Managing a vocational education organisation: Part Four – flaws in Vocational EDUCATION and Training

flawed-design

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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

We have to ask whether a metaphor of consumerism and Competency Based Training (CBT) is giving people a helpful idea of what to expect from their educational experience and I don’t think it is.

Students engage in the process of education; they themselves contribute significantly to its ‘outcomes’; they share responsibility for what they ‘get’ at the end of it. It can’t be bought.

1. Artificial

“….criticism of competency-based education includes the artificiality of breaking complex tasks into separate chunks. Blunden (1996) argues that operationalizing complex and/or abstract tasks into measurable discrete units can trivialize the craft inherent in many tasks. Additionally, the behavioural nature of competency-based education is viewed negatively as it does not foster the development of broader skills necessary for citizenship (Evans, 1995; Gonczi, 1997).http://tinyurl.com/pd9v9wv

2. Cogs and Widgets

…..learners are not products, educators don’t produce, education isn’t a possession, nor a product or service. It’s all a matter of membership. And we have to guard against seeing it as one–a machine with cogs that produces learners like little widgets—that wheezes and chuffs and spits out educated things. Rather, we have to try to see the entire machine itself as society itself, where the learner has a role that is interdependent with the teacher, the teacher with curriculum vendors, and so on. The VET “Brand” is almost irrevocably tarnished because education is a process not a consumer product – we have to ask whether a metaphor of consumerism is giving people a helpful idea of what to expect from their educational experience and I don’t think it is. Students engage in the process of education; they themselves contribute significantly to its ‘outcomes’; they share responsibility for what they ‘get’ at the end of it. It can’t be bought.http://tinyurl.com/nbrlkb5

3. Solid Foundation

We need a VET System that is based on solid foundations – and those solid foundations are not Training Packages, courses based on work tasks UoC and learners treated as products and commodities for profit making. The solid and sustainable foundations are evidence-based Processes and Community/Society based models of vocational education and training – not those narrowly manipulated to suit one sector only. (“industry” – what ever that is).

4. Privileged Employer Perspective

“Learning outcomes are divorced from processes of learning and curriculum. Proponents of CBT insist that units of competency are not curriculum because they merely specify the outcomes of learning, and that this ‘frees’ teachers to develop creative and innovative ‘delivery strategies’ that meet the needs of ‘clients’…….. the structure and content of CBT acts as a mechanism for social power by privileging employer perspectives. It uses Australia as an illustrative case study to demonstrate that competency-based VET qualifications deny students access to the theoretical knowledge that underpins vocational practice. They result in unitary and unproblematic conceptions of work because students are not provided with the means to participate in theoretical debates shaping their field of practice.”

“The problem is the Australian VET System adaption and definition of CBT is all swayed to one beneficiary – “industry” whatever that is. The tendency is to speak about CBT as if it is “one thing”. It isn’t – definitions abound and have been adapted to suit the “market”, “industry”, etc. A tradegdy for all in the end.

5. Audits are for what exists not what could be

Audits are not really contributing to the overall improvement of VET system – audits are conducted, in part, to determine observance to a behaviourist education model (the Australian VET System version of CBT) which has been discredited due to advances in cognitive science and connectionist models that take into account how the brain works. Competence can only ever be inferred it cannot be measured directly. Unfortunately,for all, most of the VET System seems to think it is measuring Competency – it isn’t – it uses performance measures that may (or maynot) infer competency. Therein lies the problem – VET Trainers are trained in the same way as other VET learners and the System perpetuates a extinct learning model.

…..we have to try to see the entire “machine” itself as society itself, where the learner has a role that is interdependent with the teacher, the teacher with curriculum vendors, and so on. The Australian VET “Brand” is almost irrevocably tarnished because education is a process not a consumer product – we have to ask whether a metaphor of consumerism is giving people a helpful idea of what to expect from their educational experience and I don’t think it is. Students engage in the process of education; they themselves contribute significantly to its ‘outcomes’; they share responsibility for what they ‘get’ at the end of it. It can’t be bought.http://tinyurl.com/nbrlkb5

6. Educational model from the 1920s -1950s

Behaviourism (the primary theoretical position on which the Australian VET System definition of CBT is based) was the primary education paradigm between 1920s to 1950 and is based on a number of underlying assumptions regarding methodology and behavioural analysis:

Behaviourism is primarily concerned with observable behaviour, as opposed to internal events like thinking and emotion. Observable (i.e. external) behaviour can be objectively and scientifically measured. Internal events, such as thinking should be explained through behavioural terms (or eliminated altogether).

* People have no free will – a person’s environment determines their behaviour

* When born our mind is ‘tabula rasa’ (a blank slate).

* There is little difference between the learning that takes place in humans and that in other animals. Therefore research can be carried out on animals as well as humans.

* Behaviour is the result of stimulus – response (i.e. all behaviour, no matter how complex, can be reduced to a simple stimulus – response association). Watson described the purpose of psychology as: “To predict, given the stimulus, what reaction will take place; or, given the reaction, state what the situation or stimulus is that has caused the reaction” (1930).

* All behaviour is learnt from the environment. We learn new behaviour through classical or operant conditioning.

7. Competence and Competency mean different things

The most recent VET System definition of competency explains that:

The broad concept of industry competency concerns the ability to perform particular tasks and duties to the standard of performance expected in the workplace. Competency requires the application of specified skills, knowledge and attitudes relevant to effective participation in an industry, industry sector or enterprise. (DEEWR 2009)

…….. VET System CBT has not effectively achieved its designated objectives, and the ‘enhanced’ definition, while being an improvement, does not solve the fundamental problem which is that it continues to tie knowledge to specific workplace tasks and roles. This means that units of competency are based on a disaggregated view of the workplace, so that ‘becoming competent’ consists of aggregations of workplace tasks and roles that have been defined independently of each other.

Moreover, it has been a requirement that knowledge “should only be included if it refers to knowledge actually applied at work. CBT ties knowledge to work as it currently is, and does not build capacity for the future. It also denies students access to the knowledge they need to study at a higher level in their field, and thus undermines the link between occupational and educational progression.(Wheelahan)

8. Beyond Behaviourism

Theories of learning and development are now influenced by cognitive science and connectionist modelling. What is actually needed, I and others contend, is a Capabilities Framework with a combined problem-solving and competency-based model of learning – not the narrow VET System view of competency. “…. it has been largely stripped of its social, moral and intellectual qualities.

Perhaps the best way of approaching this is to make a distinction between competence (and competences) and competency (and competencies). …. there is a tendency to conflate the terms. Competence and competences are broad capacities. In contrast competency (plural competencies) is narrower, more atomistic concept used to label particular abilities or episodes. In the case of the former we might talk of a competent informal educator; in the latter a competent piece of driving. In this way the first, capacity, sense of the term refers to the evaluation of persons; whereas the second, dispositional, sense refers to activities.”

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