"Values" statements



Who Cares About PLAR?
Survey of PLAR 1999 Forum Participants, November 1999

Monica Collins
Noviembre 1999

At the workshop “Who Cares about PLAR?”, held in Vancouver in November 1999, attendees completed a questionnaire which summarized the values, risks, and general findings from the commissioned values statements.

All participants in the discussion indicated they were cautiously optimistic about the future of PLAR in Canada.  There is some anxiety, however, about who will provide national leadership with the folding of the CLFDB as of December 31, 1999.

Most agreed that trust is absolutely essential to the PLAR process and that increased cooperation is required between all players, including the learner but 75% felt that it would be difficult for all players to commit the time required.

With respect to the benefits of PLAR, most agreed that incorporation of a portfolio/self-assessment into the PLAR process helped to increase participant self-esteem and to boost confidence.  About two-thirds felt PLAR increased motivation and individuals’ interest in learning if implemented properly and helped to improve participants’ decision making skills.

There was little agreement in the group about risks identified such as confidentiality, cost, insufficient grassroots demand, too complex processes which are not transparent.  This may be partially due to the fact that the group was comprised mainly of educators. 


Statement #1: We are cautiously optimistic about the future of PLAR in Canada.

All 11 attendees agreed that they are cautiously optimistic about the future of PLAR in Canada. 

  • There have been many successes but with CLFDB folding  who will provide national leadership?
  • PLAR is onerous - who will devote the time?
  • We have a LONG way to go!
  • Without national focus group or body governing the process, what future does it have?
Statement #2: Trust is absolutely essential to the PLAR process.

82% of attendees agreed that trust is absolutely essential to the PLAR process.  Comments:

  • Trust between the university/college/ student/employer - maybe some type of social contract or agreement between all members would be helpful.
  • Some faith will be generated through establishment of consistent policy and process.  Affirm national and provincial postures so that "trust" can begin to develop.
  • The individual needs to know that there will be integrity in the system.
  • In what way?  I trust you are giving me recognition for my learning? trust that PLAR will have an impact on the economy?
  • If PLAR is not valued by post-secondary institutions the process will be undermined.
  • "Absolutely essential" is perhaps an over-statement - the amount of trust associated with PLAR differs.
Statement #3: Values associated with PLAR benefits/provides access to formal education system for individuals and groups normally excluded (mature students, foreign trained, aboriginals).

91% agreed that PLAR provides access to formal education system for individuals and groups normally excluded (mature students, foreign-trained, aboriginals).  Comments:

  • The equal access argument is perhaps the strongest principled approach to PLAR.  Little with respect to other partnerships and procedures.  These all have an element of trust necessary for their proper functioning.
  • But this value is not shared by all post-secondary institutions, particularly the large research universities.  Need to demonstrate the quality of the work produced by learners who enter the institutions through PLAR.
  • Yes it should.  Not necessarily.  PLAR initiatives that have been presented have within their systems cultural bias that could quite easily post or maintain the barriers we are trying to get through.
  • I don't really agree.  It may be another barrier to get through the process in order to get into the system.  In the case of NWT, it is physical location of education and training that is a barrier as well as the literacy levels.
  • Access to formal education is only one piece of PLAR and I am concerned that it will be the major focus and thus attention will be spent on changing institutions - much needed but again - only one piece of the PLAR puzzle.
  • This is the goal - but how is it true today?  Special concern is access to professions by the foreign trained.  Establish mechanisms to validate foreign training (academic, experience) via an organization of professional licencing groups.
Statement #4: Incorporation of portfolio/self-assessment into PLAR builds self esteem.

91% agreed that incorporation of portfoio/self-asessment into PLAR builds self esteem. Comments:

  • We can't presume that a PLAR assessment will be a positive experience.
  • Self reflection and self assessment are crucial parts of PLAR.
  • This is true for facilitated self assessment as well.
  • In my work I see this as its main benefit - self awareness, people need to know more about themselves.
  • Empowerment is the most important facet of PLAR.
  • It seems to require a great deal of time, support, process to make it successful.  Pre-admission courses for most marginalized learners need to be very accessible (low fees) and flexible schedules.
Statement #5: PLAR fosters pride, confidence.

82% agreed that PLAR fosters pride, confidence.  Comments:

  • If the process is facilitated in a way that makes it a respectful self-reflection.
  • This is tricky - aboriginal people are not by nature proud of themselves.
  • They are encouraged to identify their skills.
Statement #6: PLAR increases motivation.

64% felt PLAR increased motivation.  Comments:

  • If one becomes aware of what is needed to achieve the degree it may result in a negative issue.
  • If done properly, without proper coaching, it could do the opposite.
  • Probably.
  • If the process is facilitated in a way that makes it a respectful self-reflection.
Statement #7: PLAR increases individual’s interest in learning.

