson proposes that: Experiential learning should be judged on the basis of equivalence, not on a strict detailed mapping with regard more for the qualification (levels) descriptors than for the module learning outcomes. (Johnson, 2005, p51) Some professional qualifications such as social work, where the curriculum is prescribed, may be restricted in the degree of permissiveness and flexibility that is allowed in the assessment process. The recent report on APEL assessment in the region makes clear (Crichton, 2008) that current practice is generally linked to submission of a portfolio of evidence, although there is some indication that some institutions are being more diverse in what they require of applicants. Some of the more commonly used forms of assessment are described below. The Portfolio Where the portfolio model is used, applicants are required to produce a fairly standard product as evidence that learning has occurred, and evidence generally includes most or all of the following: Curriculum Vitae, to provide evidence of work and other experience over time employers references, to verify roles and responsibilities undertaken A P E L C a s e s t u d y 1 - Encapsulation At Anglia Ruskin University an encapsulation process has been designed as part of a counselling pathway, to enable students to enter the second year of a degree programme after completing a certificate of counselling at a college of further education. Students submit specific tasks from their college programme and complete an additional piece of work to make up the difference between their college course and the first year of the degree.
23 18 A P E professional body qualifications, to provide evidence of the level of professional experience that might be of relevance to module learning outcomes testimonials and/ or certificates, to provide evidence of the level of other experience that might be of relevance to module learning outcomes evidence of CPD, to provide evidence of recent or current training that might be of relevance to module learning outcomes artefacts, such as sculptures, designs, paintings, models, reports or other material created in paid or voluntary work. Such work could be assessed as evidence of the achievement of module learning outcomes a reflective commentary mapping the learning achieved. This can, for example, provide evidence of critical reflection, knowledge and understanding to complement the evidence provided by artefacts alone details of modules against which APEL is being claimed, so that the evidence submitted can be related to specific module learning outcomes. Portfolio assessment has been used in this way for many years and the benefits have been well documented (see, for example, Wailey, 2002). Whilst it is generally recognised that the process can be laborious ands time-consuming, this form of assessment is known to work. Moreover, students can gain in confidence by being supported through the process and there is often a sense of real achievement when the assessment is completed. Encapsulation Encapsulation usually refers to mapping between a competence-based professional award and a receiving pathway, in order to identify the deficit between the level of the applicant s prior learning A P E L C a s e s t u d y 2 - Reflection on Previous Experience The post qualifying social work pathway at Anglia Ruskin University had devised two modules which enables them to transfer a professional award into an academic pathway and gain credits. Social workers are required to critically reflect on their previous experience of working with adults or children in order to demonstrate relevance to the new academic award. The critical reflective piece of work and the work for their professional award completes the new module.
24 19 and the receiving pathway. Once the deficit is identified, a tutor or subject specialist devises learning outcomes for the applicants to be assessed against, allowing the applicant to make up the deficit between the level of the prior learning and the level of the receiving pathway. Subject specialists can utilise different types of assessment to assess an applicant such as a portfolio, essay, presentation or poster preparation. The case study above on page 17 shows how this model can be used in practice. Reflection on Previous Experience Reflecting on previous experiences in order to demonstrate the relevance of this experience to new learning or to demonstrate that learning has occurred from reviewing, analysing and thinking about that experience is a feature of many APEL assessment models. Reflection on practice or experience is not a new concept. Learner has valuable experience as a carer and/or volunteer and wants to use this experience for a relevant career Learner applies the learning in an assessable form, to demonstrate that learning has taken place Experiencing Applying Reflecting Generalising Learner seeks advice and reflects on the learning accrued from that experience Learner conceptualises and generalises the reflection in the form of knowledge and outcomes Fig 2: Diagram of the Reflective Process based on Kolb (1984) There are many theorists, for example, Boud, Keogh and Walker (1985), Jarvis, (1992), Schon (1983) and Johns (2000), who propound the value of reflective practice as a means of learning. According
