Prior learning assessments and individualized learning plans are proven adult learning methods that focus on the learner’s needs, value their experience, and encourage them to take responsibility for their own learning. These proven approaches work equally well in academic and workplace learning settings.
Prior learning assessments
Prior learning assessments are commonly used in colleges and universities to award credit to students based on their achievement of learning that occurred in other settings. Educational organizations use the course objectives as a basis; they assess if the student’s previous learning and experience meets the course learning outcomes. If so, they can award credit to a student without the need for the student to take the course.
How does prior learning assessment apply in workplace learning?
While the approach is somewhat different than academic settings, the same principles apply. A competency analysis of the job provides the benchmark to set performance standards, assess prior learning and identify performance gaps. Typically, well defined job competencies identify specific performance expectations. Employees can self-assess their job performance against the performance expectations. Employees who assess that their performance meets required standards must substantiate why they made the assessment and have their assessment verified by a direct supervisor.
The beauty of this approach is that the focus on training and development efforts can be placed on performance gaps rather than investing training dollars where standards are already being met. Once training is determined to be the appropriate remedy it is best to organize training into manageable modules around specific competencies. This approach allows employees to select raining that targets their specie competency gaps. A “once-size-fits-all” approach to training can be very wasteful.
Individualized learning plans
Typically, an employee’s individualized learning plan identifies specific competencies for development, the types of learning experiences that will be used to build upon specific competencies, a timeline for implementation and check-in points to monitor progress. Individualized learning plans works best when the employee is involved in identifying the areas for development and selecting the learning methods to employ. The role of the manager or supervisor is to provide coaching and guidance in assessing the needs, selecting learning methods, monitoring progress and providing ongoing support and encouragement.
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