Vocational Education and Training – learning is becoming a practitioner not learning about practice


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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

Brown and Duguid (1996) provide a significant conceptual shift by reassessing the interrelatedness of work, learning and innovation.

It therefore has enormous relevance to vocational education and training.

In their view, formal descriptions of work and learning have been abstracted from practice to the point that significant detail is lost. They observe that society tends to value abstract knowledge over practical knowledge which is generally reflected in education and training programs.

In this regard Brown and Duguid argue that intricacy of practice is at the crux of understanding work and that:

Without a clear understanding of those intricacies and the role they play, the practice itself can not be well understood, engendered (through training), or enhanced (through innovation). (Brown and Duguid, 1996, p. 59).

Brown and Duguid (1996) posit that “the central issue in learning is becoming a practitioner not learning about practice”. Thus, learning is best understood in the context of “the practices and communities in which knowledge takes on significance” (Brown and Duguid, 1996, p. 69 – 70).

While recognising the complexity of fostering learning-in-work, they suggest that at the crux is the full recognition of practices within communities and the need for learners to have legitimate access to the periphery of practice (Brown and Duguid, 1996, pp. 71 – 72).

Given that large organisations may be conceived as a collective of communities that may be given the opportunity to interchange their particular perspectives on issues relevant to the benefit of the organisation as a whole (“the community-of-communities”), Brown and Duguid argue that there is scope for designing organisational structures that enhance such interaction.

In spite of the problems that may result from a rearrangement of traditional organisational structures in respect of communities-of-practice, Brown and Duguid infer that there are also likely to be benefits also (Brown and Duguid, 1996, pp. 77 – 79).

According to King and Rowe, existing academic theorising has tended to emphasise a linear description of what happens in collectives (organisations) at the expense of socially constructed phenomena and the constructed nature of reality.

They argue that the generative capabilities of collectives could be better harnessed if they were permitted to employ a more heterogeneous method of chronicling collective processes.

In this regard, King and Rowe investigated an inter-departmental project team that was trying to move the focus of the parent company to a multi-media approach to telecommunications. They noted and diagrammatically represented the discussion points raised by individual collective members and their relational aspects, which subsequently demonstrated the non-linearity of the process leading to the eventual outcome (King and Rowe, 1999, pp. 440 – 442).

My Reconceptualisation of Organisational Learning and vocational education and training.

“Organisational learning occurs by, and is the result of, a complex dynamic involving individual and collective explicit and implicit learning of all organisational members who participate in a community-of-practice, with all of the preceding being influenced by organisational internal and external environmental factors, with the ultimate formation of collective, explicit and tacit organisational knowledge.” Bruce D. Watson, 2002, Rethinking Organisational Learning, http://tinyurl.com/okhbjnk

Therefore, vocational education and training needs to include greater appreciation of, and the inclusion of, individual and collective explicit and implicit learning, communities-of-practice, and organisational internal and external environmental factors in VET Trainer and Trainee education.

That is not what occurs in the Australian VET System. It is ‘industry-led’ with a ‘private business framework’ overlay – and using behaviourist learning models that were relevant in the 1920s until 1950.


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