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Traditional instruction focuses on rote memorization and recall with a delivery system which is teacher-directed. Traditional assessment has focussed on multiple-choice and true or false tests which are designed to measure whether the students can answer the information contained in the textbook or delivered by the teacher. This traditional model is being challenged for not maximizing the learning potential for all students, especially where higher levels of thinking skills are involved, such as in trouble-shooting Brooks (Brooks, 1993).
Many researches (Brooks, 1993; Caine, 1997) have been conducted on maximizing studentï¿½s learning from which new instructional systems design model have emerged. But no definitive answers have originated from them. As Warrington (2007) summarises, the traditional or ï¿½factory modelï¿½ of training was developed as a result of the industrial revolution, emphasizing which addressed obedience, orderliness, respect for authority and a standardized curriculum. This paradigm of instructional design created a ï¿½one-size-fits-allï¿½ model of education.
In the 21st Century, leaders and educators alike are calling for changes to meet the demanding needs of a technologically changing, competitive, and more global society (UNESCO, 2000). One area receiving heightened attention is the research in brain-based learning and its application to curriculum design and development. The neuroscience, biology, and pedagogic research are enlightening us on how the brain works, and its implication for the classroom (Abbott, 1997).
Researchers in brain-based learning (Caine, Caine, McClintic, and Klimek (2005), Erlauer (2003), Jensen (2005), Slavkin (2004), Wagmeister and Shifrin (2000), Wolfe (2001)) believe that traditional instruction may hinder the brain from learning. In light of this new information, administrators, curriculum developers, teachers, and other practitioners in education, have become interested in brain-based learning because their work requires an understanding on how the brain receives, processes, and produces information (Bucko, 1997). It is believed that brain-based learning has already had a dramatic impact for the teaching and learning process (Sylwester, 1994).
2.2 How Brain-Based Learning Impacts Education.
Specifically based on conclusions from research in neuroscience, professors from major universities have incorporated this information into books about learning. In accordance with the suggestions of Marian Diamond, U. C., Berkeley; Howard Gardner, Harvard University; Renate and Geoffrey Caine; Thomas Armstrong; Candace Pert, Eric Jensen, classroom practices can be modified by applying new theories of teaching and learning based on recent findings.
Advocates of brain-based learning insist that there is a difference between "brain-compatible" education, and "brain-incompatible" practices and methods which can actually prevent learning.
Hart in Human Brain and Human Learning (1983) claims that teaching without an awareness of how the brain learns is like designing a glove with no sense of what a hand looks likeï¿½its shape, how it moves.
Hart says that if classrooms are to be places of learning, then "the organ of learning," the brain, must be understood and accommodated.
Although all learning can be, in the broadest sense, considered brain-based, Caine and Caine (1991: 31-32) define brain-based learning as learning which acknowledges the brainï¿½s rules for meaningful learning, and organizes teaching with these rules in mind. Caine and Caine describe the core principles directing brain-based education:
* The brain is a parallel processor. It can perform several activities at once.
* The brain perceives wholes and parts simultaneously.
* Information is stored in multiple areas of the brain, and can be retrieved through multiple memory and neural pathways.ï¿½
* Learning engages the whole body. All learning is mind-body: movement, foods, attention cycles, and chemicals modulate learning.ï¿½
* The human quest for meaning is innate.
* The search for meaning comes through patterning.
* Emotions are critical to patterning and drive our attention, meaning and memory.
* Meaning is more important than just information.
* Learning involves focused attention and peripheral perception.
* We have two types of memory: spatial and rote.
* We understand best when facts are embedded in natural spatial memory.
* The brain is social. It develops better in concert with other brains.
* Complex learning is enhanced by challenge and inhibited by stress.
* Every brain in uniquely organized.
* Learning is developmental.ï¿½
The implication of these principles for training analysts and trainers has a direct impact on decisions relating to curricula, instructional methodology, instructional material, and assessment.
2.3 How Brain-Based Learning Helps Shape Knowledge Acquisition.
The brainï¿½s learning capacity is endless. Caine and Cain (1991, 1997) report that each healthy brain is equipped with a set of incredible features:
* An enormous capacity for memory
* The ability to self-correct and learn from experience
* An inexhaustible capacity to create
Theory on brain research has led to a comprehensive, instructional approach to maximize student learning, and to meet studentï¿½s individual learning needs. The research on brain hemisphericity acknowledges the fact that there are differences in learning styles and that our definition of intelligence may be too limited. Keefe (1987: 16) defines learning styles as, ï¿½characteristic cognitive, affective, and physiological that serve as relatively stable indicators of how learners perceive, interact with, and respond to the learning environmentï¿½. We could argue that this addresses the ï¿½howï¿½ of learning. How do we process and experience knowledge? How do we organize and retain information? Do we approach learning sequentially or randomly?
The affective components of learning include personality traits related to areas of responsibility, motivation, persistence, and peer interaction (Dunn and Dunn, 1978). In other words, do we prefer to work alone or in groups? Are we cooperative or competitive?
Traditional instruction has always emphasized abstract receiving and reflective processing, where learner-centered instruction allows for all receiving and processing styles. In learning centered instruction, curriculum emphasizes the skills of intuition, feeling, sensing, imagination and syntheses, as well as the traditional styles of analysis, reason, and sequential problem solving. Instruction should be designed to connect with all learning styles by using alternating combinations of experience, reflection, conceptualization, and experimentation (UCF Faculty Centre for Teaching and Learning).
