Archive for the ‘teaching and learning’ Category

New book: Empowering Change in European Public Employment Services

July 18th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

employid bookReaders familiar with European Research projects will know how they work. The projects negotiate with the European Commission a DOW – Description of Work – which details the work to be undertaken in each year of the project. It is divided into discrete work packages. Every year the work package provides a (usually over lengthy) report on research and development undertaken which is then presented to a team of expert reviewers who can ‘pass’, recommend changes or ‘fail’ the report. Although obviously large scale multi national research projects need structures and plans. But all too often the work package structure separates research and development activities which should not be separated and the DOW become a restrictive ‘bible’, rather than a guide for action. And despite the large amount of work which goes into preparing the work package reports, they are seldom widely read (if indeed read at all), except by the reviewers.

In the EmployID project which is working with identity transformation in European Public Employment Services (PES), we are doing things differently. The work is structured though cross work package teams, who follow an adapted SCRUM structure. The teams are reviewed at face to face meetings and recomposed if necessary. And this year, instead of producing a series of Work package reports, the project partners have jointly contributed to a book – Empowering Change in Public Employment Services: The EmployID Approach which has just been published and can be downloaded for free.

The introduction to the 244 page PDF book explains the background to the work:

European Public Employment Services (PES) and their employees are facing fundamental challenges to the delivery of efficient and effective services and the need to change their strategies to combat high unemployment, demographic change in increasingly uncertain and dynamic labour markets. This does not only require developing new professional skills related to new tasks, but poses for more profound developmental challenges for staff members.

Three of these changes relate to understanding the changing world of work; a ‘turn’ towards coaching; and the increased importance of relations with employers. The staff need to learn new ways of working, with a major challenge being to enhance the power of collaborative (peer) learning in order to support staff in accomplishing their goals.

All these changes are linked to transforming professional identity, which requires learning on a deeper level that is often neglected by continuing professional development strategies. EmployID makes its contribution here; that PES practitioners’ learning related to professional identity transformation needs to be facilitated through social learning approaches and the nurturing of social learning networks, which include the following:

  • Reflection as a way of turning one’s own and others’ experiences into general insights on multiple levels, both from an individual and a collective perspective

  • Peer coaching as a way of helping learners in changing their behavior through a structured process

  • Social learning programmes as a way of engaging learners with new topics, other perspectives, and conversations around it.

Learning Layers in dialogue with DigiProB project – Part Two: Interviews with guest trainers/lecturers in continuing vocational training

May 12th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous blog I started a series on the new phase of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. Currently, in the Construction pilot we have been able to start closer cooperation  with a spin-off project. The German-funded DigiProB has started its work and the training centre Bau-ABC and the research institute ITB have a central role to play. The DigiProB project focuses on the training of  certified construction site managers (Geprüfte Polier) – see more on this training and on the background of the project in my previous post. In this post I will have a look at the initial interviews and what we may learn from the dialogue with gust trainers/lecturers who are engaged in this training programme.

The reform of the training concept and tensions in the implementation

As I indicated in the previous post, the new training of the certified construction site managers had introduced a new examination model that put an emphasis on integrative tasks and on a concluding project report. In the conceptual preparation for the project proposal we had emphasised the following tensions:

  1. The new training regulation was introduced with short introduction events that familiarised the trainers on the new guidelines. However, these events did not provide an in-depth training for guest trainers/lecturers  to adjust themselves to new requirements.
  2. The guest trainers/lecturers are engaged as subject specialists and are responsible for specific blocks in the presence training. They do not have an overarching responsibility on the supervision of integrated learning tasks and project work.
  3. There has been no clear model for developing online support, arranging peer tutoring and promoting peer learning among the participants.

Now that the DigiProB project was started, the initial interviews provided an opportunity to test, whether the above outlined picture was correct and what new features could be learned from the guest trainers/lecturers involved in the programme.

