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Portfolios and meaning-making in the assessment of prior learning

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The take-up of the Assessment of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL) by students in the UK remains low. In exploring why this might be the case, this article seeks to examine the process of preparing claims for APEL, with the objective of understanding what is involved and how the process is experienced by some students with prior professional learning. It suggests that APEL portfolios operate as boundary objects working at the edges of communities of practice and mediating their external relationships. It uses an academic literacies methodology to understand how these relationships are mediated, drawing on the notions of addressivity and dialogicality derived from the work of Bakhtin to analyse data from interviews about the production of APEL portfolios. The analysis—derived from in-depth interviews with four students who achieved APEL credits and the four tutors who assessed them—illustrates the different ways in which the approaches taken by the tutors determined the way in which the APEL portfolio assessment was adapted to meet tutor needs. The tutor approaches also affected the sense of agency that students felt they had through the process and impacted on their identity both as a professional and as a learner. The findings have implications for practice in demonstrating how a dialogic approach to assessment can serve to promote APEL and suggest that recognising the multimodality potential of an APEL portfolio can play a role in mediating relationships and negotiating mutual understanding thus opening up the academy to new sites of knowledge.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Westminster Exchange, University of Westminster, UK

Publication date: August 1, 2013

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