Reflecting on learning and seeing the world in exciting new ways.

Courses are dead

I love that title! 😀

I have been reading and re-reading parts of Informal Learning by Jay Cross. Naturally, a heading such as Courses are dead is going to be provocative, partly because it is such a blanket statement, but also because there is an element of truth in it. Cross is referring to courses as the solution to corporate training, often simplistically seen as an easy way to upskill staff and meet learning needs in one go.

When I first started teaching by distance, I attended a full day training workshop about the technicalities of using Blackboard as a learning management system. Making the move from classroom teaching to online distance learning was a challenge I was both anxious and excited about. However, I became increasingly uneasy during the training day when learning was referred to as ‘developing a course’. I was going to be teaching Y3-4 students; they don’t take courses! It became clearer that course was the technical term used to describe whatever we were teaching. It took several years of using different terminology, namely programme of learning, to start seeing a shift in how staff thought about their teaching and, as a result, their students’ learning.

Pill bottle imageThis year, the New Zealand tertiary education sector is charged with the task of embedding literacy and numeracy strategies into all level 1-3 courses. Embedding explicitly involves not sending students off to complete an external course then come back with their learning needs ‘fixed’, leaving them ready for the ‘real’ learning they are enrolled for. True, they are invariably still participating in a course of learning, but hopefully the embedding strategy will help address students’ learning needs in a more holistic manner rather than ‘popping a learning pill’ of sorts.

I believe the same concept applies for professional learning in the workplace. Expecting staff to attend a series of courses pre-determined by management might not be the best way to address individual or personalised learning needs, nor recognise prior learning and experience. Establishing a baseline of essential knowledge and skills for all staff to demonstrate can be a helpful way to approach professional learning as long as there is enough flexibility to be able to effectively customise elements of the programme. I am in the process of developing a professional learning programme that is online and modular, with components that are interchangeable and based on an inquiry based learning approach. The framework consists of modules from six strands and is grounded in reflective practice. It’s early days yet, but it is very exciting developing a model which I believe will explore in depth and strengthen the fundamental knowledge and skills required for successfully teaching in our learning environment. Watch this space!

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