Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Working knowledge in the globaliizing world

I am putting the time in this week to catch up on reading of books recently purchased by the CPIT library. Firstly, a hard copy book edited by Liv Mjelde and Richard Daly as part of the series published by Paul Lang on studies in vocation and continuing education called ‘working knowledge in the globalizing world'. The articles in this book originated from papers presented at a conference in oslo in 2004 on vocational education and training.

The chapters in the book have been divided into two parts. Part one with writings on ‘working knowledge: work related learning’ and part two on ‘vocational education training: policies and practices in a globalizing world. I concentrated my reading on the chapters in part one although there are also a few chapters in part two marked for future follow up.

The chapters of relevance in part one are:

‘apprentices’ transfer of knowledge from school to workplace in the VET dual system: a study of a VET-programme for rescue officer’ by Vibe Aarkrog provides a good overview of the ‘transfer’ challenge. The main premise of the chapter is that more complex work situations tend to involve some form of customer service component. Least complex tasks tends to see a transfer of knowledge learnt at vocational school towards applying or replication of learnt knowledge/skills. Whereas more complex tasks involve interpretation / re-estimation and reflection of learnt knowledge/skills.

The second article by Faizul Bhyat is based in a South African printing press workplace context and discusses ‘From the particularities of practice to the generalisation of theory’. The author works with a team of printing press workers to enhance their understanding of printing based engineering through situated and applied learning of physics. An interesting article, detailing a strong theoretical framework, a good description of the challenges and case study and the possibilities for the approach to workplace learning. In the conclusion, the author summarises the approach as ‘consciously applying scientific thinking to industrial processes, through conscious introduction of concepts in their appropriate syntax and application context, provides a material basis for what has been previously been seen as the abstract language of science knowledge.’

Jeanne Gamble’s chapter on ‘what kind of knowledge for the vocational curriculum’ provides for a good overview of her work with apprentices in cabinet making. There is a good summary of Bernstein’s work on pedagogical practice and an attempt at explaining craft pedagogy in terms of the relationship between ‘externally visible performance’ and ‘internally held competence’. This leads to discussion on forms of knowledge in relation to the vocational curriculum. The main premise is that epistemology from academic and vocational traditions are both valid but need to be respected for what each has to offer. In respect to the vocational curriculum, theory and practice can be brought together, each with their context dependent meanings.

‘Cooperative education: learning to work- working to learn, and trying to make sense of it all’ is written by Garnet Grosjean to discuss the challenges of helping students learn through work based attachments / internships etc. The chapter provides overviews of activity theory, constructivism and socioculturalism as pertaining to cooperative education programmes, bringing the frameworks together to help students ‘become a professional’.

Tony Irizar and Adita Chiappy contribute the next chapter on ‘the concepts of ‘working knowledge’ and ‘zone of proximal development’ as applied to teaching English as a secondary language’. There is an overview linking the various concepts to enhance communicative language teaching and a call to acknowledge the contributions of zpd to assist students in learning a new language.

Last chapter in part one is from Liv Mjelde on ‘ workshop pedagogy in vocational education: working knowledge and the zone of proximal development’. Here the work of John Dewey, Mikhail Bakhtin and Lev Vygostsky are synthesised with Mjelde’s work to explain how to best utilise the zone of proximal development to assist ‘apprentices and master’ reach learning goals through ‘learning by doing’ to move from simple/concrete to the complex/general; learning through goal orientated activity and the integration of hand, mind and heart.

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