I was talking to a client yesterday about learning resources. He is happy to write his own assessment resources (and prefers to do so because he can tailor them to the learner groups). On the other hand, he says he doesn’t have time to write the learning material. He has tried several approaches, and the last approach was to provide a textbook. That didn’t work either. It was a good textbook but the learners were resistant to reading so much information.
Then there is the dilemma of whether to purchase or develop in-house. As we know, development in-house is time-consuming and trainers are not necessarily able to write good learning resources. For this reason, the resources are frequently purchased. There are a number of suppliers of learning and assessment resources that are mapped to units of competency. The difficulty is to find quality resources off the shelf.
Even high quality purchased resources will be generic in nature. They may not meet the needs of a particular cohort or the method of training. For a resource to be truly effective, the writer needs to have a picture of the learners, understanding how they will learn. Further, learning needs to be contextualised for the work environment and role. The importance of this is included in the TAE Diploma program, with TAEDES502 – Design and develop learning resources, including researching, designing and developing two print based resources that reflect client needs and the contexts of application
The other problem we have is that few people are “readers”. If you give them learning material to read, they will scan through looking for what they need in order to complete the assessments. This is something that was also addressed by Sean Kelly in his Challenge article that made the observation that a commonly accepted form of assessing knowledge seems to involve learners in nothing more than finding then copying and pasting information that is relevant.
We know from John Dewey that people don’t learn by being told.
They learn by doing.
For group training, the last thing we want is for the trainer to be reading out whole swathes of information. My rule is that if you are talking for more than 10 minutes you are talking to the wall. Therefore, if we provide a large amount of information in a learning resource, when will it be read? The trainer can instruct the learners to read the resource before coming to the workshop. In my experience, only a very small percentage will do this. A few more will scan through it and many won’t even open it.
Over the years I have been gradually reducing the content of my learning resources and including more and more learning material into the assessment tasks. I’m getting to the stage of wondering whether we need a learning guide at all. Instead, we could structure the assessment tasks for a logical flow of learning, where the learning outcome is achieved through finding out and doing.
Is it time for us to re-think the learning and assessment process and build resources differently? Should we stop telling our students things and instead give them just sufficient guidance for them to find out?
I realise that this makes the task of writing assessment tools even more challenging, but the benefits for the learning journey might outweigh the difficulties.
Published 6 December 2019
Join the discussion of this and other Challenges at the VET PD Group – Community of Practice.
Sandy Welton is the Instructional Designer and Principal of Welton Resources. Her earlier contributions to Challenges facing VET questioned the need to rethink the role of Trainers and Assessors.