Holistic vocational education and training: curriculum included


copyright-symbols-and-rules-you-need-to-know-04 2015

Intellectual Property of Dr. Bruce D. Watson, DEd Melbourne and attributed authors as noted.

For Private individual use. All rights reserved.

Published: www.academia.edu

Guided Readings

These terms are used:

Instrumentalism, is the view that the value of scientific concepts and theories is determined not by whether they are literally true or correspond to reality in some sense but by the extent to which they help to make accurate empirical predictions or to resolve conceptual problems. Instrumentalism is thus the view that scientific theories should be thought of primarily as tools for solving practical problems rather than as meaningful descriptions of the natural world. Indeed, instrumentalists typically call into question whether it even makes sense to think of theoretical terms as corresponding to external reality. In that sense, instrumentalism is directly opposed to scientific realism, which is the view that the point of scientific theories is not merely to generate reliable predictions but to describe the world accurately. http://tinyurl.com/px3lr82

Constructivism is basically a theory based on observation and scientific study — about how people learn. It says that people construct their own understanding and knowledge of the world, through experiencing things and reflecting on those experiences. When we encounter something new, we have to reconcile it with our previous ideas and experience, maybe changing what we believe, or maybe discarding the new information as irrelevant. In any case, we are active creators of our own knowledge. To do this, we must ask questions, explore, and assess what we know.


This is not just an esoteric argument; there are real practical consequences for students/trainees/learners and society.

Wheelahan (http://tinyurl.com/moy97my) observed that “Constructivist critiques of Competency Based Training not only miss the point, they are part of the problem. ……this is because the relationship between constructivism and instrumentalism structured the development of CBT in the vocational education and training (VET) sector in Australia, even though they are distinct theoretical approaches to curriculum.”

“Constructivist discourses were appropriated and reworked through the prism of instrumentalism, thereby contributing to the justification and legitimation of CBT, but also to its continuing theorisation and development. The basis for the appropriation of constructivism by CBT is that both emphasise the contextual, situated and problem-oriented nature of knowledge creation and learning and in so doing, sacrifice the complexity and depth of theoretical knowledge in curriculum in favour of ‘authentic’ learning in the workplace. Consequently, in developing its critique of CBT and the instrumentalist learning theories that underpin it, constructivism misses the main point, which is that theoretical knowledge must be placed at the centre of curriculum in all sectors of education, and that access to knowledge is the raison d’être of education (Young 2008)”

As Laird and Stevenson suggest, “We believe that the National Training Board confidence that the setting of competency standards will lead in an unimpeded way to the development of matching competence in learners ignores the reality that concerns are continually reappraised throughout the curriculum development process and the actual education intent unfolds through this process.” http://www.voced.edu.au/content/ngv31694

It was argued at the time of introduction of the Vocational Education and Training VET System that Training Packages (TPs) are not curriculum and therefore allows Trainers the freedom necessary to develop curriculum to suit particular training contexts and groups of trainees.The VET System expects Trainers to develop curriculum from TPs and Units of Competency (UoC).

Training Packages and Units of Competency

Training Packages are the basis for curriculum development. The current UoC (2012) related to this is:

Unit sector Learning design

TAEDES402A Use training packages and accredited courses to meet client needs.

This unit typically applies to a person working in or with training and/or assessment organisations as an entry-level trainer, teacher, facilitator or assessor. It assumes that the person is working from a pre-defined training product, such as a training package or accredited course, and applying that product to meet client needs.

Access here for details: http://tinyurl.com/ootpjgd

Curriculum development

Curriculum development is the professional skill of educational and learning planning. Currently, tick and flick approaches develop rather than holistic learning due to the reliance on the Training Packages and Units of Competency as the available products. It appears that this could be because VET trained trainers know no better, or are coerced not to spend time in curriculum planning.

Curriculum development is a process that any Trainer (should) be using to develop the activities that lead to the attainment of Competencies and Competence.

The curriculum development process systematically organises what will be taught, who will be taught, and how it will be taught. Each component affects and interacts with other components – with an aim to achieving competence for a role rather than separate competencies/tasks. Assessment separate but included part of the curriculum activity. Assessment should include formative and summative methodologies http://tinyurl.com/lm3sp2f

Curriculum development is the professional skill of educational and learning planning. Currently, ‘tick and flick’ approaches tend to develop rather than holistic learning and assessment due to the reliance on the Training Packages and Units of Competency because it appears Certificate IV in Assessment and training trained trainers may not know any better. (Interpreting competencies in Australian vocational education and training: practices and issues: 2014 – http://tinyurl.com/nvm7kal)

Curriculum Maintenance Managers

Curriculum Maintenance Managers (CMMs) support the strategic objectives of the Victorian Government by providing advice on the implementation of national training packages and curricula for all RTOs in Victoria. http://tinyurl.com/my65m3r

Vocational Curriculum development framework

David Laird and John Stevenson (1993) observed that, “Curriculum developers in vocational education tend not to accept as relevant curriculum development models, used in general education, which they regard as predominantly school-related. In place of these models, vocational educators focus mainly on the development of syllabuses and base this development predominantly on the knowledge and skills needed in occupations (e.g. see ACTRAC 1992; The National Training Board 1992). This focus on a single source for curriculum content in
vocational education has been common in Australia for more than a decade (Broderick & Kuhl 1981, TAFE Board of Victoria 1984).

