Assessment in Higher Education: Issues of Access, Quality, Student Development, and Public Policy

By Samuel J. Messick | Go to book overview
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Of the nonformal learning that adults do, far and away the greatest proportion is probably in the workplace. While many students using prior learning assessment services claim credit for learning achieved in the work-place, there is almost no systematic collaboration ( CAEL generates some) between employers and colleges in helping employees to seek recognition of workplace learning. Nor is there much support for more efficient plans to exploit the opportunities of worksite learning to advance workers' occupational and professional qualifications, not to speak of their general qualifications for life, work, and leisure. If, in light of the extreme time pressures and conflicts among duties that adults endure, a systematic institutionally-driven effort were made to foster efficiency in learning among working adults via partnerships between employers and colleges, one might expect the growth in assessment-based certification of learning to increase substantially.

And third, how beautiful is small? Many of us are familiar with the popular stories about how much beauty there is in smallness. Apply this thought to the evaluation of the utility of prior learning assessment for the relatively few individuals who today are enjoying its benefits. There is hardly an educator engaging in this work who cannot regale us with inspiring story after inspiring story about the impact of a credit award upon the self-esteem, the motivation, the realization of career aspirations, the promotions in responsibility, pay, and rank that have come to that educator's students. These are benefits that the recipients tell us would never have come otherwise. Is it sufficient, then, to be among these blessed few?

Concluding Note

It is my earnest hope that two of the changes for which CAEL labored will ultimately pervade educational practice throughout the world: 1) the basing of educational credentials upon validly and reliably evaluated learning, regardless of its source; and 2) the enrichment of instruction by an astute interplay of the use of history, theory, and hands-on experience in the eliciting of learning. If these causes can continue to make progress, what greater honor than to have played the part Warren Willingham played in their advancement?


Gamson Z. F. ( 1989). Higher education and the real world: the story of CAEL. Wolfeboro, NH: Longwood Academic.

Keeton M. T., & Tate P. J. ( 1978). New directions for experiential learning: Learning by experience -- what, why, how. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Sheckley B. G. ( 1988). Policies and practices for awarding credit based on learning acquired in non-collegiate settings: Results of a national survey. Unpublished manuscript submitted to the U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Educational Support (DANTES).


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Assessment in Higher Education: Issues of Access, Quality, Student Development, and Public Policy
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