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Consider Some Key Theories and Concepts of Learning and Assessment Essay

In this assignment I will explore the concept of learning and application of some learning theories within the in the vocational further education sector. I will explore the application of theories to health and social vocational topics and how this assists in developing key attributes for learners on these programmes. I will identify assessment methods and provide a critique of the validity of these in different educational programmes. Definitions of learning vary drastically.

This is primarily due to the differing conceptions of what learning actually is. Saljo (1979) identified five categories of learning. It is suggested that the five categories: “…increase in knowledge; memorising information; Acquiring facts, skills, and methods; making sense or abstracting meaning; interpreting and understanding reality in a different way” (Saljo, 1979), conceptualise learning as process. There has been extensive debate regarding the learner’s awareness of events whilst undergoing this process.

Rogers (Weilbel, 2011) identified two categories of learning: Acquisition and formalised. Acquisition learning is activity or task based learning linked to a continuous, unconscious learning process that takes place throughout life, in education and personal experiences. As it is thought of as an unconscious process, Rogers approach emphasises the lack of learner awareness during learning. Formalised learning is generally facilitated by an education professional where the learner is actively conscious of learning taking place (Colley et al, 2003).

Whilst many professionals agree there are differing types of learning, the more commonly referred to dimensions of learning are often categorised into five dimensions rather than the two categories identified by Rogers. The behaviourist approach argues that behaviour is a result of environmental stimulus and the experience following the behaviour of positive or negative consequence will determine responses to the same environmental stimulus in the future.

Reinforcement of positive consequences by positive praise or feedback can accelerate learning by conditioning the learners in the pattern of behaviour response to environmental stimulus (Minton, 2005). Behaviourist view learning as a step by step process and this combined with sequential praise will enable learners to associate a positive experience with learning. These behaviourist concepts have a heavy influence over the whole education system and are embedded into regulatory guidelines however lend themselves well to vocational, competency based qualifications such as the BTEC given the modular nature of the programme.

The modular layout enables regular opportunity for the stimuli: behaviour response relationship to be enforced through positive achievement. Although this passive learning approach is utilised within most educational establishments, where learners acquire knowledge, constructivists argue that learners take a more participatory role in their learning and there is scope that each learner will have a differing perception of a learning experience and draw upon their own interpretation of the knowledge presented to them.

Unlike the behaviourist approach where the teacher is the knowledge base, the constructivist theory places the learner at the focus of a more meaningful learning experience (Driscoll, 1994). The constructivist approach lends itself to the teaching methods applied in vocational topics. It links learners’ experience of the wider world including their vocational experience with the topics being taught. It creates opportunity for the application of learner knowledge in real life situations which allows them to build their own constructs (Petty, 2004).

This approach links heavily with the humanistic approach to teaching and learning in that experiential or applied knowledge concepts foster a positive learning environment. Rodgers identified cognitive and experiential as the two types of learning. According to Rodgers, cognitive learning is meaningless and often consists of learners reciting information given; it does not rely on understanding or the application of the knowledge. Experiential learning however is closely related to vocational education in that it relies on learner’s ability to apply knowledge to situations that they have a personal interest in.

In doing this, it creates opportunity for valuable learner involvement and significant learning (Beard and Wilson, 2006) In 1984, Kolb highlighted the benefits of a learning cycle developed as a result of an experience and emphasised how this not only enables knowledge transfer but it also develops skill competencies. This is particularly important in the health and social care sector as application of knowledge and vocational competency are key to the future employability of learners.

The social learning theory combines elements of cognitive and behavioural learning theories. Bandura developed an approach where these two theories integrated and formed four categories of learning: observation, retention, reproduction and motivation. This learning theory relies heavily on modelling behaviours and is utilised heavily in the health and social care sector through vocational placements and induction periods where appropriate behaviour is displayed for new employees to imitate.

Vocational Health and Social Care course outcomes and preparation for employment in the sector require a particular set of learner attributes and as such, teachers in this sector need to be aware of the skills set to develop appropriate to the needs of the sector and leaner. Not all learning can rely on the conditioning of learners and the cognitive approach based on constructivism argues that learning is the acquisition of not only knowledge but also skill by mental and cognitive processes.

Thus learning is an active process and as teachers we need to appreciate the restraints of the assumptions of the cognitive theory of multimedia learning to assist in creating an experience which maximises the potential for learning to take place. This would include considering the auditory and visual channels, the capacity of each channel and the stages of the learning process (Mayer, 2001) Mayer (2001) highlights the importance of transferable learning and the integration of new information with prior knowledge.

