Developing Benchmarks for Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition

Written by Malcolm Day
Edited by R. E. Tucker

Copyright (c) 2000 by the Canadian Association for Prior Learning Assessment. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher. Canadian Association for Prior Learning Assessment PO Box 56001, 355 Slater Street, Ottawa ON K1R 7Z0


This is an executive summary of the Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC) funded CAPLA study “Developing Benchmarks for Prior Learning Assessment – Practitioner Perspectives” The purpose of this document is to provide a summary of the year long project and to give a brief outline of its findings and recommendations.

To assist those who wish to explore the methodology and results in more detail the text in this document is cross-referenced to the relevant chapters in the full Report.

Copies of the Executive Summary, the full Report and the Practitioner’s Guide can be obtained from the Canadian Association for Prior Learning Assessment.

Aims and Objectives of The Benchmarking Study

The aim of the study was to develop and promote national benchmarks for those engaged in PLAR across Canada, in all sectors and communities.

The objectives of the study were to

  • gain practitioner consensus on the development of benchmarks for PLA assessment across Canada;
  • produce a guide to support the implementation of national benchmarks for PLA assessment;
  • make recommendations for the promotion of the national benchmarks and distribution of the guide; and
  • investigate the feasibility of developing a system to confirm the competence of PLA practitioners, based on nationally agreed-upon benchmarks for practice.

In meeting these aims and objectives the following outcomes have been achieved.

  1. A review of the outcomes-based approach to learning in Australia, United Kingdom and Canada, the context in which this approach is emerging, the tensions arising and how they are being resolved by post-secondary institutions. (Chapters Two and Three).
  2. An overview of the diversity of PLAR practice in Canada and the emerging issues. (Chapters Two and Three). Case study presentations include
    • Canada-wide PLAR initiative for the technology professions;
    • the development toward a national tourism learning system;
    • a focus on health and human service programs in two Canadian provinces;
    • a focus on the role of post-secondary institutions in two Canadian provinces; and
    • a focus on community-based PLAR services (or centres) in two Canadian provinces. This is not meant to be a complete picture of what is occurring in Canada but rather a cross-section of case studies to show the variety of approaches currently in existence.
  3. A review of the benchmarking process and a report outlining the development of emerging benchmarks for Canadian PLAR Practitioners (Chapters Four and Five).
  4. An analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for using PLAR benchmarks in Canada (Chapter Five).
  5. The recognition of emerging benchmarks for PLAR Practitioners in Canada (Chapter Six).
  6. An example of a mechanism for validating the competence of PLAR Practitioners (Chapter Six) based on feedback received from focus group participants (Chapter Five).
  7. Discussion of the development of a comprehensive policy for the establishment of PLAR training organizations in Canada. On the advice of the steering committee a suggested framework is included in Chapter Six of the full Report.
  8. Finally, recommendations for the development and dissemination of a printed, text-based guide for Canadian PLAR Practitioners have been made (Chapter Five). The Practitioner Guide has been published separately from this report.

This publication will

  • outline the scope and definition of the PLAR Benchmarking Study;
  • outline the advantages of using PLAR benchmarks, as defined by Canadian practitioners;
  • present newly-emerging benchmarks for Canadian PLAR practitioners and the holistic framework in which they have been developed;
  • outline a possible mechanism for validation of PLAR Practitioner competence — a more comprehensive policy has been published separately; and
  • present the conclusions and recommendations of the Benchmarking Study.

Scope and Definition of The Study

An International Context

The concept of Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) is not new. There are decades of practice in other countries, most notably in Australia, UK and USA. In these countries, a variety of processes have been used to apply PLAR to education, workforce development and the identification of occupational standards (Chapter Two). Much is to be gained by examining the experiences of our colleagues in these countries — the pitfalls, the opportunities, the challenges — in order to apply that learning to a process of PLAR that is unique to Canadian culture and history.

