Updated: 6 days ago
The assessment of prior experiential learning began to go mainstream in the early
1970’s with the creation of CAEL, led by Dr. Morris Keeton. Today, after more than 50
years of collecting information and conducting research on the assessment of prior
learning, we know that experiential learning, as well as other learning done outside of
academic circles, has substantive and extensive academic and occupational value. In
other words, we have proved that learning is ongoing and lifelong, as well as multi-
dimensional, regardless of historic academic bias to the contrary.
In the process of learning how to assess experiential learning, we discovered the value
of reflection; that, yes, the process of reflecting on past learning identifies and validates
personal, academic, and occupational "knowledge". But it also identifies and values two
other dimensions of learning and its employment in real life: cross-cutting critical
thinking abilities as well as personal behavioral traits. Disciplined reflection strengthens
the ability of the learner to become an active lifelong learner with the ability to identify
learning in life events. As an early graduate of the Community College of Vermont
(CCV) told me, “I appreciate the degree. But really, thanks for the assessment program.
Now I know that I am a learner and that I’ll never stop learning!”
Over the years, I have come to understand and recognize that reflection is the process
of extracting meaning from your lived experience. Learning to reflect, and being actively
encouraged and rewarded for doing so in an organized and dynamic learning
community, sows the seeds for becoming a lifelong learner. It strengthens and deepens
all three dimensions of learning: content, critical skill development, and behavior. When
an institution encourages all three of these dimensions, it enhances its ultimate value to
the learner, the institution, and society at large.