ERIC Number: EJ866289
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Reference Count: 21
Changing PLA Processes, Not PLA
Suopis, Cynthia A.
Journal of Continuing Higher Education, v57 n2 p125-128 2009
Margaret J. Wheatley, the organizational consultant who wrote the 1999 classic, "Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World," laments about the rigid structures and processes that often strangle organizations rendering them incapable of change. Wheatley asserts that organizations lack faith that their purpose can be accomplished in a variety of ways. The author often finds solace in understanding organizational change as a stream that encounters the obstacles of rocks and debris by flowing around and through them. The natural state of water seeking its own level and finding a way to flow despite outside forces is a powerful lesson for understanding organizations in an any industry. In this article, the author describes the current University of Massachusetts (UMASS) Amherst, University Without Walls (UWW) Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) process that has been altered numerous times in the near four decade history of the program. Despite these changes, Wheatley's premise--that order can be achieved in a chaotic world--is the guiding principle of this program's attempt to preserve a core value of acknowledging a student's learning in the academy through experience in the real world. Even though the field of PLA has evolved, the UWW definition of PLA has consistently embraced the student's ability to document experiential learning through a critical and reflective analysis that is best rendered through the writing of a portfolio. This value has withstood budget reductions; critics of the PLA process; and industry, demographic, and environmental changes that became large rocks in the stream of nontraditional students seeking unique higher education goals.
Descriptors: Nontraditional Students, Prior Learning, Experiential Learning, Organizational Change, Educational Change, Student Evaluation, Transfer Policy, Organizational Climate
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Adult Education; Higher Education
Authoring Institution: N/A