That is not to suggest that PLAR is new to Canada. It has been practiced in universities such as Queens and Laurentian for more than thirty years (NOTE 1). In the 1980’s PLAR was quite prevalent in Quebec. However, it is in the last decade that interest in PLAR has flourished and all stakeholders have begun to explore how to participate in the movement. A picture of the current status of PLAR in Canada and value statements from a variety of stakeholders — community colleges, industry, small business, community-based organizations, First Nations, school boards and professional associations — can be found at, plar,ca and Nall.

The involvement of a variety of stakeholders and efforts to move PLAR into the mainstream has inevitably led to tensions within educational institutions, among various types of educational institutions, business, labour and equity groups in terms of how PLAR is defined and implemented in the various settings. There are strong advocates of the outcomes-based approach to PLAR and those who advocate for a developmental approach.

Labour has concerns about confidentiality, business’s growing control of curricular, their exclusion from input into the new applications to apprenticeship training and the burdening of the individual in terms of time, organization and cost of training. Equity groups are challenging who determines the knowledge that is recognized. Business is concerned with increasing access to and timely delivery of the “top up” or modularized training required by its employees. Educational organizations are concerned about quality control and costs, but in attempts to become learning centred, are thoughtfully and rationally exploring and cautiously implementing new structures and practices, including PLAR, to facilitate and support the development of independent lifelong learners (Chapter Three). Likewise, some Canadian training and certification bodies are using PLAR to evaluate occupational and professional competence (Chapter Two).

The need to develop national benchmarks or standards to guide the practice of assessors in an international context cannot be overstated. It challenges Canada to act nationally and to think more globally in relation to issues of employability and labour force development. National benchmarks for assessment will promote consistency and credibility for Canada’s PLAR implementation strategy. These, in turn, will augur well for its acceptance abroad and at home so that issues relating to currency, portability and transferability of credentials will be more easily managed. By providing provincially agreed-upon national benchmarks for best practice, we are clarifying the expectations of learners and the responsibilities of those who conduct PLAR assessment.

If the full impact of PLAR as a tool for change is to be realized, it is imperative that clear, credible, concise benchmarks with cross-sector applicability be created to guide quality practice (Chapter Six).


Benchmarking is a practice that allows a service to determine its standing within its field. It is a systematic analysis that compares activities, systems and processes to a recognized standard. Organizations use benchmarking to solve problems, plan and set goals, improve processes, to innovate and set strategy. By using a number of well-defined and easily understood indicators, weak spots in internal processes can be identified and compared to the most effective operating systems or best practices in leading organizations (Chapter Four).


For the purpose of this study assessment is defined as “…whenever one person in some kind of interaction, direct or indirect, with another is conscious of obtaining and interpreting information about the knowledge and understanding or abilities and attitudes of this other person.” — Rowntree, (1987)

The purpose of assessment is to

  • classify or grade students;
  • enable student progression;
  • guide and improve student performance;
  • facilitate student’s choice of options;
  • diagnose faults and enable students to rectify mistakes;
  • give teachers feedback on their teaching;
  • motivate students;
  • provide statistics for the course, or for the institution; and
  • add variety to students’ learning experience and add direction to teaching and instruction.

Some of these activities are ongoing or formative e.g. diagnosing potential faults and enabling students to rectify their mistakes. Others may be terminal or summative e.g. the assignment of final grades. Some of these activities may be institutionally-focused e.g. providing statistics for a course. Other activities may be learner-focused e.g. facilitating student options.

(1) The Status of PLAR in Professional Programs in Ontario Universities, 1999, prepared for the Council of Ontario Universities and Ontario Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation by Dr. Kathryn Barker and Dr. Charles Belanger.

Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR)

For the purpose of this study, Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition is defined as a systematic process that involves the identification, documentation, assessment and recognition of learning (i.e. skills, knowledge and values). This learning may be acquired through formal and informal study including work and life experience, training, independent study, volunteer work, travel, hobbies and family experiences. Recognition of prior learning can be used toward the requirements of education and training programs; occupational and/or professional certification; labour market entry; and organizational and human resource capacity building.

