We will be presenting our paper that discusses various designs of tasks for assessing “workplace readiness” on the 27th of June, at the HERDSA 2017 Conference. If you will be attending the conference and interested, check the program and come to the session. The abstract is below. We will post our slides and link to the full paper after the conference.
Preparing students for the workplace through designing productive assessment tasks: An actionable knowledge perspective
Lina Markauskaite and Peter Goodyear
Preparing students for the workplace and assessing their readiness are often major challenges for university teachers. What kinds of concrete tasks help students develop professional capacities needed for situated knowledgeable action in a broad range of possible future workplace settings?
Our research examined assessment tasks that university teachers set for students in courses that were preparing them for work placements in five professions: nursing, pharmacy, teaching, social work, and school counselling. We combined ‘actionable knowledge’ and ‘objectual practice’ perspectives and investigated what students were asked to do, what they were expected to learn and how. Specifically, we analysed the nature of the objects that teachers selected for assessment tasks and the nature of the concrete artefacts that students were asked to produce.
Our results show some fundamental differences in teachers’ choices of objects. They ranged from basic and very specific aspects of professional work to some of the hardest and most broad-ranging challenges in the profession. The tasks also required students to engage in the production of a wide range of artefacts. We classified these as ‘cultural artefacts’, ‘conceptual artefacts’ and ‘epistemic artefacts’.
Our discussion draws parallels between these three kinds of artefacts and the notions of ‘work ready’, ‘work knowledgeable’ and ‘work-capable’ graduates, respectively. We argue that teachers, through task designs, shape ways in which students learn to link action (skill) with meaning (knowledge). Our findings raise some important questions about the kinds of authentic tasks that help prepare work-capable graduates for future learning.
In our slideware you can now find a new set of slides entitled “Preparing teachers for knowledgeable action: Epistemic fluency, innovation pedagogy and work-capable graduates”. These slides were used in the seminar-discussion “How do we know it’s because of us? University prepared teachers and our impact on classroom readiness” organised by the Initial Teacher Education and Professional Learning (ITEPL) Research Group @ QUT. It is not a completely new presentation, but it sharper articulates some implications for pre-service teachers’ education and “measurement” of their readiness.
What kinds of epistemic tools do skillful teachers use in their work and what kinds of epistemic games do they play? How could teachers’ preparation for knowledgeable action benefit from engagement of pre-service teachers in professional innovation? What different kinds of professional artifacts-tools produced by future professionals could tell us about their workplace readiness? Could current bureaucratic accreditation infrastructures and regimes (at least partly) be replaced by an open infrastructure for teachers’ (including pre-service teachers) professional innovation and professional knowledge co-creation? If foundational courses in law introduce students to legal thinking, and foundational courses in medicine teach students clinical reasoning, shouldn’t pre-service teachers also be helped to learn their professional ways of knowing?
But as the first thing, teacher education should move beyond (now dominant) evidence culture that sees teaching as a rigorous application of firm, robust and often inflexible externally generated knowledge, to an epistemic culture that sees teaching as a skillful knowledge craft and values professional ways of knowing.
In our “slideware” you can now find a set of slides from a presentation that reviews the main ideas from our Epistemic Fluency book. These particular slides were used during the seminar entitled “Epistemic fluency in higher education: Bridging actionable knowledge and knowledgeable action” @The Oxford Centre for Sociocultural and Activity Theory Research (OSAT). Similar (but not identical) slides were also used during our presentations @University of Sydney (CRLI), University of Oslo (ExCID), University of Bergen (SLATE), University of Helsinki (CRADLE), University of Southern Denmark, and University of Stirling (ProPEL). If you can’t find something important, then email us and ask.
What does it take to be a productive member of a multidisciplinary team working on a complex problem? How do people get better at these things? How can researchers get deeper insight in these valued capacities; and how can teachers help students develop them? Working on real-world professional problems usually requires the combination of different kinds of specialised and context-dependent knowledge, as well as different ways of knowing. People who are flexible and adept with respect to different ways of knowing about the world can be said to possess epistemic fluency.
Drawing upon and extending the notion of epistemic fluency, in this research seminar, we will present some key ideas that we developed studying how university teachers teach and students learn complex professional knowledge and skills. Our account combines grounded and enacted cognition with sociocultural and material perspectives of human knowing and focus on capacities that underpin knowledgeable action and innovative professional work. In this seminar, we will discuss critical roles of grounded conceptual knowledge, ability to embrace professional materially-grounded ways of knowing and students’ capacities to construct their epistemic environments.
We added to our slideware our presentation “Bridging professional learning, doing and innovation through making epistemic artefacts”, presented last week at the Practice-Based Education Summit “Bridging Practice Spaces” at Charles Sturt University. This presentation draws on the ideas from Chapter 8: Objects, things and artefacts in professional learning and doing of the book “Epistemic Fluency and Professional Learning“. It discusses how students’ work on making various artefacts for their assessments in courses that prepare them for professional practice bridges knowledge learnt in university setting with knowledge work in workplaces.
The gist of our argument can be summarised as follows:
- Professional expertise is inseparable from capacities to (co-)construct epistemic environments that enhance knowledgeable actions.
- Such expertise is grounded in embodied, situated professional knowledge work.
- Much of this work is done by (co-)creating epistemic artefacts that embody actionable knowledge.
- Productive epistemic artefacts connect the object (‘why’ of work) and the thing (‘what’ of work) through action (‘know how’) and ways of thinking that underpin situated professional innovation (ie. epistemic fluency)
In learning, much of the value of the epistemic artefacts comes from their dual and deeply entangled nature: they are simultaneously objective and grounded in situated experiences (aka. subjective). They embody actionable knowledge, and the activity through which they are constructed embodies knowledgeable action. They are reflective and projective.
Today’s Conversation published quite interesting article about higher education and skills for 21st-century jobs: A 21st-century higher education: training for jobs of the future, by Belinda Probert and Shirley Alexander
We posted our comment on it. Here is a copy of it
Thank you for this interesting article. I completely agree that the “challenges for tertiary education are significant” in this area, and particularly that “universities will need to give teaching and curriculum design a greater priority.” One of additional key challenges is that current pedagogies for “21st century jobs” often draw on a very limited understanding about knowledge, skills and other capabilities needed for innovation and flexible, skilful, future-oriented knowledge work. Teaching to innovate should be informed by much deeper understanding of how people learn to innovate.