Messages picked from the initial interviews

Currently I am not actively involved in the initial activities of the DigiProB project. At best I have been nearby when my ITB colleagues have carried out interviews. Therefore, I leave it to my colleagues to report on the activities and on the findings in greater detail and in time. Yet, already at this stage it is possible to pick as ‘first impressions’ some messages that come through and have been reflected by my colleagues. Although these are only preliminary signals, not thoroughly analysed findings, it is worthwhile to pay attention to them:

  • Rapid implementation of the new model: It seems to me that both the training providers (such as Bau-ABC) and guest trainers/lecturers that they use for the training have had very little time to adjust their pedagogic approaches. The training providers arrange short introductory events but then the individual trainers/lecturers have draw the conclusions on their own.
  • Willingness of trainers/lecturers to work with an integrative pedagogic approach: Although the guest trainers/lecturers have been engaged as subject specialists, they seem to have an interest in getting their special know-how put into practice. Therefore, they are individually looking for ways to link ‘theoretical’ elements into practical tasks and exercises. Moreover, there seems to be interest in sharing experiences and examples of good pedagogic solutions.
  • Interest of trainers/lecturers in using digital media and web tools: It appears that (at least some) guest trainers/lecturers show interest in using digital media and web tools to support their teaching and training. In this respect the Learning Toolbox (whenever demonstrated) has been greeted as a promising framework and the interviewees are willing to learn more of it.
  • Interest of learners to share knowledge and experiences: According to the guest trainers/lecturers interviewed so far, the participants (learners) are interested in sharing knowledge and experiences during the course periods and during the periods for self-organised learning. In particular from this perspective they considered the Learning Toolbox as a promising toolset to support individual and collaborative learning processes.

– – –

I leave these first impressions and ‘messages picked from discussions’ here and let my colleagues work with further interviews and the group pictures that we get as a result. Altogether, I believe that the DigiProB project is well-timed and that the trainers/lecturers as well as the learners will be interested to work with the project. However, the project will also pose new challenges for the tool developers and to the project partners who introduce the tools.

More blogs to come …

 

 

Learning Layers in dialogue with DigiProB project – Part One: Preparations for the new project

May 11th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

Our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project has recently entered an interesting new phase. In the Construction pilot the Learning Layers project has a chance to work together and share experiences with a spin-off project. Recently, the German-funded DigiProB has also started its work in the German construction sector. Two LL partner organisations – the training centre Bau-ABC and the research institute ITB – play a major role in the new project that can be called as a spin-off from the LL project. Whilst the LL project is focusing on workplace learning from the perspective of skilled workers and apprentices, the DigiProB project shifts the emphasis on training of  construction site managers. With this series of blogs I try to give a picture of the conceptual preparation for the new project (part one), on the lessons to be learned with initial interviews (part two) and on the prospects for using LL tools in the new project.

I start by looking back at a symposium at the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER 2015) in Budapest that was initiated by the LL team of ITB. In the symposium we brought together three recently completed or ongoing projects with focus on digital media, web tools and support for workplace learning. With their recent work the three projects (Kompetenzwerkstatt, Learning Layers and EmployID) had -reached a transition stage. From this perspective the symposium provided an opportunity to learn from each other and to draw conclusions for a new phase activities. Below, I will focus on the contribution of the LL team in this symposium and on the interim conclusions from the discussion.

Outline of DigiProB presented in an ECER symposium in Budapest 2015

In our contribution to the symposium we shifted the emphasis from the Learning Layers  project to a designed spin-off project (DigiProB) which we expected to be start soon. The context of this project is the training of construction site managers – a vocational progression route for former skilled workers.

In a recent reform the training of certified construction site managers (Geprüfte Polier) has been regulated with new nationwide standards. The tasks of the certified construction site managers include organisation and controlling of work processes, supervision of construction workers, subcontractors and apprentices as well as monitoring the compliance with health and safety regulations. The new examination model with integrative tasks and project work seeks to push forward a more holistic learning culture.

The major challenge for adapting the new requirements in the training scheme lies in the construct of the curriculum. In general, the curriculum is based on a two-phase model. The first phase (ca. two months) is provided by presence courses in the training centre. During this period external part-time lecturers provide courses in the main areas of expertise for the future construction site managers.  The second phase (which has now been shaped in the light of the new regulation) is based on self-organised learning activities of the participants alongside work. This phase includes integrative learning tasks and production of a coherent project report. With the integrative tasks the participants are expected to demonstrate their capability to manage complex construction sites and supervise related work processes. The project report should make transparent their competences in planning, preparing, implementing, documenting and assessing construction projects.

The task of the DigiProB project is to introduce digital media and web tools to support integrative learning of the participants (with the learning tasks and project work) and pedagogic reorientation of the trainers (to facilitate the learners in such learning).  Here, the new project DigiProB should take into account the prior work of the Learning Layers project.

