Learning from experience Trust

  • Vision: A society where the value of all learning is credited, irrespective of where, when or how it is acquired.
  • Mission: To undertake research and development activities which: overcome obstacles to learning; develop further the techniques available for recognising and crediting all learning and open up ways in which theory and techniques can be applied in practice. (About the Trust /Vision Mission).

Activities and History; Publications; What; APEL; Projects; Target;
Address: Learning from Experience Trust, at Goldsmiths College University of London, Deptford Town Hall, New Cross, London SE14 6NW, UK;

What is learning from experience /overview: For those of us who have enjoyed a traditional education, namely GCSE/O-Level, A-Level and University Degree in quick succession, the concept of the Accreditation of Prior (Experiential) Learning is baffling to say the least.

For the uninitiated, the problem in understanding AP(E)L is twofold: first, it seems to be a complex concept, with an acronym whose meaning escapes all but the most hardcore educationalists; second, even when the concept is understood, the typical response is one of ‘nice in theory, impossible in practice’. The aim of this guide is to explain clearly the concept of AP(E)L, and to show that is not only relatively easy to understand, but also perfectly possible to implement.

The basic principle of AP(E)L is that previous learning, no matter how, when or why it is acquired, can and should be accredited within the framework of formal education or training through a systematic and valid assessment process. AP(E)L can therefore be very useful for those who have acquired skills and knowledge through their work or life experience that has not been accredited anywhere, or those who have formal qualifications from one institution that are not recognised by another. This situation is potentially applicable to many sections of society, including (but by no means limited to) those applying for vocational qualifications, those applying to work in institutions with their own training framework, mature students and those with qualifications gained abroad which are not recognised in the UK.

One thing that AP(E)L does not give is credit for life experience alone. People do not receive recognition merely for their experiences in life, but rather for what they learn from those experiences. The distinction between experience and learning is an important one, for it is a misunderstanding of the aims of AP(E)L that leads some to believe that the process is an easy option which gives people credit and, ultimately, qualifications for doing little more than living their life. That AP(E)L is not a ‘soft option’ to enable layabouts to claim a formal degree from the University of Life will hopefully become clear in the course of this guide.

he final point to make in this brief introduction is that the concept of recognising and accrediting prior learning comprises two constituent parts: the Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL) and the Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL). Though for simplicity’s sake there has hitherto been no distinction between the two, preferring to lump them together under the convenient umbrella term AP(E)L, it is important to understand the difference between APL and APEL, because AP(E)L can only be implemented successfully if both its fundamental elements are understood.

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