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As valid as it can be?: The assessment of prior learning in higher education
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of applied educational science.
2011 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Assessment of prior learning (APL) represents the task to identify and acknowledge an individual’s knowledge and skills regardless of how it has been obtained. In higher education this type of assessment is primarily used for the purpose of awarding access, credits or advanced standing. Because of the impact the results from APL have on the future working career for individuals claiming APL, it is of great importance that these result of APL is valid. The question of interest in this thesis is to what extent APL in higher education is a valid assessment.

The thesis is written in the field of educational measurement and comprises four papers and an extensive introduction with summaries of the papers. The most recent views of validity theory were used as the general theoretical framework in all papers, and all papers are concerned with APL in higher education. Study I reviews the research area of APL in higher education from a validity perspective. The general conclusion from the review is that the majority of the studies conducted in this area primarily provide theoretical rationales and theories for a variety of APL practices, and that there is a need for empirically based studies examining and evaluating validity of APL. Studies II, III and IV are empirical studies based on, and exemplified with, an APL scheme related to higher education in Sweden. Study II examines validity issues identified from claimants (individuals or students claiming APL) view of APL. The claimants’ experiences from the specific APL scheme were examined using a questionnaire developed for that purpose. Conclusions drawn from the results are that possible threats to validity may exist in the administration of APL procedures, as well as in consequences of APL. Study III focuses on validity of admission decisions based on APL. The study examines decisions made by different higher education institutions for approximately 600 individuals applying for higher education based on their prior learning. The results show that the existing practice of APL needs improvements in order to obtain validity and trustworthiness in the decisions made in relation to APL. Finally, Study IV focuses on reliability in APL related to higher education. The study provides data of inter- and intra-rater reliability among judges in the specific APL scheme. The results show a lack of especially inter-rater reliability, and a conclusion is that reliability in this type of assessment should be further investigated.

The general conclusion from this thesis is that there is a need to take validity issues in APL seriously, and that APL in higher education may not be as valid as it could be.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Institutionen för tillämpad utbildningsvetenskap, Umeå Universitet , 2011. , 50 p.
Series
Academic dissertations at the department of Educational Measurement, ISSN 1652-9650 ; 6
Keyword [en]
Access to Higher Education, Recognition, Accreditation, Informal learning, Validity, Reliability, Validation
Research subject
didactics of educational measurement
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-43461ISBN: 978-91-7459-209-2OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-43461DiVA: diva2:414060
Public defence
2011-06-01, Norra Beteendevetarhuset, Hörsal Hs1031, Umeå Universitet, Umeå, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2011-05-11 Created: 2011-05-02 Last updated: 2011-05-11Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Assessment of prior learning in higher education: a review from a validity perspective
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Assessment of prior learning in higher education: a review from a validity perspective
2010 (English)In: Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, ISSN 0260-2938, E-ISSN 1469-297X, Vol. 35, no 7, 783-797 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The process of giving official acknowledgment to formal, informal and non-formal prior learning is commonly labelled as assessment, accreditation or recognition of prior learning (APL), representing a practice that is expanding in higher education in many countries. This paper focuses specifically on the assessment part of APL, which undoubtedly is central to the whole process, through a review of research in this area and an analysis of the reviewed studies from a validity perspective. The research reviewed (published 1990–2007) is categorised into empirical as well as more theoretically oriented publications, with a quantitative dominance of the latter. According to the validity analysis, a majority of the studies conducted in this area relate to the evidential basis of test interpretation and use, primarily providing theoretical rationales and theories for a variety of practices. The consequential basis of test interpretation and use has not been studied to any larger extent, resulting in a lack of both theoretical and empirical studies dealing with this aspect of validity.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
London: Routledge, 2010
Keyword
assessment, recognition, accreditation, prior learning, higher
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-31079 (URN)10.1080/02602930902977798 (DOI)000283692600003 ()
Available from: 2010-01-28 Created: 2010-01-28 Last updated: 2011-05-11Bibliographically approved
2. Threats to the valid use of assessment of prior learning in higher education: claimants' experiences of the assessment process
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Threats to the valid use of assessment of prior learning in higher education: claimants' experiences of the assessment process
2012 (English)In: Assessment in education: Principles, Policy & Practice, ISSN 0969-594X, E-ISSN 1465-329X, Vol. 19, no 2, 177-192 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Assessment of prior learning (APL) refers a process where adults’ prior learning, formal as well as informal, is assessed and acknowledged. In the first section of this paper, APL and current conceptions of validity in assessments and its evaluation are presented. It is argued that participants in the assessment are an important source of information for the validation of the assessment. In the following section participants experiences from a particular APL scheme are evaluated using a questionnaire developed for that purpose. The questionnaire provides data on individuals’ perceptions of the procedure and result of the APL scheme. The results are described, analysed and discussed from a validity perspective. Conclusions drawn from the results are that possible threats to validity can exist in the administration of APL procedures, as well as in consequences of APL.