This is vital in the BTEC courses as the module outcomes are usually sequential and rely on the extension and application of existing knowledge Atherton (2011) however suggested that the way in which students learn is hugely defined by their motivation. The model used identifies two types of learning: deep and surface. This model associates well with the Access to HE Diploma in that most leaners are mature and have re-engaged with education purely as a stepping stone to succeed in a given career pathway.

The motivation of Access learners is usually high and as Atherton (2011) suggests, intrinsic motivation of the learners will likely trigger a deep learning strategy. Although plausible, some research suggests that learning is habitual and regardless of the motivation, past experiences and approaches to learning are more likely to inform current engagement with the learning process. Discuss the key principles and concepts of assessment According to Gravell’s (2011), assessment is used to “… find out if learning has taken place”.

Assessment methods should be used at regular intervals throughout a lesson and informs practice, it should be used to advise future lesson planning of the same topic and subsequent lessons within the scheme of work. This is vital as if learners fail to meet the assessment; alterations need to be made to the lesson plan and scheme of work to address this before further topics can be taught. The two main forms of assessment are summative and formative. The methods used for each type of assessment and their respective aims vary. Formative assessment is usually carried out on a regular basis.

It allows constructive feedback based on assessment of learner knowledge or work and acknowledges that learner’s abilities can be challenged with motivational feedback which assists in development. Summative feedback is usually a final assessment of a learner which is rigid in structure and final. Within the Health and Social Care sector, vocational education is heavily targeted towards formative assessment and tutors are encouraged by the accreditation body to provide opportunity for leaners to develop their work using formative assessment given verbally and documented on pieces of work.

The assessment, accreditation and regulatory procedures placed on educational establishments impose tight restrictions on the content of teaching, expected learning outcomes, and their perception of what learning is. There are quality and validity issues surrounding assessment in every educational establishment which has a direct effect on the achievement of learners. Linked with quality assurance, standardisation and verification procedures, the consistency of tutor assessment of learning and its reliability is placed under intense scrutiny.

This ensures that all learners have the same expectations placed upon them and the work produced meets the required standards to achieve the award. The concept of effective feedback in education is one which is controversial and with the best efforts, can still be misinterpreted. It is vital for teachers to be aware and have existing knowledge of appropriate feedback models which suit both learner and the programme which is being delivered (Wiggins, 2012). Feedback can be given in many forms and an awareness of the impact of these on the learner, achievement, the teacher and the college is fundamental.

Feedback given to an individual may be given formally, informally, verbally, written, and be formative or summative. Learning and Assessment in Practice According to Petty (2004), there are four stages of teaching: setting aims, planning to meet the aims, delivering the session and then evaluating it. Lesson aims are usually taken from a scheme of work which is formed using the accreditation body specification. The Scheme of Work I devised was for the Research Skills Unit of the Access to HE Diploma using OCN accreditation.

The OCN specification gives teachers guidelines on which aspects of the topic are required to meet the learning outcomes and the assessment methods for them. The scheme of work in place for this unit was very informal in placement and so I prepared a new version which was approved for use by my mentor. I will discuss the scheme of work including evaluation of inclusion, differentiation, embedding of key skills and actual content. I will discuss and evaluate two lesson plans from the unit and reflect on whether they produced an inclusive learning environment where there were positive outcomes of assessment of learning.

The scheme of work for the research project originally lacked any activity based learning and relied upon traditional didactic approaches of tutor led presentation style lectures. Whilst this is an Access to HE course which strives to prepare leaners for experiences they may encounter in FE, being more creative with the content may provide a more valuable learning experience for learners. James and Pollard, 2006) Throughout the scheme of work there are documented sessions on 1:1 support which are used to differentiate between students The original scheme of work demonstrated poor opportunity for inclusive learning and differentiation.

During the first session, I felt that the group were struggling a little with the concept of a research project and the enormity of the task ahead of them. In an attempt to make the content more accessible and less daunting, I revised the scheme of work by planning tutor led approaches, group activities, peer feedback, nominated questions and a variety of resources with links to each subsection of the scheme of work: an example of this was the use of blurb on a book to identify the concept of a summary in research.

This type of planning promotes an inclusive learning environment where each learner is involved (Ashmore et al, 2010). I had planned to separate social groups to promote inclusion by encouraging integration across peer groups. This assists in learners gaining the opportunity for peer learning and developing skills around recognising and respecting diversity which is a key attribute in all health and social care sectors. To assess learning and ensure I had planned for differentiation within the group I used nominated and open questions.

