Skip to main content

Prior Learning Assessment Resources for SFCC Faculty and Staff: Home

Contact: More Information


Dani Gray, PLA Point of Contact and Referral [for students and faculty]

SFCC Director of Workforce Transitions and Outreach, SFCC campus, 509-533-4411


CAEL: National Standards and Prior Learning

SFCC is an institutional member of CAEL and SFCC also has faculty certified as Prior Learning Assessors.

CAEL provides prior learning training:

  • including workshops,
  • research
  • online courses,
  • conferences and
  • webinars.

CCS and SFCC: Credit for Prior Learning Policies and Procedures

The PLA Process at SFCC

The Course Challenge Process at SFCC (January 2014)

The student cannot be enrolled in a course they are attempting to challenge.

Step One


Student meets with Dani Gray or course instructor, if student has questions about the process. Student fills out application for Prior Learning. Students must pay the assessment fees.   

Step Two


Student meets with faculty member to arrange for the course challenge (exam, essay, lab process, portfolio presentation, interview, etc).  Student presents the application to the faculty member and faculty member ascertains that the fee has been paid (cashier’s stamp on the back of the application or a receipt from the cashier's office).

 Faculty may only assess prior learning for college credit in courses they are currently qualified to teach.   

Step Three


Student attempts the course challenge

Step Four


Faculty member reports the results of the challenge (award or denial of credit) based on whether course outcomes were effectively met.  Faculty member assigns a numeric grade, signs and dates the application.

Step Five

Department Chair signs the application, and makes copies.  Copy one remains with the department, copy two moves to VPL's office [via appropriate Dean] for processing [so faculty can be paid].  Original returns to registrar.  The student should also keep a copy of the application.

Faculty member may wish to attach comments related to method of assessment used (exam, essay, lab process, etc) and specific course outcomes effectively met (or missed). 

Step Six  


Credits (if any) are posted. Credits are generally posted at the end of each quarter.

PLA Best Practice: 10 Standards

To determine whether to award college credit to students for prior learning, follow these academic and administrative standards:

  1. Credit or its equivalent should be awarded only for learning, and not for experience.
  2. Assessment should be based on standards and criteria for the level of acceptable learning that are both agreed upon and made public.
  3. Assessment should be treated as an integral part of learning, not separate from it, and should be based on an understanding of learning processes.
  4. The determination of credit awards and competence levels must be made by appropriate subject matter and academic or credentialing experts.
  5. Credit or other credentialing should be appropriate to the context in which it is awarded and accepted.
  6. If awards are for credit, transcript entries should clearly describe what learning is being recognized and should be monitored to avoid giving credit twice for the same learning.
  7. Policies, procedures, and criteria applied to assessment, including provision for appeal, should be fully disclosed and prominently available to all parties involved in the assessment process.
  8. Fees charged for assessment should be based on the services performed in the process and not determined by the amount of credit awarded.
  9. All personnel involved in the assessment of learning should pursue and receive adequate training and continuing professional development for the functions they perform.
  10. Assessment programs should be regularly monitored, reviewed, evaluated, and revised as needed to reflect changes in the needs being served, the purposes being met, and the state of the assessment arts.

Taken from Assessing Learning: Standards, Principles, and Procedures (Second Edition) By Morry Fiddler, Catherine Marienau, and Urban Whitaker, 2006. Chicago, Kendall Hunt Publishing Company.

PLA: Student Success

CAEL recently conducted a study on PLA and adult student outcomes. The study examined data on 62,475 adult students at 48 colleges and universities across the country. CAEL found that graduation rates are two and a half times higher for students with PLA credit. PLA students also had higher persistence rates and a faster time to degree completion.


PLA: Multiple Approaches

Prior Learning Assessment is not just one method or tool. PLA includes options such as:

  • Portfolio-based Assessments—Evaluations of student portfolios such as those done through CAEL’s service,
  • American Council on Education (ACE) Guides—Published credit recommendations for formal instructional programs offered by non-collegiate agencies, both civilian employers and the military
  • Advanced Placement (AP) Exams—A series of tests developed by the College Board initially for AP High School courses, including 34 exams in 19 subject areas
  • College Level Examination Program (CLEP) Exams—Tests of college material offered by the College Board
  • DSST Credit by Exam Program—Formerly known as the DANTES Program, owned and administered by Prometric, tests knowledge of both lower-level and upper-level college material through 38 exams
  • Excelsior College Examination Program—Formerly, Regents College Exams or ACT/PEP Exams, offered by Excelsior College, NY
  • UExcel Credit by Exam Program—tests knowledge of lower-level college material; awarded Excelsior College credit can be transferred to other colleges and universities
  • National College Credit Recommendation Service—(formerly known as National PONSI) evaluates learning experiences for noncollegiate organizations
  • Evaluation of Local Training—Program evaluations done by individual colleges of non-collegiate instructional programs
  • Challenge Exams—Local tests developed by a college to verify learning achievement

Source: CAEL

Prior Learning: Books and Resources

Assessing Learning, 2nd edition, by Fiddler, Marienau, and Whitaker (2006)


Subject Guide

Paula Swan's picture
Paula Swan
1-509-533-3617 phone

1-509-533-4336 fax

SFCC Human Services

3410 W. Fort George Wright Drive

Spokane, WA 99224