64% agreed that PLAR increases individuals' interest in learning.  Comments:

  • I'm not sure - it helps focus on goals and new directions but not necessarily learning goals.
  • Our experience thus far indicates that PLA candidates are exceptionally interested from the outset.  Engage those not so aware or so motivated through integration of PLAR with work, school, social services.
Statement #8: PLAR enhances the organization’s ability to become a learning organization.

46% belive PLAR enhances the organization's ability to become a learning organization.  Comments:

  • Dependent entirely on the reasons for undertaking a PLAR exercise.
  • Encourage development of learning organizations through national and provincial incentives, recognition of compliance.
  • What does a "learning organization" mean?
  • I think more emphasis needs to be put on this in organizations, especial government organizations still wedded to traditional hierarchical job descriptions/positions.
  • Probably (how do you define a learning organization?).
  • But must be open to it for an effect to occur.
Statement #9: PLAR enables participant’s decision making skills.

73% agree that PLAR enables participants to improve decision making skills.  Comments:

  • Not sure - will depend on the institution.
  • Yes - more capable of tracking (mapping) own map of goals.
  • More so critical thinking skills.  PLAR in itself is all about learning/demonstrating competencies.
  • It has the potential to do this.
Statement #10: PLAR enables public educational institutions to reorganize work place based training programs.

64% agreed that PLAR enables public educational institutions to recognize work-place based training programs.  Comments:

  • It makes them aware of the training nor recognizes it.
  • Much needed.
  • I think it should - I don't know if it does yet.
  • Uncertain.  Motivation for adoption of PLAR varies and I am not confident that "high quality goals and service" are the priority driving factor even if they may be a secondary outcome.
Statement #11: A commitment to PLAR signifies a commitment to high quality goods and services. 

64% agreed a commitment to PLAR signifies a commitment to high quality goods and services.  Comments:

  • Not sure what this means.
  • At least a commitment to improving the service institutions can give to individuals.
  • No more so than status quo.
  • I don't see "goods and services" as personal values.
  • It should!
  • There is no connection to each.
  • Motivation will be manifest in the quality.  Recommendation: help providers by providing quality management models.
Statement #12: PLAR increases mobility of employees between public/private systems.

45% agreed that PLAR increases mobility of employees between public/private systems. Comments:

  • Not if agreements are not in place.
  • How do you prevent one group from second guessing another?
  • It should, but not yet.
  • Again it has the potential.
  • Yes, people that are self aware of knowledge, skills and experiences, are able to reflect these and recognize transferability and will have greater mobility among all systems.
  • At present there seems to be different systems at work.
  • This potential exists as long as the credit gained has equal value.  Recommendation:  do not distinguish between PLA credit and other credit.
  • At its best - yes.  Recommendation:  pursue the establishment of bodies to assist in integrated systems.
Please add any other values associated with PLAR you deem significant.

73%  agreed that PLAR increases motivation.  Comments:

  • If one becomes aware of what is needed to achieve the degree.  It may result in a negative issue.
  • If done properly - without proper coaching it could do the opposite.
  • Probably.
Other values added:
  • In the eyes of the institutions to credit for "regular learners.
  • Publicity funded institutions must be maximally accessible - a broad social value.
  • I see the major value of PLAR as being to the individual and from that source, families, communities, work environments and institutions will benefit - with the primary value being the value of the individual - not the bottom line.


Statement #1: Increased cooperation is required between all players, including the learner.

91% agreed that increased cooperation is required between all players, including the learner.  Comments:

  • It is not so much that people need agree with all facets and uses for PLAR but everyone needs to be on the same page.
  • Not all learners can afford the time nor have the commitment to PLAR.
Statement #2: It will be difficult for all players to commit the time required.

73% agreed that it will be difficult for all players to commit the time required.  Comments:

  • However, there is much passion to drive the process.
  • I don't see time as an issue.  Funding is though.
  • Since PLAR can service so many interests at once, self-interest of the players will help to free up their time, as it always does.
  • Where are human resource officials?
  • If the will and desire are there the time and resources will appear.
  • Time means nothing.  Motivation and advancement are important.
  • Only those who understand the value of PLAR and are committed to non-traditional students will want to be involved.
Recommendation:  the "right" people within the institution have to take leadership and make convincing arguments.  They must be willing also to debate the views of those who do not buy into PLAR.

Statement #3: The cost of PLAR must not be shouldered by the learner alone.

