Thursday, March 29, 2012

Jane Higgins on learner identity for young people who leave school with no or low qualifications

Attended a short 'lunch time' presentation by Dr. Jane Higgins, on - "Towards a learning identity: young people becoming learners after leaving school" -  at the mental health resource centre in Chch.

Jane's work with Judith Sligo and Dr. Karen Nairn on 'vocational imagination' the project on 'first year apprentices' experiences in the workplace. So good to do a catch up f2f with Jane and the work of the education employment linkages group at Lincoln University.
Jane presented initial findings from draft prepared for research participants for feedback. Strong themes coming through which are likely to be in final report. Final report will be on eel website.

She summarised research process, then defined learning identity and progreesed to discussing what supports formation of learner identity with respect to pathways into employment.

Project began with international research lit. review, then the mapping of educational-employment linkages provision in NZ for young people with low or no qualifications (which is in flux and change now). Interviews carried out with providers, policy analysts and the voices of the young people. Unable to make contact with NEETs (not in education, emploment or training) due to difficulties encountered last year through the Canterbury/Christchurch earthquakes.

Research question - what do young people who have left school with low or no qualifications have to say about the capacity of agenccies to assists, including facilitators and barriers.

12 focus groups in 5 learning organisations (n=51) - 2 learning centres with young people facing multiple difficult circumstances, one for teen mothers and one offering youth guarantees programmes

What learning took place across activities leading to NCEA levels, nat certs, drivers licence, or involving fitness, work experience, sport/leisure.

Young people construct a sense of self as a learner that changes over time and is mediated by the institutional structures in which they learn and which therefore impacts upon their view of work/career possibilities. Young people's understanding of their own learning capacities are critical to their aspirations and ability to engage with particular education-employment linkages. (eel lit review p.22)

Towards a learning identity - all participants were in learning environment, left school disengaged, most have been NEET for a period post-school, did not want to be NEET, saw themselves as learners, therefore significant identity formation.

Relationships (between learner and teacher) important in establishing recognition of transition from NEET, low school attainment to learner identity. Being provided with trust in their integrity, choices they could make, being treated as an adult, relevance and paced learning, small class size and positive encouragement.

matrix from 'positive youth development in Aotearoa: Weaving connections: tuhonohono tangitahi - WFCT - details low support/low challenge to high support/high challenge.

Themes on crafting pathways - individuals require emotional support (someone who understands, trustworthy, listens, have patience, high expectations, honest about employment). self motivation important. recommendation from known trusted source.

Finding a way into work - methods used include informal networks of tutors into labour market, individualised assistance, internet, acquaintances, career expos, job search assistance, work experience.

Maintaining a learner identity - and crafting a worker identity - what happens if jobs are not available?? points to fragility of the learner identity.

Current policy environment -- has challenges and may not solve all problems. Including:
Current focus on 16-17 risks missing those who shift towards learning identity over a longer time - confidence building is complex and take a lot of one to one support.
Pursuit of NCEA level 2 but may lead to organisations to replicate school. Gateway and trades academies do not currently cater for many of the young people who participated in this project.

Therefore, shift towards learning identity is a crucial moment for young people who have been in NEET. requires high levels of support and tailored education to facilitate and support, takes time and access to work experience and employment opportunities.

New Book - "Children of Rogernomics" - will be of interest and provide background to the impact of neoliberal economics on youth today.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Motor control and skill development in vocational education

As a continuation to last week’s blog, contributions from the field of sports psychology, dance pedagogy and the training of surgeons are summarised with relevance to the learning of trade 'motor' skills.

Learning a trade requires the acquisition of a range of motor skills. However, the literature is sparse when it comes to vocational trade skills learning and teaching. Each of the following disciplines studies motor skill learning from slightly different angles.

In sports psychology, behaviourists and cognitivists theories are brought together to study how to improve sports performance. For instance, a continuum of skill learning includes the cognitive, associative and autonomous phrases (Christina & Corcos, 1988; Fitts & Poster, 1967) with recommendations on whole vs part practice. Specific terms of relevance include proprioception – the sense of head, trunk and limb movement and exteroceptive – vision and hearing. Books in CPIT library include 'Motor control, learning and development' by Otley and Astill (2008); and 'Applied sport psychology: personal growth to peak performance' edited by J.M. Williams (2010).

