I value both education and training highly. A grand statement but my own experience shows how honest this statement is. In terms of my own education and training, I have actively sought opportunities to improve my levels of education and my skills. Over the past twenty years I have I have been lucky enough (and committed) to gained not only qualifications that have enhanced my career but also broadened my understanding as a person. I can become very evangelical about education (to the annoyance of some) and encourage others to take up training or educational opportunities. I have immense respect for anybody who seeks to improve their life in this way. My views do differ however when adult education and training is forced upon individuals - for example, in E2E type schemes. I may be too idealistic in my views here but I feel that the reluctance and unwillingness to participate of many learners actually devalues the training and education of those that are willing and do want to improve their skills. The apparent method of using employment courses as a punishment for being unemployed does nothing to make the course appealing. I do feel that education and training for employment is crucial however the way it is marketed needs to change in order for it to be seen as a positive, worthwhile and appealing option. Looking at this from the employer perspective, would you rather recruit from a group of applicants that had attended a course to avoid having their benefits cut - or from a group that had applied to complete an employability course to help them find a job? Right or wrong I know which group I would prefer to recruit from. I am not saying 'put them on the scrapheap' it is likely that many individuals who do not want to participate in any learning have personal issues and often deep rooted barriers to learning. These individuals need to be supported into learning and not forced into it - any new learning experience they have needs help them change their attitude to learning and view it as a positive and worthwhile activity. I believe the way society as a whole views education and training depends very much on the perceived level of the course. In very simple terms if you discuss attending a college course and a university course people with often think that the university course is of more value because of the level. This can be drilled down further to a maths course - when I tell people I teach numeracy in the Skills for Life sector - I have had responses that it is 'not proper teaching' - move 'up' to teaching GCSE Maths and it is seen as more worthwhile. Going a step further to A Level and this is seen as valuable education, but which really affects society more - education that progresses low level skills to Level 2 or education that progresses the already proficient and able a step further? It is all of value but I strongly feel that the provision of education and training to those who didn't 'achieve' in compulsory education has the potential to have the greater impact on society. Another aspect to consider is the current thinking (in some quarters) that adult education should be aimed at meeting the needs of the labour market. Surely employers should take most of the responsibility for training needs of their workforce as they are ultimately the ones that benefit from the profits. I appreciate that it is difficult for smaller businesses to meet the cost of training and that public funding to help with training can make a big difference but is the funding going to businesses that really need it and use it effectively. Our society values compulsory education and there seems to be a real desire to educate our children to certain standards but unfortunately this does not always. To truly value adult education and training it needs to be seen as a positive and desirable opportunity by society as a whole and something people are proud to be involved with.
It is a great shame that teachers working within the post-compulsory education and training sector (PCET) sometimes suffer from the way society values them. If I refer back to the earlier comment (that was said to me by a primary school teacher) that teaching within PCET is not 'proper teaching' it is confirmation of the way this type of education and training is viewed. Teachers in compulsory education may be viewed as more 'professional' to many; however this is not a fair judgement. In terms of professionalism the majority of teaching staff in the PCET sector have often achieved a high level of professionalism (and a great of expertise) in a previous career and the additional expertise they bring combined with the teaching qualifications they achieve brings a great deal to the sector. During my research into professionalism in this sector I came upon the following dictionary description 'the skill, competence, or character expected of a member of a highly trained profession,' and having looked at the Lifelong Learning UK (LLUK) standards and from own learning experience I am beginning to appreciate the levels of professionalism required to be truly effective in this field (reece and walker). The diagram below illustrates the principles and practices of teaching (Reece & Walker, 2007) and gives an indication of levels of skill and professionalism required to teach.
The Role of the Teacher
Being positive about learning.
Learning and the individual.
Groups and learning
4. Assessing Learning
Types of assessment
Other assessment techniques
Uses of assessment
Evaluating the impact of good teaching
2. Planning Learning
Identify learning outcomes.
Classifying ways of learning,
Planning learning programmes.
3. Managing Learning
The wider learning environment.
It looks quite simple here however when you look at the levels of skill, knowledge and understanding needed to meet the LLUK mandatory units of assessment (that are required to achieve Further Education teaching qualifications) along with the obligation to regarding further Continuing Professional Development, it gives a better illustration of the levels of professionalism required. Encompassing; Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector (PTLLS), Certificate to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector (CTLLS) and the Diploma in Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector (DTLLS) the mandatory units leading to Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills status (QTLS) show the emphasis on professionalism within this role . Where an alternative route has been taken (i.e. PGCE/Cert Ed) these standards still have to be met. (Lifelong Learning UK, 2008).
Regardless of what we study (and learn) we are ultimately responsible for our own standards of professionalism when I consider what this currently means for teachers working in the PCET sector I found it useful to breakdown as follows;
THE CORE PRINCIPLES
Teachers (in the PCET sector) must meet the above principles to fulfil professionalism within their role.
Inclusivity - is a fundamental part of adult learning as we already know that many learners have barriers to learning and in order to overcome these they need to feel (and be) included and encouraged to actively participate in their learning.
Widening participation - is crucial not only to the survival of adult education but also to ensure teachers are in employment! As a professional in this sector a teacher is a representative of the PCET sector and should act in a way that attracts new learners to into colleges and help them achieve their potential.
Equity - this means lots of things to me; fairness, justice, impartiality and levelling the playing field. As a teacher professionalism in this area means not putting anybody at a disadvantage - seeking support for learners with special needs and using various teaching models to meet different learning styles.
Diversity - as a teacher in PCET you will have a diverse mix of learners in terms of background, age, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation and learners with disabilities. Professionalism in this area requires not only the embracing of diversity but also to be aware of the intolerance of others and appropriately act upon instances of discrimination, harassment, victimisation or other inappropriate behaviour.
not the and have chosen to use Brookfield's 4 Critical Lenses model of reflective practice (Brookfield, 1995).