OPINION LEADERS The Educational Jigsaw

An article by Batch Hales in Management (“Teaching and learning – they are not the same thing” July 2005) prompted some thoughts around the issues raised. Hales’ contention was that we need to develop sound body of research and practice around good teaching and learning practices, recognising that these are not the same.
He notes the impact of official ideologies of “learning” in terms of gaining qualifications, and the rigidity of assessment and moderation regimes. This model implies that assessment, teaching and learning have the same purpose, ie ‘qualification’, and are seen to do so, by the ‘powers’ in educational circles, or whether the learners have complied with external requirements. Hales states that this is not view that supports good teaching and learning practice.
I think it is fair to say that there has been lot of confusion from both professionals and public alike about this issue – the current NCEA debate being an example – and is in part about purpose of and judgements around assessment and learning. Teaching and learning, and qualifications and assessment are not different sides of the same coin, but rather, are different parts of whole larger education and training jigsaw.
In traditional sense, assessment is often seen as measuring “subject matter”, and it is here that people often become confused about the difference between teaching and learning, and assessment and qualifications, and the part of standards in these.
Hales contended that many courses focus on external requirements and assessment to the detriment of good teaching practice, when best teaching practice should take precedence over assessment. No one would take issue with this on the face of it; however, it then begs the question of how you know that you have good teaching practices if your programme is not assessed in some way.
Good teaching practice and assessment are mutually dependent; and competency-based assessment, such as that on which the National Qualifications Framework is based, can enhance both, providing the educators and tutors have clear idea about the purpose of the teaching to start with.
This ties in with the best teaching practice that Hales talks about, as well as the need for teaching practitioners to develop “student centred and student led learning, reflective practice” and clarity about “values, philosophies and definitions of good practice”.
This then brings us to the next dilemma which is, how do we know just because person has qualification, that s/he can in fact do any of the things that s/he has been awarded qualification for, in the context of busy job?
Many organisations have probationary period especially because they realise that competence does not equal qualification, and real learning starts in the workplace.
The converse also applies, in that base of understanding is required to take performance to higher level. Many workplaces address this through the provision of ongoing training programmes. It comes back again to the close links required between learning and assessment for either to be truly effective in developing competence.
Competency-based learning and assessment has long been recognised as essential to developing skills in the workplace, and provides the framework needed to assess in authentic situations. The authentic assessment reflects the actual challenges in people’s lives, and values the accomplishments from these challenges, for example, the writing of book, working effectively or running business, as well as attitudes and social skills. It is this linkage of learning and assessment to real situations that seems to be escaping many of our professional educators and trainers.
How are we to make judgements around workplace competency unless we have sound framework for this? Training courses (and work-based assessments) with levels, and performance criteria, and assessments – and unit standards – and qualifications at the end of it provide basis for those judgements, in spite of their limitations.
Finally, for qualifications to have value, they must be based on real knowledge and the skills to underpin good practice. Later competence should be present at least in development phase on qualification whether or not knowledge is developed further in practice.
To clarify the roles of qualifications and assessment, teaching and learning, and incorporate all of these elements in course design, is to put ideology in its place and value all parts of the education and training jigsaw.

Lauri Russell is work-based assessor with Competency International.

Visited 2 times, 1 visit(s) today
Close Search Window