David Starr-Glass

Partial Alignment and Sustained Tension: Validity, Metaphor, and Prior Learning Assessment

David Starr-Glass


Validity is a central issue for all engaged in the practice of prior learning assessment (PLA). While stakeholders use assessment results in differing ways, all have legitimate concerns about the reasonableness of the inferences and decisions that can be made from PLA outcomes. Reasonableness is approached in terms of statistical or empirical evidence; sometimes, it is understood intuitively or judgmentally. In either case, validity is grounded in the process of comparing. Validity requires an understanding of the domains being compared, comparison dynamics, and the consequential aspects of the process. In this article, contrasting perspectives – drawn from test theory and metaphor theory – are presented to illustrate ways in which reasonableness might be attributed to the PLA process and its products. The argument presented is that PLA work has inherent tensions that need to be considered validation work, but which are also a source of creative reappraisal and innovation for all collegiate stakeholders.

Keywords: Assessment, Comparison, Conceptual mapping, Consequential impact, Experiential learning, Stakeholders, Validity

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