Prior learning assessment: Impact of APL portfolio development on problem-solving skills and knowledge organization

Date of Completion

January 2000


Education, Tests and Measurements|Education, Adult and Continuing




This study was conducted to increase understanding of learning outcomes of Assessment of Prior Learning (APL) for college credit. Present methods of APL do not account for expedentially acquired organizational and cognitive skills that enable adults to access and use knowledge in the workplace. The study investigated the extent to which participation in APL portfolio construction is related to adult students' implicit learning and knowledge structuring. Performances on measures of tacit business management knowledge and knowledge organization in management problem-solving were compared for 27 students who had received course credit through APL portfolio evaluation and 27 students who had received credit for comparable college classes. APL and non-APL students did not differ significantly on a test of tacit managerial knowledge. On an assessment of knowledge organization, APL students accessed significantly more elements of prior knowledge and produced more complete problem solutions than did non-APL students. In post hoc analyses, the sample was subdivided into 4 groups and compared by experience level (i.e., APL students with either a high or low level of prior business management experience, and non-APL students with either a high or low level of business management experience). On 3 out of 4 measures of knowledge organization, APL high experience students outperformed non-APL high experience students: APL low experience students outperformed non-APL low experience students on the same measures. In all cases, multiple analysis of variance determined that the differences between groups were attributable to group membership, and not to experience level or group/experience interaction. ^ Results of this study indicate that the combination of reflection on prior experience and articulation of the learning achieved has positive educational benefits. Certifiable learning on a par with college-level instruction can and does take place outside the college environment. Results of the study also indicate that completion of the APL portfolio process is associated with development of a complex approach to knowledge organization in problem solving. ^