Interim conclusions of the discussion at the ECER symposium

In its contribution the ITB team drew attention to  following tensions between the new requirements, the traditional mode of delivering the courses and lack of support for the self-organised learning:

  1. The new training regulation was introduced with short introduction events that familiarised the trainers on the new guidelines. However, these events did not provide an in-depth training for trainers to adjust themselves to new requirements.
  2. The part-time trainers are engaged as subject specialists and responsible for specific blocks in the presence training. They do not have an overarching responsibility on the supervision of integrated learning tasks and project work.
  3. There has been no clear model for developing online support, arranging peer tutoring and promoting peer learning among the participants.

The interim conclusions of  the ITB team were formulated as follows: For the new spin-off project it is necessary to build upon the experience with the Learning Layers pilot but to take into account the differences between presence learning within training centre (supervised by full-time trainers) and dispersed self-organised learning (supervised by part-time trainers). Secondly, it is essential to equip the trainers with didactic know-how and learning technologies to support the dispersed learning activities. Thirdly, it is crucial to facilitate peer learning among the participants and to raise their awareness of their own learning.

– – –

At this point I leave our discussions at the ECER symposium behind. Now that the DigiProB project has started its initial activities, it is interesting to see, what kind of new experiences we are making and how the initial picture starts to change. From this perspective it is interesting to have a look, what we are learning from the initial interviews and from the dialogues on the usability of LL tools in the new project. These topics will be discussed in the next posts of this series.

More blogs to come …

Double Loop Learning and Learning Analytics

May 4th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

Another in this mini series on Learning Analytics. When looking at Work based learning, Double Loop Learning becomes particularly important. Double-loop learning is used when it is necessary to change the mental model on which a decision depends. Unlike single loops, this model includes a shift in understanding, from simple and static to broader and more dynamic, such as taking into account the changes in the surroundings and the need for expression changes in mental models.(Mildeova, S., Vojtko V. ,2003).

double loop learning

To remind readers again, in the EmployID European project we are aiming to support scalable and cost-effective facilitation of professional identity transformation in public employment services. And I would argue such identity transformation is based on refection on learning, on Double Loop Learning. Identity transformation necessarily involves the development of new metal models and new ways of looking at work based behaviours and practices.

So where does Learning Analytics fit into this? Learning analytics aims to understand and improve learning and the learning environment. This does not necessarily involve Double Loop Learning. For students feedback about their present performance may be enough. But if we aim for identity transformation and wish to improve the learning environment then we need a deeper interpretation of data. This has a number of implications in terms of designing Learning Analytics.

Firstly we have to have a very clear focus on what the purpose of the Learning Analytics is. Is it to find out more for example about informal learning in organisations or to inform L and D department staff about the Learning environment. Is it to help learners understand about their interactions with other staff or to examine their own dispositions for learning – and so on? Secondly – and crucially who is that data presented to users – be it learners or trainers. The existing parading for Learning Analytics presentations appears to be the dashboard. Yet in the LAk16 pre conference workshops there were a whole series of presentations where presenters invited participants to say what the graphics meant. And often we couldn’t. If LA professionals cannot interpret data visualisations then a leaner has little hope of making their own meanings. I am a little puzzled as to why dashboards have become the norm. And one of my major concern is that often it is difficult to understand the visualisation out of the context in which the learning exchange has happened. If Double Loop learning is to happen, then learners need to reflect in order to make meanings. And refection occurs best, I think, in the context in which it takes place.

technical-challenges-for-realizing-learning-analytics-11-638

Image: Ralph Klamma – http://www.slideshare.net/klamma/technical-challenges-for-realizing-learning-analytics

There are alternatives to the dashboard. For instance with EmployID we are developing real time discourse analysis and are also looking at providing dynamic prompts for reflection.>One final point. If we are aiming at using Learning Analytics for Double Loop Learning we need to find out what works and what does not. That means that any measure for Learning Analytics needs to be accompanied by well designed evaluation measures. All too often because LA collects data, it presumes to cover evaluation. Whilst both LA and evaluation may share data, they aim at different things.

