Applying Concept Map Theory to the Practice of Prior Learning Assessment

Panel:  Viktoria Popova-Gonci,  Jeffrey P. Lambe

In attempts to continue informing PLA practices with theory and technological innovations, this presentation will demonstrate how a Concept Mapping (CMapping) program developed by the Institute of Human and Machine Cognition can be applied to PLA practices: both to the process of uncovering and communicating tacit learning and to the process of assessing learning outcomes in the framework of a non-course matching evaluation model. We will demonstrate how Cmapping offers tools for assessing complex conceptual relationships of learning, which may be challenging to ascertain during the process of linear presentation of knowledge, or essay writing.

Link to prerecorded presentation: Applying Concept Map Theory to the Practice of Prior Leaning Assessment

2 thoughts on “Applying Concept Map Theory to the Practice of Prior Learning Assessment”

  1. Thank you for your questions, Margaret!

    The concept map demonstrated in our presentation was created by JeffÔÇÖs student. I assisted the student by introducing both the notion of concept mapping and the process of creating a concept map. (Many scholars and practitioners strongly recommend that students be provided with training on how to use concept mapping tools and how to demonstrate their understanding of a certain domain of knowledge.) Currently we have a few more students who have expressed interest in creating concept maps for PLA requests. It is my intent to begin offering concept mapping workshops for students who are interested in submitting PLA requests in the form of a concept map. We would also like to hold a college wide webinar to explain how this approach may benefit students, mentors, and evaluators.

    Concept maps can be used in place of PLA essays or in support of an essay. The concept map used in our presentation was submitted for evaluation in place of an essay. The student, however, chose to include a brief essay to introduce himself and to provide some background information about his experience. Whereas his essay addressed some personal information and brief description of experiences, the concept map was used exclusively to demonstrate knowledge.

    The student identified two reasons for choosing to pursue a concept map option:

    1. Including a lot of information that he felt would have taken ÔÇ£40 pagesÔÇØ to write if he where to complete an essay format.
    2. Was interested in learning a new skill (creating a concept map) that once mastered may find various application in broader settings (both academic and professional).

    Also, mentor Jeff Lambe worked extensively with the student on other prior learning essays and felt that the concept map would be a better approach in this case because much of the studentÔÇÖs learning came from certificate training and workshops. With the materials from the workshops in hand, it was easier to map-out major areas of learning in a limited amount. The visuals of this foundation greatly facilitated the conversational process from which we could “uncover” and integrate in other knowledge and skills from other experiences.

    Having completed and submitted a concept map for evaluatorÔÇÖs review, the student highlighted the following observations about the process:

    1. Was able to present a large variety of topics/concepts and to represent his understanding of the subject matter as a whole.
    2. Learned about his own knowledge once the final product began to shape up. Some concepts and connections between concepts were changed and revised throughout the process of concept map creation, which allowed him to realize how his knowledge of this subject matter is shaped and how his knowledge changed in the process of building a concept map.

    This studentÔÇÖs PLA request is currently under evaluatorÔÇÖs review. For our next presentation we will be able to report on studentsÔÇÖ and evaluatorsÔÇÖ feedback.

  2. Thank you for this creative presentation! This is a very interesting tool and I can see how it would be useful to identify and represent advanced level prior learning in particular (or to distinguish between introductory and advanced level). The student example really made the application clear, but I wasn’t sure if you had created the example or if you already have students using concept mapping with prior learning assessment at your center. If so, can you describe the students’ experiences? Are such maps submitted to the evaluators (instead of, or in addition to, essays) and if so, what are their experiences and reactions?

    Thank you.

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