Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Improving Work Based Learning

I came across the book 'The Best Vocational Trainer's Guide' by Hilary Read and Ann Gravells before Christmas which couldn't have come at a better time!  I was feeling that our internal and external Level 3 and 4 Digital Learning Design apprenticeship programmes needed to be improved dramatically in the way learning is delivered and assessed.  I've talked about some improvements previously, but little had been done to change these.  I was drawn to this book as it appeared to answer some frustrations I had been asking my self over and over.  I have the complex role of being a line manager, trainer and assessor, so I am both employer and provider.  Below are some findings from the book I have picked out at this current time and adapted to my context to get started on improving some problematic and frustrating areas I am experiencing.

Re-design of learning

On the job - learners learn in their job role and can directly achieve qualification criteria.  This is what needs to be increased as some elements are run as a traditional course.

Off the job - where the trainer trains aspects to learners to learn outside of their job and then apply it.  Work Based Learning should be about naturally occurring evidence so qualification units should be assessed holistically to reflect the diversity of the job.  I could make some activities online through a VLE (Virtual Learning Environment), delegate research tasks in the organisation or get the learner to include in their professional development plan.

Near the job - the trainer trains aspects to learners through a one to one situation alongside their job.  This could be improved by the Level 4's mentoring the Level 3's through better coaching and progress updates in their meetings.

Reflecting back, these three aspects are highly important at the beginning of an apprenticeship so that I can identify what a learner can do on the job and off the job and more importantly extend their learning, not just achieve criteria but learn and develop new skills in their industry.

In one to ones I need to write better and more SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time bound) objectives but more emphasis on knowledge first then agreeing on performance based ones after knowledge has been achieved; knowledge > understanding > skills.  I need to be more precise with coaching our Level 4's too.  I meet with them every two weeks for updates but writing better SMART objectives and giving actions in meetings and recording via minutes should make this a better process.  For example, our Level 4's need to mentor the Level 3’s more effectively by giving advice, guidance, support and helping tem reflect on their tasks.  I could plan coaching sessions in advance and using challenging objectives at each stage using Bloom's taxonomy; what they can do (in terms of their job role), provide feedback on progress and performance to make SMART objectives.  They also need to reflect on their own performance in terms of the job role and how well they are carrying it out.  The GROW model is particularly useful for this activity which I can take into meetings with me as a guide.

Re-planning of assessing

Currently I feel we are assessing too rigidly with what looks like a course on the side where learners create more evidence rather than naturally occurring from their duties, then submitting via their ePortfolio.  Through group and one to one meetings I am now going to issue structured projects and research assignments by clearly stating what should be known first then building up to what they should be able to do.  Through better SMART objectives I can enable learners to acquire knowledge, understanding and skills but with adequate space to practise over time.  This will then give room for learners to gain the expertise and competence they need to fulfil their duties effectively.  Externally, I can work with the employer (line manager) to devise workplace projects where needed and I can draw criteria towards them and construct SMART objectives for them to achieve.

The major thing I have realised internally is that the curriculum is the job description not the qualification.  The job is what needs to be learned and done effectively – the business/organisation objectives.  So I plan to review our internal Level 3 and 4 job descriptions, then arranging a workshop with them and myself present to identify in a colour coded scheme of what units and criteria are covered in their job role as they know their job best, then I can add appropriate assessment methods to check competence of them.  This then maps their assessment holistically then I can carry out one to ones in accordance to their job knowledge and skills and using SMART objectives to increase their performance and development.  Any criteria that are not identified during this exercise will be declared as off the job learning.  This exercise is equally effective with our external apprentices in which I intend conduct with them.

I'll be referring back to this book in the near future to read further on improving my planning and practice for our apprenticeship programmes, but for now this is a great start!  I'll continue to update on my progress in implementing these changes.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Everything in moderation

While you may have been busy making new years resolutions, I was reflecting on my personal development.

I've asked myself this a million times, but I haven't grasped the concept as much as I have now. Can you give too much of yourself?  I've come to realise it over the last few months that you really can. I have been aware that I have been overexposing my soul and resources, all in good ways, but it can leave you feeling bewildered as a result.  I started to acknowledge this in a recent reflection.

In Summer 2015 I felt I was floating up like a hot air balloon.  Not even gravity could hold me down, I had to ground myself.  I've finally realised that I have been trying too hard with me, others and work - all with heartfelt intentions however.  My entire aim is to better myself not be better than anyone else.  You know, just to be a better human being by giving and receiving more.  But being too trying with yourself, others and work could come with a loss, a loss of self-worth and truth.

Looking back, I have pushed myself too hard to being a great person that I nearly forgot who matters.  Which is me.  There were times that I felt a bit lost within myself, perhaps because I was giving far too much of me away and I started to feel a bit fragmented from within.  To the point that I felt I was being fake to myself and everything.  Which was a massive irritation because I like to be creative, authentic and unique like all of us.  If  you give too much away you can potentially disappear.  Literally!  I should have been saving a bit for me and respecting myself far more than I was.  But you could say the issue is who and what you are giving out to that depletes you.  The more you keep giving the more you build up expectations around you.  Which can then be hard to maintain, again this being yourself, others and work.  The more it is seen from you the more expectations build to continue those behaviours, which leads onto being taken for granted.  Over the Summer I said that;  enthusiasm is not a quantity, it is a quality. A rare and powerful gift that should be respected graciously. You cannot buy or sell it.

Throughout these feelings and emotions I appeared to play a victim of myself, but didn't know how to become victorious in my endeavours.  It was like give an inch and take a mile scenario, the more I saw opportunities the more I was giving out.  Perhaps where it wasn't really needed, but I liked to do it as a way of gratitude. This also applies online as we know as social media.  I don't feel I need to share every detail of what I am doing.  That is what face-to-face catch ups with loved ones are for. Because social media is as real as reality TV.  How much of it is genuine in-the-moment memories without priding on status and presentation?

Giving is where it all is and I won't stop doing it as I am giving, but I need to practice this in better moderation.  This is important as I need to moderate myself but then it's equally as important for everything else to receive this in moderation as to not build up expectations.  I should have take my own advice; don't be too hard on yourself. Life can't always be a certain way. Living life is better and easier when you're not trying to control it.  Control and its effects is another element I had reflected upon in a previous post over the Summer.

So my learning right now is to give and live in moderation.  Continue to keep giving and receiving, but when it's appropriate and feels necessary.  Don't feel the urge to keep going out of your way, just do it when it's right; know the timing and when to act.
 
Anyway, this is all merely complaining.  Looking back is good to acknowledge but the main thing is to just draw a line and move forward.  You can't change the past but you can certainly change the future.  It's too easy to complain about why is this happening and why did that happen and how etc. I no longer seem to worry about these things. Instead I fill my mind up with the gratefulness of what I have and around me and all of the wonderful things that are happening. And the people, places and objects that give me energy and focus I return back to them.  There's just so much good!

I'm back at work tomorrow after a great long break of rest, mind-clearing and peace.  So I'm ready to go!  There's lots of great things happening with my work and I'm about to start the final piece of my masters, the dissertation!  Then I can truly focus on other areas of my life rather than my career.  I'm just about done with another module then I'm going to have a short break at a spa with Gary and then take a couple weeks off then I will be ready to take on this dissertation at the end of January.  It's a time for prosperity (I've been told) and I can feel it around me, it's exciting and feels warm; happiness and love.  And all of this is amplified with the care and admiration from my boyfriend Gary.

Have an awesome 2016 everyone! Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who's a part of my life. Sending you love, healing and peace.