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Strategic Directions in Higher, Vocational and Professional Education: Exploring Contexts

Exploring Context

graphic illustrating the four themes this article explores

Institutional Context

Tertiary providers are increasingly expected to deliver 'work-ready' graduates. This is a challenge when we must acknowledge that many graduates will begin a career, in a year's time or in the three years, that does not exist today (Susskind, R., & Susskind, D., 2017). Identifying the competency frameworks within our disciplines and those of our professional colleagues is a good place to start (Atkinson, 2015). We can then identify a range of graduate attributes that will underpin our programme outcomes and inform the development of real-world assessment.

Challenging Our Assumptions

It is critically important to challenge our assumptions whenever we contemplate introducing any new courses or programmes into our portfolios.

Whether you are designing an individual course or an entire programme, it is important to ‘future-proof’ it to the greatest extent possible. To ensure that it is consistent and logical. If one sees individual courses as self-contained ‘units of learning’ with their own outcomes and assessment, you risk creating problems later on, for course substitutions, updating and student continuity

It is important to question all of our assumptions about the context into which our learning design is intended fit. Despite the fact that you may feel you know your learning context intimately the chances are there will be some contextual evolution. Take the time to go through these questions, if only to confirm your assumptions.

Regardless of whether you are charged with designing an entire degree-award, a programme or an individual course, you will be doing so within an institutional context. Validating learning is a responsibility of approved degree-awarding institutions in the UK and many countries too, although some have regional or national validation processes (www.inqaahe.org). Regulations vary marginally between contexts but they are remarkably consistent in their aspirations despite different levels of detail being required.

You should design your course or programme with reference to the academic regulations and policies and practices implemented by your institution. But, it is important to avoid copying existing learning on the basis that they will automatically be suitable for validation. The regulatory framework also evolves over time, it adjusts over time in response to the dynamic dialogue between innovative course designers and those responsible for institutional quality assurance. Never copy and paste!

You might want to convene a course team and ask:

Context Questions
Course / Module
  • What credit weighting is my course expected to carry?
  • At what Level is my course intended to be taught?
  • Is it intended to assess the same course at different levels?
  • Where in the programme sequence is my course intended to appear?
  • Is my course intended to flexible enough to be aligned to multiple programmes
Programme
  • Is my Programme divided into Stages, are there multiple exit points?
  • What are the naming conventions within my Programme?
Department
  • Where does the academic management of the learning sit?
School/Faculty
  • Which School will oversee the quality processes associated with this learning?
  • Are there graduate attributes at a School level?
University
  • How does this learning align with the strategic objectives of the University?

National Quality Assurance Context

Once you have a sense of how your learning design might conceivably fit into the institutional context, but before anything is regarded as fixed, it is prudent to review external contextual influences on learning design. One of the most important is the national, regional or state context.

In the United Kingdom, for example, this oversight is provided by the Quality Assurance Agency (qaa.ac.uk) or QAA. This section is illustrative of the kinds of questions you will need to be asking yourself..

The UK Quality Code for Higher Education is a web-based resource with printable PDFs (qaa.ac.uk) that provides a comprehensive structural guide as to how learning designs should be interpreted. It does not provide a design template, rather it functions more accurately as an evaluative framework. Part A of the code is the most pertinent to the design process at this moment. There are four themes that UK course and programme designers need to consider:

Themes Design Questions
Levels At what Level is the programme’s named award to be made (Graduation level)? In the UK these levels are defined in the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications
Qualification Characteristics Broad guidance as to the distinguishing characteristics of specific named awards.
Credit Framework Convention determines that certain exit awards have a certain number of credits associated with them. Credit is often defined through the concept of ‘notional student hours’ which might, for example, suggest that 1 credit equates to 10 hours of study. This measurement should include everything the student does, including assessment.
Subject Benchmarks Disciplines, at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, may have subject benchmarks associated with them. These provide valuable conventional guidance on what is anticipated to be learned by students under specific discipline, or subject, headings.

These may closely relate to professional criteria which is dealt with next.

Professional Accreditation and Employment Trends

Now you know your course or programme is going to fit into your institutional profile and you are assured that it will meet the quality assurance criteria, you need to ask yourself 'why would a student want to do this course'?

Given the design process is likely to take several months and it may take a year or two before you enrol first students; the reality is your Postgraduate students will probably be graduating in two years at the earliest, your Undergraduates students in 4 years; a great deal can change.

It is important to build into your design and review processes, some form of environmental horizon scanning. This may exist in your practice already but where it doesn’t it is worth instituting. Gathering White Papers from commercial partners or competitors, clients, employers as well as press clippings and exploring changes in the direction that your profession or discipline may be heading should be the focus of some course team debate.

For more on horizon scanning, you may want to explore this UK government resource.

There is clearly also value in sharing your early programme and module designs with representatives from the professions or disciplines that your graduates are intended to graduate into. It’s often a good idea to do this very early on in the process, not to ask for validation of your designs, but to capture the widest possible intelligence on future directions.

Here are some basic questions, but you should explore as a course team those questions that seem more appropriate to your evolving context.

Professional Accreditation

Competency Frameworks What competency frameworks (apprenticeship standards) and professional body guidelines exist in my discipline?