Lack of proxies a problem for Workplace Learning Analytics

May 3rd, 2016 by Graham Attwell
I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about Learning Analytics lately and this is the first of four or five short posts on the subject. Its all been kicked off by attending the Society of Learning Analytics pre conference workshops last week – LAK16 – in Edinburgh. Sadly I couldn’t afford the time and money to go to both the workshops and the full conference but many of the presentations and papers from the conference are already viable online.
My interest in Learning Analytics stems from the EmployID project which is aiming to support scalable and cost-effective facilitation of professional identity transformation in public employment services. And in our project application under the EU Research Framework (Horizon 2020) we said we would research and develop Learning Analytics services for staff in Public Employment Services. Easier said than done! An early literature review revealed that despite present high levels of interest (hype?) in Learning Analytics in formal education there has been very little research and development in Workplace Learning Analytics: therefore my excitement at a workshop on this subject at LAK16. But sadly despite the  conference selling out with 400 attendees, we only had four papers submitted for the workshop and just 11 attendees. What this did allow was a lot of in-depth discussion, which has left me plenty of issues to think about. And of course one of the issues we discussed was why there is apparently so little interest in Workplace Learning Analytics. It was pointed out that there have been a number of work oriented presentations in previous LAK conferences but these had remained isolated with no real follow up and with no overall community emerging.
There was also a general feeling that the Learning Analytics community was weak in terms of learning theory and pedagogy, both of which were censored central to Workplace Learning Analytics. But perhaps most importantly Learning Analytics approaches in schools and Higher Education lean heavily on proxies for learning, for instance examination results and grades. With the lack of such proxies for learning in the workplace, Learning Analytics has to focus on real learning – usually in the absence of a Learning Management System. And that is simply very hard to design and develop.Yet having said that, most if not all of us in the workshop were convinced that the real future of Learning Analytics in in the workplace, with a focus on understanding learning including informal learning and improving both learning and the environment in which it occurs.
We agreed on some modest next steps and will be launching a LinkedIn Group in the near future. In the meantime the papers and presentation from the workshop can be found at http://learning-layers.eu/laforwork/.

Workplace Learning Analytics for Facilitation in European Public Employment Services

April 29th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

This week I have been at the pre-conference workshops for the Learning analytics conference in Edinburgh. This is my presentation at the workshop on Workplace Learning Analytics. And below is the abstract of my paper together with a link to download the full paper, if you should wish. In the next few days,  I will write up a reflection on the workshops, plus some new ideas that emerged from talking with participants.
Abstract

The paper is based on early research and practices in developing workplace Learning Analytics for the EU funded EmployID project, focused on identity transformation and continuing professional development in Public Employment Services (PES) in Europe. Workplace learning is mostly informal with little agreement of proxies for learning, driven by demands of work tasks or intrinsic interests of the learner, by self-directed exploration and social exchange that is tightly connected to processes and the places of work. Rather than focusing on formal learning, LA in PES needs to be based on individual and collective social practices and informal learning and facilitation processes rather than formal education. Furthermore, there are considerable concerns and restraints over the use of data in PES including data privacy and issues including power relations and hierarchies.

Following a consultation process about what innovations PES would like to pilot and what best meets their needs, PES defined priorities for competence advancement around the ‘resourceful learner’, self-reflection and self-efficacy as core competences for their professional identity transformation. The paper describes an approach based on Social Learning Analytics linked to the activities of the EmployID project in developing social learning including advanced coaching, reflection, networking and learning support services. SLA focuses on how learners build knowledge together in their cultural and social settings. In the context of online social learning, it takes into account both formal and informal educational environments, including networks and communities. The final section of the paper reports on work in progress to build a series of tools to embed SLA within communities and practices in PES organisations.

Download the paper (PDF)

Mobile Learning – the Dream goes on

February 29th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

“What killed the mobile learning dream?” asks John Traxler in an article for Jisc’s Digifest. John goes on to say:

Mobile learning was e-learning’s dream come true. It offered the potential for completely personalised learning to be truly any time, anywhere.

ltbInstead, we’ve ended up with mobile access to virtual learning environments that are being used as repositories. So, in practice, students reading their notes on the bus.

He’s right but I am not sure his reasons are sufficient. The main problem John sees is that when early projects were developed into mobile learning, they were based on supplying participants with digital devices. This was expensive and limited the scale and sustainability of such projects. Now new initiatives are emerging based on BYOD (bring your own Device). This is more sustainable but raises its own questions.

Bring your own device, enabling students to use their own equipment, introduces more questions: is there a specific range of technologies they can bring, what’s the nature of the support offered, and have we got a network infrastructure that won’t fall over when 20,000 students turn up with gadgets? What kind of staff development is needed to handle the fact that not only will the students turn up with many different devices but tomorrow they’ll have changed to even more different devices?

