Prior Learning Assessment (PLA)

Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) is a process used to assess and evaluate the knowledge and skills of individuals outside the class or in non-traditional educational settings, in order to establish their recognition against some set standards or competencies. The significance of PLA has also been recognized in measuring academic achievement and is being used as an important element in admission processes in many countries especially US and Canada. Research finds that students selected based on Prior Learning Assessment show higher rate of graduation compared to non-PLA students regardless of the size and level of educational institution and that it has proven to be a major contributor in lowering the cost of education (Travers, 2012). Similarly, Leaker and Boyce (2015) found that PLA students show a graduation rate 2.5 time higher than non-PLA students. The source further finds that PLA has proven significant in realizing the educational potentials of the students of color.

Although institutions are practicing PLA at a higher rate in the United States and some other developed countries, however, the validity and reliability of the PLA system still lies at the disposal of the institutions which is being questioned for the purpose of standardization by researchers and academicians.

Research analysis shows that PLA standards and procedures must be standardized to get the maximum advantage of it and to meet the real purpose of the concept. This will not only provide more achievement opportunities to overall students from non-traditional educational settings, but also to the students of color and race. Introducing standards will further help in bringing quality students into the higher education institutions and will help improve the quality of educational to further advance the today’s society.


Leaker, C., & Boyce, F. A. (2015). A Bigger Rock, a Steeper Hill: PLA, Race, and the Color of Learning. The Journal of Continuing Higher Education63(3), 199-204.

Travers, N. L. (2012). What is next after 40 years? Part 2: Prior learning assessment: 2012 and after. The Journal of Continuing Higher Education,60(2), 117-121