If there is no national guidance, what about international guidance that might be indicative of trends?

Ethical Standards Are there globally recognised ethical standards in my discipline?

What internationally agreed accords are under development?

Anticipated Changes Are competitors working on alternative offerings such as two-year degrees or new degree apprenticeships.?

Employment Trends

Globalisation vs Localisation How is my profession or discipline evolving over time, are there identifiable trends?

How important is language ability or digital skills?

Automation / Systematisation How much of my discipline or profession is data-driven, or knowledge-based, and therefore more prone to automation?

On the contrary, are there inter-personal or affective skills that distinguish my discipline that is likely to require personal presence?

Anticipated Changes What are the big ideas in my discipline?

Are there new Internet applications that take away part of what has traditionally been seen as a distinguishing feature of my discipline?

Scholarship Agenda

It is natural for course teams to be intimately familiar with the scholarship that underpins the ‘content’ that they intend to deliver to students. Harder for most course teams is to get some distance from their own practice and to take a ‘bird’s eye view’ of their design as it emerges.

Again, it is important to be sensitive to the evolving discipline landscape. The best way to do this is to establish some form of ‘environmental scanning’ or ‘horizon scanning’ processes within your design team. Avoid the danger of fixating on a competitor’s advantage, or a particular client’s requirements, by maintaining as broad a view as possible.

Here are four categories you may want to start with. Review sources in each category with the same question; “What does this source tell me about the evolving needs of effective learning design in my discipline?”

Academic Literature Academic Journals in your discipline

Academic Books and Book Chapters in your discipline

Academic publications in related fields that impact directly, or indirectly on your discipline.

Conference Proceedings Conference proceedings are very often very much current or future implementations of scholarship. A great place to get a handle on what is happening ‘now’ and in the near future.
Grey Literature The blogosphere is a great place to source original and innovative approaches. Once you have validated the sources (so that you know the writer has credibility) you may want to track their train of thought over time.

White Papers from software producers (most disciplines make some use of technology!) and publishers are also counted as ‘Grey Literature’. Some software companies have in-house R&D divisions that foreshadow major trends in your discipline.

Contacts Personal or Team contacts also provide invaluable accounts of practice that inform the design process. You may find out the difficulties, or advantages, of running virtual scenarios for example and correct your design accordingly.

Evaluating your Contextual Judgements

It is important to return to these questions as you go through the future stages of the 8-SLDF. You will want to revisit these questions each time you have a course team meeting:

  1. Has my institutional strategy or alignment changed in any way?
  2. Have any quality assurance regulations, guidelines or benchmarks changed in any way?
  3. Do I still have all of the external reference points (my horizon-scanning) established to be able to define Programme Outcomes?
  4. What contextual circumstances might suggest that I should do something different from the norm and what external support is needed? And if I’m not doing anything innovative, why not?!
  5. What issues has my horizon scanning produced that others in the School or wide University need to be aware of?

References

Atkinson, S. P. (2015). Graduate Competencies, Employability and Educational Taxonomies: Critique of Intended Learning Outcomes. Practice and Evidence of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 10(2), 154–177.

Susskind, R., & Susskind, D. (2017). The Future of the Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts. OUP Oxford.

This article is one in a series of reflections on strategic directions in higher, vocational and professional education. It is written with an audience of senior managers in learning organisations in mind. It is part one of eight. Each section has proposed actions for senior managers to consider.

The Challenge

Institutions operate in increasingly competitive environments. Funding is a challenge. Identifying and recruiting students, the right 'kind of students', is also a challenge. Even if you operate in an open educational context with barriers to access being largely absent you still need to ensure that students self-select the right programme of study, at the right time and that they are prepared, with whatever support required, to be successful.

The meta-view, including national agendas for widening participating, increasing transnational education and student mobility, as well as rapidly emerging disciplines and their associated unforeseen employment opportunities, all compound the challenge.

Who are your programmes designed for? This is not as straightforward a question as it first appears. The minimal 'market research' into new programmes carried out by many providers, whether by means of listening to international recruitment agents or industry leaders, risks producing ill-fitted programmes frequently in a rush to market. Sometimes running pilots, floating a balloon, tweaking an existing programme, even sometimes just changing the title on an existing programme, all can lead to the 'wrong' students embarking on your programmes. The number of programmes that are designed but never launch, or launch and under-recruit, is sizable.

Strategic Implications

The strategic implications of designing learning with learners in mind are profound. Not only is it important to ensure that the learning is designed to fit student needs and aspirations, but they must also reflect the nature of the institution, the professions they work with and prepare graduates to serve and to the societal service that any given institution claims to address.

A strategic approach to this student profiling;

  1. determines the 'fit' of the student to the programme ensures retention and progression
  2. predetermines learner support needs, and allows institutions to cost programmes accordingly
  3. acknowledges and develops unique cultures of learning, not least to account for governmental expectations
  4. aligns student participation with programme needs to fulfil institutional strategy, ethos and purpose.