All this is true. And as we prepare to roll out the trial of our Learning Layers project funded Learning Toolbox (LTB) application we are only to aware that as well as looking at the technical and pedagogic application of Learning toolbox, we will have to evaluate the infrastructure support. The use of Learning toolbox has been predicated on BYOD and has been developed with Android, iOS and Microsoft versions. The training centre where the pilot will take place with some 70 apprentices, BauABC, covers a large site and is in a rural area. Telecoms network coverage is flaky, broadband not fast and the wireless network installed to support the pilots is a new venture. So many issues for us to look at there. However in terms of staff development I am more confident, with an ongoing programme for the trainers, but perhaps more importantly I think a more open attitude from construction industry trainers to the use of different technologies than say from university lecturers.

The bigger issue though for me is pedagogy. John hints at this when he talks about mobiles being used to access virtual learning environments that are being used as repositories. The real limitation here is not in the technology or infrastructure but a lack of vision of the potential of mobiles for learning in different contexts. Indeed I suspect that the primary school sector is more advanced in their thing here than the universities. Mobile devices have the potential to take learning into the world outside the classroom and to link practical with more theoretical learning. And rather than merely pushing learning (to be read on the bus although I have never quite understood why mobile learning vendors think everyone travels home by bus), the potential is to create a new ecosystem, whereby learners themselves can contribute to the learning of others, by direct interaction and by the sharing of learning and of objects. Dare I say it – Learning Toolbox is a mobile Personal Learning Environment (at least I hope so). We certainly are not looking to replace existing curricula, neither existing learning technologies. Rather we see Learning Toolbox as enhancing learning experiences and allowing users to reflect on learning in practice. In this respect we are aware of the limitations of a limited screen size and also of the lack of attraction of writing long scripts for many vocational learners. This can be an advantage. Mobile devices support all kinds of gesturing (think Tinder) and are naturally used for multimedia including video and photographs.

So what killed the mobile learning dream. Lack of understanding of its true potential, lack of vision and a concentration of funding and pilot activities with the wrong user groups. That is not to say that mobile learning cannot be used in higher education. But it needs a rethinking of curriculum and of the interface between curriculum, pedagogy and the uses of technology. So the dream is not dead. It just needs more working on!

If you would like to know more about Learning Toolbox or are interesting in demonstration or a pilot please contact me graham10 [at] mac [dot] com

What is the political and social habit(u)s of present day universities?

January 18th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

I like Cristina Costa’s blog, “Is technology changing learning habit(u)s?” (and not only because she cited me). Cristina says how her study on students’ digital practices shows how students’ learning habitus (their histories/experiences with education) have not changed that much in the formal setting, even when they are presented with new pedagogical approaches. It is not so much an issue of their digital competence but an issue that the informal uses of technology do not simply transfer into formal contexts.

Students, she says, “have a feeling for the ‘academic game’ and do their best to adjust to the field’s rules in order to succeed in it.” It seems to me their was always something of a game in academia and especially in undergraduate education. Even in the early 1970s we had well developed strategies for getting through exams (for instance I undertook a rather more in depth study of past exam questions than I did of the overall curriculum and it worked well for me).

But there are more profound contradictions in today’s higher education system. On the one hand universities are supposed to be about education and learning – as expressed through Humboldt’s idea of Allgemeine Bildung—or well-rounded education—to ensure that each person might seek to realize the human potentialities that he possessed as a unique individual or more modern appeals for a broad liberal education (unless such an education can be seen as improving their employability). On the other hand in the UK students are paying substantial fees for a system designed to provide them with a qualification to realise the so called graduate wage premium in the world of work. In such a situation it is little wonder that students are reluctant to participate in the innovative pedagogies – described by Cristina as  Freirean and Deweyan type of pedagogical approaches – designed for them to explore ideas and knowledge – quite simply they want the knowledge and skills they need to pass the exams and thus justify the expenditure. In this situation students will readily adopt productivity apps – office tools, citation databases, revision apps etc – and of course will use technology for social purposes and entertainment. But I am afraid asking them to use social software for learning within the political and social habit(u)s of present day universities may be going to far.

PLE Special Edition

January 13th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

OK – the ed-tech world moves on to its latest craze. But Personal Learning Environments have not gone away as the new call for papers for the PLE Conference 2015 (Special Edition) makes clear:

Since the emergence of the term Personal Learning Environments (PLE) in the scientific discussion around the year 2004 in Oxford, PLE have become a field of research that has opened up great opportunities for reflection on almost all important aspects of education and learning with technology at all levels; from the study and development of tools, interaction processes among participants, cognitive mechanisms of individual learning, learning in groups and networked learning; life long learning; personal learning networks; even organizational learning environments, and so on.

