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Opportunities and Limitations of the Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) Program at Montgomery County Community College: A Case Study of Stakeholder Perspectives

Theresa M Sullivan, University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Abstract

Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) programs, built on the theories of andragogy, experiential learning, and transformative learning, are posited as a way for students to pursue college credit for their previous professional, personal, and volunteer experiences—via certifications, corporate and military training, non-credit coursework, exams, and portfolio evaluations. This qualitative single case study explored the PLA program at Montgomery County Community College to better understand how its stakeholders interacted with it and why it continues to serve as an underutilized student success strategy for nontraditional students, despite the body of evidence supporting its use in persistence, retention, and completion. This study was guided by the following questions: (1) What is the nature and utilization of MCCC’s PLA Program both during and after the TAACCCT II grant period? (2) Why do a limited number of nontraditional community college students successfully pursue PLA credits? A total of 24 participants included six students, five faculty members, eight administrators, and five employer partners. Data collection involved interviews, a student focus group, document analysis, and archival records. ^ Findings indicated that the nature and utilization of the PLA program at MCCC was limited and fragmented. By far, the PLA program was working most effectively for veteran students who had a dedicated advocate and clearly articulated credit allocations for their military experience. The second conclusion drawn from the findings was that a limited number of nontraditional community college students successfully pursued PLA credits primarily due to a lack of awareness, outreach, promotion, and marketing. Outreach, combined with the other nine factors of: finances, human resources, the teaching and learning process, strategic partnerships, assessment of student learning outcomes, technology, student support services, and transitions all contributed to the underutilization of the PLA program. Two major contributions from this study included a new framework for assessing PLA programs and a new data model illustrating the “PLA Decision-Making Process for Community College Adult Learners.” This study offers implications for research and practice based on these findings. ^

Subject Area

Educational leadership|Adult education|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Sullivan, Theresa M, "Opportunities and Limitations of the Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) Program at Montgomery County Community College: A Case Study of Stakeholder Perspectives" (2018). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI10975664.
http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/dissertations/AAI10975664

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