25 20 to the educator, Professor David Boud, effective learning will not occur unless the learner engages in reflection. Similarly, according to Kolb (1984) reflecting is an essential element of learning as described in his conception of the experiential learning cycle. Reflective diaries and journals kept to record details of events and incidents with accompanying thoughts and observations can provide strong evidence of previous learning that might be submitted for assessment. Further reflections on past experiences in the context of an application to claim credit in relation to a unit, module or pathway may also provide evidence of the learning that has taken place. Systematically reflecting on previous learning can assist in the process of articulating it within an academic framework, so that assessment of that learning for accreditation purposes, can take place. Figure 2 on the previous page illustrates the stages of the reflective process. Case study 2 demonstrates how reflection on previous experience can be used to complete new learning. Viva voce and observations Appropriate and varied forms of assessment should be used to assess APEL claims and methods of assessment should be relevant to the context of the experience and the required learning outcomes. A viva (viva voce) is a form of oral questioning usually conducted after the submission of a project, dissertation thesis or portfolio. Vivas and observations may in some cases be used on their own to judge an APEL claim but are more often used in conjunction with other methods of assessment. A borderline portfolio might lend itself to a viva which offers the opportunity to explore issues which might have been glossed over in the evidence. It might also be used not as a remedial measure but as a planned elucidation of the evidence. Equal opportunities are an issue here and if the skill of verbal expression is not essential to the assessment task, it might be better for learners whose first language is not English to concentrate on the written word. However, one advantage of using a viva to assess evidence of learning is that an assessor is provided with evidence of the extent to which any work submitted is the student s own. A viva might be most appropriately used with a large claim for credit and may provide an opportunity for an external assessor to comment on the assessment process. Pre-planned questions and careful note taking are essential if the assessment is to be rigorous and fair. Direct Observation Direct observation is a resource intensive way of assessing but for practical and vocational subjects it is an obvious form of assessment. Many competency-based programmes, such as National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) include observation in their units of assessment. In some APEL claims, such as those related to counselling qualifications, a record of observation of particular skills may be required as part of the evidence submitted. Like a Viva Voce, an observation is normally used as part of an assessment for an APEL claim to substantiate evidence of a learner s work practice or a particular skill set.
26 21 There is a need for clear assessment criteria related to the learning outcomes in an observation of practice; reliability is only assured when everyone engaged in the assessment process is as clear as possible about what is being looked for as supporting evidence. Other forms of assessment Three institutions surveyed as part of the report on APEL Assessment in the East of England (Crichton, October 2008) mention using other types of assessment which include: CPD evidence; reflective essays; questionnaires and work projects. Most innovative of all are shell modules, which provide the academic structure within which learners negotiate bespoke learning outcomes. Sometimes, these assessments are used as an adjunct to portfolio assessment rather than as assessment in their own right. An obvious advantage is that they are more learner-centred; however, confusion can occur, for example, in terms of whether what is being assessed is new learning rather than prior experiential learning. One institution has run a project using e-portfolios on a virtual learning environment (VLE) and electronic capture of information and learning through the use of blogs, videos, photos and oral communication are being planned and considered as alternative sources of evidence of learning. A further suggestion has been to validate a suite of modules at levels 4, 5 and 6, with learning outcomes designed to redress the balance between subject specific knowledge and level specific graduateness and with the word count reflecting the volume of credit claimed. APEL would then be achieved by the student reflecting on their learning development against these learning outcomes and could involve portfolio work. 3.3 Charging Models Currently, charging policies vary enormously between institutions both within the region and nationally. Fees for APEL are generally made in relation to tutor time and the assessment process. They will not normally exceed the full cost of the unit/module or pathway. Some examples of pricing policies from higher education establishments are shown below: loss leaders i.e. where there is no charging, usually because the institution is attempting to widen access and/or promote particular programmes of study modules (10, 15 or 20 credits) which provide learner support and guidance on completing the portfolio assessment for the APEL claim, where the standard module charge is levied a cost of between one third to half of the actual module price for exempted credit costs are charged along a sliding scale, depending on how much credit is being claimed a flat rate fee plus a set fee for exempted credits, for example, 100 per 20 credits a fee for the award of credit plus a set assessment fee a simple percentage of the full unit, module or pathway cost, for example, 50%. an initial consultation fee plus tutorial and assessment costs if the claim is submitted a minimum fee, supplemented to reflect the amount of credit being claimed, including tutorial time, administrative time and assessment.
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