From dance pedagogy we have an example from the book ‘Meaning in motion’ by Jane Desmond (2003) Here there is the linking of motor skills development with roots in behaviourist learning theories to regarding the ‘body, tool use and cognition’ bringing together aspects of embodiment, identity, how the brain represents and make connections between the many sensory inputs.
Medical education includes many speciality areas requiring the learning of practical skills. Here is an example on teaching surgical skills by Reznick & MacRae (2006). The paper advocates the use of simulations to assist medical students to learn and deliberately practice the mechanics of the skill before they have to use subsets and variants of these skills in an actual operating theatre.

Therefore, there is a specific language from psychology, to describe various aspects of motor control and skills learning and examples from other disciplines studying, describing and some advocating strategies for application to learning and teaching. Next step for me is to to think through the interconnections, interfaces and synergies between the various approaches to understanding learning how to become a trade worker.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Pedagogy in vocational education

Over the last year or so, I have been grappling with how to best frame a study of ‘how apprentices learn to become’. A 2002 report , as an initial literature review precursor to the large number of projects commissioned by the UK Teaching and Learning Research Programme. The report review of the research, indicated a large amount of work still needed to be done in the vocational education/training and workplace learning sectors. A decade further along, there has been a great deal of work undertaken by the TLRI. However, from my point of view as a voc.ed. practitioner, there is still much work to be done to try to understand how to improve learning for vocational education students.

My catch up on reading over the last six months have focused on the more difficult to quantify aspects of learning trade skills. In my thesis, these have been things that encompass how people 'learn by becoming' beyond the skills and knowledge described in competency-based standards. Including dispositions (diligence, resilience, openness to learning etc.), soft skills, tacit knowledge, intersubjective understanding/distributed cognition, maxims or tricks of the trade etc.

Through exploration of the anthropological and neuropsychological literature, a few likely paths to explore have turned up.  These are:
  • Marchand’s work on ‘embodied cognition’ through ethnographical studies as a student of joinery. Describing the ways in which bodily activity / interactions beween people, is similar to vocal communication with it's many nuances, socially derived perspectives to interpret messages and cultural connotations.
  • Collins and Evans (2008) on interactional expertise and embodiment in the book ' rethinking expertise'. Here, as with distributed cognition, expertise is seen to not only originate from individuals but through interactions between people, teams and the shared decisions made to innovate, improve practice.
  • Nielsen’s (2007) paper on encouragement to understand practice on it’s on merits and not as a dichotomy between theory and practice (with theory usually being perceived as at a higher level).  There is also the observation of the use of ‘circumspection’ as a mode of ‘reflection’ on practice involving the way in which people ‘look around’ when engaged with work (using tools, machinery, bodily movements) and understands the interconnections.
So my sense is to embark on a close observation and comparison between expert and novice and to try to figure out the role of interactional expertise and circumspection in attaining embodied cognition using work video as a means for data collection, as with previous projects.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

The fundamentals of workplace learning:

Another ebook has arrived at the library. It is by Danish Professor Knud Illeris, who recently retired at the age of 70 from the university but is still active in research and consultancy.

The book is called “The fundamentals of workplace learning: Understanding how people learn in working life” and consolidates Professor Illeris’ many years of research and work.

Chapter two summarises ‘how we learn, and parts of this chapter are on Google books. The next chapter discusses the concept of the workplace as a ‘learning space’ Followed by a chapter bringing the concepts introduced and discussed in the previous chapters to explain the ‘two triangles’ advanced workplace learning model.
Chapter five enters into a discussion into competency, it’s role in workplace learning. Definitions and advantages /disadvantages of trying to explain work in terms of competency. The important things that competency does not address including aspects of insight, empathy, structural understanding and the importance of judgement.

Then follow 5 chapters on workplace learning in practice with the last 3 chapters ‘cross cutting perspectives’ connecting the introductory theory chapters with the workplace learning in practice chapters.

Overall, a slightly different approach from the various other theorist I am more familiar with. The model brings together the various socio-cultural influences on individual's and workplace contributions towards formation of work identity through engagement with workplace practice. Of interest is the blending of aspects of competency into the discussion and model.