In these years, the discussion has also transcended the traditional boundaries of academia and has been amplified in both the forms and contexts in which it takes place. The communities created around the concept and practices of PLE, have been responsive not only in the reflections on the realities concerning to learning, but also to the way in which these reflections are made.

Therefore, in this particular special issue supported by the PLE Conference community and its reflections during 2015, we would like to have a compilation of the current state of the field, papers that allow readers to have a vision of what are the most topical ideas and practices around the PLE nowadays, but with a clear vision of where the analysis is headed.

Find the full details here.

Thinking about Practice and Design

January 13th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

Sometimes writing reports for European projects can be a chore. Long, boring and nobody reads them. At the moment I am writing sections for the EmployID project second annual report. Instead of writing individual work package reports, as is the normal convention, we are writing a single report in the form of a book. And that provides more incentive to get it right. Plus the sections I am writing are all difficult – social learning, Learning Analytics and Labour Market Information tools, but are making me think. So I am quite enjoying it – I think. This last two weeks I have been working on design – or more specifically design for learning. How can we develop designs for tools to support informal learning in public service organisations. I am going to publish here a short series of posts outlining the way I am thinking. I am not sure if this stuff is write but would appreciate any feedback. The first post, today is about practice. Tomorrow I iwll look at the idea of Design Patterns and follow that up on Friday with a draft of a design pattern for Labour market Information tools.

Social Learning

EmployID aims to support and facilitate the learning process of Public Employment Services (PES) practitioners in their professional identity transformation process. The aims of the project are born out of a recognition that to perform successfully in their job they need to acquire
a set of new and transversal skills, develop additional competencies, as well as embed a professional culture
 of continuous improvement. However it is unlikely that training programmes will be able to provide sufficient opportunities for all staff in public employment services, particularly in a period f rapid change in the nature and delivery of such services and in a period with intense pressure on public expenditures. Therefore the EmployID project aims to promote, develop and support the efficient use of technologies to provide advanced coaching, reflection and networking services through social learning. The idea of social learning is that people learn through observing others behaviour, attitudes and outcomes of these behaviours, “Most human behaviour is learned observationally through modelling from observing others, one forms an idea of how new behaviours are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action” (Bandura, 1977). Facilitation is seen as playing a key role in structuring learning and identity transformation activities and to support networking in personal networks, teams and organisational networks, as well as cross-organisational dialogue.

Proposals and initiatives to utilise new technology for learning and professional development in organisations is hardly new. However, a critical review of the way information technologies are being used for workplace learning (Kraiger, 2008) concluded that most solutions are targeted towards a learning model based on the idea of direct instruction. Technology Enhanced Learning initiatives tend to be based upon a traditional business training model transferred from face to face interactions to onscreen interactions, but retaining the standard trainer / learner relationship and a reliance on formal and to some extent standardised course material and curricula.

Research suggests that much learning that takes place in the workplace and through work processes, is multi episodic, is often informal, is problem based and takes place on a just in time basis (Attwell 2007; Hart, 2011). Rather than a reliance on formal or designated trainers, much training and learning involves the passing on of skills and knowledge from skilled workers (Attwell and Baumgartl, 2009). In other words, learning is both highly individualized and heavily integrated with contextual work practices and is inherently social in its nature.

To succeed in supporting identity transformation it is not enough merely to develop or deploy technologies which support training and information transmission. Rather, EmployID needs to develop approaches and pedagogies which can support social facilitation services within PES organisations and which empower individuals to engage in peer learning and facilitation around their own practices.

Although there is much research around the use of technology for learning, far less attention has been paid to informal learning and facilitation processes in the workplace. Research around social practice has largely remained the preserve of social science with different approaches based on structuralism, phenomenology and intersubjectivism amongst others. In his paper on theories of social practice, Reckwitz (2002) draws attention to the dual meaning of the English word practice in German.

“Practice’ (Praxis) in the singular represents merely an emphatic term to describe the whole of human action (in contrast to ‘theory’ and mere thinking). ‘Practices’ in the sense of the theory of social practices, however, is something else. A ‘practice’ (Praktik) is a routinized type of behaviour which consists of several elements, interconnected to one other: forms of bodily activities, forms of mental activities, ‘things’ and their use, a background know- ledge in the form of understanding, know-how, states of emotion and motivational knowledge. A practice – a way of cooking, of consuming, of working, of investigating, of taking care of oneself or of others, etc. – forms so to speak a ‘block’ whose existence necessarily depends on the existence and specific inter-connectedness of these elements, and which cannot be reduced to any one of these single elements.