The goals of prior learning assessment and recognition include

  • the identification of learning, wherever it has taken place;
  • the selection of that learning which is relevant to a desired outcome career or occupational plan;
  • demonstration of the validity and appropriateness of the learning;
  • matching learning outcomes to those stated within a chosen accreditation or progression framework;
  • assessment of evidence against pre-determined criteria to ensure the validity of the claimed learning; and
  • accreditation within an appropriate and recognized accreditation framework.

Prior Learning Assessment Methods

The methods that might be used to assess prior learning include assessment of educational documents; portfolio review; demonstration or challenge processes (i.e. written/oral examinations, projects, assignments, performance observation, skill demonstrations, simulations and product assessments); standardized tests and program review.

The PLAR Practitioner

For the purpose of this study a PLAR Practitioner is defined as an individual who utilizes learner-focused activities to formatively or summatively assess an individual’s prior learning, either for academic credit or recognition of competence, using the goals and methods outlined above.

Within Canada this definition includes the work of the PLAR Adviser. It also includes the work of the PLAR Assessor – who is often but not exclusively, a subject matter expert from faculty. It may also include the work of the PLAR Co-ordinator or PLA Facilitator – if he or she is directly involved in the guidance and assessment of individual candidates or groups of candidates.

Guidelines for PLAR


In 1997, the Canadian Labor Force Development Board (CLFDB) published 14 minimum standards for the PLAR process. This study is concerned with the development of benchmarks for four of the CLFDB standards (7, 8, 9, 10) i.e. those which deal with the assessment process, assessment practices and assessor training.

In March of 1999 the Centre for Curriculum Transfer and Technology published its own PLAR Guidelines which are set out in the full report. They deal with education and administration, context, access, assessment, learner orientation/preparation, professional development and transcripts/transfer. This study is concerned with the development of benchmarks for Areas E and F of the BC guidelines i.e. those which deal with the assessment process, assessment practice, assessor training and the role of the learner. However, unlike the BC guidelines, this study has not been confined to areas that are exclusively concerned with PLAR for academic credit.

The United States of America

In 1989, standards to assess learning for academic credit were developed by Urban Whittaker for the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL). The CAEL standards primarily address organizational issues, with little attempt to define the role of the PLAR practitioner or the learner.

The United Kingdom

Within the UK, occupational standards for assessment have been developed by the Training and Development Lead Body (TDLB, 1995). These have been used to prepare NVQ Assessors for their role in workplace and PLAR assessment (Chapter Two). The TDLB standards are the external benchmarks that have been used for this study. Practitioners in Canada have been asked to compare their own practice against the TDLB standards in order to identify newly-emerging benchmarks and guidelines for Canadian PLAR Practitioners (Chapter Six).

The TDLB standards outline the key purpose, functions, activities and performance indicators relating to the work of assessors. A key purpose is a functional definition of an occupational group e.g. all assessors including PLAR assessors. It identifies why things are done (a function) not what things are done (a task). A function describes how the key purpose is to be achieved. An activity indicates how the key function is to be achieved. Performance indicators describe the standard to be achieved within the field of PLAR.

According to the TDLB the key purpose of an assessor is to

“review progress and to assess achievement, so that individuals and organizations can achieve their education and training objectives.”

According to the TDLB the functions and activities of a PLAR assessor are to prepare the candidate for assessment. This includes the following activities

  • help the Candidate to identify relevant learning;
  • agree to and review an action plan for demonstration of prior learning; and
  • help the Candidate to prepare and present evidence for assessment.

assess the candidate. This includes the following activities

  • agree to and review an assessment plan;
  • judge evidence and provide feedback; and
  • make an assessment decision using differing sources of evidence and provide feedback.

The performance indicators relating to each of these activities may be found in the full Report (Chapter One).

