Topic 1 – Definitions and Purposes

Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) is called different things around the world. Often it is referred to as prior learning assessment (PLA), or recognition of prior learning (RPL). Dr. Alan Thomas, a Canadian PLAR scholar, has defined PLAR as the practice of reviewing, evaluating, and acknowledging the information, skills, and understanding that adult learners’ have gained through experiential or self-directed (informal) and/or non-credit courses and workshops (nonformal) learning, rather than through formal education (Thomas, 2000). In this unit, you will look at other definitions of PLAR and develop a definition that suits your own context.

Learning Activities

Read the resources assigned to this module and look for other definitions of PLAR. Note the variety of ways in which it is used. Think about how each resource addresses the who, what, where, when and why of PLAR. Then based on what you now understand PLAR to be about, write your own definition in the context of how you would use it. Think of RPL in the simplest terms and try explaining it to a friend or colleague.


Ask  a friend or colleague to give you feedback on your explanation. Reflect on how well you were able to explain PLAR to them. List three things you would do or say next time to explain PLAR better.


Information on prior learning assessment and recognition. Fact Sheet

What is prior learning assessment and recognition?

Other Resources:

Lamoreau, A. (2005). Adult learners’ experience of change related to prior learning assessment. Doctoral dissertation, Waldon University, MINN. pp. 13-14.

Werquin, P. (2010). Recognising non-formal and informal learning: Outcomes, policies and practices. Paris, France: OECD. pp. 28-29.


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