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Implementing Prior Learning Assessment to Promote Adult College Completion

Ashley Y. Layne


This action research case study explores how community college leaders in the U.S. purposefully engaged strategies to gain institutional support for implementing prior learning assessment (PLA) practices. The researcher collaborated with leaders from three community colleges to co-create interventions to support PLA implementation in order to promote adult college completion focused on three key areas: (1) faculty and staff engagement/development; (2) student outreach/support, and; (3) infrastructure, policies/processes. This study used Rogers’ (2003) diffusion of innovations theory to better understand campus-based PLA implementation. Findings show that community college leaders used the following strategies to gain institutional support to implement PLA: (1) engaging cross-functional stakeholders; (2) disseminating knowledge to solidify institutionalization; (3) aligning the innovation to the college’s mission and vision, and; (4) implementing more structure and simplifying processes. Conclusions drawn from this study suggest that a diffusion of an innovation theory model aids in the implementation of PLA. Moreover, the study demonstrates that positionality and creating a reflective, supportive and consistent holding space supports successful PLA implementation.

Keywords: prior learning assessment, community colleges, action research, diffusion of innovations, adult learners


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