Keyword
validity, assessment, prior learning, perceptions, admission to higher education
National Category
Other Social Sciences Educational Sciences
Research subject
didactics of educational measurement
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-43455 (URN)10.1080/0969594X.2011.556089 (DOI)
Available from: 2011-05-02 Created: 2011-05-02 Last updated: 2016-06-08Bibliographically approved
3. Validity of admission decisions based on assessment of prior learning in higher education
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Validity of admission decisions based on assessment of prior learning in higher education
2013 (English)In: Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, ISSN 0260-2938, E-ISSN 1469-297X, Vol. 38, no 1, 1-15 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Assessment of prior learning (APL) refers to the process of validating individuals’ learning in a variety of contexts, representing a relatively new practice in many countries. In higher education APL is used to receive access and credits based on skills and knowledge acquired mainly outside of formal academic settings. This paper focuses on validity of admission decisions based on this type of assessment in higher education. The study examines decisions made by higher education institutions for approximately 600 applicants who have used APL in order to receive admission to, and credits in the vocational teacher education program in Sweden. The results are analysed and presented in relation to a validity discussion. A conclusion is that the existing practice of APL needs improvements in order to obtain validity and trustworthiness in the decisions made in relation to APL.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis, 2013
Keyword
Validity, Admission decisions, Assessment, Higher Education, Vocational Teacher Education
National Category
Social Sciences
Research subject
didactics of educational measurement
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-43456 (URN)10.1080/02602938.2011.596924 (DOI)
Available from: 2011-05-02 Created: 2011-05-02 Last updated: 2013-03-20Bibliographically approved
4. Agreement in assessment of prior learning related to higher education: an examination of interrater and intrarater reliability
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Agreement in assessment of prior learning related to higher education: an examination of interrater and intrarater reliability
2013 (English)In: International Journal of Lifelong Education, ISSN 0260-1370, E-ISSN 1464-519X, Vol. 32, no 4, 535-547 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This paper focuses on reliability in assessment of prior learning (APL) related to higher education. APL refers to a process where adults’ prior learning, formal as well as informal, is assessed and acknowledged. In higher education APL is used for the purpose of gaining admission, advanced standing or credits. In this paper studies investigating reliability in APL are presented. The studies provide data of inter- and intrarater reliability among assessors in a specific APL scheme used in higher education. Percentage of agreement and Cohen’s kappa were used to estimate reliability, and the results show that the agreement between assessors, i.e. interrater reliability, is poorer compared to the agreement on repeated assessment by the same assessor, i.e. intrarater reliability. Further, the results reveal that there are differences in agreement between different aspects of prior learning. A conclusion is that reliability in this type of assessment ought to be further investigated.

Keyword
Assessment, Access to HE, Workplace learning, Validity, Reliability
National Category
Social Sciences
Research subject
didactics of educational measurement
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-43458 (URN)10.1080/02601370.2013.778077 (DOI)
Available from: 2011-05-02 Created: 2011-05-02 Last updated: 2016-09-26Bibliographically approved

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