At the heart of any learner's experience is their programme of study. Regardless of whether this is articulated as a curriculum, syllabus, programme, course or module outline, and whether it is strictly regulated and deemed formal or more loosely defined as non-formal education; the educational design is at the core of every learner's experience. Great marketing and recruitment processes attract learners and excellent support services work to retain students, but it is the relevance and efficacy of learners engagement with their programme is what matters most.

Profiling Students

There are two levels of profiling students. The first is the individual's epistemological framework (prior assumptions about the nature of knowledge) and the second is their, often unconscious, orientations to learning, their cultural, educational, circumstantial and dispositional influences. The first could be regarded as a higher, more abstract, perspective. The second more practical and easier to grasp. Both are important. The illustration at the top of this article, and reproduced again here,  represents an aide memoir for design groups and strategists to reflect on.

Strategic leaders need to pay attention to the orientation of the incoming students. The outer circle reflects the work that emerged from the POISE project (Atkinson 2014). The inner circle is an illustration of the work by Thomas and May (2010) in establishing the basis for developing inclusive learning approaches. Despite the fact that this work might originate from a desire to better integrate international students with domestic students and to recognise diversity and equality in teaching, it manifests itself as a very useful framework to allow tutors and students themselves to assess their own influences.

POISE Framework

The POISE Framework is an attempt to identify the epistemological assumptions of students, and their faculty, by exploring five facets of learning, the first letters of which stand for POISE: Pace, Ownership, Innateness, Simplicity and Exactness. In its most simplified form, it can be seen as the representation of five beliefs about knowledge represented as binary opposites.

This resulted in the following matrix.

Pneumonic Binary concept Belief statements (after (Schommer, 1990)) Scholarship roots
Pace Quick or not at all Learning is quick or not all (Quick Learning) (Schoenfeld, 1983)
Ownership Authority or Reason Knowledge is handed down by authority (Omniscient Authority) (Perry, 1968)
Innateness Innate or Acquired The ability to learn is innate rather than acquired (Innate Ability) (Dweck & Leggett, 1988)
Simplicity Simple or Complex Knowledge is simple rather than complex (Simple Knowledge) (Perry, 1968)
Exactness Certain or Tentative Knowledge is certain rather than tentative (Certain Knowledge) (Perry, 1968)

The notion of binaries presents an opportunity to engage in a ‘dialogue about beliefs’. It is appropriate to establish the beliefs about learning that underpin a student’s (or faculty member’s) approach to learning and teaching, rather than to identify a ‘problem’ and tackle it with an intervention in isolation.

For example, a challenge in many western universities is that students are not fully aware, or in tune with, the institution's guidance on plagiarism. It would be useful to introduce this dimension of academic practice by first exploring the question of whether knowledge is based on authority or reason. Without a fundamental understanding that the western academic tradition expects students to develop their own reasoning skills, and to acknowledge pre-existing authority in a particular way, one cannot effectively explore the detailed nature of academic referencing, citations and intellectual ownership.

The online POISE resource articulates this using five questions to explore each binary element. These could be woven into class tutorials, set as introductory work for debate or implemented in a learning support setting. Personally, I would prefer to see them integrated into students initial study as part of orientation work. Questioning one's assumptions is the basis for fresh learning.

Binary concept POISE Questions
Pace Quick or not at all Is hard work enough?
Ownership Authority or Reason Who has the answers?
Innateness Innate or Acquired Who is responsible for my learning?
Simplicity Simple or Complex Is there a simple answer?
Exactness Certain or Tentative Is there always a right answer?

Any airing of such deliberations at the beginning of any learning process, and revisiting them periodically, serves to properly orientate the learner.

ACTIONS: POISE

Review your policies for pre-enrolment engagement, recruitment and on-boarding of students. Consider sharing a contextualised version of the POISE questions with your students. Design a customised self-diagnostic tool that all incoming students complete that reflects back to them in the feedback how your institution values knowledge against each of these five questions. This will cause potential students to reflect on their expectations and relationship with the meaning-making process.

Once students have been enrolled you might review your pastoral and tutorial support. You may find it helpful to establish small-group seminars or one-to-one tutorials and work through each of the five questions in a non-judgemental context. In doing so teaching staff come to understand the degree of homogeneity within a cohort and also, in some cases, to contrast the approaches of their students to their own.

Framework for Inclusion

The second epistemological dimension of the student, before and after enrollment, that requires some attention falls under different names. It will appear in reference to an institution's equality and diversity agenda, widening participation or inclusion strategies. In some countries, these are mandated by funders, in others, they are less formally expressed but are usually present in any growth and recruitment strategy.

Much of tertiary education globally is seeing its student population becoming ever more diverse, and disparate with increasing part-time, distance provision growing.  We know that different groups of students have different rates of success, measured by retention, completion and attainment. It is critical institutions either declare their focus (where they are expressly exclusive: male only, Catholic only, etc)  or risk disadvantaging specific groups of students.

Working in a way that advocates equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) universally enhance the learning experience of all students. So we can use the matrix define by Taylor and May (2010) to not only value the contribution of students regardless of their backgrounds and appreciate, in an active sense, the contributions individuals bring from different value systems, enriching the experience of everyone, we can also use it to assess the 'fit' of students to programme.