This allowed me to identify learners who required scaffolding whilst stretching and challenging all learners appropriate to their ability. The first lesson included in this assignment is the first session based on the introduction and overview of the unit. In this session I introduced the Word Wall ( see appendix). This was a useful tool in introducing new academic jargon which was a requirement of the learning outcomes and therefore leaners were required to utilise throughout their project. This utilised the cognitive approach as it assisted learners to guide them to relevant words, and limit individual sensory overload.

As the unit has strong links to more formal academia and will almost certainly appear in most learners’ further education, it was imperative that they had a good understanding of the basic knowledge required from the start. The second lesson included in this assignment is the workshop I delivered on conducting a literature review. The original scheme of work planned for the use of a SMART board and class discussion for this lesson however this did not allow me to assess the ability of learners to conduct a literature review relating to their research topic and therefore failed to fully ddress differentiation and inclusion.

My lesson plan involved tutor led starter activity where a recap of the literature review would occur and nominated questions to assess learners understanding of the variety of techniques used to narrow down their results and identify research which was of use to them. I had prepared a print out of the power point which I was unable to present due to the room restrictions: the learning resource centre is a quiet zone and so no formal presentation of the information was appropriate.

To accompany this, the learners were given a step by step guide of performing a literature review with an example to follow for those who required assistance (appendix). Throughout this lesson I embedded the use of ICT and literacy skills in the form of communication, writing and reading to ensure I was supporting the development of functional skills which are extremely important. Formative assessment, verbally and documented, was used throughout both lessons to support learning and create opportunity for learners to develop their work prior to summative assessment.

Methods of assessment relevant to your specialist subject area For this section I will be using examples from practice that I have been involved in: the OCN Access to HE Diploma and Edexcel BTEC Level 3 Diploma. The original scheme of work for this OCN unit was heavily based around the accreditation requirements and in doing so, was primarily focused on summative assessment. Learners were not often given the opportunity of formative assessment however this has been identified by both the learners and I as a potential learning opportunity which is being missed.

Formative assessment would allow learners to reflect on and action their feedback which would enable targeted performance improvement. This would assist in the learning process for the learner and possibly also be reflected in improved achievement in summative assessment. When compiling the new scheme of work, this was considered throughout and opportunities for formative assessment and informal feedback were embedded to improve learner’s ability to build on their strengths and learn from continuous feedback rather than rely purely on summative feedback.

The Access course design lends itself to summative assessment however learners on this course are often placed under increasing pressure to gain Distinction mark criteria by Higher Education establishments. Given most learners on the course are returning to education after work/life experience, it is unusual that a learner would achieve a Distinction grade especially on the first few modules. Increasing formative assessment in the first term of the course would potentially enable greater differentiation of learning and opportunity for this to be a realistic possibility.

The course design of the BTEC differs greatly from the Access to HE in terms of assessment. It is widely accepted that the BTEC learners have multiple opportunity to gain formative assessment and that summative assessment of learning almost merges into formative when required: a final submission of work can be referred back to the learner with feedback which will highlight areas the learner needs to address to meet the criteria. There are possible issues with the reliability and transferability of the award.

BTEC in nature is modular with each unit have a set of outcomes achievable by gaining the pass criteria and for those able, the merit and distinction criteria also. Most of the work is coursework related with few incidences of presentations, this combined with multiple attempts at achieving the outcome criteria and some FE institutions teaching purely to assessment criteria rather than teaching to enable application of knowledge/skills in the sector could possibly lead to learners achieving the award without having developed the necessary knowledge and skills as relied upon in the sector.

Conclusion I feel this module has provided me with an overview of delivery and learner expectations within the education sector. Not only have I been able to gain valuable experience in delivery of programmes, I have also been introduced into the complexities of the role of an FE teacher within a large organisation. My own attributes as a trainee teacher and desire to improve the learning experiences of those I deliver to have been met with some conflict within an institution environment where values, attitudes toward the learning process and increasing learner involvement are not shared.

This has provided me with an opportunity to reflect on my own values and consider my future employment options. The scheme of work, lessons planned and lesson delivery within the placement has extended my knowledge and skills of effective learning within the classroom environment and how implementing theory affects the learning opportunities and achievements of the learners. I hope to continue developing these links throughout the course to inform a more effective delivery of learning and a higher standard of teaching.


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