Likewise, a practice represents a pattern which can be filled out by a multitude of single and often unique actions reproducing the practice (a certain way of consuming goods can be filled out by plenty of actual acts of consumption). The single individual – as a bodily and mental agent – then acts as the ‘carrier’ (Träger) of a practice – and, in fact, of many different practices which need not be coordinated with one another. Thus, she or he is not only a carrier of patterns of bodily behaviour, but also of certain routinized ways of understanding, knowing how and desiring. (pp249-250)”

In this understanding knowledge is more complex than ‘knowing that’. It embraces ways of understanding, knowing how, ways of wanting and of feeling that are linked to each other within a practice.

In seeking to support facilitation within public employment services a vital prerequisite is understanding the nature of the social practices within the workplace, both through observable patterns of individual practice and through developing an overall pattern language. This includes the use of objects. Objects are necessary components of many practices – just as indispensable as bodily and mental activities. (Reckwitz, 2002). Carrying out a practice very often means using particular things in a certain way. Electronic media itself is an object which can mold social practices and enable and limit certain bodily and mental activities, certain knowledge and understanding as elements of practices (Kittler, 1985; Gumbrecht, 1988).  One approach to choosing ways to develop particular objects is to focus on what Onstenk (1997) defines as core problems: the problems and dilemmas that are central to the practice of an occupation that have significance both for individual and organisational performance.

If understanding the nature of social practices and patterns is a necessary step to developing facilitation services, it is not in itself sufficient. Further understanding is needed of how learning, particularly informal learning, takes place in the workplace and how knowledge is shared and developed.

Michael Eraut (2000) points put that “much uncodified cultural knowledge is acquired informally through participation in social activities; and much is often so ‘taken for granted’ that people are unaware of its influence on their behaviour. This phenomenon is much broader in scope than the implicit learning normally associated with the concept of socialisation. In addition to the cultural practices and discourses of different professions and their specialities, one has to consider the cultural knowledge that permeates the beliefs and behaviours of their co-workers, their clients and the general public.”

Eraut attempts to codify different elements of practice:

1.     Assessing clients and/or situations (sometimes briefly, sometimes involving a long process of investigation) and continuing to monitor them;

2.     Deciding what, if any, action to take, both immediately and over a longer period (either individually or as a leader or member of a team);

3.     Pursuing an agreed course of action, modifying, consulting and reassessing as and when necessary;

4.     Metacognitive monitoring of oneself, people needing attention and the general progress of the case, problem, project or situation.

He also draws attention to the importance of what he calls mediating objects and points out that while some artifacts are used mainly during learning processes, most artifacts used for working are also used for learning. Such artefacts play an important role in structuring work and sharing information and in mediat9ing group learning about clients or projects in progress.

Among informal learning processes that Eraut lists are participation in group processes, consultations, problem solving, trying things out and working with clients. Working alongside others is important in allowing “people to observe and listen to others at work and to participate in activities; and hence to learn some new practices and new perspectives, to become aware of different kinds of knowledge and expertise, and to gain some sense of other people’s tacit knowledge.”

Tackling challenging tasks and roles requires on-the job learning and, if well- supported and successful, leads to increased motivation and confidence.

 

According to De Laat (2012) informal learning in the workplace is often described as observing how others do things, asking questions, trial and error, sharing stories with others and casual conversation (Marsick and Watkins, 1990). Boud and Hager (2012) argue that learning is a normal part of working and professional development should be placed in a social context where professionals work and learn together, changing and innovating both their professional practice as well as their professional identity.

De Laat (2012) argues that we need to find a new balance between formal and informal learning and provide opportunities for what Fuller and Unwin (2003) call expansive ‐ as opposed to restrictive learning ‐ through developing an organisational culture that values and supports learning and by so doing, opens doors to various opportunities for professional development. Informal professional development through engagement in social learning spaces can enable participation, construction and ‘becoming’ (De Laat, 2012).

Lave and Wenger (1991) also stress the importance of both practice and the social nature of learning in their conception of Communities of Practice.  Interestingly for them, collective learning results in practices that reflect both the pursuit of our enterprises and the attendant social relations. “These practices are thus the property of a kind of community created over time by the sustained pursuit of a shared enterprise. It makes sense, therefore to call these kinds of communities communities of practice.”

