Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL)

Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL) is widely used in the UK University and College sectors. The Chartered Management Institute (CMI) use the technique when assessing candidates for their premier award Chartered Manager (CMg).A number of other UK Professional Bodies also include it in their assessment  models to verify candidate competence in a range of disciplines.

Early research took place in the 1960’s and 1970’s in the US where the process is still referred to as ‘prior learning assessment’, In other countries the term ‘recognition of prior achievement’ as been used.

In the UK where the technique has become most popular the term APL also encompasses phrases such as ‘accreditation of prior achievement’ and ‘accreditation of experiential learning’

According to Susan Simosko, whichever terminology is used the concept is the same. Through a systematic and valid assessment process, an individual’s skills and knowledge can be formerly recognised and credited, regardless of how, when and why they were obtained.

A further definition worthy of quote was from Keith Bryan ‘An assessment process crediting competences which have been demonstrated in the past providing the practice is current, relevant and is written in the appropriate context to meet the criteria of a set of competences the candidate is seeking to achieve’

The process became widely used in Colleges in the UK with the inception of National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) in a variety of occupational areas.

It is important to note that APL is a process and not a specific measure,

The APL Model comprises six stages:

  • Pre-entry
  • Candidate profiling
  • Gathering evidence
  • Assessment
  • Accreditation
  • Post assessment guidance.

Pre-entry is the stage at which the Academy would let potential candidates know that the service exists and will supply them with a detailed account of how the process works. Candidate profiling allows candidates to identify strengths and how they relate to the standards of competence.

APL has been called ‘assessment by portfolio’ and at this stage identify how they can prove their competence and gather this evidence in the form of a portfolio.

Warren Redman had defined six aspects of a portfolio:

  • The story
  • Discovery
  • Proof
  • Ownership
  • Accreditation
  • Growth

The building of a portfolio is based on evidence from the workplace and it is important to know how to identify, compile and present this. The assessment stage involves collecting evidence to a point where competence in a unit can be fully identified and accredited.

Accreditation is that part in the process where the Academy would take action after a successful assessment and post assessment guidance will be the direct link to Continuing Professional Development (CPD) needs.

The Standards against which the candidates will be assessed are to be expressed as separate units of competence that will comprise specific Learning Outcomes. The Standards of Competence are statements of what the Academy expects candidates to be able to do in their range of workplace activity.

Thus Competence involves the ability to apply skills to different and changing situations. Evidence should come from diverse sources and must be ‘sufficient, valid, authentic and most of all current’

The Academy will appoint qualified assessors to ensure the model is quality assured and will operate an internal control system to maintain consistency across all assessment activity.

The APL process is in the planning stage currently. However the Academy will for example assess candidates at the Licentiate Grade against units in Financial Reporting, Managerial Finance (Management Accounting), Cash Management and Credit Control, Ethics and Business Practice.

Associate Grade: Financial Reporting, Managerial Finance, Project Appraisal, Raising Finance and Working Capital Control.

Fellowship Grade: Strategic Planning, Dividend Policy, Advanced Financial Reporting (IAS/IFRS International Financial Reporting Standards), Takeovers, Business Combinations, Raising Finance and Cash Flow Management.

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