“Various reasons can be advanced for this rejection, by vocational educators, of models used in general education. For instance, it could be argued that their utility has not been recognised by vocational curriculum developers, the implication being that the problem lies with the curriculum developers themselves.”

“Alternatively, it could be argued that the problem lies with the existing models, in that they do not readily lend themselves to adoption by vocational curriculum
developers in addressing the problems that they encounter in vocational education. We believe that, in all probability, both of these perspectives have currency.”

“We believe that the language which forms the discourse used in the school-related curriculum development literature impedes the application of those models in vocational education. We also believe that some of the concerns confronted by vocational curriculum developers, especially those relating to the vocational aspirations of students and those of industry are not fully addressed or accommodated in existing models. Nevertheless, we believe that the concepts underlying those models are directly applicable to vocational curriculum development.”

“In this paper, then, we synthesis a framework from the concepts underlying a number of existing curriculum development models. In doing so, we use language which we believe is directly applicable in both vocational education and general education, and we accommodate those idiosyncratic aspects of vocational curriculum development with which we are familiar.”

“Our thinking is based on the belief that vocational education is about preparing individuals to make a constructive contribution to society in general, and to employment in particular, a role which draws upon not only technical skills, but also more general attributes and qualities.” http://www.voced.edu.au/content/ngv31694

Problem-Based Learning and Competency Development

VET Trainers might learn how to adapt Training Packages and UoC to a problem-based curriculum approach by considering what happens in any professions. Thinking is not only the domain of, nor does it have to be limited to, the professions. It is a normal human function that VET Trainees and Trainers would benefit from studying and utilising enormously. See: Lack of VET “thinking” still prominent – a matter for Policy Reform http://tinyurl.com/qcf7tdx

Chappell and Hager (1995) aimed to lift the standard from atomised Units of Competency model by adding more up-front thinking skills to the Competency and Competence equations. “The rationale for problem-based learning arises from a view that, historically speaking, human learning has taken precisely this form and that from the advent of classrooms and curricula, human learning has been moving further and further away from this situation. By being centred on professional practice, problem-based professional education courses avoid many of the difficulties which are often in many traditional discipline-based professional education programs (Margetson 1994).

These difficulties include issues of relevance, learner experience, and the problems associated with the ‘front-end’ approach of many of these courses, whereby an attempt is made to cover all the knowledge relevant to the profession. Problem-based learning highlights how professional knowledge is never static and can never be totally accommodated in pre-service programs. It therefore views the goals of pre-service education as developing the skills to learn new knowledge quickly, effectively and independently. The problem based approach is seen as an effective way of developing these crucial skills.”

“Proponents of problem based learning also argue that professionals need
much more than a store of knowledge in the subjects which relate to their profession.” http://tinyurl.com/lo24whz

Alternative for conceptualising competence

CBT and generic attributes approaches are not the only alternatives for conceptualising competence, although this does not appear to be a welcome message in many quarters.

“There is a third approach to conceptualising professional competence, which has been called the ‘integrated approach’ because it brings together ‘key tasks’ (or, more accurately, ‘key intentional actions’) and generic attributes.”

“The .fragmenting of a profession into a myriad of tasks, as the CBTE approach to competence does,is overly atomistic precisely because actual practic eis much richer than sequences of these isolated tasks and the overall approach fails to provide any synthesis of the tasks. In that case we are justified in concluding that the distinctive character of the profession has been destroyed by the analysis.”

“However the opposite mistake is adherence to a rigid, self-defeating monistic holism that rules out all analysis. In practice, some degree of atomism in approaches to competence will be acceptable, provided that it is accompanied by a suitable degree of holism. The professional competency standards produced in Australia by the integrated approach are holistic in several important senses.” http://tinyurl.com/lo24whz


The VET System would benefit from recognising the overall uselessness of atomised VET CBT and work towards a Capabilities framework – Capabilities not Competencies http://tinyurl.com/ltkb23g

And, moving away from an “industry-led system” to including vocational education experts. Collaboratively-Led VET System – http://tinyurl.com/ntx4lst


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