“Communities of Practice are important to the functioning of any organisations, but they become crucial to those that recognise knowledge as a key asset. An effective organisation comprises a constellation of interconnected CoPs, each dealing with specific aspects of the company’s competency, from the peculiarities of a long standing client, to manufacturing safety, to esoteric technical inventions. Knowledge is created, shared. organised, revised, and passed on within and among these communities.” (Wenger, 1998).

Connecting people in parallel, across disciplines, roles and departments of the business, is fundamentally different from connecting people in project teams or interest groups. Although the nature and composition of these communities varies members are brought together by joining in common activities and by ‘what they have learned through their mutual engagement in these activities’

According to Wenger (1998), a community of practice defines itself along three dimensions:

·      What it is about – its joint enterprise as understood and continually renegotiated by its members.

·      How it functions ‐ mutual engagement that bind members together into a social entity.

·      What capability it has produced – the shared repertoire of communal resources (routines, sensibilities, artefacts, vocabulary, styles, etc.) that members have developed over time. (Wenger, 1998)

A number of issues emerge in studies of attempts to develop communities of practice. One is a tendency to build a platform and ‘declare’ the existence of a community of practice, rather than supporting emergence and therefore ownership. The second is to fail to recognise that such a process of emergence is continuous and ongoing. A third is to conflate organisational structures with communities and to focus on the organisational nature of the community rather than the routines and artefacts that define the capability of practices.

In a similar way social learning is not something which can be done to people. Instead an approach to social learning has to be based on facilitation of social learning processes with organisations and within Communities of Practice. Such facilitation needs to relate to the social practices of people. Murphy (2004) has conceptualized collaboration as a continuum of processes, and developed an instrument with six stages for the purpose of identifying and measuring online asynchronous collaboration: “(1) social presence (2) articulating individual perspectives (3) accommodating or reflecting the perspectives of others (4) co-constructing shared perspectives and meanings (5) building shared goals and purposes, and (6) producing shared artefacts.” However, these six stages can also serve as a template for social learning processes and inform the work of EmployID in developing tools which can facilitate social learning.

References

Attwell, G. (ed.) (2007). Searching, Lurking and the Zone of Proximal Development. E-Learning in Small and Medium Enterprises in Europe, Vol.5, Navreme Publications, Vienna

Attwell, G. & Baumgartl, B. (Eds.) (2009): Creating Learning Spaces: Training and Professional Development for Trainers. Vol.9, Navreme Publications, Vienna

Bandura, A. (1977). Social Learning Theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Boud, D. & Hager, P. (2012). Re-thinking continuing professional development through changing metaphors and location in professional practice. Studies in Continuing Education, 34(1),17-30

De Laat, M. (2012) Enabling professional development networks: How connected are you?, Open University of the Netherlands, Hagen

Eraut, M. (2000) Non-formal learning and tacit knowledge in professional work, British Journal of Educational Psychology (2000), 70, 113–136

Fuller, A., & Unwin, L. (2003). Learning as apprentices in the contemporary UK workplace: Creating and managing expansive and restrictive participation. Journal of Education and Work, 16(4), 407-42

Gumbrecht, H. U. (Ed.) (1988) Materialität der Kommunikation. Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp.

Hart, J. (2011) Learning is more than Social Learning, http://www.elearningcouncil.com/content/social-media-learning-more-social- learning-jane-hart, retrieved 5 July, 2012

Kittler, F. (1985) Aufschreibesysteme 1800/1900. München: Fink.

Kraiger, K. (2008). Transforming Our Models of Learning and Development: Web- Based Instruction as Enabler of Third-Generation Instruction. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 1(4), 454-467. doi:10.1111/j.1754-9434.2008.00086.x

Lave, J. and Wenger, E. (1991) Situated Learning. Legitimate peripheral participation, Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press,

Marsick, V. J., & Watkins, K. (1990).Informal and Incidental Learning in the Workplace.London: Routledge

Murphy, E. (2004). Recognizing and promoting collaboration in an online asynchronous discussion. British Journal of Educational Technology, 35(4), 421-431.

Onstenk, J. (1997) Lerend leren werken: Brede vakbekwaamheid en de integratie van leren, werken en innovere

Reckwitz A (2002) Toward a Theory of Social Practices, European Journal of Social Theory 2002 5: 243

Tennant, M. (1999) ‘Is learning transferable?’ in D. Boud and J. Garrick (eds.) Understanding Learning at Work, London: Routledge.

Wenger, E. (1999), Communities of Practice. Learning, meaning and identity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Wenger, E. (1998) ‘Communities of Practice. Learning as a social system’, Systems Thinker,

 

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