The purpose of this paper is to outline some of the issues related to enabling the accreditation of prior experiential learning (APEL) in doctoral level awards, and illustrate the effects for candidates, others involved in the process and higher education (HE).
The paper is a mainly qualitative evaluation study of those involved with 12 graduates from a professional doctorate that uses an in‐depth reflective and critical analysis of prior high level work based learning as its main product for assessment. In‐depth semi‐structured telephone interviews, focus group and questionnaires were used to gather data from candidates, their advisers and consultants, internal and external examiners, and chairs of their presentation.
Findings included the development of understanding about work‐based epistemologies by all the participants and changes in the candidates' understanding of their professional identity. The recognition of scholarliness and the evaluation and accreditation of professional knowledge was a key issue for external examiners.
As a small‐scale evaluation case study the results are indicative and presented alongside experience of facilitating and assessing prior learning in this UK‐based professional doctorate, in order to stimulate further discussion.
APEL is a valuable and valued, student‐centred learning and teaching method for experienced professionals that could provide a useful entrée to other pedagogies that develop a personal understanding of professional knowledge production and ability to reflect on practice.
The paper provides some evidence for claims in the current literature that there is an important place for work‐based knowledge in contemporary HE. The pedagogic processes described in this paper appear to work effectively with doctoral level candidates.
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