Philosophy of Learning Frameworks 7

If you’re in Education, Training or even the business of education and training, does it not strike you as odd that although the market for the provision of such services is saturated, there is STILL such a huge need in all sectors?

For me the logic seems simple enough: 1 + 1 = 2 – need the skills, get the skills, use the skills. But why then, is this formula not so evident in the market place? Why is there still such huge gaps in the useage of skills? Is it a perception? What exactly IS the reality?

The set-up of a skills ‘system’ into which and from which all skills-related activities are drawn is an admirable activity. There are positives to having some kind of universal framework that can categorise, quantify, qualify and manage all the ‘noise’ that goes on within the world of skills and training. The negative, however, is that such frameworks that are meant to represent human activities are certainly not flexible enough to take cognisance of the fact that we are human, and as such, we are fallible, i.e. our knowledge is incomplete…

So, if our knowledge is always incomplete, how are we then expected to act and react within a ‘complete’ framework? The truth is, we shouldn’t. Any framework can certainly ‘regulate’ skills but should not regulate ‘learning’. Frameworks make the mistake of categorising and processing and controlling TOO much…learning is a personal, reactive, relative experience and should be treated as such.

Assessments are huge culprits in making judgements on the wrong things: they judge and qualify learning instead of ability. There is too much emphasis on the process of achieving that ability than on the ability itself. If we ever hope to ‘balance’ the market and effectively produce skilled, accountable people then we need to ensure our ‘framework’ of thinking about learning, actually becomes a framework of Learning to Think: a framework of the constant question and not one of definitive answers.


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7 thoughts on “Philosophy of Learning Frameworks

  • Ashwell Glasson

    Dear Natasha,

    Excellent blog article. I completely agree with you on the nature of learning frameworks and assessment. The constant focus on assessment and the quality assurance perspective often detracts from meaningful learning processes. Not everything can be fully measured and due to the complexity and inherent flaws in the learning frameworks such as poorly drafted unit standards which form the basis for curriculum and assessment development, one might feel that the framework approach could be mis-directed at the expense of the learning potential and resources deployed to stimulate learning.

    One of the key issues is that the framework itself drives the process, and not learning, which unfortunately entrenched a bureacratic approach that is very heavily reliant on evidence-based approaches, which have not been clearly defined, particularly at the evaluation level. So we have system that is bureacratic and driven by outputs that vary greatly in quality due to the lack of true standardisation and consensus from all the role-players.

    Curriculum development has lagged considerably behind the framework development phase due to its compliance nature. Where previously universities and FET colleges had some discretion in the development of curriculum, now they have been very heavily quality assured. Learning frameworks clearly depend upon inputs from subject-matter experts, academic and workplace. I think one of the fundamental challenges facing skills in South Africa is this transition phase is the amount of time and effort devoted to meeting compliance and quality assurance requirements. Not that I have any issue with this in principle because we do need to embrace a broader world view of the quality of our education and training system, but it should not take up the bulk of our limited resources, particularly for small private or community-based providers.

    We seem to be stifling innovation and the capacity to gain entry to the education, training and skills landscape. For me it is the nature of the challenge of establishing a education and training system that can be accountable, provide the relevant metrics and data but also be measured on its ability to innovate and organically evolve itself which is where I believe the system is working at a very limited level. Perhaps it is a victim of historical circumstance in which the paradigm shifts required for the various subject matter experts and providers to grow beyond the requirements. Or, perhaps its the nature of the growing culture of evidence-based policy being used in an area that is not completely tangible, education and skills really complements an individuals growth, but is not the only key element to workplace success.

  • Natasha van Rooyen Post author

    Special Note: If you note that this blog post appears in the Experts Forum, it’s because I have copied it there for additional discussion and debate on an academic level. Further collaboration here is still encouraged though! Kind regards: Nats

  • Natasha van Rooyen Post author

    Dear Fred
    Thanks for the invite. I’m based in Cape Town, but will of course respond electronically to your call for further description. Keep a look-out on this blog for further Philosophical approaches to practical challenges.

  • Natasha van Rooyen Post author

    Dear Fred and Romeo
    Thank you for your great responses. My post was to facilitate a discussion on the Philosophy of Learning Frameworks, i.e. the ‘meaning’ and unanswerable questions behind systems of learning, especially in SA. Fred, it was good to share yur approaches to shed light on works well. Congratulations on achieving so much in such a short time. Romeo, I’m glad you noted ‘Learning’ and ‘Education’ sepeartely, I’m a keen believer in different approaches based on their different properties. Both your points were also eloquent in that there needs to be a constant monitoring in some form or another throughout the ‘flow’ of these frameworks.
    There is still a reality that business/people, for whatever reason (be it money, time or expertise), do not always utilise the full range of capabilities of a ‘learning framework’. Why is this? What could we do, as providers and analysts, to ensure there’s a fuller, more robust implementation of thinking about learning?

  • RomeoMabasa

    From a Business Analysis point of view, many companies look at a mere orthodox way of training and never how the training will impact their business moving forward. The question should be, did the company do their due diligence of their training requirements and drawn up a business case?

    The business case should be aligned to the organisation objectives and then to employees developmental plans. If Education/Training is only looked at from a strategic level, which most companies do, they fail to engage the people who will be using or need to apply the training, thus so many failed projects. Employees must never be used a a ‘Training dumping ground’ but as stakeholders who will be shown the benefits/Value realisation before they engage in the training. a clearly defined carrot-stick approach should be mapped back into the day-to-day running of each employee’s contribution to the business.

    I therefore think for businesses to create an information worker, they need to engage the affected employees by:

    1. Doing a proper skills Gap Analysis (SGA)/ Training needs analysis (TNA)
    2. Select a group of employees (Super-users) who will respresent, report back to all employees
    3. Select the training methodology to be approved and supported by the Super users
    4. Run a pilot project and allow the Super users some esoteric users to QA and test the initiative
    5. Measure the effectiveness of the feedback/results
    6. And then roll-out the entire project
    7. Perpetual monitoring, evaluation and support

    Bottom line, companies must never embark on Training/Educational projects without involving the affected employees.

  • Fred(erick) George Rodo

    A short history of a successful training provider.
    By nature of the physical passing of time, any company or service delivery persons whether an individual or a group has a history.
    The history of this entity is not necessarily based on the passed performance of the tasks done under a business address, but on the historic performance of an individual person. The persons experience, aptitude and attitude make up the over all performance package that will advance to create a new history.
    As with many institutes Ifihlile Training Academy relies heavily on the input of its individual members. These members are carefully chosen to be multi-skilled, but accept the vision and passion to fulfill an ideology.
    The core business thrust is simple, be the best in delivering the best product (student) to the client (employer).
    The full NQF refrigeration and air conditioning course starts with the obvious facilitation at one of our regional centers. Using the unit standards course ware and our own systems, the theoretical notes are supported by practical training in the work shop, and then students are placed with our own technicians on actual work sites. Once they are proven safe, and show potential to become competent artisans, they are placed at private contractors.
    On-going feedback is the key to sustain their development, and ensure they complete the qualification, culminating in a trades test.
    This has worked phenomenally well, and although we are only four years old, we have established ourselves with the government bodies and the industry as a leader in our field.
    94% of our students are employed before they have completed the course, and we have waiting lists for students from contractors.
    All was not smooth sailing; we had many threats from non-practical paper qualification fraudsters, and stumbling blocks due to communication issues with the Merseta. Now we have our own fully accredited trades test facility, and branches in Midrand, Durban, Bloemfontein, and Kimberly.