ORIENTATIONS INFLUENCES
Dispositional Identity; self-esteem; confidence; motivation; aspirations; expectations; preferences; attitudes; assumptions; beliefs; emotional intelligence; maturity; learning styles; perspectives; interests; self-awareness; gender; sexuality.
Educational Level/type of entry qualifications; skills; ability; knowledge; previous educational experience; life and work experience; learning approaches.
Circumstantial Age; disability; paid/voluntary employment; caring responsibilities; geographical location; access to IT and transport services; flexibility; time available; entitlements; financial background and means; marital status.
Cultural Language; values; cultural capital; religion and belief; country of origin/residence; ethnicity/race; social background

All of these factors will express themselves in the values, attitudes and orientations to learning amongst your student population. Giving an early opportunity for individuals to express their views, without judgement, as to how meaning is made, how knowledge is acquired, curated and exchanged. A supportive dialogue about a student's relationship with knowledge allows the student to identify how they may need to adjust their own approaches to learning. Although I do not recognise the constructs referred to as 'learning styles', I do believe there are important orientations to learning that are contextually and culturally specific and are acquired as language is from infancy.

ACTIONS: INCLUSION

Faculty and learning support staff: the four things institutions can do are to make sure that all faculty and learning support staff are equipped with the skills to anticipate their diverse students' needs, to reflect on their own orientations, to encourage learning designers to build flexible approaches to learning to accommodate difference and to do so in collaboration with students themselves. This means valuing the professional development of your faculty and learning support staff.

Be Upfront: the strategic advantages of not delegating these concerns to the back-end student support service and bringing them right up front in your pre-enrolment and onboarding activities with students are that you are much more likely to create a community in which each individual brings their real self to the community and is valued for their unique contribution. Institutions may want to have anonymous discussion boards that allow prospective students to share their readiness to learn.

Reflect on Materials: Students will always connect more effectively with learning materials that are relevant to them. Materials can be alienating for learners. Cultural references or unfamiliar contexts can slow the learning process. You need to ensure your materials are easily ‘translatable’ from one cultural context to another. Instruct your materials design teams to adopt an inclusive matrix as a  quality enhancement mechanism.

How should institutions respond?

There are three possible strategic responses to this challenge.
Ignore it. We continue to design courses that fit into our educational structures and work harder at selling them to students in general.
Accommodate it. We attempt to incorporate some of the principles suggested here, perhaps implementing a version of POISE questions in our tutorial support structures, establishing an orientation questionnaire based on the four dimensions of the learner's context, and possibly implementing some diagnostic assessment at the beginning of each course or module.
Embrace it. Design orientation questionnaires and data capturing processes that inform the discussion between the student and their institution. Explore options for student-defined learning outcomes and assessment models, implement real-world, in-place, situated, flexible learning options, micro-credit accumulation frameworks leading to awards, and begin to redefine our institutions as enablers and validators of learning rather than curators of knowledge.

There is an old adage about a container ship leaving Tokyo and being just one degree out on its course heading to San Francisco and missing the United States completely. I have not checked the geography but the implications are clear. Pointing students in the right direction is our first strategic challenge.

Consultancy support is available institutions that feel they would benefit from an external review of their strategies, policies and practices. See Consultancy pages.

References

Atkinson, S. P. (2014) Rethinking personal tutoring systems: the need to build on a foundation of epistemological beliefs. BPP University Working Papers. London: BPP University.

Dweck, C. S., & Leggett, E. L. (1988). A social-cognitive approach to motivation and personality. Psychological Review95(2), 256–273.

Perry, W. G. (1968). Patterns of Development in Thought and Values of Students in a Liberal Arts College: A Validation of a Scheme. Final Report. Office of Education (DHEW), Washington, DC. Bureau of Research.

Schoenfeld, A. H. (1983). Beyond the Purely Cognitive: Belief Systems, Social Cognitions, and Metacognitions As Driving Forces in Intellectual Performance*. Cognitive Science7(4), 329–363.

Schommer, M. (1990). Effects of beliefs about the nature of knowledge on comprehension. Journal of Educational Psychology82(3), 498–504.

Thomas, L., & May, H. (2010). Inclusive learning and teaching in higher education (p. 72). York: Higher Education Academy. Retrieved from http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/system/files/inclusivelearningandteaching_finalreport.pdf

psychomotor domain"Why do I need to worry about manual skills? I teach history/French/maths...". My answer is simple. What tools are used in the pursuit of your discipline? Is there not a degree of increasing proficiency in the deployment of these tools expected of students they progress through their studies?

Psychomotor skills can be defined as those skills and abilities that require a physical component. Rather than using the mind to think (cognitive) or reflect (metacognitive), or our ability to speak and observe to develop social skills (affective, interpersonal), these are things we do physically. These skills require a degree of dexterity, suppleness, or strength. They require motor control.

Such skills have been in development since parents taught their children to hunt, to sew skins together and make fire. There is a rich history in vocational education towards acknowledging progressive skills development, from apprentice to journeyman and to master (Perrin, 2017), dating back before the establishment of craft guilds in the European High Middle Ages (Richardson, 2005). As the craft guilds loosened their grip, as industrialisation centralised the production of goods and ultimately services, some skills have been lost, others divided, segmented, into a series of tasks. Formal education has routinely separated cognitive and manual skills, giving primacy to intellectual skills above all others (Gardner, 2011).