In drawing upon each of these international examples, Canadian terminology has been developed to ensure that the newly-emerging benchmarks are culturally and contextually sensitive and that they are appropriate to PLAR practice in this country.

For example, a common phrase used throughout the TDLB standards is “Units, Elements and Performance Criteria”. This has been changed to “Outcomes”.

The Research Strategy for the Benchmarking Study

A qualitative approach has been used to illuminate the issues that PLAR Practitioners wrestle with every day in order to make sense of their own practice (Chapter One). The following research activities have been undertaken:

  1. A screening survey to determine an appropriate sample – 1029 individuals across Canada who were known to be involved or have an interest in PLAR work were contacted and invited to participate in the study. (Chapter Four)
  2. A Benchmarking survey of PLAR practitioners – items for the survey were developed at the CAPLA conference in May 1998 using a focus group workshop (n=15). These items were piloted (n= 17) and were then applied to 91 individuals across Canada. (Chapter Four)
  3. Focus groups to determine policy application for PLAR benchmarks. (Chapter Five) A total of 45 individuals known to be involved in PLAR work across Canada were consulted. Twenty-six of these had not completed the original benchmarking survey.

A total of 168 PLAR Practitioners across Canada participated in this study—including individuals from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador and the Yukon. Representatives from the Aboriginal community, labour, business and industry, community colleges, government, professional associations and universities were included in the consultation. (Chapter Four)

The Advantages of Using Benchmarks for PLAR

PLAR practitioners in Canada have indicated the advantages of using PLAR benchmarks i.e. they

  • will ensure that PLAR will become a defensible process;
  • provide a sense of reliability, equality and fairness;
  • will improve accountability and transparency in the PLAR assessment process;
  • identify what is possible, what is feasible, and what is acceptable;
  • ensure consistency of approach, particularly for work place based assessment;
  • will improve the rigor and fairness of the assessment process;
  • identify the resources needed for assessment;
  • will make adult learners become more aware of requirements for assessment, improving access to PLAR;
  • will protect the rights of the learner;
  • provide more direction for faculty, thereby increasing confidence in the process;
  • provide a common understanding and communication among stakeholders;
  • identify an ethical process for the PLAR professional; and
  • improve mobility for the PLAR Assessor within Canada.

Newly-Emerging Benchmarks for Canadian PLAR Practitioners

A Holistic Framework for Quality Practice

When implementing the benchmarks emerging from this study it is recommended that organizations consider both the CLFDB standards, and areas E and F of the British Columbia Code of Practice as an appropriate philosophy and context for PLAR practice. In this way the need to maintain a common standard as well as an holistic approach towards PLAR practice can be fulfilled.

The Key Purpose of The PLAR Practitioner

The study has found that the key purpose of the PLAR Practitioner in Canada is to

“review progress and/or assess achievement, so that individuals and organizations can achieve their personal development and/or education and training objectives.”

The key purpose recognizes the range and diversity of PLAR in Canada. This includes

  • assisting individuals with their personal growth and development;
  • human resource development;
  • the preparation of professionals; and
  • assessment of individuals for academic credit.
Emerging Roles for PLAR Practitioners in Canada

This study has found that the main functions and activities of the PLAR Practitioner’s role are to prepare the Individual for Assessment. This may include the following activities

  • help the individual to identify relevant learning;
  • agree to and review an action plan for demonstration of prior learning; and
  • help the individual to prepare and present evidence for assessment.

assess the Individual. This may include the following activities

  • agree to and review an assessment plan;
  • judge evidence and provide feedback; and
  • make an assessment decision using differing sources of evidence and provide feedback.

