Report
Team Members

Dr Irene Sheridan & Deirdre Goggin were the project leads for this project

D-GogginDeirdre Goggin, RPL/WBL Development Officer, CIT Extended Campus
Deirdre has worked in Higher Education for the past 15 years, 12 of these in the areas of RPL, work-based learning and education development. She currently is the Recognition of Prior Learning and Work Based Learning company advisor  at Cork Institute of Technology (CIT). She is a member of the CIT Extended Campus Team which is the interface between CIT, enterprise and community groups. Deirdre is responsible for engagements with industry and employees in the validation of prior and work based learning. She works in collaboration with other offices in the Institute on customised course developments integrating RPL/ WBL where possible. As part of engagements with industry she has trained mentor networks in employer organisations. Deirdre is a member of the RPL CIT working group on policy and procedure development , the CIT RPL/ WBL staff trainer and liaises with QQI on the development of RPL at a national and European level. In 2014 , Deirdre completed a Masters in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education and in 2008 a Masters on the Assessment of Informal and Non Formal Learning.

I-SheridanDr Irene Sheridan, Head of CIT Extended Campus
Having worked with national and multinational electronics companies before joining CIT, Irene Sheridan was appointed Head of Department of Electronic Engineering in 2004. In 2012, Irene completed a Doctorate on Change Management in Higher Education with the University of Middlesex.  Since 2007 she has managed two collaborative projects exploring engagement interactions between higher education and enterprise in Ireland (Education in Employment and Roadmap for Employment-Academic Partnership).  Both projects were funded by the Higher Education Authority under the Strategic Innovation Fund.  The projects explored existing practice in a number of types of interaction and produced useful guides to practice in areas such as: Recognition of Prior Learning, Work-based Learning, Work Placement, Customised Learning, Progression of Craft Certificate holders, Migrants in Higher Education among others. She is currently Head of the CIT Extended Campus, (http://extendedcampus.cit.ie/) a unique facility established to stimulate and support all forms of engagement with enterprise, including graduate formation, customised learning development, research and innovation activity and enterprise support and development.
Irene is a member of the Practitioners Committee for the University-Industry Interaction Conference 2015 and has also acted as expert for the EACEA on Erasmus+ programmes.

Dr-S-CassidyDr Stephen Cassidy, Dean of Academic Quality Enhancement
Stephen has responsibility for managing the quality enhancement of the academic curriculum within Cork Institute of Technology. The role involves developing and implementing the Institute’s learning and teaching strategy; promoting and supporting technology enhanced learning and teaching; facilitating the professional development of academic staff; and engaging in pedagogical research.

Phil-OLPhil O’Leary, Recognition of Prior Learning Support, CIT Extended Campus
Phil O’Leary has been a Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) Mentor for Cork Institute for eighteen years. Her research interests include non-formal and informal learning and aspects which support the delivery of RPL.  She delivers a portfolio development module and RPL workshops for the institute and individual mentoring support for students and staff with assessment of RPL.  Phil is currently studying for a PhD in the area of RPL.

Aims

The aim of this research is identify and explore current policies, processes, practices and aspirations of Irish Higher Education Institutions with regard to recognition of prior learning; to contextualise this practice with particular reference to European policy framework; and to make informed recommendations for policy development in the area of recognition of prior learning which will promote a more consistent and coherent approach to RPL across Irish HE practice. The research will incorporate, as far as is practicable, the appropriate policy frameworks, as well as views from practitioners including academic assessors , students, academic and career advisory services, employers, professional bodies and social partners. It is anticipated that exploring practice and experiences, and analysis of the research findings in an internationally informed context, will yield implications for practice within the higher education system as well as at the interface with further education and the workplace. The outcomes of the research will also contribute to incorporating RPL into professional development pathways such as that is currently being researched and developed by the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning. As this research focuses on an exploration of practice and ways in which that practice may become more coherent it is anticipated that specific recommendations for policy development will emerge during the course of the research and analysis stages.

Research Outcomes

• What are the current policies, frameworks and processes that are used to support the recognition of learning; formal, informal, accredited and experiential? • How can these current policies become more coherent and consistent across the higher education sector in Ireland? • How can this exploration of existing RPL practice and policy support RPL in the context proposed professional development pathways – including that being developed for academic staff?

Methodology & Scope

The proposed research includes mixed methodological approaches as appropriate to the information gathering requirements with the various stakeholders and groups: These will include: • desk review, • phone survey, • focus groups, • in-depth interviews • workshops The sample of respondents will be informed by the institutional contacts by the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning, the researchers’ knowledge and awareness of the existing expertise and practitioners and the QQI.

Outcomes

The Outputs from this research project will include an interim and a final report detailing the findings in relation to current practice as explored from the perspectives of the various stakeholders as well as recommendations for future practice. It is expected that the resulting Outcomes of the research will be: • Enhanced awareness and acceptance for the value and validity of learning gained in a variety of contexts in the context of higher education in Ireland • Greater alignment, synergy and coherence of current policies, frameworks and processes used to support the recognition of learning; formal, informal, accredited and experiential in higher education • Increased capacity and capability among academic and support staff in addressing the development, learning and assessment stages While the research project timeframe is short it is anticipated that the work will provide an evidential framework to inform and impact on policy and practice at • National • Regional and Sectoral • Local and institutional levels Within higher education institutions the exploration of existing practice and identification of good practice will drive the development of: • building competency and capacity in academic and support staff • development of modules and programmes which consider achievement through different contexts including informal and non-formal learning • flexible assessment design • inclusive support and guidance systems and structures • broad evidence base of learning attainment • IT systems to support mobility and evidencing of learning • integration with academic quality assurance and IT records systems • Building capacity and scaling systems at institutional and national levels • Integration of RPL throughout the professional development framework • integration of the employer and professional body in the RPL practice systems

Impact Goals

The research team represents considerable experience in this space as well as far-reaching networks nationally and internationally. This expertise and experience will both underpin the success of this research project and support the effective and efficient dissemination activities. In the short time frame of the project the main goal will be the timely production of the research reports including a comprehensive insight into RPL in higher education in Ireland spanning all the actors within the space, well-informed recommendations for greater consistency and coherence of policy and practice supporting recognition of prior learning in higher education in Ireland. Beyond the short project timeframe a significant goal or measure of success will be the acceptance and adoption of the report and the resulting developing awareness, acceptance, culture and aspirations among internal and external stakeholders. In the short term the project will raise awareness of the practice and policy frameworks which underpin RPL, inform the emerging practitioners network and ensure that that various policy frameworks at national and European level have been considered. It will also contribute to the development of capacity and capability within the higher education system. Through exploration of practice, challenges and opportunities to ensure coherence and consistency will be identified and signposted. Longer term objectives include the raising of the expectation and aspirations with regard to RPL in the broader society – particularly in further education and employers groups and the stimulation of increased demand among employer and professional groups.. Contributing to and influencing policy directions, and performance funding frameworks through the practitioners network and the dissemination activities will also be an aim of the research project.