With the growth of formalised vocational education, noticeably in the OECD developed economies in the 1950s to the 1970s, attention turned amongst policymakers as to how to codify and measure progressive skills development. These resulted in the development of a number of educational taxonomies for objectives (or outcomes in later language) notably those of Simpson (1972), Harrow (1972) and Dave (1969). It is understood that Ravindra Dave was party to Bloom's project team's original 1950s work on the cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains although all three significant contributions have to some extent referenced Bloom's work.

Simpson (1972) established a progressive taxonomy with 7 stages.

Stage Descriptor
Perception* Sensory cues guide motor activity.
Set* Mental, physical, and emotional dispositions that make one respond in a certain way to a situation.
Guided Response First attempts at a physical skill. Trial and error coupled with practice lead to better performance.
Mechanism The intermediate stage in learning a physical skill. Responses are habitual with a medium level of assurance and proficiency.
Complex Overt Response Complex movements are possible with a minimum of wasted effort and a high level of assurance they will be successful.
Adaptation Movements can be modified for special situations.
Origination New movements can be created for special situations.

Arguably Simpson's first two stages are dispositional and can be separated from the remaining 5 stages. Likewise, Harrow's (1972) 6 stage taxonomy organized around the notion of coordination is less of a  progressive educational taxonomy given that it combines involuntary responses*, arguably interpersonal skills** and learned capabilities:

Stage Descriptor
Reflex movements* Automatic reactions.
Basic fundamental movement Simple movements that can build more complex sets of movements.
Perceptual Environmental cues that allow one to adjust movements.
Physical activities Things requiring endurance, strength, vigour, and agility.
Skilled movements Activities where a level of efficiency is achieved.
Non-discursive communication ** Body language.

My personal belief is that less is more in the context of psychomotor taxonomies and favour the following 5 stage version developed by Ravindra H. Dave (1970) in the context of vocational education.

Stage Descriptor
Imitation Observing and copying someone else.
Manipulation Guided via instruction to perform a skill.
Precision Accuracy, proportion and exactness exist in the skill performance without the presence of the original source.
Articulation Two or more skills combined, sequenced, and performed consistently.
Naturalization Two or more skills combined, sequenced, and performed consistently and with ease. The performance is automatic with little physical or mental exertion.

I have adapted Dave's psychomotor taxonomy in order to make it suitable for the articulation of intended learning outcomes for higher education programmes, regardless of disciplines.

Dave Stage Atkinson's Stage Revised Descriptor
Imitation (to) Imitate ability to copy, replicate the actions of others following observations.
Manipulation (to) Manipulate ability to repeat or reproduce actions to prescribed standard from memory or instructions.
Precision (to) Perfect ability to perform actions with expertise and without interventions and the ability to demonstrate and explain actions to others.
Articulation (to) Articulate ability to adapt existing psychomotor skills in a non-standard way, in different contexts, using alternative tools and instruments to satisfy a need.
Naturalization (to) Embody ability to perform actions in an automatic, intuitive or unconscious way appropriate to the context.

I have then chosen to represent this revised version of the psychomotor domain as a circular form (as I have done with other domains). This develops the active verbs appropriate to each proto-verb for each stage which can be used to design course designers in authoring intended learning outcomes and learning activities and their objectives. The outer circle also suggest possible, but not exclusive approaches to allowing students to demonstrate such skills development in the context of higher education.

psychomotor domain

But what again of the academic who says, "I teach history (or maths, or French, or nearly any higher education discipline), what do these skills have to do with me and my students?"

My answer is simple. What tools are used in the pursuit of your discipline? Is there not a degree of increasing proficiency in the deployment of these tools expected of students they progress through their studies?

Examples of tools used in higher education across a range of disciplines are not hard to come up with. Once you start thinking about it I am sure you can add many more:

Discipline Tools (physical, paper-based or online)
Languages Dictionaries, Thesaurus, Lexicons
Maths Calculator, MathML, Geometry software
History & Philosophy Mapping software, archival retrieval, databases
Geography GIS (Geographic Information Systems), Mapping software, Spatial databases
Psychology and biology Response systems, lab equipment
Physics and Chemistry Modelling and visualisation software, lab equipment
Accounting and Business SPSS, Accounting software, Spreadsheets
Music Instruments, recording equipment
Dance & Performance Lighting rigs, sound equipment

More advanced students expected to record and analyse quantitative or qualitative data are likely to also be faced with using SPSS or its equivalent of NVivo or its competitors. And of course, all students should be expected to make use of the library search engines and associated bibliographic software. Most will also use word processing software (Word) and presentational software (PowerPoint).

Do we assume that the skills to use these skills are simply absorbed through some form of osmosis, through casual exposure? Can we realistically expect undergraduates to have 'done this at school'  or for postgraduates to 'come already equipped from their undergraduate degree'?