PLAR Practitioners in Canada carry out both of these functions, more recently as part of a team approach towards PLAR assessment (Chapter Four). Practitioners should be made aware of the potential conflicts and biases which exist when undertaking both roles, but they should also be encouraged to develop competence in both advisory and assessment functions, so that the content validity and predictive validity of PLAR evidence can be addressed. (Chapter Four)

Indicators for Practice

The performance indicators relating to each of the functions and activities of the PLAR Practitioner are outlined on the next page. These have been developed from the UK TDLB standards (after extensive consultation) to ensure that the culture, context and diversity of PLAR practice in Canada has been appropriately captured. For example, the term “outcomes” was inserted to replace the phrase “Units, Elements and Performance Criteria”—these are specific terms used in the UK which only relate to NVQs. They are inappropriate for Canadian Practitioners. The italics reflect the changes made to the TDLB benchmarks, based on feedback from community-based PLAR centres in Manitoba and Halifax. (Chapter Four)

FUNCTION 1 — Prepare The Individual For Assessment
Activity I

Help The Individual To Identify Relevant Learning

  1. The individual is given clear and accurate information about the reasons for and methods of, collecting and presenting evidence of prior learning.
  2. The individual is encouraged to review all relevant and appropriate experience.
  3. Outcomes or agreed upon criteria which the individual may currently be able to achieve are accurately identified from a review of their experience.
  4. The way in which support is given encourages self-confidence and self-esteem in the individual.
  5. If the individual expresses disagreement with the advice offered, possible alternatives are explained in a clear and constructive manner.
Activity II

Agree To And Review An Action Plan For Demonstration Of Prior Learning

  1. The individual is given accurate advice and appropriate encouragement to enable him or her to form realistic expectations of the value of his or her prior learning.
  2. Any outcomes or agreed upon criteria to be achieved are appropriate to the individual‘s prior learning and future aspirations.
  3. Advice to the individual accurately identifies outcomes or agreed upon criteria which might reasonably be claimed on the basis of prior learning.
  4. Opportunities to use evidence from prior learning are accurately analyzed.
  5. The individual plan agreed to identifies realistic targets to collect and present evidence of prior learning as efficiently as possible.
  6. The individual‘s motivation and self-confidence is encouraged throughout.
  7. If there is disagreement with the advice given, options available to the individual are explained clearly and constructively.
  8. The plan is reviewed appropriately with the individual.
Activity III

Help The Individual To Prepare And Present Evidence For Assessment

  1. The individual is provided with suitable support to prepare a portfolio or other appropriate forms of evidence.
  2. Guidance provided to the individual during evidence preparation encourages the efficient development of clear, structured evidence relevant to the outcomes or agreed upon criteria being claimed.
  3. Liaison with potential assessors establishes mutually convenient arrangements for review of portfolio or evidence and maintains the individual’s confidence.
  4. Opportunities are identified for the individual to demonstrate outcomes or agreed upon criteria where evidence from prior learning is not available.
  5. Any institutional documentation, recording and procedural requirements are met.
  6. If there is disagreement with the advice given, options available to the individual are explained clearly and constructively.
FUNCTION 2 — Assess the Individual
Activity I

Agree To And Review An Assessment Plan

  1. Any possible opportunities for collecting evidence are identified and evaluated for relevance against the outcomes or agreed-upon criteria to be assessed and their appropriateness to the individual’s needs.
  2. Evidence collection is planned to make effective use of time and resources.
  3. The opportunities selected provide access to fair and reliable assessment.
  4. The proposed assessment plan is discussed and agreed with the individual and others who may be affected.
  5. If there is disagreement with the proposed assessment plan, options open to the individual are explained clearly and constructively.
  6. The assessment plan specifies outcomes or agreed-upon criteria to be achieved, opportunities for efficient evidence collection, assessment methods and the timing of assessments.
  7. Requirements to assure the authenticity, currency, reliability and sufficiency of evidence are identified.
  8. Plans are reviewed and updated at agreed-upon times to reflect the individual‘s development.
Activity II

