Experience life experience

I returned from the CAEL International conference last week with a renewed interest in adult education. Anymore, it seems like there are few “traditional” students and the education system has failed to support adult learners in getting credit for what they know. The contemporary workforce is increasingly expected to be more technically adept, well-rounded and agile, and yet there is little support for adult learners in the higher education system.

Think about how many things you’re managing when you do something as simple as cook dinner; raw ingredients, cooking times, cross contamination, seasoning, presentation. Now think about a job in manufacturing, healthcare or the military. Until recently, these skills were worth nothing to most higher education institutions.  When you consider the knowledge involved, its offensive that people who have spent meaningful time in the workforce get no official credit for this tremendous (yet unsanctioned) experience. They are often brilliant, hard-working people and are so entrenched in their work that they often have a hard time articulating what they know.

That’s where CAEL and their Prior Learning Assessment service, LearningCounts.org, come in. They are helping people articulate and present their knowledge to institutions that want to accept Prior Learning Assessment credit, but don’t have internal resources to do so. CAEL has found that Students who earn PLA credit are an impressive 2½ times more likely to graduate. 

George Pruitt, President at Thomas Edison State College, put it succinctly when accepting the award for lifelong achievement in adult learning, “This is not an intellectual exercise, this is a movement”.