Obviously not. So what do we do about it as course designers and teaching faculty? Firstly we need to design our courses through a systemic approach. But we can also make use of the psychomotor taxonomies above to structure assessable intended learning outcomes. We know that students are focussed on where the assessment points to. They engage in anything that is directly assessed and ignore anything that appears peripheral. So by designing into a module's ILOs the psychomotor skills associated with the tools of the discipline we are able to:

  • motivate students
  • encourage their real-world assessment skills
  • deliver employment skills

Unless there is an absolute, universally agreed, brand name associated with a tool it is always best to refer to it more generically. For example, it is better to refer to 'GIS systems' rather 'ArcGIS', or 'professional audio mixing equipment' rather than 'Studiomaster ClubXS'.

The same guidelines on creating well-structured progressive ILOs for intellectual skills (cognitive domain) still apply. As with all ILO it is important to be a precise and concise as possible while all the while trying to preserve a degree of flexibility. 

Structure of all ILOs follows the same pattern: Active Verb -> Subject -> Context.

Below are some examples. Each one makes use of my taxonomy circle above demonstrating a progression in complexity should a student be required to develop increased proficiency towards mastery through an undergraduate or postgraduate degree.

This first example is from a humanities discipline in which archival databases and library-based sources more often than not require some manipulation. Consider the difference between what is being asked of a first-year undergraduate and that of a postgraduate masters student. Remember this is just one of a number of ILOs for this particular module.

Discipline: History On successful completion of this module you will be able to:
Level 4: First Year UG replicate searches of valuable sources of historical research data for the purpose of  verification
Level 5: Second Year UG employ a range of different search engines and archival systems to produce a meaningful dataset
Level 6: Third Year UG organise a systematic search of historical records in order to answer a pre-determined research question
Level 7: Masters manage searches across a range of remote web-based services to provide a robust dataset

You will also notice that I have not made the mistake of identifying a specific archive or database. So your resources can change without you having to rewrite your ILOs.

In this next example, from a physical science discipline, instruments are named but only using their generic name rather than a specific model or brand for the same reason. The progressive theme here is measurement.

Discipline: Physics On successful completion of this module you will be able to:
Level 4: First Year UG adhere to prescribed methods for using Vernier callipers to make accurate measurements
Level 5: Second Year UG manipulate a range of micrometres to perform precise measurements
Level 6: Third Year UG calibrate an oscilloscope to accurately measure time-variance in voltages
Level 7: Masters integrate a range of different lab equipment in order to support the accurate recording of experimental data

Finally, here is an example from languages. I remember at one institution a student complained that they did not know how to add accents and macrons to their typed script. They were resorting to printing out a text and then providing the finishing touches with a pen! Surely we should support students to develop skills in something as superficially basic as word-processing too.

Discipline: French On successful completion of this module you will be able to:
Level 4: First Year UG replicate simple tasks to make use of an AZERTY keyboard to produce French language texts
Level 5: Second Year UG employ the customisation features within your word processing software to facilitate authoring in French
Level 6: Third Year UG organise your information technology environment to optimise the production of edited texts in French
Level 7: Masters integrate multilingual referenced sources in your bibliographic software and cite them appropriately through a variety of publishing platforms

Hopefully, these illustrations will provide you with some insights into how you might progressively support students in their 'tool' use.
For most university programmes, with the exception of arts and performance related subjects, psychomotor domain skills are likely to be seen as less significant than the cognitive (intellectual skills), affective (values), metacognitive (epistemological development) and interpersonal (communication) domain skills. But I would argue there is not a single programme, if not every single module, warrants the inclusion of a psychomotor outcomes students needs to have assessed to invest value in its acquisition.

References

Dave, R. H. (1967). Psychomotor domain. Presented at the International Conference of Educational Testing, Berlin.
Gardner, H. (2011). Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. New York: Basic Books.
Perrin, D. C. (2017, January 13). The Apprenticeship Model: A Journey toward Mastery. Retrieved September 1, 2018, from https://www.classicalu.com/the-apprenticeship-model-three-levels-to-mastery/
Richardson, G. (2005). Craft Guilds and Christianity in Late-Medieval England: A Rational-Choice Analysis. Rationality and Society, 17(2), 139–189. https://doi.org/10.1177/1043463105051631

 

Visualisation of factors impacting on media choicesThere are five key considerations we should take into account as we either work with media in our learning and teaching process or design learning using media.  The relative importance of each of these depends on the level, context and nature of the module or programme but all should need to be reflected in any learning design. These five are:

  • Students: orientation and disposition to learning with and through media.
  • Staff: abilities to work with media. Their abilities to identify appropriate media and manipulate it as appropriate.
  • Professional needs: present and future demands of the professional context in using media appropriately.
  • Content & Resources: Identifying existing, or creating, effective media resources for learning.
  • Institutional Choices: The constraints and opportunities for learning designers to develop media.

 

This is stage 3 of the 8-Stage Learning Design Framework. Read the associated pages for this stage for more detail.

Workshop Schedule - Details see here

This 33-minute presentation is from a session delivered to an internal audience of colleagues on my final day at BPP University as part of Digital Literacy Day (16 Feb 2018). Set-up as a demonstration, sharing QRs, Padlet, Twitter. After six years leading a portfolio focussed around teaching enhancement, scholarship and research and educational technology adoption, I outlined the pervasive nature of resistance to change and issued a call for recognising the urgent need to embrace sound educational technology practices. The presentation sets up the premise that our educational history has created a walled garden within which the majority of our academic practice exists. I suggested a few alternatives to existing practice, encouraging colleagues to take some small steps. These included Voicethread as a an interactive discussion platform and H5P (I misspoke in the video and said HfP!). H5P provides a degree of interactive possibilities.

My challenge to my colleagues was about who was going to design the learning experiences through educational technology. What is the relationship between instructional designers and content specialists? What about their relationships with 'classroom' practitioners?

 

Our learning programmes are designed to reflect our institutional specialisms and priorities, to play to our strengths. Sometimes we risk forgetting that they will be taken by real people with different dispositions, orientations and perspectives. For this reason, the first stage of my 8 Stage Learning Design Framework is concerned with profiling students. Much the same way that any product designer asks 'who is my customer going to be?', we need to do the same thing in education. I'm sharing here a process in which we describe between four  (five or six works too) imaginary individuals who are as different from each other as we can imagine as our potential students. I advocate a diversity matrix to build these characters, articulating different dispositional, educational, circumstantial and cultural parameters. We then run these user-cases through four further perspectives to reassess their discipline orientation, learning orientation, personal context and social context. There are overlaps and contradictions, a creative tension that reveals the strengths and relative weaknesses of any potential programme design. See the Research pages for more of Student Profiles

Watch out for workshops at Learning Design Workshops

 

I thought I would share some cross-platform videos which reflect whatever is on my mind professionally each morning.  Shot in portrait for IGTV and then annotated for YouTube,  they represent unscripted notes on some aspect of learning design or educational enhancement.

This one explores the value of an individual approach to personalizing reflection for academic practitioners. I urge faculty to make reflective journal notes immediately following any teaching event. This is invaluable, as is watching and listening back to your work. Combined with an SGID or in-class evaluation process you will find that any end-of-module evaluation of your teaching effectiveness should hold no surprises.

There is a wealth of literature that describes the purposes of providing feedback as part of the learning process in higher and professional education. I’m going to distil this voluminous research and scholarship into four key purposes.

Firstly, feedback for student learning is about increasing capacity for future actions. Indicating to the student how a piece of work, in-class contribution or whatever form of evidence, is provided by the students could be made better next time is about increasing their capacity. It’s human nature to think, “ok, well that’s task is completed, I passed, let's just move on”, but understanding how to do better, even in an imaginary ‘next time’, builds capacity.

This relates to the second purpose, developing self-awareness or metacognition in the student. Giving students the sense that even if there isn’t going to be another opportunity to provide evidence of learning in the same way again, there will be similar activities, tests, trails or exams and what they learn from the current feedback can be transferred into this new context.

Which leads us on to the third purpose of feedback, of developing academic skills. Poorly designed assessment might just be testing content knowledge, and it's very hard to provide meaningful feedback on such assessment. If on the other hand your assessment is well constructed, against distinct learning outcomes and using a meaningful marking rubric, then the feedback students receive should also be developing the academic abilities and skills beyond what they can recall.

The fourth and final purpose for providing feedback for student learning is to enhance the self-confidence and well-being of the student. Whether your feedback is providing confirmation of progress and success on the part of the student or providing supportive corrective guidance to a struggling student, the purpose remains the same, to bolster a positive attitude to learning, to the subject, to the practices associated with the discipline.

If you are struggling to meet these four core purposes in providing feedback to your students, you may want to think about reading a practical guidebook on providing feedback, enrolling on a professional development programme or just get together with your colleagues, and go through a course redesign or re-evaluation. You could invite a consultant to review your practices. You may find that your assessments and your in-class learning and teaching activities could be better designed to make providing meaningful feedback easier for you, and more useful for your students.

Simon Paul Atkinson
http://www.sijen.com
Consultancy for International Higher Education

There are social conventions, unwritten rules, around feedback in a formal education setting. Most students associate feedback as coming from the voice of authority in the form of red marks on a written script! It is important to redefine feedback for university and professional learners.

In this short overview video (3'30") Simon outlines four 'contractual' arrangements all faculty should establish at the outset of their course or module with respect to feedback for learning.

These are
1) ensuring that students know WHERE feedback is coming from
2) WHEN to expect feedback
3) WHAT you mean by feedback
4) WHAT to DO with the feedback when it's received.

  1. Feedback is undoubtedly expected from the tutor or instructor but there are numerous feedback channels available to students if only they are conscious of them. These include feedback from their peers but most important from self-assessment and learning activities designed in class.
  2. Knowing where feedback is coming from as part of the learning process relieves the pressure on the tutor and in effect makes feedback a constant 'loop', knowing what to look out for and possibly having students document the feedback they receive supports their metacognitive development.
  3. Being clear with students as to what you regard as feedback is an effective way of ensuring that students take ownership of their own learning. My own personal definition is extremely broad, from the feedback one receives in terms of follow-up comments for anything shared in an online environment to the nods and vocal agreement shared in class to things you say. These are all feedback. Knowing that also encourages participation!
  4. Suggesting to students what they do with feedback will depend a little bit on the nature of the course and the formal assessment processes. Students naturally enough don't do things for the sake of it so it has to be of discernable benefit to them. If there is some form of portfolio based coursework assessment you could ask for an annotated 'diary' on feedback received through the course. If its a course with strong professional interpersonal outcomes (like nursing or teaching for example) you might ask students to identify their favourite and least favourite piece of feedback they experienced during the course, with a commentary on how it affected their subsequent actions.

