Work based learning – Learning needs

In order to meet the learning needs of adults, many of the fundamental assumptions of traditional education and delivery models have had to be rethought. These include assumptions about the nature of knowledge and the mechanisms for learning. In addition to these academic issues have come a series of institutional, administrative and cultural challenges. In this paper, the rationale for change and the means for achieving it are described. Many of the theories of learning discussed here are widely understood to provide the basis for alternative forms of provision (recent examples include theories by Malloch, Cairns, Evans & O’Connor [2011] and Illeris [2011]), but there has been less translation of these ideas into practical programs for delivery.

Work-based learning has been described as the linkage of learning to a work role. Levy et al. (1989, p. 4) identify three components to work-based learning which they claim provides an essential contribution to the learning, by:

● identifying and providing relevant off-the-job learning opportunities;

● structuring learning in the workplace;

● providing appropriate on-job training/learning opportunities.

The use of a structured model of reflective practice used with students from two different courses of study, each undertaking work-based learning in quite different contexts, with an aim to assess the usefulness of a structured model of reflection for general use in work-based learning. To promote deep learning; learning where change in fundamental ideas and attitudes could be effected through work-based activity. It was anticipated that the questions that underpin the model would enable such learning.

Finding appropriate assessment strategies is a significant factor in ensuring the sustainability of experience-based education in universities. Davidge-Johnston (2007) observes, however, that using traditional assessment models can be problematic because it is ‚difficult to validly measure learning in one learning model with tools designed for a completely different model‛ (p. 140). Many traditional methods do not address or adequately measure the new kinds of learning that this type of education seeks to engender, such as the so-called soft skills, graduate capabilities/attributes or personal development and transformation. These aspects of learning do not fit neatly into ‚proscribed and specific learning outcomes‛ (Hodges, 2008, p.11).

Hodges et al. (2004) argue ‚the multiple variables that affect both the design and subsequent implementation of assessment practices, particularly in cooperative education, will inhibit attempts to produce absolute instrument validity and assessor impartiality‛ (p. 50). It is not, however, an impossible task and may require inventive thinking, which presents opportunities‚ that are not ‘boxed in’ by traditional assessment methods‛ (Woolf & Yorke, 2010, p. 35)


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