Judge Evidence and Provide Feedback

  1. Advice and encouragement to collect evidence efficiently is appropriate to the individual‘s needs.
  2. Access to assessment is appropriate to the individual‘s needs.
  3. The evidence is valid and can be attributed to the individual.
  4. Only the agreed-upon criteria and/or outcomes are used to judge the evidence.
  5. Evidence is judged accurately against all the relevant outcomes or agreed-upon criteria.
  6. When evidence of prior learning is used, checks are made that the individual can currently achieve the relevant outcome or agreed-upon criteria.
  7. Evidence is judged fairly and reliably.
  8. Difficulties in authenticating and judging evidence are referred promptly to the appropriate person(s).
  9. When evidence is not to the agreed standard, the individual is given a clear explanation and appropriate advice.
  10. Feedback following the decision is clear, constructive, meets the individual‘s needs and is appropriate to his/her level of confidence.
Activity III

Make an Assessment Decision Using Differing Sources of Evidence and Provide Feedback

  1. The decision is based on all of the relevant evidence available.
  2. Any inconsistencies in the evidence are clarified and resolved.
  3. When the combined evidence is sufficient to cover the outcomes or the agreed-upon criteria, the individual is informed of his/her achievement.
  4. When evidence is insufficient, the individual is given a clear explanation and appropriate advice.
  5. Feedback following the decision is clear, constructive, meets the individual‘s needs and is appropriate to his/her level of confidence.
  6. The individual is encouraged to seek clarification and advice.
  7. Evidence and assessment decisions are recorded to meet any PLAR audit requirements.
  8. Any documentation is legible and accurate, stored securely and referred promptly to the next appropriate stage of the recording/certification process.

A Mechanism for Validation of PLAR Practitioner Competence

Based on feedback from focus group participants (Chapter Five) a non-mandatory or voluntary mechanism for validation of PLAR Practitioner competence is suggested. This is based on a model developed by the researcher for the Canadian Technology Human Resources Board. (Figure One)

Detailed guidelines for the validation of PLAR training organizations have also been developed. These guidelines are based upon a non-mandatory or voluntary code of practice for PLAR which could be quality assured by an external body. Participants in this study thought that this body could be CAPLA. Organizations wishing to be approved by the external body as PLAR training organizations would need to demonstrate that they have the following in place

  • management systems and resources to support the PLAR assessment process;
  • provision of appropriate learner support during the PLAR assessment process;
  • systems for the monitoring and reviewing of PLAR assessment records and procedures; and
  • appropriate strategies for the marketing of PLAR assessment services to individual learners.

These criteria provide the basis on which the external body could evaluate an organization’s voluntary application for approval as a PLAR training organization. They can also be used to ensure that the organization is able to continually deliver and assure the quality of PLAR assessment. The criteria would

  • help to ensure consistency in approval and monitoring of all organizations who offer PLAR practitioner training within Canada;
  • act as indicators against which the performance of these organizations can be monitored and evaluated; and
  • establish a framework for continuous quality improvement of PLAR processes.
Roles and Responsibilities of Approved PLAR Training Organizations (PLATOS)

Adapted From Day and Zakos (1999 A, B, AND C)
Select an option to review this chart: as a graphic or as a PDF.

Recommendations Arising From The Benchmarking Study

Recommendations resulting from this study fall into two categories.

