What is PLA? Prior Learning Assessment, PLA for short, helps students to earn college credit for learning outside of the traditional classroom experience. The NLC PLA Workshop will help you create a portfolio that documents your learning and can help you earn up to 30 college credits.
Workshop Overview The workshop will help you to... Review your transcript and determine how many prior learning assessment (PLA) credits you need. Gather your documentation. Compile your resume. Write an educational narrative. Reflect on and document your learning in PLA essays. Present a portfolio to the NLC for credit evaluation.
PLA Portfolios Craft a portfolio with three elements: Educational Resume Educational Narrative One or more PLA essays (with documentation) Unite your learning experiences with documentation: Certificates Transcripts Other documentation
The Educational Resume Start with your resume or a recent job application. Create an overview of your life’s work—list your employment and other learning experiences chronologically (most recent first, earliest at the end). Organize your resume in sections: Educational Objective Employment Labor Movement Positions Academic Education Other Training
Educational Objective Use the educational objective to frame your educational experiences and goals. Write a sentence or two, but no more than one paragraph.
Employment Create a detailed list of your employment since age 18. Organize in reverse chronological order, so evaluators will see your learning and development over time. Use descriptive verbs to illustrate your responsibilities.
Labor Movement Positions If you have served the labor movement in a voluntary position, then list it in this section. Describe your full-time paid labor movement positions in the employment section. Offer details about your responsibilities and accomplishments.
Academic Education If you attended college before, even just one or two courses, list the institution’s name with the dates. Indicate degree(s) earned or area(s) of study. Add the NLC, your major, start date, and estimated graduation date.
Other Training List your training and learning opportunities: apprenticeships the military training schools civic organizations labor and volunteer positions others
The Educational Narrative Share your life story in a five-page essay. Discuss what you have learned, what else you want to learn, and how you hope to apply that learning. Offer insights about learning experiences in your life. Describe your labor movement experiences, your educational goals, and how they will impact and enhance your labor movement activities and personal aspirations. Look to the future and comment on how earning a degree might impact your life.
The Basics of PLA Essays Minimum requirements: Course name, description, name of college where the course is offered, and number of credits. A well written essay that establishes that you have already fulfilled the course’s learning requirements (500 words per credit minimum) and requests a specific number of credits. Clearly connected and referenced documentation that backs up your learning.
Matching Your Learning Find a college class that matches your learning: Go to www.nlc.edu and view the course catalogwww.nlc.edu Visit the PLA Database at http://www.tesc.edu/plasearch.php. http://www.tesc.edu/plasearch.php Keep searching—most colleges offer course catalogs online. If possible, request or locate a syllabus, which will help you develop your essay.
What’s A College Class? How does your learning compare to the typical college course? Consider typical three-credit course: Learning objectives 45 contact hours (classroom time) Textbook(s) or reference materials Independent research/practice/reading for (at least) 45-90 hours over the term Tangible project or outcome Assessment to measure learning
Writing Your PLA Essays Start with a college-level course description, college name, and credits offered; set this off from your essay with italics. Introduce your essay by tying your own learning experiences to the course and stating your credit request (i.e., Through my experiences as a shop steward, I have fulfilled the learning requirements described by this course and request three college credits). Conclude by restating your credit request and emphasizing that your learning fulfills the requirements.
Developing Your PLA Essays Convince the readers that you fulfilled the course objectives through experiential learning: offer detailed descriptions of your experiences and tie them to the course learning requirements. Show more than just skill or knowledge—analyze your learning and how you’ve applied it, for example: From this experience I learned.... Later I applied it to.... Although this was a huge mistake, I learned... Present referenced documentation that supports your learning (i.e., See Exhibit A for a letter confirming my position as shop steward; then label the document). Write AT LEAST one single-spaced page for each credit requested (500 words) (shorter essays will not earn credit).
Experience + Learning = PLA Review your PLA essays carefully: Did you analyze your learning? Students’ most common pitfall in PLA essays is to focus on their experiences without analyzing the learning that resulted. Emphasize what you have learned from your experiences. After you tell the story of your experience, reflect on what you have learned and how you applied it to new situations.
Experience vs. Learning ExperienceLearning Served on collective bargaining committee Analyzed member needs and gained understanding about how to build those into the contract Coached a kid’s sports teamApplied concepts about nutrition to team snacks and water breaks Took guitar lessonsGained understanding of basic music theory and applied it to learning new songs Start with your experiences, then analyze your learning
Reviewing Your PLA Essays Is it college-level learning? (generally after age 18) Does it duplicate existing credits? Are there clear learning outcomes? Has your learning fulfilled the course objectives? Is the learning documented? Do the essay and documentation support the credits requested? Do you reflect on your learning? Have you written at least 500 words for each credit requested?
Portfolio Checklist Completed Resume Completed Narrative Completed PLA essays, including Course description, credits, college Essay (500 words per credit minimum) Documentation Made a copy and retained original documents Mailed it to NLC
Portfolio Evaluations Two faculty evaluators will review your portfolio. Details about your credit award will be mailed to you (allow 6 to 8 weeks). PLA essays that do not meet the requirements will not earn credits. Essays may be rejected at the evaluators’ discretion. You may write additional essays to add to your portfolio later if you still need credits. Portfolios will not be returned.
What’s Next? Contact your advisor to discuss your degree plan. Visit www.nlc.edu to learn about course offerings and other learning opportunities.www.nlc.edu Get to work on completing your degree—register for the next term. Visualize yourself graduating, surrounded by proud family and friends.