It’s all about teaching...

01 February 2015 by ATL
One of the most interesting parts of the 'Qualified Workforce' seminar (and there were plenty!) was around what qualifications should look like in the FE sector - although I prefer the term VET (vocational education and training) because whatever else FE does, its unique provision is VET.

Considering that FE is about VET, Martin suggested expertise ought to come in many forms, but recently there has been too much talk about ‘teaching’.

This struck me as really interesting - had views about the crisis in professionalism been so wrong that we had missed some fundamental premise? As Martin said, the CAVTL report had declared ‘It’s about work…’ and, in practice, what did a vocational expert need to know about teaching in order to reveal their expertise to…?

And this is where I want to respond.

First, I agree with the CAVTL injunction, or rather I want to qualify it. ‘It’s about work…’ that is a nice headline concept, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. VET can be ‘about’ work in its purpose or aim, but not actually be about ‘doing’ work.

It can be about work in its curriculum design.

It can be about work in developing employment opportunities.

It can be about work in delivering training in the workplace; it can be ‘about’ work in assessing in the workplace.

It’s not simply ‘about’ work is it? It’s more complex.

In fact, in the educational sphere of expertise, influence and focus, we should not sell ourselves short. We should see where we need others to develop qualifications, but not concede their design. We should not concede pedagogy either. We should not concede ‘lifelong learning’ or, even, ‘training’.

In short, it is the world of work that has become more about learning than the reverse. Colleges cannot become workplaces (colleges simulate this as if this is VET) without losing their fundamental educational purpose. The purpose of any learning is pedagogic (or andragogic if we accept the gendered term) - the curriculum design is pedagogic, the sequencing of lessons/training is pedagogic, and the assessment is pedagogic.

I wholeheartedly agree that we need to understand how learning takes place in the workplace . But while we need to import concepts from work based learning into educational terms in order to develop a ‘vocational pedagogy’, we cannot simply assume that what is done in work is the map we follow. That way is the way of a restricted vocationalism in which the state of the art is left to our current workplace practices and the condition of our labour market.

The educational sphere has much more to offer than that. Let’s not do ourselves an injustice because we omitted such a focus in teacher training and because we haven’t presented a better case to government.

By Norman Crowther, ATL National Official (Post-16).

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