Work readiness in FE

The great contribution of using technology in its broadest sense to learning is that it has passed the management of it to the person who wants to learn. In the world of work, the internet is the place of crowdsourcing knowledge and ideas, and we all ‘learn’, all of us, every day. The reason people engage with educators to learn is they are happy (or someone else wants them) to trade off some of that independence for authoritative guidance and structure and to join a group of like-minded people for company on the learning journey.

Blended learning is then the balance found between these two great centres of learning that takes the best of formalising learning with the best of collaborative learning with the best of managing it all. Getting it right is a craft for teachers and a joy for learners.

Our Study has made it abundantly clear that employers are as equally interested in attributes and aptitudes achieved as they are in the mastering of skills and have been highly critical of FE in not producing what they call ‘work ready’ candidates.

It is hardly surprising that these personal-ability skills are rising in importance as we move from a manufacturing to more service-based economy where customers have closer links to employees. One way to develop these personality skills is to match the way we teach and the methods by which students learn to the world of work and we can no longer teach and learn in closed communities as if education is somehow different from the real world.

Perhaps our next big change in education then is to change the way we expect students to behave in these episodes of learning who often come to formal learning, thinking of education as a passive process, that is ‘provided’ rather than ‘acquired’; as if it is all understanding is taught, rather than caught and acquired. Learning in college should not differ from the methods and tools used when students work in a team or for an employer or simply for pleasure.

In fact hard skills are seen as a measure of working to a standard of competence. Aptitudes relates to ‘potential’ in its broadest sense (i.e. agility, imagination, personal ability, warmth of character, reliability etc.) and, in an employment and self-employment world that is increasing service based, these are important skills.

So then, in our new Blended learning world….

Collaborative learning is a description of the movement of learning away from a class based, teacher led approach to learning. Students are more dependent on each other for their learning. It is how we behave together at work.

Students share and trust each other in contributing ideas. They work together asynchronously, and not necessarily with a tutor present and develop critical thinking skills as they share and test ‘doubted learning’

Learning is based on filtering content repurposing and synthesising it rather than creating it in a continuous process of varying intensity, not confined to critical time periods in class

The Tutor is the Guide on the side who makes makes pedagogical purposeful interventions often from beyond the classroom

It encourages students to manage their own learning journey through thinking differently through the filters of their own experiences and contests, drawing on enquiry based and project based learning.

So what does this mean for educators in the FE sector?

  • We should teach through technology but we should also do technology as colleges
  • We need to work in a way that asks students to learn, collaborate, think as they will do in the wider world of work and not see education as different
  • Find ways to help students capture, marshal, summarise and publish their aptitudes and attitudes in equal measure to their application skills, to develop the idea of ‘rounded individuals’
  • Students need to own their digital identity that is nurtured into a digital reputation, through the use of personal learning and social spaces, populated with all their learning experiences, including those gained in college.

The work in HE around the idea of the connected curricula and in FE around the ideas of ‘FE reimagined’, published by The Gazelle Group need careful consideration in redesigning the curriculum in terms of what is taught and how it is taught and how students show the impact when all is said and done.

Geoff Rebbeck – October 2015

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