And I got very good news. The PLA instructor believes without reservation that I have enough background to "max out" all the allowable alternative ways to earn credits. A full year's credits can be added to a transcript through challenging courses through standardized tests (CLEP and DANTES), and I could easily write for a full year's credits through PLA (Prior Learning Assessment). Online courses are more available than ever, and there is also a dual-enrollment option with the community colleges. All in all, making the stew from that many ingredients takes a lot of careful consultation and planning closely with my advisor, but it's an attainable goal - and far cheaper and faster than doing things conventionally would be.
The last thing to hand in for the class was the "Reflection on Learning" paper. Here's mine, in 770 words.
Reflection on Learning
My experience in LRN150 has been a series of self-revelations, surprises, confirmations and reassurances. Each assignment and project, at home and in class, showed me more of myself as I am and have been, personally, professionally, and intentionally. This process of increasing self-knowledge, the welcoming atmosphere of the class, and the cheerful methods of the instructor have all combined to make me determined to find a way to my Human Studies degree at Marylhurst.
I began to be surprised before the first class meeting. My first draft of the pre-assignment, my autobiography, was three hundred words too long. I found that I had become sloppy and self-indulgent and even a bit cute in my writing in the years since my last formal education. I had, I think, stopped taking myself seriously. I had learned to discount my intelligence, make little of my accomplishments, blunt my once sharp reasoning skills, and tell jokes rather than answer questions. For me, the required length of the paper was easily met – but not by good, solid, academic writing. The process of editing the assignment down to size taught me two things. I learned to take myself seriously again, and I recognized just how much I have learned and accomplished.
The first class meeting was another pivotal experience for me personally. For the first time in my adult life, and perhaps in my whole life, I found myself in the position of one of several students, with a teacher at the head of the class, and yet I made no move to establish my place in the group. I did not speak up when no one else would do it. I did not assume a leadership position of any kind, either with the class as a whole or with the small group during discussions. Instead, I found that I could participate as a genuine peer, neither more nor less qualified than anyone else for the positions we held as adult learners in that room.
I am still not quite sure what to make of this experience. I suspect that my response proceeded first from the obvious fact that our instructor was not nervous about her class. She genuinely enjoyed what she was doing, and believed that any of us who wanted to acquire college credits through writing in the Prior Learning Assessment program would be able to do so. In other words, I had no need to be the teacher. There already was one, and she knew what she was doing.
However, I also suspect that there was more to it than my confidence in an obviously excellent instructor. I suspect that part of what this showed to me was my own readiness to proceed to this next part of my life, free of defensiveness or youthful needs for validation and approval. I think the first class session showed me that I am ready to do what it takes to earn my degree as an adult learner.
The chronolog we turned in during the second class session was a long slog through decades of emotions, expectations, disappointments, successes, failures, and changes. It was emotionally exhausting to write. This also surprised me. What I had thought was going to be a nicely formatted, dispassionate list turned out to be an emotional mining expedition.
These first two assignments, and the next one, the Goal Statement, caused a new self to present herself in class by the third week’s meeting. It seemed to me that news selves appeared in all the other chairs as well. Groups of students re-formed themselves at the tables, and the conversation between students before class, during discussions, and even after class seemed to come into sharper focus.
It was helpful to have department representatives come to speak to us about PLA in their various disciplines, and it was helpful (and kind of fun!) to take the ASSET test in class. It was clarifying to do small group work and it was energizing to have discussions with the class as a whole. Despite the heat of the summer and the noise of the apparently ancient air conditioner units in the window, and even despite the lateness of the class hour, the whole process of my participation in LRN150 this summer has shown me one thing very clearly. I want a Human Studies degree from Marylhurst, and now I know will be able to earn it in part through writing for the PLA program. The class was recommended to me by a student who got her degree in this way, and I will recommend it to anyone else who might be interested.