Elana Michelson

Inside/Out: A Meditation on Cross-Dressing and Prior Learning Assessment

Elana Michelson


This article uses the metaphor of cross-dressing to offer a “queer” reading of prior learning assessment (PLA).  It argues that both the resistance to and implicit promise of PLA lies in its destabilizing of such epistemological dichotomies as “academic” and “experiential” and such social dichotomies as  “insider” and “outsider” with which they align. Further, the author argues that PLA makes the contentiousness of knowledge-practices visible in the same way that cross-dressing makes gender visible: by jolting the viewer out of taken-for-granted and naturalized categories. Rather than justifying PLA by attempting to demonstrate how students’ knowledge fits the conventional categories, PLA practitioners might use PLA as a way to revisit those categories, explore their continued usefulness, and conceptualize alternative categorization or, indeed, use the metaphor of cross-dressing and the idea of “queering” PLA to undermine the very notion of categories.

Key words: queering, queer theory, transgressive, prior learning assessment (PLA), academic knowledge

Full Text: