'Teaching in a learning society, the acquisition of professional skills'
Paper presented at the ESRC Teaching and Learning Research Programme First Annual Conference - University of Leicester, Friday 10th November 2000
Dr. Patrick Ainley, Reader in Learning Policy, School of Post-Compulsory Education and Training, University of Greenwich.
Addressing Theme 2. transforming knowledge about learning into effective teaching practices
25 minute presentation allowing 25 minutes for questions and debate based on a description of ongoing research building upon recently completed empirical work
500 WORD ABSTRACT:
TITLE: 'TEACHING IN A LEARNING SOCIETY, THE ACQUISITION OF PROFESSIONAL SKILLS'
Background: A pilot evaluation of the University of Greenwich School of Post-Compulsory Education and Training Integrated PGCE/CertEd assessed the effect of full-time, part-time and distance modes of study upon the delivery of a newly integrated certificate programme. Remarkable consistency was reported in interviews with students on all three modes in the skills and knowledge they stated they had acquired on the course. However, they also revealed consistent conceptual confusion between the distinctions made by Tomlinson et al of teaching from telling and the techniques involved in both effective teaching and telling (or instruction). It would be valuable for the presenters of this paper to know how much participants in the conference feel this confusion is common also to courses of school teacher education.
Recent evidence from studies of primary schools shows teachers there spend more time than previously 'telling' and using largely closed-ended questions (Galton et al, 1999; also Pollard et al 2000) as opposed to 'teaching' to negotiate meanings with students. Yet it is well established that the former is associated with 'surface' approaches to learning and the latter with 'deep' approaches as the different levels of learning are commonly referred to, eg. by Entwhistle and Ramsden 1983 and by Marton et al 1984.
With reference to the 'Requirements for Courses of Initial Teacher Training' (DfEE Circular 4/98, which may be compared with DfEE 2000), proposed research aims to extend the pilot evaluation already undertaken to samples of one-year primary and secondary PGCE and four-year BEd students in the School of Education at the University of Greenwich using the methods of interviews, observations and questionnaires. Results will indicate to what extent trainee teachers follow 'surface' approaches to learning on their courses, as is widely alleged, and how much, if this is the case, it contradicts their 'responsibility for their own professional development.. to keep up to date with research and developments in pedagogy and the subjects that they teach' (DfEE o.c. 1998, 16). This relates to issues of the 'professionalism' of teachers in all sectors of education and to other demands made upon them that may be 'deskilling', 'multiskilling' or 'upskilling' them (Keep and Mayhew 1999).
The knowledge gained in relation to the learning of trainee teachers will indicate effective practices to promote the negotiation of meaning necessary for deep learning that could be adopted in teacher education for both Foundation and Lifelong Learning.
'the genius of the heart who makes everything loud and self-satisfied fall silent and teaches it to listen, who smoothes rough souls and gives them a new desire to savour - the desire to lie still as a mirror, that the deep sky may mirror itself in them -; the genius of the heart who teaches the stupid and hasty hand to hesitate and grasp more delicately; who divines the hidden and forgotten treasure, the drop of goodness and sweet spirituality under thick and opaque ice, and is a divining-rod for every grain of gold which has lain long in the prison of much mud and sand; the genius of the heart from whose touch everyone goes away richer, not favoured and surprised, not as if blessed and oppressed with the goods of others, but richer in himself, newer to himself than before, broken open, blown upon and sounded out by a thawing wind, more uncertain perhaps, more delicate, more fragile, more broken, but full of hopes that as yet have no names, full of new will and current, full of new ill-will and counter-current..'
NIETZSCHE Beyond Good and Evil
'The materialist doctrine that men are products of circumstances and upbringing, and that, therefore, changed men are products of other circumstances and changed upbringing, forgets that it is men that change circumstances and that the educator himself needs educating. Hence, this doctrine necessarily arrives at dividing society into two parts, of which one is superior to society (in Robert Owen, for example).'
MARX Third Thesis on Feuerbach
'Teaching in a Learning Society, the acquisition of professional skills'
It is a paradox that notions of teaching have been all but eclipsed by the emphasis upon learning in contemporary education policy and practice. As a result, the 'Learning Age' is not also the 'Teaching Age', nor the 'Learning Society' also the 'Teaching Society', nor does 'Lifelong Learning' entail 'Lifelong Teaching'. Indeed, while education, education, education is presented as the solution to all society's problems and as essential for economic growth and Tony Blair once proclaimed, 'teaching is probably the single most important profession for the future of our nation' (Spectator Lecture 22/3/95), teachers are rarely seen by government as part of the solution but often as the main problem en route to the educational progress it desires. Yet because learning can take place without teaching, this does not mean that teachers are necessarily reduced to the level of facilitators of other people's self-managed learning. Nor that, with the centralised production and dissemination of a National Curriculum in schools, while colleges and universities also increasingly rely on electronically updated resources from elsewhere, teachers at all levels are reduced to technicians transmitting pre-packaged bits of information. But what is the professional standing of teachers in a society in which they are just one of many 'providers' competing in an education and training market with rival sources of learning ranging from 'edutainment' to customised, computer-delivered packages?
Just because, as Tomlinson and Kilner say (1992, 6), echoing Hirst (1973, 171), 'learning has a logical priority in relation to teaching' because 'learning is defined in its own terms, without reference to teaching, whereas teaching is only definable in terms of learning', this does not mean that, as Galileo is often quoted as saying, 'You cannot teach anyone anything; you can only help them to find it out for themselves.' For although a leap of the learner's imagination is called for to 'grasp' any new item of information or change in behaviour, let alone to integrate those within frameworks of knowledge or skill, on the other hand, you cannot force anyone to learn - or only up to a point. (It is part of the point of this paper to point towards the point at which it might be possible to tell, instruct or drill, if not to teach, someone something by more or less covert/ symbolic violence.)
In particular, as Tomlinson and Kilner continue, 'as a purposeful activity teaching aims at particular intended learning outcomes, though this does not exclude incidental or opportunistic gains. Therefore teachers require an understanding of the nature and specification of.. [their] subject knowledge.' This specification of what is to be taught in the form of outcomes and/or a curriculum does not, of course, answer the question of what teaching is, which this paper suggests is now in as much - or even more! - conceptual confusion as is the nature of learning. As an instance of this widespread confusion, an advertisement in the recruitment campaign that the Teacher Training Agency ran earlier this year on television and in cinemas presented school teachers as 'advocates', 'counsellors', 'diplomats' and 'managers' but left out the definitive role of 'teacher'.
This theoretical lacuna hides consistent conceptual confusion between specific 'teaching skills or expertise' and 'other skills' as well as with the information and knowledge (ie. subject) content of their course such as was reflected in pilot interviews with trainee teachers on a (PG)CE FE course reported in this paper. Further research intends to explore to what extent this conceptual confusion is shared with school teacher education courses and this paper is in the nature of an enquiry from experts in the field as to the extent to which they think this might be the case.
To this extent, the paper is an exercise in definition, 'To shew the fly [= the authors in this case!] the way out of the fly-bottle.' And in this connection a common confusion of 'teaching' has in recent years come to be with 'training', which is associated with activity aimed at practical competence and skill acquisition as opposed to teaching primarily information and knowledge. We follow Winch in not seeking to make training an alternative to teaching because, although they are 'distinct concepts, the boundaries between the two are not very clear in substance' (1998, 50). Training, Winch argues, has only become dissociated from teaching because of its association with behaviourism, although he points out that 'Even the model of animal learning that behaviourist psychologists call "operant conditioning" is quite inadequate to grasp what an animal learns when it is trained.' (ibid) This is not only because training may be to high levels - as in 'teacher training' or training in other academic disciplines and trade crafts - but because, as Winch quotes Wittgenstein to remind us, 'Any explanation has its foundation in training. (Educators ought to remember this.)' Therefore, rather than distinguish between different 'levels of learning' in relation to teaching and training, or the academic versus the vocational, knowing that from knowing how, intellection over manipulation, the mental above the physical, mind distinct from and superior to body, we seek to establish levels of learning and teaching in relation to the real cognitive activities of learners and teachers.
In this way, we follow Tomlinson et al (1992, 4), in defining teaching at its simplest as 'an interaction which involves activity by one person (the teacher) designed to promote learning by another person or persons (the learners). Insofar as learning may be defined as the acquisition of capacities or values as a result of action or experience, then teaching involves engaging learners in activities and/or experience whereby they are likely to learn, ie. acquire capacities or values.' As an interaction, 'teaching is a form of dialogue, an extension of dialogue' (Bruner 1983, 191). Teaching, as distinct from merely telling or instructing, therefore involves some negotiation of meaning between teacher(s) and student(s) additional to the competences or techniques involved in communicating the teacher's intended meaning as clearly and effectively as possible. Negotiation of meaning is, of course, also possible amongst learners individually or collectively, or between learners and the tools that they are working with, or the materials they are working on, as well as in relation to sources of knowledge and information other than teachers and instructors, typically as represented in print and other media (see Hutchins 1995).
Both teaching, in the sense of negotiating meaning between teacher and taught, and telling that requires acceptance without negotiation of the teacher's meaning by the taught, and which are the terms in which we would seek to distinguish levels of learning and teaching, also require technique to enable teachers to convey and learners to grasp information and competence or knowledge and skill. Techniques of transmission, or instruction and drilling (telling), also have their place in the acquisition of necessary information and competence, which are often the foundation for deeper knowledge and the accomplishment of holistic skills. These complementary activities we believe can be demonstrated in the practice of teaching in order to clarify the nature of teaching and distinguish it from other activities, as well as from telling and the techniques of both teaching and telling.
They can also be related to the changing nature of teacher professionalism - from the traditional conception of public servants to the new ideal of self-managing, reflective practitioners - that historically have influenced the claims of classroom teachers to professional status. This enables us to consider whether it is possible to be both a teacher and a manager or whether a new division within the teacher workforce is indeed opening up, as between the 'core' and 'periphery' in other areas of employment. This has been alleged to be already the case in further education (Ainley & Bailey 1997) and the present implementation of performance management as the central pillar of proposed performance related pay makes this more likely in schools. Already, many teachers typically complain they have 'no time for teaching anymore', they are so busy with administration. Possibly however, teaching is becoming both more demanding in terms of the skill and underpinning knowledge required to sustain successful practice and at the same time also in terms of processing bits of information and competently meeting various performance targets. Paradoxically though, as their job arguably becomes more demanding and intensive, teachers are held in less respect by society at large, so much so that their always precarious professional status is now in question more than ever before.
Yet learning from - if not teaching about - the past and present to face an uncertain future is surely vital for society today beyond the economic justifications that are given for the heightened salience of education - if not of teachers. Scientific and rational thought are also required of future citizens together with cultural sensitivity to a bewildering range of new experiences. Whilst these demands are made of all learners (including teachers), there are also widespread allegations of 'dumbing down' and 'lower standards' through 'qualification inflation' with 'teaching to the test' at all levels from primary to post-graduate schools. Based on the pilot study of courses of preparation for the professional practice of teaching briefly recounted in this paper, we conclude that teachers have to learn and relearn what they are teaching in order to teach it effectively (ie. negotiate meanings with themselves as well as with others). Teaching - as opposed to telling - is therefore closer to a creative art and the processes of research than it is to a technical process.
An aside on 'skill'
The term 'skill' has become more ambiguous as its use has become ubiquitous. Since the Confederation of British Industry's 1989 call for 'A Skills Revolution', the National Skills Task Force has identified 'skills gaps' and 'skill shortages' in the national economy in order to move from a 'low skills equilibrium' to a 'high skills economy', while a major report by Sir Claus Moser has indicated the lack of 'basic skills' amongst many in the adult population. In addition, successive reports by Lord Dearing emphasised 'core' - now 'key' - skills at all levels of further and higher education and training. (These are subdivided into 'soft' and 'hard' key skills, although the latter have recently been dropped from Modern Apprenticeships in hairdressing so that other MAs may be expected to follow suite.) These 'transferable skills for employability' (succeeding the 'social and life skills' previously demanded of Youth Trainees) are today considered vital for all students, as well as for trainees in and out of employment from Welfare to Work to programmes of Continuing Professional Development. 'Key skills' will also be a common element of the recently revised A-levels, as they already are of GNVQs/ now 'vocational A-levels'.
Despite this proliferation of 'skill' from its previously generally accepted if actually arbitrarily defined use in traditional industry to designate 'skilled', 'semiskilled' and 'unskilled' divisions of manual labour, there is today no general agreement as to its meaning. Skill has lost its association with social stratification, so that, for instance, the latest revisions to the official classification of socio-economic groups for the 2001 population census by Rose and O'Reilly (1997) deliberately avoids all reference to 'skill'. Instead, 'skill' is used interchangeably with terms such as 'competence' or 'ability', while its relation to knowledge is assumed - as in 'underpinning knowledge' - but is unspecified or unspecifiable - as in 'tacit knowledge'.
The integration of manual with mental labour using new technology, as well as in work reorganisation, has led to a reconceptualisation of both 'skill' and 'knowledge', so that from having been for long considered separately, they are now being reintegrated theoretically - as in 'thinking skills' or 'problem-solving skills'. Both skill and knowledge are, however, still conceived predominantly individualistically (as in so-called 'personal and transferable skills') - despite recognition of 'social skills', such as 'team-working'. As a result, there is, as Keep and Mayhew write in the Oxford Review of Economic Policy (15, 1, 1999), 'a confusion about the meaning of skill which has intensified over the last 15-20 years' because 'UK conceptions of what comprises skills have shifted away from hard, technical expertise towards softer interpersonal capabilities, many of which could be conceived of as personal characteristics or attributes rather than as skills in a traditional sense.'
There is little agreement as to whether this represents a generalised 'deskilling'of the workforce (associated with a 'dumbing down' of the knowledge content of culture) as against 'upskilling' or 'multiskilling'. Academic investigations have come up with contrary findings, sometimes by the same author! (White, 1993; and White and Gallie, 1993). More recently, Green et al. (1998) answered their own question 'Are British workers getting more skilled?' in the affirmative, while Keep and Mayhew (same year) argued the opposite. Perhaps the consensus is that first suggested by the ESRC's SCELI programme in the late '80s but only reported in 1994: 'that the argument that is best supported is that of a polarisation of skill' (Elias, 75).
In this regard, another relevant aspect of 'skill' is the 'discretion content' which Jacques saw in 1970 as related to 'Equitable Payment' within the existing division of labour. Fox considered this open to empirical investigation in relation to what he called in 1974 a 'low-trust syndrome' in British industry. The issue is nowadays complicated by the introduction of self-management for employees exercising autonomy within restricted discretionary areas.
Sociology, where the 'deskilling' thesis originated in the 'labour process debate' of the late 1970s, has long recognised the confusion between what has been called 'genuine skill' and 'socially constructed skill' (even if some sociologists discount the former in favour of the latter to explain masculine constructions of skill). The distinction seems to have been lost in the contemporary educational discourse of skills however. Also forgotten are basic psychological insights into the nature of skill and its alleged 'transfer' developed in this country from Myers and Bartlett onwards but also in the USA, Germany and elsewhere. There is therefore a danger of reinventing the wheel, as well as of losing fundamental understandings such as those developed by Polanyi in his 'Post-Critical Philosophy', founded upon the affirmation of tacit 'Personal Knowledge'.
New ways of thinking about learning are prompted by 'changing divisions of knowledge and labour' (Ainley 1993) which are reintegrating manual and mental labour in many areas of employment. These changes are driven by incrementally rapid technological transformations and accompanying reorganisations of work. Even where manual and mental labour are not being so integrated, the new Information and Communications Technology provides the potentiality for doing so. This has led to a reconceptualisation of 'knowledge' and 'skill'. From being for so long considered separately, they are at last being reintegrated theoretically, though still thought of in terms of an obdurate individualism that mistakes the social nature of knowledge/skill.
As Collins (1989) says, 'the problem [of skill] comes partly from treating expertise as a property of the individual, rather than interaction of the social collectivity. It is in the collectivity that novel responses become legitimate displays of expertise' (82). 'Individual human beings participate in knowledge communities but they are not the location of knowledge. Rather.. individuals reflect the knowledge of communities [in different ways]' (1). 'To put the issue in its starkest form, the locus of knowledge appears to be not the individual but the social group.. Contrary to the usual reductionist model of the social sciences, it is the individual who is made of social groups (6).' (See also Hutchins o.c. and Vygotsky 1978.)
The interchange of knowledge with skill in the above shows that knowledge and skill cannot be logically separated. There is indeed no skill in the exercise of which knowledge does not play a part and, likewise, there is no knowledge that does not rely upon skill to apply or express it. Fundamentally, knowledge and skill cannot be distinguished because mind and body cannot. Yet the distinction between mental knowledge and manual skill was not only basic to divisions of labour established with the Industrial Revolution, it is also an inheritance from the Greco-Roman disdain for slave labour and the Christo-feudal elevation of spiritual contemplation (Zuboff 1988, 25). The supposed separation and superiority of mental knowledge over manual skills is thus deeply embedded in English culture.
Nevertheless, different academic disciplines - themselves becoming accessible to one another through new forms of inter-communication that represent information and knowledge across traditional subject boundaries - are today approaching from different directions to reintegrate knowledgeskills in a new paradigm for understanding learning. What Pierre Bourdieu (in Robbins 1991) has called 'a new sociology of learning' can examine the opportunities (and obstacles) to learning that contemporary society affords individuals, together with the use that they make of them in the process of 'becoming what they are'.
Because they have mainly studied societies without formally institutionalised specialist education and training, anthropologists have contributed most to this new reconceptualisation of learning which does not confuse education with schooling, nor what is learnt with what is taught, nor knowledge with what can be assessed. In place of these habitually accepted understandings, the new paradigmatic conception of learning is indicated by Rogoff's 1990 notion of 'guided participation' or Lave and Wenger's 1991 representation of apprenticeship to skill and knowledge acquisition as a form of 'legitimate peripheral participation'. Apprenticeship so conceived is a guided participation in activity and in learning that is legitimate because it is socially recognised but is as yet only peripheral - not the right to full participation in the practice. LPP, as it may be called, provides an operationalisable concept going beyond imprecise pedagogic metaphors of 'structuration' and 'levels' of learning. Or rather, LPP links these metaphors to the social 'structures' and 'levels' within social hierarchies of power and control in which particular types of apprenticeship are institutionalised and to the variously valued roles for which such legitimated learning prepares its peripheral participants. LPP thus allows considerations of individual identity or (character) 'formation' (what the Germans call 'bildung') to be brought into cross-cultural comparisons of apprentices and students. It also puts in question many of the assumptions upon which currently dominant regimes of learning at nearly all levels of both education and training in the UK are based. For example, the supposed 'transfer' of so-called 'personal and transferable skills' that review of the experimental psychology literature shows to be deeply problematic (Lave, 1988).
While deriving most obviously from American cultural anthropology, Rogoff, plus Lave and Wenger's theory of 'Situated Cognition', owes much also to Vygotskian perspectives in psychology. These have been reinvigorated recently by what Claxton (1997, 3-4) called 'The newly formed hybrid discipline of "cognitive science"', which he described as 'an alliance of neuro-science, philosophy, artificial intelligence and experimental psychology'. The motto of this approach might be Mace's injunction to 'Ask not what's inside your head but what your head's inside of' for it raises the paradoxical suggestion that learning does not fundamentally and primarily occur within the heads of individuals but is to be located in the process of their shared practice. Or rather, as Rogoff writes, 'The individual and the social are not analytically separate influences on the course of development. Neither is the relation an interaction, because that still implies separability of individuals and the social context. Instead, I view the individual.. social partners and cultural milieu as inseparable to the ongoing activities in which development [or learning] takes place' (1990, 18). This leads Hutchins, following Bateson (1973, 459), to take a unit of analysis that is 'not bounded by the skin or skull' but rather one that 'includes the socio-material environment of the person' (ibid, 292) with boundaries to the system of his 'cognitive architecture' in 'Organizational Learning' that 'may shift during the course of activity'.
This does not mean that you do not have to learn to perform those activities necessary for development by participation in the social practice within which their meanings are culturally embedded but it does mean that you do not do so by some sort of 'information' or 'skill' 'transfer'. What happens is, as Gee explained, 'Once you are a member of the group, once your behaviours count as meaningful within the social practice, you get the "meanings" free' (1992, 10). So, instead of seeking the somehow physically corresponding 'structures' of learning inside the black box of individual minds, this apparently paradoxical perspective on learning directs attention to the linguistic and technological affordances for learning within particular social ecologies upon which participants may draw in their various social practices.
The integration of mind and body with the social and natural environment in this new paradigm abandons the traditional Cartesian privileging of thinking over doing and feeling. It reintegrates the 'affective' with the 'cognitive' and 'physical' domains which orthodox psychology conventionally treats separately but which every teacher knows cannot be separated in practice as they are integral to learning at all levels. The new perspective also opposes previous mistakings of the analysis for the actuality of learning in accounts based upon either behaviourist psychology or the computational modelling involved in many cognitivist approaches.
Forrester (1999) translates the metaphor of affordance from Gibson's perceptual psychology, where objects in its environment afford an animal various opportunities or obstacles to the pursuit of its ends, into the artificial environment of language and technology with which human beings are surrounded and suffused. Here he finds 'affordances for learning' offered in pedagogic conversations and demonstrations by masters, teachers, or others whose authoritative knowledge of and skill in some particular practice is legitimately recognised. Using the exacting techniques of conversational analysis, Forrester explores Vygotsky's 'zone of proximal development' which exists between the unaided efforts and understandings of the learner, be he or she apprentice, child, or student, and the abilities and understandings of the Master, adult, or teacher. Forrester thus reveals in the verbal interactions between primary pupil and teacher, for instance, how the former makes use of the affordances in language that are provided by the latter to understand how to join in the mathematical exercise of estimation. The child's excited cry of 'ah-ha!' registers a real recognition of new ability, understanding and thus empowerment when she masters a task that previously she could not complete unaided. 'Now I can go on', as Wittgenstein said (1968, 73e).
Whatever instructional methods are employed in whatever sort and level of human education and training that is undertaken, language features as a fundamental means by which meaning is communicated, implemented, and assessed. However, because, as Allen says, 'All knowing.. always involves skilful performances..', even the most apparently abstract and linguistically formalised knowledge (of algebraic formulae, for instance) 'can never be rendered wholly explicit and removed entirely from its tacit roots' (1990, 40). This is because, as Polanyi argued, 'we remain ever unable to say all we know.. [and] we can never quite know all that is implied in what we say' (1958, 95), so that 'The inarticulate always has the last word' (1958, 71). It might be better therefore to talk with Rogoff in terms of communication rather than language 'to include nonverbal as well as verbal dialogue rather than to focus exclusively on words', especially as 'this allows us to examine development in the early years, when words are not the primary currency of communication, and to address cognitive development in realms that may be less dependent on the analytic use of language than are didactic schooling and cultures emphasizing talk and analysis' (1990, 16). So the affordance metaphor as extended to the socialisation of affordances in communications of all sorts enables us to expose the differentiation of affordances to learning that various pupils/students are afforded or can afford and in which some can afford (increasingly in the financial sense!) to go further than others. For, as Lave and Wenger have indicated, it has been a long-term problem of traditional (academic) school and higher education that 'the didactic use of language, not itself the discourse of practice, creates a new linguistic practice, which has an existence of its own. Legitimate peripheral participation in such linguistic practice is a form of learning, but does not imply that newcomers learn the actual practice the language is supposed to be about' (1994, 108). Moreover, they argue: 'When the process of increasing participation is not the primary motivation for learning.. the focus of attention shifts from co-participation in practice to acting upon the person-to-be-changed'.
Such a shift is typical of situations, such as schooling, in which pedagogically structured content organizes learning activities [so that] the identity of learners becomes an explicit object of change [and] where there is no cultural identity encompassing the activity in which the newcomers participate and no field of mature practice for what is being learned, exchange value replaces the use value of increasing participation. The commoditisation of learning engenders a fundamental contradiction between the use and exchange values of the outcome of learning, which manifests itself in conflicts between learning to know and learning to display knowledge for evaluation.. Test taking then becomes a new parasitic practice, the goal of which is to increase the exchange value of learning independently of its use value' (1994, 112). Transmission models of information transfer, retention and regurgitation inform (sic) such an academic approach. They illustrate what Hyland and Johnson (199?) have called 'the generalising fallacy' which consists in 'implying that because some putative skill - say problem-solving or report-writing - can be performed in a range of similar contexts, then it is transferable to all contexts.' This includes the attempted transmission of so-called 'transferable', 'core' or 'key skills' such as the 'rigorous' 60-hour 'Free Standing Maths Units' the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority proposed for GNVQs at foundation, intermediate and advanced levels, together with a reduced 'key skills' 'core curriculum' for KS4. The extension of such bolt-on tests of 'basic' literacy and numeracy represent a nascent 'core curriculum' for all post-compulsory students and trainees. (It was only narrowly, for instance, that the Moser Committee on adult basic skills was dissuaded from Professor Layard's suggestion to it of cutting the benefits of unemployed people if they failed 'basic skills' literacy tests and refused remedial classes.)
In fact, so-called 'personal and transferable key skills' are neither personal nor transferable - nor skills; they are social and generic competences (in NCVQ's original behavioural sense of the word - as in Jessup 1991). Such competence is required in a variety of work situations that the latest applications of new technology and 'flexible' work reorganisation are rendering increasingly similar. They are merely the latest expression of what the 1959 Crowther Committee on '15 to 18' education described as the 'general mechanical intelligence' then demanded of all school leavers 'to be able to adapt to a rapidly changing environment [where] there may be less need in the future of "skill" in the old-fashioned sense of the word' (HMSO, 1959, 449).
In the new fashioned use of the word, variously adjectively qualified 'skills' are allegedly 'key' to 'employability' because they can supposedly be 'transferred' from one place of work to another. Presented as 'personal and transferable', a 'skills' emphasis in vocational curricula offers a new illusory quantification of behavioural competence to match the marking of memorised and often unrelated 'facts' tested, along with appropriate literary style, by conventional written academic examinations.
So-called 'personal and transferable', 'core' or 'key skills' for 'employability' should not therefore be confused with the self-styled 'higher cognitive skills' of reasoning and scientific/ critical thinking increasingly restricted to elite higher education. This is though a form of the real 'generalised knowledge' that recognises essential identity behind the plurality of apparent differences. For, as Jerome Bruner argues, '..to understand something is to sense the simpler structure that underlies a range of appearances..' (1992, 132). Or as Claparede put it, 'What matters is to grasp the functional identities under different aspects' (1934, 151). As generalised understanding, this knowledge is what Aristotle called 'the knowledge necessary to rule'. It is not a knowledge of everything but of the rules by which the totality of known facts can be acquired and ordered. Instead of 'key skills', this 'key knowledge' is what Cardinal Newman in his classic formulation of 'The Idea of a University' called 'knowledge of the relative disposition of things', the lack of which, he wrote, 'is the state of slaves and children' and, he could have added, of most women and the working class of his day (quoted in Ainley 1994, 72).
Yet, thanks to the efforts of contemporary Newmen, the only form of generalised knowledge recognised in today's dominant culture of learning is academic generalised knowledge. This 'Official Knowledge' is deliberately obscured not only by its obtuse language of expression but by arbitrary divisions between academic disciplines. It is therefore deliberately unsystematic and its generalisability limited to narrow empirical applications. Such a form of academic generalised knowledge is incapable of questioning the purposes to which it is put or the society that uses it.
Cohen (1999) approaches academic learning in HE from the perspective of cultural studies to emphasize the 'psychodynamic dimension' involved. This, he says, is too often missing from accounts of apprenticeship to a master or to learning from an authority or a source, for example by discovery or experimentation, or just by trial and error. As Polanyi recorded, 'By watching the master and emulating his efforts in the presence of his example, the apprentice unconsciously picks up the rules of the art, including those which are not explicitly known to the master himself. These hidden rules can be assimilated only by a person who surrenders himself to that extent uncritically to the imitation of another' (1958, 53). This is not to confuse authority with power (Winch 1998, 55), but it does draw attention to the importance of structures of feeling and fantasy which can influence learning outcomes. Cohen explains how these psychic structures are culturally embedded and narrativised as 'codes' which provide 'templates' for the distinctive trajectories of the 'identity work' that he points out is involved in all learning. All learning includes the much valued 'learning to learn' - often presented as the ur-'key skill' for an uncertain future. To it should be added 'learning not to learn' in the construction of identities not restricted to the superficial 'presentation of self' featured in the commodified approaches Lave and Wenger criticise above.
Cohen (1988) previously related this 'identity work' integral to all learning to the subcultural styles assumed by different factions of post-war 'working'- and 'middle-class' youth as they informally 'apprenticed' themselves to various shifting combinations of codes of what Cohen called 'apprenticeship, vocation, career or inheritance'. Despite - or because of - the current dominance of 'the career code' of learner-identity formation, the fact that there are still groups of socially excluded youth who try to deal with their lack of real participation in learning and society by adopting magical solutions associated with subcultural styles, makes Cohen's current search for a general theory of learning regeneration all the more pressing. For increasingly in today's labour market, only a core of securely and regularly employed managers identify the tasks to be completed to fulfil the latest contract and then in turn contract temporary employees with the competencies to carry it out. Such a new division of labour is not restricted to the private sector. As stated, it has been described, for instance, by Ainley and Bailey (1997) emerging in (semi-privatised but still nominally public sector) FE colleges. Here a contracting (in the added sense also of dwindling) core of senior managers contracts out to an increasingly flexible and often part-time periphery of lecturers and other staff. This core/ periphery division was first identified in manufacturing industry by an influential analysis of trends by the Institute for Manpower Studies (Atkinson, 1984). This foresaw technical change having the effect of upskilling a multi-skilled and regularly employed but contracting (/dwindling) 'core' workforce in companies with a growing deskilled, irregularly employed, subcontracting 'periphery' (Castells' individualised, 'disposable work force' in 'The Network Society', 1996). Many of these peripheral, contract workers juggle several part-time jobs simultaneously. If they are self-employed, this tends towards forms of self-employment which, it has often been said, are based on self-exploitation.
The resulting differentiation in institutionalised learning has been outlined by Edwards: 'For the core workers, education and training will need to be available to cope with the changing demands of the market, to be able to provide relevant opportunities, as and when they are required. For the rest of the work-force, it will be there to support the movement of people in and out of employment, or to keep them occupied by providing a "revolving door"' (Edwards, 1993, 184). An indication of the changing demands of the market to which Edwards refers is the constant reconstruction of apparently simple tasks into ones involving also technical and social skills. Ainley and Corbett (1994) take shelf-filling in supermarkets as an example: the requirements for this task have changed remarkably in recent years. In the mid-1970s shelf-filling in some supermarkets was being done by special school leavers with moderate learning difficulties. By 1986, though, the National Council for Vocational Qualifications was calling shelf-filling 'stock replenishment' and setting it at NVQ Level 1. Competence in stock replenishment was then a component part of the NVQs demanded of Youth Trainees in the retail sector. It has now been placed at NVQ Level 2 as 'stock control' and has become significantly more complicated through the inclusion of ICT. Such a process has meant that recent graduates may be employed as 'trainee managers' to do this task among a range of others.
This is a familiar pattern, as recounted by Finn: 'As industry reduces its workforce, there is less spare labour power to provide either on the job training or continuous supervision. Firms find it cheaper and more "rational" to recount workers who do not need such training and supervision, who are already relatively self-disciplined and reliable. Casual labour is transformed into "semi-skilled work"' (1987, 82). This is not merely a redesignation of the same activity (shelf-filling) as something else (stock control). Stock control does include some new activities that shelf-filling did not. For a start, it is, as indicated, 'control'. Instead of being told by a foreman what to do, shop-workers themselves monitor the new ICT which keeps tabs on how many of which goods are being bought from the shelves by customers so they know without being told by a supervisor which goods to restock on the shelves when. With the addition of other tasks, such as dealing with customers and supervising casual staff, the job has become 'multi-skilled' as routine unskilled sub-tasks (and previous employees' jobs) have been integrated into it. The 'multi-skilled'/ 'multi-tasked' work role is thus indeed more demanding and more intensive.
It is not necessarily more demanding of higher level knowledge and skill, however. Rather, the vocational education logic is one of the modular collection of competences - a horizontal rather than a vertical progression (going further rather than going higher, which my colleague at the University of Greenwich, Judith Watson, argues is the logic of FE as opposed to HE - personal communication). There is no necessary integration of the separate tasks into a new whole that would constitute a higher skilled performance. Nor is there a new level of knowledge open to accommodate the various bits of information needed to carry out the various sub-tasks or competences of the new role. This includes also the task of self-management, which remains restricted to a self-reflexivity that does not involve any determination of the purposes of the work role. These decisions are left to the contracting core management, responding in turn to the demands of a competitive market. So, despite the erosion of the manual:mental divide that marked the Tayloristic separation of managers from those they managed under the former 'Fordist' model of work organisation, the division between managers and managed is reconstituted under the new paradigm. There are, in other words, still only two levels of learning between managers and managed. Only the former are educated to comprehend and control the process as a whole, while the latter are restricted to the lower level of vocational information necessary to carry out their assigned, aggregated tasks competently.
Thus, two levels of learning correspond to two persisting levels of knowledge and labour in the employment hierarchy between managers and managed. This persistence has been obscured by the growth of higher education. Ostensibly, HE follows a different and vertical logic of progression from one level to the other (as above), rather than the horizontal level of accretion of equivalent competences through further vocational training. (Though, as Ruth Silver CBE, the Principal of Lewisham College, indicates with the perhaps unfortunate term 'thick HE', there is no necessary barrier to broadening further at the same time as rising higher. Indeed, it is for the lack of such lower level competences that higher education graduates are often castigated by employers.) But just because degrees have become necessary for entry to a range of occupations that have closed themselves off from non-graduate applicants, this does not mean that the actual information and competence required for these occupations have been raised to a higher level of knowledge and skill.
As work reorganisation and the latest applications of ICT reach up the employment hierarchy to 'delayer' middle management and deskill former craft workers, they reduce holistic knowledge and equivalent tacit skills to the levels of limited information necessary for the performance of routine competences. The current demystification of graduate level professionalism, for instance, increasingly holds teachers, doctors and other professional public servants accountable through more explicit contracts with the consumers of their previously self-regulated services. While this redresses the balance of knowledge and power between professionals and their clients, it is a proletarianisation of the professions that runs concurrent with the devaluation through expansion of the major part of a more differentiated higher education system.
At the same time, the latest applications of new ICTs have prompted new demands less for the craft specific vocational skills acquired within particular companies and other organisations and more for the generalised competences and bits of information required within most multi-tasked employments. With services and new ICTs replacing mechanical industry, the 'core' skills demanded of all employments, and therefore first presented as part of all general vocational qualifications from 1993, were listed as working with others, presentation, problem-solving and managing one's own learning, as well as numeracy, literacy and computeracy (as reformulated by Sir Ron Dearing's second review in 1996, which renamed them 'key skills'). These skills are 'key' to 'employability' because they can supposedly be 'transferred' from one work context to another.
However, as stated, these so-called 'personal, transferable skills for employability' are neither personal, transferable nor skills. Nor, of course, does their acquisition necessarily lead to employment! They are actually generic or universal competences required in a variety of work situations rendered increasingly identical by the similar use of information technology and by similar forms of work reorganisation. Presented as 'personal and transferable' for individually empowered assessment and accreditation, a 'skills' emphasis in the curriculum of whatever sector of education and training offers a new illusory quantification of competences to match the marking of memorised and often unrelated 'facts' tested, along with appropriate literary style, by conventional academic (literary) examination.
To present competences dignified as skills as technical abilities that can be acquired piecemeal by practice and study divorces them from their real cultural context. At its worst, 'Neglect of objective learning has tended to reduce educational process to the level of assertion training' (Robbins, 1988, 166). Moreover, so-called 'personal and transferable skills' are represented as equally accessible to all students whatever their class cultural background, gender, ability or race. Yet at rock bottom the real skills for employment (not 'employability'!) presented as personal and transferable are those of whiteness, maleness and traditional middle-classness. These are the really generic 'social skills' that are the most acceptable to most employers. Traditionally middle-class students, of course, already possess these attributes as a result of their previous education and family socialisation, as Bourdieu and Passeron showed in their classic 1964 study of students.
From Youth Training Schemes to post-graduate programmes, a skills emphasis at whatever level of the curriculum is therefore essentially ambiguous. It represents upskilling, reskilling and multiskilling for a few, combined with deskilling to semiskilled working for many more. Government rhetoric about educational standards masks the complexity of this issue of flexibility at different levels. On the one hand, underqualified school leavers are placated by participation in temporary training schemes that prepare them for their place in a pool of semiskilled flexible labour to be drawn on as required (Edwards' 'revolving doors'), or encouraged to become self-employed within a youth enterprise model. On the other, in the remaining jobs that such school leavers and others would previously have taken, demarcations between formerly discrete tasks are broken down and reaggregated as multiskilled occupations involving customer relations and use of new technology as well as still necessary routine competences. Redesignated as also requiring so-called 'personal and transferable skills', they can be filled by graduate level employees, also displaced from their previous prospective employment elsewhere.
So-called 'personal and transferable', 'core' or 'key' 'skills' relate to employer demands for a multiskilled workforce, not only now on the semiskilled periphery of intermittent employment but increasingly in the formerly secure, core sectors. Here middle management is being undermined by the insecurity that underlies 'the economic miracle' in the US and UK of combining high productivity growth with low wage inflation. Middle managers are also squeezed by the latest applications of new technology that render previously specialised expertise increasingly transparent and accessible to all. For at this level of employment, for which higher education generally prepares its students, the same demands are being made nowadays as on the workforce lower down - less for the specific vocational competences required for specialised tasks within particular companies and other organisations and more for 'personal and transferable' 'core' or 'key skills'. Unlike general level ('higher cognitive') knowledge and the real skills represented by that knowledge in action, the new generic competences, and the bits of information that are their counterpart at this more limited level of learning, are closed at a lower level of understanding than general level knowledge/skill. Their performance does not lead on, as does generalised knowledge/skill, to questioning and justifying the purpose of the activity for which they are employed.
Hopefully this aside has enabled its readers to question the presuppositions upon which the present orthodoxy of 'personal and transferable key skills' at all levels of learning are based and to reach towards an alternative paradigm of learning in which such 'key skills' are recognised as the generalised competences demanded of most - increasingly peripheralised - employees in a 'flexible' labour market responsive to the latest demands of re-globalised capitalism.
Student teachers' perceptions of 'teaching skills'
An opportunity talk to trainee teachers about the teaching skills they thought they acquired as part of their course of study was presented by an evaluation of the effect of full-time, part-time and distance modes of study upon the delivery of a newly integrated Post-Graduate Certificate in Education/ Certificate in Education in the School of Post-Compulsory Education and Training (PCET) at the University of Greenwich. The integration of the previously separate one-year full-time, two-year part-time and distance modes of study in 1998 afforded a unique opportunity to evaluate the influence of mode of study upon course experience. This was possible for the first time in the academic year 1999-2000 as part-time and distance students then first completed the new programme. A sample of students on all three modes were therefore interviewed during March - April 2000.
45 telephone interviews were undertaken with 15 full-time, 15 part-time and 15 distance (PG)CE students. (This sample was not equally distributed, part-timers being over- and distance students under-represented in it, since there are more distance and fewer part-time than full-time students). The sample was also somewhat 'opportunistic' as students were sent a letter inviting them to respond, though not more than two or three did so and nor were the interviews with these 'volunteers' significantly different to those with other interviewees. In the main therefore who was interviewed depended upon who was contactable by telephone in the evenings when interviews were carried out. However, the distance and part-time interviewees were picked for these telephone interviews more or less randomly while the 15 full-timers similarly interviewed were at least to some extent representative of the whole cohort by age, gender and ethnicity (or, at least not wildly unrepresentative - ie. not all younger or all older etc.).
The same interview schedule (appendicised) was followed with all interviewees and one advantage of one person undertaking all the interviews is that the transcriptions, amounting to 124,000 words in all, are consistent. This rich data source of 45 separate word perfect files has been tidied up and anonymised to be accessed via the On-Line Campus by all PCET staff in an exercise that can contribute to further generalising a research culture in the School. They will also be sent to the Qualidata archive at the University of Essex. There was remarkable consistency in the teaching skills that students on all three modes thought they had acquired from their participation on the course. The answers interviewees gave to the question 'Do you feel you have acquired or are developing any specific teaching skills or expertise as a result of the course?' were also indicative not only of the content of the course as they apprehended it but relate to the vexed question of defining 'teaching' - as the essential capacity that the course aims to develop in its students. This was the subject specialism of the programme itself, delivered by whichever mode. This aim is stated for the 'PCET Initial Teacher Training Programme' Definitive Document, as revised July 1999, leading to the programme learning outcomes of being able to 'teach competently', 'reflect critically', 'engage constructively' and 'take responsibility for their own professional development.. to create their own learning opportunities' (p.11). It is against these stated outcomes that the students' estimations of what they were learning on the programme should be judged.
Distance students: Only one distance student interviewed considered he had acquired no teaching skills due to the course. Another thought her teaching skills had developed 'maybe not as a result of the course' but that 'in some ways I've found I knew more than I thought I did'; while for another interviewee, 'it depends on whether you regard teaching as a technique or not but I think on the whole I have developed and got better over time during the two year period.' Otherwise, all distance students interviewed considered they had definitely acquired teaching skills or expertise because of the course, specifically an appreciation of 'the actual diversity of the students', mentioned by several distance students as 'learning styles' or 'the ways students learn'. This appreciation derived from 'the psychology of teaching' elements of the course but also from understanding 'the sociology of the students'.
Techniques which distance students considered they had acquired included: 'being able to write lesson plans', 'classroom skills', 'a wider repertoire', 'a more professional approach' (see below), 'different options of ways of working in terms of awareness of group dynamics and how to.. create a.. functioning group', 'organising yourself.. how to put together a scheme of work, how to put together a lesson plan.. how to link in all your materials', 'organisational skills.. because you don't want to be sort of fluffing about in front of your students.' 'It's certainly improved my assessments and my marking of assessments..' Also, 'research skills' and 'the evaluation side of things'.
The word 'reflective' was mentioned by a number of distance interviewees, for example: 'I think that now I'm more reflective about my teaching. I think those are good things when it makes you take a step back and think, "Right, OK, is this the best way to do it?"' Or, as another interview stated, 'It has given me an overall framework from which to reflect I think.' Or another: 'it made me look at what I was doing and checking myself more'.
What distance interviewees particularly valued was, as one said, 'actually having someone like my tutor come down and look at you against criteria.. is actually quite helpful because otherwise no one tells you.' This was particularly the case for students teaching or training outwith sixth-form, FE, HE or Adult Education, as many were, for example in the private sector or in the police, military, fire brigade or health services. As a trainer with the London Fire Brigade stated: 'I've had a lot of confirmation that things that I was doing were OK.' This was especially important in 'a disciplined service', as another trainer described the LFB, 'where you do this and you do that'. By contrast, what they had learnt on the course - 'It's more geared around the students' needs than hitting them with a big stick, if I can put it that way.' While, 'In the RAF it's a disciplined body: "Sit down! Shut up! This is what is going to happen! By the time you leave this classroom you will!" Well, that's not an ideal teaching environment.' The appreciation of and attention to individual learners' needs was a central message communicated to distance students by their participation in the programme. Consequently, 'it has most certainly changed the way I go about things. It's made me not just simply accept what I've got to teach at what level I've got to teach it. It's made me evaluate what I'm teaching, evaluate the students' need, appreciate the students' needs' (RAF). And 'It certainly changed the way I've been dealing with students who are struggling for one reason or another. I got a better insight into how to help them' (LFB).
Because of what they considered they had gained from the course, nearly all distance interviewees, all of whom taught or trained at least-part time - most full-, as some had done for several years, stated that they had changed their practice in important ways. Or at least, 'Evolved perhaps rather than changed.' Examples included: 'I am a lot more organised now and I like to be seen to be organised. I'm much more aware of [students'] individual needs.' 'Had I not done the course.. I'm sure I would have floundered a bit more [in a new job].' 'It's been noticed by the examiners how good and confident the students are.' '..how to plan a session properly, how to include assessment, all sorts of things, not making sentences too long, specific learning outcomes, making them short and clear and, instead of having a sort of fuzzy statement of what's the training about, you're actually very clear..'
This self-estimated improvement was regarded by a number of these distance interviewees as making the teaching or training they were engaged in more 'professional': 'I formalised a lot more.. made it a much more professional delivery rather than trying to find my own process..' (Teacher in a sixth-form college). 'I feel more professional. I feel more confident that I know what I'm doing.. I just feel that it's just improved everything' (part-time FE). This improvement was often linked to heightened self-confidence.
One interviewee specifically mentioned 'the equality in PCET unit', which he said, 'made me look at the word equality totally differently and now I find - not just in the teaching environment but everywhere - I'm conscious of my speech and rather than saying "he" all the time and saying things like "manpower", you know, I'll say "staff", "personnel", things like that.'
Part-time students, like distance ones, were also employed teaching or training full- or part-time, again as several of them had been for some years and sometimes with CGLI or other teaching qualifications. Nevertheless, many but not all of those interviewed also considered participation in the programme had changed what they were doing. One of those who had not changed said that this was because for her taking the course was a formal requirement only - 'I'm just doing it, I can say, to get promotion because of the new government policy you have to have formal qualifications to get promotion or even to teach.'
In another case by contrast, an interviewee said the course had been 'a big eye-opener': 'There's such a lot to think about from really basic things like arranging the room on day one to hand-outs.. schemes of work, records of work, language in the classroom, things to say, things what not to say, managing disruptive students, all those type of things.. Two years ago I was awful really.'
As with distance students, 'planning' was also mentioned by part-time students as a technique acquired or developed through the course. 'I'ld say preparation skills rather than teaching skills. [As a result] my teaching has got more structured.' 'lesson plans.. I'm able to do that automatically and.. so my teaching materials have changed and also my.. teaching strategies towards.. learners.. [with] different abilities [and at] different levels.'
This latter was again also a consistent theme for these interviewees, for example: 'I think the thing that was most useful was discovering a little bit more about how people actually learn and using a wider variety of teaching methods to cater for that.' Or, 'It.. re-informed me about how one should be more of a counsellor with students and take on board their problems.' 'I've learnt one should be more considerate, although I've always been considerate of students, but I've learnt what to do about it.' As a result, others added, 'I don't lecture so much', 'Not just simply stand up in front of a group of people and impart some knowledge', '[changed] the pace [of delivery]',
Although the word 'reflective' was not mentioned so often by part-time interviewees, 'evaluating yourself and how you function and how you plan and carry out your lessons..' conveyed the same notion and was similarly linked by another part-timer to 'being more professional in the way I teach'. This again was connected by a third to an increase in confidence, 'to develop and really reflect back on my practice, evaluating it all really'.
Perhaps because of the colleges in which many of these part-time interviewees worked, 'disruptive student management' was repeatedly referred to as a specific skill acquired from taking the option on the course dealing with this. Even if, 'We don't have disruptive students in the police.. we have awkward almost bombastic students.' Dealing with disruption was also something which could be handled professionally: 'I always like to think that I'm professional in what I do but sometimes there might be something that you're not too sure how to handle it.' Greater certainty and confidence extended from the students they were teaching to, as another mentioned, 'how you relate to your colleagues around you, management and what have you'. Not that course prescriptions were guaranteed: one student said she had 'tried some of the suggestions that have come up in class to reduce disruption with varying degrees of success.'
As to informational content, one interviewee explained, 'my knowledge of the education system is a lot better.. things which I used to complain about in the college I can now understand it more. [And] I pass this on to my students. [So that] Whereas before I was a hairdresser that could teach people to do hairdressing, I think now I can actually teach people to educate themselves.' Understanding how the (English) education system worked was particularly valued by an Australian interviewee. Knowing 'the jargon' that was used, especially in FE, was also registered as a useful acquisition by another interviewee.
As well as information and 'analysing things a bit more', the theoretical aspects of the course could have the effect of 'opening my eyes to the fact that, although you don't always realise it, you are actually putting theory into practice'. This too was similar to the distance-learning experience in several cases. One part-time student also mentioned the validation of her practice by an outsider from HE seen as an expert which several distance students had appreciated. Full-time interviewees who had not taught before unsurprisingly considered they acquired most teaching skills from their college placements less than by reflection upon and development of abilities they already practised. Micro-teaching exercises and observations were also mentioned as opportunities to acquire these skills or techniques. Typically, 'just actually getting down into the colleges and actually doing a placement, I think that's where I picked up the most.' However, 'Reading so many different kinds of literature from different aspects in teaching' was also mentioned by another student as a source of new ideas leading to changed practice. Another thought the cumulative effect of the course as a whole 'it's all sort of added up.. it's given us in a really short space of time a really good grounding on how to teach.'
Many full-time students had taught or trained previously in industry, abroad, or in English language schools at home or abroad. These students had a basis on which to compare whether their approach had changed as a result of participation in the programme but were not always sure that it had: 'I think it's just rejigged, retwigged, maybe the teaching in certain areas'; 'it's made me aware of them [teaching skills] and probably without knowing I am using some.' Similarly, 'I've mostly used the skills that I learnt from TEFL than the skills I learnt from the course itself.. technique I suppose has been "honed", shall we say?'
In other cases, placement as a lecturer in FE marked a cultural shift: 'In Ghana what we used to do was just the lecturing aspect.. it was just bring out the facts and give it to them.' While compared to 'lecturing in [art] galleries.. I think I'm [now] able to gauge my level of teaching to people and their needs..' Or, in 'the training environment.. the way you actually present the lessons.. the way you have a back-up on lessons.. different approaches.. That's the secret of teaching, to have a wide repertoire.'
Again, 'professionalism' was mentioned by some full-time interviewees as an aspect of their new practice: 'professional teaching is quite, quite different. I'm far more professional than what I did.' And, 'the kind of areas of adult ed. that I worked in were, in my view, pretty ad hoc. I feel I've become more professional in my own approach to teaching.' The same theme of 'reflectivity' was mentioned in connection with notions of professionalism by full-time as by distance and part-time students but more in terms of relating formally taught theory to teaching practice rather than 'Reflective Practice' in the sense of Reflection-in-Action (Schon 1987). As one full-timer said, 'bringing the theoretical aspect into the classroom.. once in a while I just reflect in myself in the mirror and say, "Oh, this is how the theory says you should go about things."'
Specific teaching techniques mentioned by full-time students included: 'more group discussion strategies..' and awareness of 'group dynamics' in another case. 'How to prepare lesson plans, evaluation of my teaching, how to prepare a scheme of work, how to deliver lessons using different strategies'. 'Lesson planning and creating materials.' 'How to develop educational materials.. it's been like an eye-opener.'/ 'quite a significant change I think.' 'How to work independently!' was an unintended outcome of college placement for one interviewee.
Levels of learning on all modes
The questions in the interview schedule relating to information (facts and figures) acquired on the course leading to an awareness of issues interviewees had not previously thought about and new ideas (concepts) with which to handle that information/ think about those issues sought to distinguish between the different levels of their learning commonly referred to as 'deep' and 'surface'. Following Bateson, 'Deep learning' was presumed to change students' thinking but the question 'in what way(s) do you think you now think differently as a result of the course?' proved a hard one for many to answer. (As with HE students interviewed by Ainley 1994, one difficulty was in distinguishing such changes as would have occurred to students as a result of other events and those attributable to their course of study.)
Across all modes of study it did not appear that these indicators of level of learning were related to interviewees' previous educational qualification level, although their ability to express them in the essay form required for assessment was. Declared changes by students in their teaching practice could be taken as indicative of 'deep learning', though to what extent and for how long these declared new practices would be sustained is another question for further investigation (as proposed by Clow, forthcoming).
Items of information together with theoretical perspectives were particularly derived for all interviewees from the two core courses 'Perspectives on Learning' and 'Policies and Values in PCET'. Partly because of the time in their progression through the course at which full-time students were interviewed, but also in the opinion of part-time and distance students, these two units, dealing with what Tomlinson and Kilner (o.c.) referred to as 'the internal and external influences on action', were seen by all interviewees as core in the sense of the heart of the information and knowledge (ie. subject) content of the programme. The other core courses on 'Planning and Delivering Teaching', 'Assessment of Learning' and 'The Professional Practice of Teaching', while they also conveyed information and knowledge, were seen as underpinning the practical skills or techniques of teaching.
This paper has sought to distinguish within the related activities of teaching and training between levels of what it has called teaching as opposed to telling. The former activity, it has suggested, is open to a negotiation of meaning between teacher and learner; whereas in the latter activity communication is a one-way transmission in which the intended meanings of the instruction are (if it is successful) accepted by the learner without negotiation. By examining the responses of students to questions on the teaching skills or expertise they considered they had acquired on the unified courses of teacher education delivered in different modes for qualification to teach in further education, it was also suggested that the activities of teaching and telling were commonly confused by students (and possibly by their teachers). They were also confused with the techniques of both teaching and telling. Further research is intended to find out to what extent this conceptual confusion is common to other courses of (school) teacher education. The opinions of participants to this presentation is also sought on this question as is their opinion of the validity and usefulness of the distinction between teaching and telling and the techniques of teaching and telling.
In an aside on 'skill', corresponding distinctions were suggested as between knowledge and skill at a level of learning open to determination by the learner as against the corresponding terms information and competence at a level of level of learning closed to the learner and externally pre-defined as outcomes or competences. While acknowledging that the discrimination of 'levels of learning' is an arbitrary judgement, it was implied that what Bourdieu would call such 'a socially arbitrary' distinction could be made between the two suggested levels of learning and the basic division of labour in employment between managers and managed, or those who tell others what to do and those who are told what to do. Even though this distinction is obscured by the introduction of self-management for (multiskilled) employees exercising autonomy within restricted discretionary areas, it was implied that it might also be applied to teachers working increasingly to the externally defined performance targets of performance management.
For teaching as an activity can, together with learning, be inscribed within the parameters of activity theory to become a part of what the paper referred to as a 'new paradigm of learning'. Claxton's 'new hybrid discipline' of cognitive anthropology, or Bourdieu's 'new sociology of learning' would place, as Ranson suggested (1993, 177), 'a theoretically informed education discipline at the centre of the social sciences'. In principle the elements of such a theory are present though not yet all in one theoretical place. Cultural studies, for instance, spends a lot of time demonstrating that the social designations of identity are becoming much more fluid, fractured and contested; yet very little of this work is applied to the task of following up what such a theory of identity formation might imply about the way learners actually learn. (See Ainley and Cohen 2000.) By contrast, until recently, educational researchers with an empiricist cast of mind only looked at what goes on in classrooms, in the process of academic dis/qualification, in curriculum development and formal pedagogies. They did not look at how and what and where learners actually learn, in families, through friendships, or in peer groups as well as in interactions with teachers. Nor did they look at the local situated knowledge acquired and transmitted in these settings, or at the kinds of identity work this entails. Above all, they were looking at the problem of educability (and, it could be added, of so-called 'employability') from the vantage point of cultural capital rather than cultural labour. Once we change our standpoint, a new set of questions open up as a focus of empirical enquiry.
A theory of learning as cultural practice suggests that whatever the difference in content, or modality, at a formal level, in terms of how people learn to learn, there are some common denominators. These are, firstly, that any kind of learning involves investment in personal meanings which in turn shape the sense of self. What is learnt is not just a skill but an identity, or rather a form of identity work. 'If you can't manage the identity work entailed, you won't manage to succeed in doing the activity.' As Phil Cohen puts it, if you cannot see yourself as a budding chemist or rock musician then you are not going to get your head and your hands round a Bunsen burner or a guitar. But secondly, until you take the first step into an actual community of practice where that potential identity is plausibly available - and for vocational learning this is ultimately dependent upon the labour market - you are not going to do more than play at Walter Mitty fantasy games. Thirdly, unless you can tolerate the initial beginner's position, with its association of peripheral participation, then, especially if you come from a group already marginalised in the wider society, you will be likely to drop out into a subculture of defiant outsiderdom. Fourthly, unless you can move on from an initial position of mimetic mastery over surface procedures, performing disconnected competences and acquiring unrelated bits of information, to a position of creative engagement with the underlying grammars, then you will never properly learn the tricks of your particular trade to acquire the knowledge that orders information within that field and the whole skills that integrate competence in it. Finally, unless there are institutional structures ('affordances to learning') and teachers to support progression from informal to formal cultures of learning, then many learners are never going to take any of these steps.
Some learners are clearly better at handling this kind of progression than others, and some have both more options and more conflicts to work through in reconciling the different identities they take up en route. We need to pinpoint those structures or processes which either afford or disafford transition from imagined to real communities of practice; and we need more context sensitive studies of the cultures of destructive conformity and rebellion that they may become involved in en route. Once we have this kind of local situated knowledge we may be in a better position to develop teaching strategies of educational intervention and support that make sense to learners because they address their own narratives of aspirations, and provide a meaningful supplement to the stories they tell themselves about the ways their lives should go. How some learners learn to culturally labour more productively than others, why some are more able than others to turn their cultural labour into realisable forms of cultural capital, how this relates to 'social capital' formation and peer networks thus becomes the heart of the new education research agenda.
Teachers at all levels will need to play a key role in defining and implementing this research agenda, especially by working it into the curriculum. Public workshops at which research findings are presented and evaluated by the so-called 'research subjects' should therefore become a standard feature of good research practice. They can be supplemented by more accessible forms of dissemination involving the making of video programmes, interactive multimedia exhibitions and on-line archives. The new universities, with their strong local state school, FE and community links are well placed to become the leading edge of this new kind of open access research culture. They are also better able to create a research culture in which teaching and research are complimentary and not antithetical, as they are for traditional academicism. Because of their dedication to teaching, their teachers 'can identify good teaching', as Phil Cohen (1998) says, 'in a way that brings it very close to the activity of research'. For, 'what teaching has in common with research is above all a meaning creating, meaning negotiating activity.'
With acknowledgements and thanks to Dr. Mary Stiasny, Head of the School of Education at the University of Greenwich
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INTERVIEW SCHEDULE FOR STUDENT SAMPLE:
Part 1. Personal details/ background
Check name [removed] Man/Woman [=M/W in case identifier]
Mode of study: full-time, part-time, distance [=F, P or D in case identifier]
Would you describe yourself as a member of an ethnic or national minority? (Re. Census categories: White, Black Caribbean, Black African, Black Other, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Chinese, Asian Other, Other, Information Refused.) [=W/B/A/O (White, Black, Asian, Other) in case identifier]
Highest previous education qualification: if higher degree/ degree - subject and where obtained:
Do you have child-care or any other (dependent) responsibilities?
Do you consider yourself disabled in any way?
Brief employment history (list with approximate dates):
Do you have any paid employment whilst studying on this course? How many hours a week are you so employed? In what ways have your work or other commitments affected your studies negatively or positively?
Do you have use of a word processor and internet access? If so, have you accessed Greenwich University's On-Line Campus?
Part 2. Experience of the course
Why did you come on this course? And did you apply for any others?
How are you paying for it (student, bank or other loan, employer paying or self-financing)?
Have your expectations of the course been met so far? (Ie. If you were/ are paying for it has it been worth it?)
Were these good choices in retrospect?
Would you say it has been a rewarding experience so far?
Has it made you feel a part of the University of Greenwich and is this important to you?
What were the more/ less rewarding aspects of the course so far?
What technical skills have you acquired as a result of the course?
Do you feel you have acquired or are developing any specific teaching skills or expertise as a result of the course?
If you are already teaching/ training or have previously taught/ trained, in what way(s) has it/ will it change/d what you do?
What other skills have you acquired?
Through your participation in the programme so far, would you say you have acquired a lot of information you didn't previously have? Specify.
And has it made you aware of issues you had not previously thought about? Specify.
Has it given you new ideas (concepts) with which to handle that information/ think about those issues? Has the course changed the way you think about teaching (or anything else)? Ie. in what way(s) do you think you now think differently as result of the course?
In what respects has the course increased your confidence as a teacher/ potential teacher, if it has?
Have you found the course demanding or not - too much/too little/about right? (specify)
Did you find the written assignments easy or difficult to complete/ pass?
Ditto teaching practice assessments?
Have you found it easy or difficult to voice your opinions/ concerns/ dissatisfactions with any aspect of the course to - your tutor, lecturers, unit or pathway leaders, the School, the University?
..student satisfaction surveys, course evaluation forms, other?
Part 3. Future
What do you plan to do once you have acquired the qualification?
Are you confident of achieving this goal?
Do you plan any further training/ study?
Do you consider yourself a professional teacher/ trainer or that completion of this course will qualify you professionally?
Would you call yourself working class, middle class or any other class, or don't you think of yourself like that?
Have you joined or are you a member of NATFHE or any other trades union?
Would you like to say anything else about anything I haven't asked you about?
This document was added to the Education-line database on 01 September 2003