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Reflections on PLA – “Why the Adult Brain Likes PLA”

Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.” – Søren Kierkegaard

At CAEL, whenever we talk about prior learning assessment (PLA), we like to promote the idea of knowledge being acquired outside of a traditional classroom, such as that gained from life and work experiences at various stages in one’s life. That concept is the key to understanding PLA at its core, and it is this learning process that has inspired a very thoughtful critique by Catherine Marienau, a professor and faculty mentor at the DePaul University School for New Learning, in a new CAEL News and Forum article titled “Why the Adult Brain Loves PLA.

For Marienau, the PLA experience is beneficial because it emphasizes reflection. With reflection, individuals are empowered to think deeply about their previous learning experiences. They are provided the vessel (with the help of an educator or PLA expert) to organize those experiences into a collective visual framework that gives testimony to their knowledge. This process of reflection, according to Marienau, is similar to the learning an archeologist gains from discovering ancient artifacts at excavations, which represents a collection of knowledge that creates “a meaningful interpretation of past events.”

Marineau’s article is especially important to ponder as PLA continues to expand across campuses nationwide, and as it gradually catches on with the enactment of legislation at both the state and federal level. Read more about “Why the Adult Brain Loves PLA” by clicking here.


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