Assessing Learning: Quality Standards and Institutional Commitments

Author(s): Council For Adult Experiential Learning , Donna Younger, Catherine Marineau

Edition: 3

Copyright: 2017

Pages: 136


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CAEL first published Urban Whitaker’s book, Assessing Learning: Standards, Principles, and Procedures, in 1989.  In the second edition (2006), authors Morry Fiddler and Catherine Marienau added important perspectives and contexts that brought the assessment of learning to new venues, including workplace-based learning and non-credit-based learning.  In this third edition Assessing Learning: Quality Standards and Institutional Commitments -  Donna Younger and Catherine Marienau provide an updated set of standards for the assessment of learning and the awarding of credit for learning gained from experience.


Excerpt from the Foreword to the 3d Edition:

” The Quality Standards in this new edition of Assessing Learning advance the idea that assessment is more than just measuring learning. The standards boldly state that assessment leads to and enables future learning—that it should be seen by practitioners as an essential part of the learning process. And the new standards encourage institutions to provide students with guidance and support for learners’ full engagement in the assessment process. It is only then that assessment can truly foster new learning.

In this new era of higher education, it is exciting to see all of the new developments that are opening doors for adult learners. The focus on what students know and can do is a welcome part of these changes. Assessing Learning (3d Ed) expands from a narrower focus on assessment for the award of credit for prior learning and acknowledges that these quality standards are important in other contexts as well—most notably, in Competency-Based Education (CBE) programs. We know that assessment can and should be a vital part of the learning process in these new contexts, and we are excited about how these new Quality Standards can advance ideas for how assessment can play an important role in fostering learning, expanding access, and providing innovative new models for the adult learner.”

Pamela Tate
President and CEO, CAEL


Chapter 1. Introduction to Assessing Learning

The Growing Role for Assessment in Higher Education

Assessment’s Role with PLA and CBE

Key Institutional Commitments for Assessing Learning

Chapter Preview


Chapter 2. Foundational Perspectives on Learning

from Experience

Goal #1: Assessment Processes Can Be Designed to

Elicit Genuine Learning

Goal #2: Assessment Processes Can Be Designed to

Foster New Learning

Goal #3: Assessment Processes Can Be Designed to Engage

Learners’ Critical Reflection on Their Experience

References 18

Chapter 3. Quality Standards for Assessing Learning:

A Commitment to Inquiring and Deliberating about

Assessment in Context

Quality Standards for Assessing Learning

I. Credit or competencies are awarded only for evidence

of learning, not for experience or time spent

II. Assessment is integral to learning because it leads to

and enables future learning

III. Assessment is based on criteria for outcomes that are

clearly articulated and shared among constituencies.

IV. The determination of credit awards and competency

levels are made by appropriate subject matter and

credentialing experts


V. Assessment advances the broader purpose of access

and equity for diverse individuals and groups to

support their success

VI. Institutions proactively provide guidance and support

for learners’ full engagement in the assessment process

VII. Assessment policies and procedures are the result of

inclusive deliberation and are shared with all


VIII. Fees charged for assessment are based on the

services performed in the process rather than the

credit awarded.

IX. All practitioners involved in the assessment process

pursue and receive adequate training and continuing

professional development for the functions they


X. Assessment programs are regularly monitored,

evaluated, and revised to respond to institutional

and learner needs.

Standards and Questions to Guide Deliberations

& Decisions

Shifts in Quality Standards


Chapter 4. Aligning Practices with Purposes: A Commitment

to Aligning Assessment Practices with Institutional


Institutional Purpose 1: The Development of Individuals

Institutional Purpose 2: Serving Adults Intentionally

Institutional Purpose 3: The Relevant Transfer of

Learning from Education to Life

Institutional Purpose 4: Ensuring Consistent Practice

Across Institutions

Other Considerations for Practice


Chapter 5. Guiding Learning and Development in Assessment:

A Commitment to the Evolving Expertise of Individuals

and Institutions


Chapter 6. Tools and Resources to Support PLA

Implementation: A Commitment to Taking Action to

Utilize Assessment Expertise

Institutional Readiness Guide: Positioning Prior

Learning Assessment

Forming a PLA Leadership Group

Initial Steps for the Leadership Group

Planning the Action Planning Process

PLA Policy template

Portfolio Development Models


Chapter 7. Misconceptions, Poor Practices, and Issues


Poor Practices

Anticipated Issues

In Conclusion

Appendix A. Steps and Principles for Assessing

Unsponsored Prior Experiential Learning

Appendix B. Administrative Measures to Ensure Quality

Principles and Procedures

Appendix C. Writing Statements of Learning Outcomes


Council For Adult Experiential Learning

Linking Learning and Work to Help Adults Succeed

CAEL is a national nonprofit that works at all levels within the higher education, public, and private sectors to make it easier for people to get the education and training they need. 

Donna Younger

For over thirty years, Donna Younger, EdD, has served as a practitioner, consultant, and researcher in the field of adult human development and learning. Beginning with her doctoral work at the University of Memphis with Dr. Art Chickering, she focused on evaluating and developing learning environments that work best to support adult learning. As a faculty member at the School for New Learning, DePaul University, Donna taught and mentored hundreds of adult learners and served as Director of Undergraduate Programs. Also during that time, she became involved with the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning and soon began twenty-five years of service as a CAEL consultant in adult learning theory and prior learning assessment. She has written a number of articles addressing adult learning and assessment and recently published The College Experience for Adults, a guide for adults returning to college.

This history captures the chronology of experience, but not the passions nor areas of particular expertise Donna has developed. Her early work with CAEL in assessing soft skills in adults led to years of study in emotional intelligence and the development of several courses in EI and leadership that she teaches at DePaul University. Years of work in the assessment of learning within higher education and beyond evolved to a commitment to illuminating links between adult learning theory and assessment operations that characterize her work as a consultant and trainer. Finally, thirty years of service in a competency-based adult program at the School for New Learning have led to a rich and deep understanding and passion for the core principles of competency development and assessment.

Catherine Marineau

Catherine Marienau, PhD, has worked with adult learners in individualized, competency-based (i.e., experience-based) programs at undergraduate and graduate levels for many decades. Currently, she is a full-time faculty member with the School for New Learning at DePaul University where she mentors and teaches graduate students and coordinates the Master of Arts in Educating Adults program. Catherine has written, taught, conducted research, and consulted on various aspects of adult learning and development, including adult development, assessing learning, self-assessment, women's development, reflective inquiry, competency-based learning, and program innovation. She is co-author with Kathleen Taylor of Facilitating Learning with the Adult Brain in Mind: A Conceptual and Practical Guide (Jossey-Bass, 2016.)

Related ISBN's: 9781524917531, 9781524919733, 9781524937737




ISBN 9781524917531

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