  1. Those of a general nature which relate to the overall development of PLAR within Canada.
  2. Those which are more directly related to the implementation of the newly-emerging benchmarks for Canadian PLAR practitioners.
General Recommendations
  1. HRDC, in collaboration with the Provinces, other appropriate agencies and stakeholder groups, may wish to consider a more strategic approach toward research into PLAR, to ensure that objectives for implementation are both timely and appropriate. This would reduce the potential for research fatigue amongst what appears to be a relatively small population for study.
  2. HRDC, in collaboration with the Provinces, other appropriate agencies and stakeholder groups, may wish to focus its attention on the design and implementation of a nation-wide environmental scan of PLAR services and the personnel involved in delivering those services. A major focus of the scan would be the identification of the number of PLAR assessors there are in Canada, where they are situated both geographically and by sector, their age, gender, experience, credentials and how often they perform assessments. This process would not only enable an occupational profile to be constructed and provide baseline data for further PLA study but it would also help to provide as complete a picture as possible of the variety of PLA practices that currently exist in all regions and sectors of the country. Such a profile would go a long way to minimizing duplication of service and make for a more efficient and effective network of PLA providers. The effectiveness of PLAR as a significant force for education and training reform and as a useful tool for adults to take charge of their learning needs would be maximized. This would help to ensure that transferability of PLAR credits would be a relatively smooth and widely accepted process from coast to coast in Canada.
  3. HRDC, in collaboration with the Provinces, other appropriate agencies and stakeholder groups, may wish to consider the possibility of developing benchmarks for all PLAR roles including those who train practitioners and those who provide quality assurance of assessment i.e. the PLAR Co-ordinator. Benchmarking, as defined in this study, is a process that tends to build consensus and which can be used in combination with other methods of job analysis e.g. DACUM, Functional Analysis and the Delphi Method. The process of Benchmarking has a high degree of internal validity and it is sensitive to the qualities, characteristics and processes that help to define PLAR Practitioner behaviour. This would help to clarify existing roles and responsibilities and enable organizations to develop an appropriate, efficient and cost-effective skill mix for PLAR.
  4. HRDC, in collaboration with the Provinces and other stakeholder groups, may wish to consider the possibility of developing a more standardized approach toward assuring the quality of PLAR assessment. In particular, attention should be paid to the professional development of PLAR Co-ordinators, PLAR Assessors and PLAR Advisers to ensure that any formative and summative assessment decisions embrace both content and predictive validity. Focusing attention on these important issues of quality assurance in assessment can lead to the implementation of relatively large national initiatives through the development of Credit Accumulation and Transfer systems for specific occupational sectors such as those underway in the technology and tourism industries.
Specific Recommendations
  1. The newly-emerging benchmarks for PLAR assessment should be implemented within the context of existing codes of practice and the diversity of approaches to PLAR which characterize the Canadian landscape. Common standards for assessment must support and complement the inclusive, holistic approach to PLAR practice currently underway in Canada. Widely recognized and accepted benchmarks for assessment are essential if adult learners are to be able to easily move from sector to sector as their learning and life-needs change.
  2. A self-assessment process for ongoing professional development of PLAR practitioners should be an important component of the practitioner guide. Feedback from survey and focus group participants has confirmed the validity of benchmarks for PLAR practice in Canada (Chapters 4 & 5). They have also confirmed the newly-emerging role of the PLAR Practitioner and they have offered suggestions on how a Canadian PLAR Practitioner guide might be developed. A clear recommendation from practitioners during the consultation process was the importance of developing a self-assessment process for PLAR Practitioners. A self-assessment tool will encourage reflective practice and an holistic approach toward assessment to help ensure that the diversity of PLAR practice currently underway in Canada is captured in the guide. A self-assessment tool will also enable adult learners to understand the benchmarks against which their learning will be assessed, thereby helping them to be clearer about the demands and requirements that will be made on them as part of the assessment process.
  3. A non-mandatory mechanism for validation of PLA practitioner competence is recommended for consideration by HRDC and CAPLA as part of the ongoing development of PLAR practice in Canada. Feedback from focus group participants consistently recommended that a voluntary process be established to confirm the competence of PLAR Practitioners.
  4. The identified benchmarks should be published on the existing CAPLA/FNTI web site until appropriate funding can be found for a fully-maintained site which is dedicated to the implementation and development of PLAR benchmarks and best practices. The benchmarks could be published as a functional map and should also include the knowledge which underlies Assessor and Adviser competence. Eventually the web site would also include a “best practice” component which enables adult learners to determine whether service providers are following established protocols in helping them meet their education/training needs. The benchmarks will form the cornerstone of this site and will be linked to NALL and HRDC PLAR web sites.
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