.45% agreed that the cost of PLAR must not be shouldered by the learner alone.  Comments:

  • It can be very expensive.  Recommendation:  restructure funding.
  • Jointly with all levels of government and labour.
  • There should be a shared cost as PLAR benefits more than the learner.
Statement #4: PLAR is expensive.

Only 18% agreed that PLAR is expensive.  Comments:

  • It seems to be highly variable but I don't think it needs to be.
  • It doesn't have to be.
  • It depends on how this is being designed.
  • At first, but once there is assessment criteria, learning outcomes and assessors trained it is not expensive.  Value work.  PLAR will bring revenues into post secondary institutions.
Statement #5: There is insufficient grassroots demand for PLAR.

Only 18% agreed that there is insufficient grassroots demand for PLAR.  Comments:

  • Uncertain.  I expect "grassroots demand" is dependent on awareness of the opportunity (marketing).
  • PLAR is not widely known or validated.  You can't  request something you do not know about.
  • Many do not know about it - often because it doesn't exist.
  • The demand has already exceeded the infrastructure.
  • People have asked for this for years - especially women trying to re-enter the workforce and education.
Statement #6: Increased equitable access is not a priority of educational institutions.

36% agree that increased equitable access is not a priority of educational institutions.  Comments:

  • Depends on the institutions (2).
  • This is highly dependent on the institution and the type of institution.  After all, this is all governed by mandates.
  • They may not put this into place well, but I believe it is "among" the priorities.
  • Dollars ($) are.
Statement #7: PLAR processes are too complex.

36% agree that PLAR processes are too complex.  Comments:

  • So far they are often complex.
  • PLAR processes should not be course by course.  Too long and demanding.  Many students decide it is easier to take a course or program.
  • The are complex and should be made more "user-friendly" perhaps but must be able to address the complexity of learning and maintain rigour and credibility.
  • Very much varied but not unmanageable for institutions or learners.
  • Too many different processes across Canada.
Statement #8: PLAR processes are often not transparent/accountable.

27% agree that PLAR processes are often not transparent/accountable.  Comments:

  • By clearly defining our criteria.
  • Variety of processes in institutions are confusing, even to us sometimes.  What is it like for the learner?
  • Uncertain.
  • Do not know (3).
Statement #9: Confidentiality–an employer may use information against an employee.

Only 1 individual (9%) agreed that confidentiality is an issue - that an employer may use information against an employee.  Comments:

  • Dependent upon processes, guidelines.
  • If this happens, it will shut down a lot of people.
  • Depends on how it is done.Individual must be selective with information they provide.
  • This should be separated from disciplinary processes.
Question #10: Who is responsible for naming the learning?


  • The governance or institutions.
  • All partners.
  • Shared - learner, institution, employer, profession.
  • Students identify their learning.  Content experts (instructors) identify the Learning outcome statements.
  • The individual facilitated by the counsellor or the employer.
  • I think most need some help identifying and distinguishing between experience and learning.
  • The individual with some advice from the employer.
Question #11: Who is responsible for determining the validity of knowledge?


  • Who is now!?
  • The individual with input from the employer/university/college.
  • Have to be careful to ensure that the process is consistent and credible.
  • Economy/industry.
  • Needs to be a variety of sources.
  • Experts in the field must determine the validity of knowledge.
  • Shared.  I believe there is self validation as well as validation by the partners mentioned in the previous section.
  • All partners.  Institutions must remove "holier than thou" hat.
  • Combination of stakeholders.
Question #12: Where does the governance rest?


  • Very good question.
  • Institutions/employers, the "accrediting" body.
  • Need uniform governance across Canada.
  • Keep it open.
  • At the national level.
Final Question: Please add any other risk/concerns related to PLAR you may have.
  • PLAR - excellent for validating experience and raising learn's awareness of Lifelong Learning.  However, as a credentialing tool still has many challenges.  Should be very useful as admission requirements.
  • What role does PLAR play in economic development? What good is the PLAR process in communities that have limited or no labour market?
  • Since I am at a university, these questions for me must be answered from an institutional focus.  That is, it is the universities' responsibility to determine what counts as knowledge and the governance issues are already fairly well established.  But that is not to say that universities will not be positively changed or influenced by "movements" like PLAR.  Change in what counts as knowledge is an ongoing process at universities and is often discipline or inter-discipline based.  PLAR's headway or influence in universities will therefore be discipline based as were coops, industry partnerships.
  • Keep the process learner-centered.  These issues are institution centered.  Needs to be addressed but concern that solutions must be based on the learners.
  • Pleaes, let's not recreate barriers in access and process through provinces and institutions.  Colleges and universities have their own domains already, and will develop different systems of PLAR.  These will be new barriers.

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