Portfolio Development and the Assessment of Prior Learning: Perspectives, Models and Practices


For over thirty years, portfolios have been used to help adult learners gain recognition for their prior learning and take greater control of their educational experiences. The portfolio has become a distinctive means of assessing such learning, serving as a meaningful alternative to conventional papers and standardized testing.

Portfolio Development and the Assessment of Prior Learning: Perspectives, Models, and Practices provides a primer of flexible approaches to shaping and ...

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For over thirty years, portfolios have been used to help adult learners gain recognition for their prior learning and take greater control of their educational experiences. The portfolio has become a distinctive means of assessing such learning, serving as a meaningful alternative to conventional papers and standardized testing.

Portfolio Development and the Assessment of Prior Learning: Perspectives, Models, and Practices provides a primer of flexible approaches to shaping and conducting portfolio-development courses. It offers practitioners in the field an extensive range of model assignments, readings, and classroom activities, each organized around a specific theme: Academic Orientation, The Meaning of Education, Personal Exploration, Learning from the Outsider Within, The World of Work and Careers, and Dimensions of Expertise. Twelve case studies by practitioners in the field then show how academics in the US and around the English-speaking world have adapted the portfolio to changing circumstances in order to deliver academically rich educational services for adults. These case studies highlight portfolio development in the context of web-based instruction, changing institutional imperatives, service to historically disenfranchised groups, partnerships with industry, and cross-institutional cooperation.

In addition to serving as a valuable hands-on resource for practitioners, Portfolio Development and the Assessment of Prior Learning locates portfolios and assessment in a broad social and intellectual context. Thus, the authors also offer an historical overview of the usefulness of portfolios in the assessment of prior learning and then consider their use in the future, given current trends in higher education for adults. The book explores the implications of a changing educational landscape, in which new student populations, budgetary pressures, and understandings of knowledge both enrich and challenge student-centered approaches such as portfolios.

The approaches and case studies are not only valuable to adult educators but, equally, to faculty in higher education concerned with the development of competency- and outcomes-based assessment.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Michelson and Mandell introduce the portfolio method of assessing prior learning with a brief history and then a summary of approaches. Part 2 may be the most useful to readers of this journal. In it, the authors offer twenty-two practical activities to orient students to self-reflection, academic writing, and distinguishing between their common life knowledge and the learning that can translate into college credits. This volume is recommended to guide planners who want to initiate or revise a process of assessment of incoming students through portfolio.”

"In the current edition, Michelson and Mandell broaden their treatment of the use of portfolios in order to bring readers up to date on the 'moving target' that is today's prior learning assessment (PLA)…Readers are likely to find the twelve models of portfolio development in practice to be the most useful part of the book…taken in toto, the twelve models described in this section provide ample evidence that--even as the practice of PLA is being recast in light of tightening budgets, new student populations, redefined institutional goals, and changing relationships between working and schooling--the philosophical underpinnings have remained constant. In every case, the reader finds evidence of the values inherent in PLA as teachers and students use portfolios to mediate the ways in which individual lives and learning are affected by gender, race, class, politics, and economics."

“Michelson and Mandell provide and insightful discussion of the historical context of portfolio development and the variety of the diverse approaches available to demonstrate knowledge of today’s students within our campus learning environments. This comprehensive volume focuses on the changing context of portfolio development in the academic environment. Instead of concentrating on traditional issues of assessing prior learning, this volume take a broad view of portfolio development as it encompasses issues ranging from multicultural inclusive strategies, fostering partnerships with industry and corporate communities, to computer-mediated technological strategies for demonstrating proficiency. The authors’ unique focus on portfolios provides faculty and student development professionals with a holistic framework to examine assessment in terms of growth, achievement, and the demonstration of prior learning. They recognize that the challenge of appropriately assessing prior knowledge has system-wide implications that can impact students’ perceptions of the campus learning environment.

A major strength of the text by Michelson and Mandell is its utilization of case studies, real life examples of portfolio development, and campus leaders’ responses that illustrate the necessity for additional thought and planning. The text provides practical advice on implementing services and programs to better meet students’ needs. It is a helpful resource to facilitate discussion with students regarding assessment and the importance of measuring previous learning experiences. Faculty and student affairs professionals especially can appreciate students’ perceptions of their academic performance and how these perceptions impact every aspect of their educational experiences. Faculty members, administrators, and student development professionals will find the case studies and responses particularly helpful to evaluate the effectiveness of the current assessment strategies, collaborations, and testing programs in existence on their own campuses. The thought provoking chapters will provide a valuable resource to facilitate an important discussion of assessment of student learning for those working in a wide variety of campus communities.”

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781579220891
  • Publisher: Stylus Publishing, LLC
  • Publication date: 9/28/2004
  • Edition description: Second Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Elana Michelson is a mentor and professor of Cultural Studies at Empire State College and the Chair of the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program. She has consulted extensively in the field of adult and experiential learning, most recently in opening opportunities for adult learners in post-apartheid South Africa. She is the author of numerous articles and book chapters on issues of multiculturalism, feminism, epistemology, and adult learning.

Alan Mandell is a mentor and professor in the social sciences and Director of the Mentoring Institute of Empire State College, where he has worked for almost thirty years. He has regularly written and guided workshops on adult and experiential learning. With his colleague Lee Herman he is the author of From Teaching to Mentoring: Principle and Practice, Dialogue and Life in Adult Education (Routledge, 2003).

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Table of Contents

1 Introduction : portfolio development in historic context 1
2 Approaches to portfolio development 21
Resources for portfolio development for chapter 2 63
3 Model studies in portfolio development : an introduction 67
Model 1 The offspring of doing : framing experience at Alverno College 69
Model 2 Learning from our experience : portfolio development at Sinclair Community College 85
Model 3 Love talk : educational planning at Empire State College, State University of New York 100
Model 4 I am a writer : writing from life at the Evergreen State College 121
Model 5 The wholeness of life : a Native North American approach to portfolio development at First Nations Technical Institute 135
Model 6 Cracking the code : the assessment of prior experiential learning at London Metropolitan University 160
Model 7 Building on the past, moving toward the future : prior learning assessment in a changing institution at Metropolitan State University 180
Model 8 All of who we are : foundations of learning at The School for New Learning, Depaul University 194
Model 9 Delineations on the Web : computer-mediated portfolio development at the University of Maryland University College 216
Model 10 Corporatizing knowledge : work-based learning at the University of Technology, Sydney 232
Model 11 After apartheid : the recognition of prior learning at the College of Education, University of the Witwatersrand 255
Model 12 The components of learning : statewide assessment of prior learning at the Vermont State Colleges 270
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