1 Realizing What You Already Know

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Think of someone you know—perhaps yourself—who knows their job so well they can anticipate problems, work on instinct, and make difficult decisions based on a wealth of experience. Or perhaps you know someone who has an ability to play a musical instrument so well that they can express their emotions with it and get into a creative flow state. Maybe there’s someone who you think of as a “walking encyclopedia” about their field, someone who has an amazing amount of professional knowledge, who you wish could be a professor on their subject or work in a museum to share what they know all day. 

To know something deeply and thoroughly, you have to earn it. And usually, that kind of knowledge is earned the hard way, through thousands of hours and many mistakes. It takes lots of reflection and self-analysis, and learning from honest feedback. It takes guts and grit. And by the time you get to that state of deep knowledge, you know it so well that it’s a part of you. It’s hard to explain that knowledge to others sometimes, because it seems so easy after all these years of practice.

But explaining that knowledge and how you attained it is our challenge in Prior Learning. Students in this course often don’t realize how much they actually know, because they know it so well that it seems like common knowledge. Or maybe they never thought it “counted,” because it didn’t happen in a traditional classroom.

Prior Learning is about disrupting these notions.

Your learning counts, no matter where it happened.

Prior Learning isn’t a shortcut, either. All the years of effort and mistakes and introspection were important for your learning. (If anything, the traditional classroom is actually the shortcut!)

You will have to prove your learning through your portfolio and interview, but this book and the course will help you make your best case. You are part of a program and a university that honors experiential learning, and we want to help you work towards the credit that Prior Learning offers. 

This chapter will help you to start thinking about what you already know, whether you have realized it fully or not. We will look at different ways we learn as humans, and contextualize those learning theories specifically for learning through experience.


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