People learn, both within and beyond the college classroom. The concept of “recognition of learning” refers to the role higher education institutions can play in recognizing the learning that occurs outside of a campus classroom. Practices can range from portfolio assessment and credit by examination for knowledge gained from education and training providers such as the military or employers—in ways that count towards a degree or other credential. For centuries higher education institutions have assessed classroom learning, and in fairly standardized ways. But there’s great variance in how non-classroom-learning is assessed, challenging its application toward the credentials universally understood and valued by employers.
“There are many questions around the state of play, both in practice and policy,” said Wendy Sedlak, strategy director for research and data at Lumina Foundation. “For example, how can these efforts better assess traditionally undervalued facets of learning—particularly among adults returning to college? How do existing assessment efforts affect students? How might efforts scale up to help states meet goals for post-high school attainment and workforce development?”
The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) will answer these and more questions thanks to a $700,000 grant from Lumina Foundation and $200,000 in funding from Strada Education Network. The funds will support “Recognizing Learning in the 21st Century: A Research Initiative to Inform Policy and Practice,” a national 18-month effort led by the policy analysis and research team of WICHE—a regional interstate higher education compact serving 16 state and territorial members in the West.
“The recognition of all learning is a critical tool for supporting and accelerating more efficient pathways for mobility, reducing gaps in equity and quality, and increasing credential completion, especially for adults,” said Demarée Michelau, WICHE’s president. “Our policy and research team will be engaging with partners across the country to identify policy and practice exemplars that can be scaled.”
This WICHE effort, which launched in December 2018, incorporates a landscape analysis of postsecondary education recognition of learning policy and practice, and an evaluation of primary learning assessment methods and their impact in relation to student and workforce outcomes. Much of this work will be conducted with partners including the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL), which will play a core role evaluating learning assessment methods using student data.
“CAEL is committed to working with our members and partners to develop innovative pathways for adult learners to continually improve their knowledge and skills as they move forward in their careers,” said Marie A. Cini, president of CAEL. “Recognition of learning outside the traditional classroom is increasingly important and we are proud to work with WICHE to deepen our understanding of learning for the 21st century workforce. We are thankful to Lumina and Strada Education Network for investing in this important work.”
Through this research and assessment work, WICHE will identify and recommend ways to affordably scale effective recognition of learning policies and practices, to maximize the ability for students, states, and institutions to meet their goals.
This work aligns with WICHE’s primary areas of focus—including higher education access and success, workforce and society, and accountability. It builds upon two Lumina-supported former WICHE projects focusing on adult-learning populations: the Adult College Completion Network and Nontraditional No More. It also aligns with Lumina Foundation’s goals of increasing the proportion of Americans with high-quality credentials to 60 percent by 2025, and of closing attainment gaps across diverse populations.
About WICHE: Established by Congress in 1953, WICHE is one of four U.S. higher education regional compacts. WICHE’s programs and efforts help students pursue higher education affordably and conveniently, accelerate regionwide sharing of ideas and resources, provide expert research and policy guidance, and help higher education stakeholders thrive amidst rapid change. WICHE is funded by its members—who reap strong returns on investment from WICHE programs—and by grantmakers and others who share our desire to overcome the education and workforce challenges of tomorrow. Learn more at wiche.edu.
About Lumina Foundation: Lumina Foundation is an independent, private foundation in Indianapolis that is committed to making opportunities for learning beyond high school available to all. Lumina envisions a system that is easy to navigate, delivers fair results, and meets the nation’s need for talent through a broad range of credentials. Lumina’s goal is to prepare people for informed citizenship and for success in a global economy. Learn more at luminafoundation.org.
About Strada Education Network: Strada Education Network is a national nonprofit dedicated to improving lives by catalyzing more direct and promising pathways between education and employment. Strada engages partners across education, nonprofits, business, and government to focus relentlessly on students’ success throughout all phases of their working lives. With these partners they address critical college-to-career challenges through strategic philanthropy, research and insights, and mission-aligned affiliates, all focused on advancing the universal right to realized potential. Learn more at stradaeducation.org.
About the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL): A Strada Education Network affiliate, CAEL is a national, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to partnering with educators, employers, and workforce and economic developers to reimagine and create lifelong pathways that integrate learning and work in support of adults’ engaged participation in thriving talent pipelines and robust economic development. Learn more at cael.org.