This document includes Jim West's suggestions for revision of the guidelines:


Prior learning assessment methods include portfolio development; course challenge and oral examinations; standardized tests; credits earned through the American Council of Education’s Guide to the Evaluation of Educational Experiences in the Armed Services (ACE Guide); the systematic observation of skill demonstrations, including role plays and simulations; and the evaluation of case studies or other assignments.)

  • Assessment of the learning should be the responsibility of faculty who are content specialists from the awarding institution, and the names and qualifications of those making an assessment should be recorded.
  • Practices used in assessing prior learning should be consistent with good contemporary assessment methodology.
  • Learning assessed for post-secondary credit should be:
    • Linked to established learning outcomes or other criteria consistent with institutional standards for a given course. It should not be linked to time spent;
    • Transferable to contexts other than the one in which it was learned;
    • Current and relevant;
    • At a level of achievement equivalent to that of other learners engaged in studies at that level in that program or subject area;
    • Assessed using a range of strategies consistent with institutional standards for a given course.


  • Faculty, as the content specialists, will assess and recognize prior learning and will make the determination of credit awards, with external advice as necessary. Credit may be granted only upon the recommendation of faculty who are appropriately qualified and who are on a regular appointment with the college on a continuing basis.
  • Learners may be awarded recognition for demonstrating college-level learning that combines theory and practice, not for experience alone.
  • The number of credits to be granted should be determined by the institution, based on their identified learning outcomes or other criteria.
  • Credit will be awarded for demonstrated learning outcomes that are appropriate to the subject, course or program offered at the awarding institution.

Learner Orientation/Preparation

  • Learners should have access to adequate information about and orientation to all PLA processes. Information could be available in quarterly schedules and in other marketing materials from a single point of contact.
  • Institutions should offer a variety of opportunities to support learners’ progress through the assessment process; for example, single point of contact, advisors, onestop access, and portfolio templates.

Administration and Support

  • General
    • Institutions will regularly monitor, review, evaluate and revise prior learning assessment policies and practices to maintain and improve institutional standards.
    • Policies and information about prior learning assessment processes, including provision for appeal, will be readily available.
    • Nationally administered examinations, such as Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, Dantes and CLEP could be brought into a course in the college catalog or can be handled separately based on local college decisions.
    • The Instruction Commission recommends that PLA must be tied to catalogue offerings.
  • Fees/Enrollment
    • The fees for assessment will be based on actual costs plus reasonable. The fees will be based on the amount of credit requested, not the amount of credit awarded.
    • Fees should be published and consistently applied.
    • Fees should be consistent to the extent possible across the system.
  • Transcripts/Transfer
    • Grades or credits will be assigned to PLA awards and will be entered accordingly on the learner’s transcript.
    • Credits earned through PLA at Washington Community and Technical Colleges will be accepted toward the appropriate course or program at any other Washington Community and Technical College.
    • The percentage of a program’s credits that can be obtained through PLA will be determined by the institution awarding the credential in accordance with Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges’ policies.
  • Professional Development
    • All personnel involved in PLA (PLA assessors, learner advisors, instructors of portfolio development/career/educational planning courses) should have appropriate skills and knowledge relevant to their roles and responsibilities in the process.
    • All personnel should work systematically towards continuous improvement in their own practice.
    • Institutions should assume the responsibility for supporting staff to acquire and maintain expertise in prior learning assessment services and provide opportunities for sharing information and expertise with other institutions.