17 Showcasing Experiential Learning with the PLA Resume

Just as a traditional resume shows a potential employer what makes you qualified for the job you are trying to obtain, a PLA résumé serves a similar purpose in that it focuses on what qualifies you to earn credit for a particular course.

A PLA résumé will show what you have done but reframe it to focus on what you have learned from this “doing.” Thus, a PLA résumé will include your work experience as well as information about your community and personal life.

While you will likely have to write a different Educational Narrative for each course you’re challenging, you will only include one PLA resume that should cover all courses you want to challenge. The PLA resume should address areas of expertise that are relevant to the courses being challenged first and foremost.

Keep in mind that your life is very familiar to you, but your reviewer will be seeing your experiences for the first time. You will want to be concise, making it clear that the Expertise items work directly as evidence for your course challenges. You will have to decide how best to arrange your PLA resume table to include relevant learning while remaining organized and coherent.

Formatting Your PLA Resume

To start your PLA résumé, make a bulleted list of your accomplishments. If you had to distill your traditional resume down into your best works, what would those be? List them here, as long as they’re relevant to the courses you’re challenging.

Your examples can be from your job, volunteer work, community groups, service organizations, independent study, hobbies, or other sources. Be sure, however, that they are significant learning experiences relating to the course outcomes of the courses you’re challenging.  These will be listed in the “Accomplishments” area of your PLA résumé.

For example, someone with a long career history in real estate and tech might list some accomplishments like this below. Note the variety of sources from which the Accomplishments are drawn, from professional to volunteering to hobbies:


  • Sold over $10 million in real estate in my first year at Jenkins Real Estate firm.
  • Managed my own computer business for 10 years.
  • Held a government contracting job as an analyst for 11 years and brought in $5 million in contracts per year on average.
  • Started a pet grooming business and managed over 50 pets a month.
  • Trained in computer technology in the military and can operate in UNIX, C++, COBOL, Oracle and People-Soft.
  • Volunteered with a studio that records books for the blind and dyslexic for 15 years, becoming an experienced reader over time.
  • Maintained membership in a Civil War reenactment group for 10 years, gaining detailed knowledge of Civil War history in the process.

Then, underneath your Accomplishments section, you will make a table like the one below to identify and expand on your most knowledgeable areas in the PLA resume. A template for this table will be provided for you in MDS 301: Prior Learning Seminar course activities.

In the four columns of your PLA resume, do the following:

  • In the “Expertise Area” column, list the general area where you have experience and expertise.
  • In the “Source of Learning” column, list what job title, volunteer work, or hobby provided this expertise.
  • In the “Accomplishment” column, list the actual activity.
  • In the “Dates” column, list the date span over which this learning occurred.
Expertise Area Source of Learning Accomplishment Dates
Communications Assistant Editor: Oregon State Office of Personnel Wrote technical manual for state government 1997-2007
Volunteer: City of Sandy River, Tennessee Wrote speeches for mayoral candidate 2000-2001
Hobby: Writing Self-published novel; Ride the Rails 2003-2004
Management President:  COMPUFIX Managed a technology business selling computer services to government agencies

Hired and supervised 50 employees and contractors

Troop Leader: Bluebird Girl Scouts, Merrill County, Maine Managed a Girl Scout Troop 2007-present
Technology Corporal: U.S. Army:  Stationed in Germany Developed computer LAN systems for the military overseas 2001-2007
Training Assistant Director:  Finance Office, JANTA Corporation Developed PowerPoint presentations for training sessions

Trained executives on budgeting processes

Instructor:  YWCA,  Mitchellville, Georgia Taught dance

Became certified as an aerobic dance instructor


This chapter contains original material and material taken from “PLA 200: Introduction to Portfolio Development, Module 3, Lesson 3” by Center for the Assessment of Learning and Terry Hoffmann licensed under CC BY 4.0.


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