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Recognition of prior learning: exploring the ‘knowledge question’

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This article addresses the ‘knowledge question’ in the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) in relation to postgraduate programmes. In contrast to many traditional theorisations of RPL which draw largely on adult and experiential learning theory, the article starts from a position of knowledge differentiation and explores whether the nature of the discipline or knowledge domain offers affordances or barriers to RPL.

In an interview survey, academics in a South African higher education institution were asked their views on the feasibility of RPL in relation to postgraduate study in their discipline. Data analysis draws primarily on concepts from Bernstein to identify different forms of knowledge and the ways in which that knowledge might be transformed and formulated as curricula. Findings suggest that the disciplinary context or knowledge domain into which an RPL candidate is seeking access does play a role in determining the feasibility of RPL. However, distinct organisational environments offer affordances and barriers to the implementation of RPL and there is also significant room for the exercise of pedagogic agency. It follows that RPL cannot be reducible to ‘one size fits all’, but needs to assume different forms in diverse institutional and disciplinary settings. RPL for access to postgraduate study in a university will vary according to the purpose and design of the programme to which the candidate is seeking access. This supports a position that RPL should be seen as a specialised pedagogical practice that provides tools for navigating access to new learning opportunities across diverse contexts.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of Cape Town, South Africa 2: Thompson Rivers University, British Columbia, Canada

Publication date: 2013-08-01

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