What's important is to recognise that there are social conventions around feedback in a formal education setting, normally associated with red marks on a written script! It is important to redefine feedback for university and professional learners.

Simon Paul Atkinson (PFHEA)
https://www.sijen.com
SIJEN: Consultancy for International Higher Education

6

The majority of academic staff in the United Kingdom will have come across the UKPSF in one form or another. It has been a benchmark for my academic development practice for fourteen years. The United Kingdom Professional Standards Framework is a set of statements, arguably objectives, for the 'complete' skill profile for an academic working in tertiary education. Divided into three areas, core knowledge, professional values and areas of activity, there is some potential overlap but it remains sufficiently broad to reflect the reality at the chalk-face (or PowerPoint screen). It has proved itself to be largely unopposed in the UK context  (certainly there are few rivals) and despite some tweaking of the original 2004 version in 2011, unchanged.

The stability and endurance of the framework is a tribute to its authors, with contributions drawn from across the tertiary sector. The homogeneous nature of the inputs does give us a framework that sometimes feels like a United Nations Security Council resolution, written in diplomatic English, designed not to offend and to be  'universal', in other words euro-centric. Therein lies the difficulty.

As the Aotearoa New Zealand academic community has struggled to adopt and adapt the UKPSF to their unique post-colonial context, they have faced a challenge. In Aotearoa, the Treaty of Waitangi is enshrined in much of public policy and practice. An acknowledgement of the values ascribed to indigenous Māori perspectives, the Treaty is a touchstone for any professional practice framework. For this reason, Ako Aotearoa (NZ's professional academic body equivalent to AdvanceHE, the inheritor of the HEA's remit) has been working towards a revised version of the UKPSF. Incorporating a range of Māori cultural and philosophical perspectives, kaupapa māori, including philosophical doctrines, indigenous knowledge, skills, attitudes and values, is an ongoing challenge. So far, I am aware only of one iteration of an NZ revised PSF operated by Auckland University of Technology, AUT, under the name of Ako Aronui (http://cflat.aut.ac.nz/ako-aronui/). Having been denied the opportunity to modify the original UKPSF (to ensure recognition process remained intact), the team at AUT have appended a Māori perspective to each element in the framework (Buissink et al., 2017). At face value, this could appear to be a mere translation, but it is much more than that. It could be seen as a cultural reinterpretation of each concept or notion. It falls short of a reappraisal of the fundamental indigenous approaches to learning, but it appears respectful and well-considered.

Australian colleagues have taken a somewhat different approach, drafting a 'University Teaching Criteria and Standards Framework' that directly linking roles and promotional structures to values and attributes within their framework. Australian colleagues claimed only to have used the UKPSF as a reference source rather than as a template. In the absence of an embedded or enshrined single treaty arrangement with the heterogeneous Aboriginal peoples of Australia, there is significantly less widespread inter-cultural reverence for different perspectives on learning. (http://uniteachingcriteria.edu.au/)

As a diverse, and somewhat eclectic, sector, the Canadian tertiary sector does not have a single professional framework for educators to aspire to. This is a country in which quality assurance is largely the responsibility of the Provinces, and there is no central national oversight, so this it is hardly surprising. Nonetheless, there are positive moves towards a recognition of the inherent values embedded in indigenous customs and practice with regards to learning, in a document produced by Universities Canada in 2015, entitled "Principles on Indigenous education".

What the Aotearoa and Canadian examples share, and are absent from both the Australian and UK contexts, is an explicit desire not only to be inclusive and make liberal use of words such as access and equality (shared by all) but also to advocate for the indigenization, as well as the internationalization, of the learning experience. I would argue this is a serious omission from the UKPSF. It is absent from any derivation that does not, or is not permitted, to alter the original. There needs to be, I suggest, an acknowledgement of the unique cultural context in which any framework is drafted and explicit recognition of the philosophical and socio-cultural values that are embedded within it.

In the context of the UKPSF, this could be remedied by an additional statement in each category of elements; I'd make them top of the list, or number '0'.

Core Knowledge (K0) The cultural context in which knowledge is created and valued within their discipline.
Professional Values (P0) Recognise different epistemological frameworks and perspectives on learning and disciplinary knowledge.
Areas of Activity (A0) Embrace indigenous perspectives in all aspects of the educational practice.

That's what's missing. The challenge from an Anglo-European-American (post-enlightenment, Judeo-Christian, rationalist) perspective is to acknowledge that there is 'another' way of experiencing and learning-in and -about the world.

......................

Buissink, N., Diamond, P., Hallas, J., Swann, J., & Sciascia, A. D. (2017). Challenging a measured university from an indigenous perspective: placing ‘manaaki’ at the heart of our professional development programme. Higher Education Research & Development, 36(3), 569–582. https://doi.org/10.1080/07294360.2017.1288706
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