The various theories on learning available from Jung, Myers-Briggs, Mok, Keirsey and Bates, Hanson, Silver and Strong styles share the belief that people learn differently. Learning depends on the capacities, intelligence, gender, sex, culture, personality traits, and motivation amongst others of individuals.
One widely used model used is Bernice McCarthyï¿½s 4MAT System. McCarthy (1997: 46) states that, ï¿½The 4MAT system knows the distinctive style that each learner brings to the classroom, while helping each student grow by mastering the entire cycle of learning stylesï¿½.
4MAT (McCarthy, 1981) is a constructivist model of pedagogy which believes that effective instruction must go through four essential phases of learning: learner motivation, conceptual mastery, application of ideas, and creative synthesis.
The 4MAT system is a model for instructional design, based on the research of learning styles and brain hemisphericity. The 4MAT System is based on left and right brain hemisphere, and emphasizes staff development. Dr. McCarthy tells us, that if all teachers taught in each of the four learning styles 25% of the time, all students in any class on any subject would be reached (The Dunn & Dunn learning style model, 2001). Instead of focusing on the student's learning style, she focused on staff development training all teachers to include all four learning styles in presenting each learning task.
The work of John Dewy, Anthony Gregorc, Karl Jung, David Kolb, David Merrill, and Helizabeth Wetzig influenced McCarthy (1980). David Kolbï¿½s experiential learning theory is the basis of the 4MAT system. Kolb`s research highlighted how experiential learning relates to cognitive development.
This theory espouses the belief that learning is a continuous process by which individuals refine and integrate a distinct set of independent systems that give meaning to lifeï¿½s experiences (McCarthy, 1997). Kolbï¿½s model identifies a process through which four modes of human experience are engaged at different levels to create a complete level of understanding. The interaction between and among the modes of concrete experience (CE), reflective observation (RO), abstract conceptualization (AC), and active experimentation (AE) is required for learning (McCarthy, 1980).
Honey and Mumford (Sadler-Smith, 1996: 29-37) translated Kolbï¿½s work into a classification system of learning styles based on the interaction between the modes: activists, reflectors, theorists, and pragmatists.
* Activists like practical work such as labs, field work, observation exercises and using visual source material for information.
* Reflectors like to learn by watching others, by taking time to consider observations of their own experience.
* Theorists like lectures, reading papers on topics, considering analogies.
* Pragmatists like simulations, case studies, homework.
Thus the four types might approach learning in different ways. For example, students must learn to weld a pipe using an electric-arc welding machine. Activists might just start using it and feel their way into it. Reflectors might have a go at using it and then take time to think about what they have just done. Theorists might begin by reading the manual. Pragmatists might start the task, but make frequent references to the student manual.
The four types of learning in Kolbï¿½s theory can be seen as cyclical stages through which a learner can progress watch, think, feel, and do, as well as categorising specific kinds of learning experience.
The 4MAT system (McCarthy, 1987) expanded on Kolbï¿½s theory by combining research on brain hemisphericity. According to Bernice McCarthy, developer of the 4MAT system, there are four major learning styles, each of which ask different questions and display different strengths during the learning process. According to McCarthy, ï¿½4MAT benefits teachers by giving them a framework to design learning activitiesï¿½ (McCarthy, 1990). This is also the case for instructional designers who design programs of instructions, as well as classroom and workshop exercises. Figure 1 shows the 4MAT system.
Figure 2.1ï¿½ The 4MAT System
In the 4Mat System (McCarthy, 1990), educators sequentially design lessons focusing on four issues:
* Personal Connections: How can I help students make connections between the content and their immediate lives?
* Concept Development: How can students integrate this information and see how it fits within the overall course?
* Practical Applications: What can students do in the learning environment using the information to see it at work?
* Creative Integration: How can students apply this information in original and more complex ways?
The research on learning styles support that individuals learn in different ways, differences in learning style are related to personnel motivation and performance, learning is a continuous process of differentiating and integrating experiences, and learners expand and refine differing modes by experiencing them (McCarthy, 1997).
The review of literature presents noticeable implications for instructional design and methodology. The traditional mindset of the ï¿½factory modelï¿½ of education and training, which dominated educational practices for a century, has been redefined (Darling-Hammond, 2003, p. ix). Teaching which emphasizes on rote memorization and the learning of unrelated, isolated facts does not facilitate the transfer of learning or utilize the brain efficiently. Leslie Hart (1983 p.xiv) states, ï¿½As the consequences of long evolution, the brain has modes of operation that are natural, effortless, effective in utilizing the tremendous power of the amazing instrument. Coerced to operate in other ways, it functions as a rule reluctantly, slowly, and with abundant errorï¿½.
The brain continually seeks meaning and thrives in an environment rich with complex and meaningful challenges. For instructional material to be effective, the information should be presented in a way for the brain to extract pattern, rather than impose it (Caine and Caine, 1991). Instructional designers must redefine the way they write training material by developing meaningful, connecting, and linking knowledge. They need to develop a rich selection of methods and approaches which continually augment the learning experience. Several approaches compatible with brain-based learning are currently used to teach. Thematic units of instruction, cooperative learning, integrating the curriculum through interdisciplinary teaching, and whole language instruction are a few of these teaching methods.
Curriculum designers need to write instructional material that engages studentï¿½s interest through relevant life experiences in an atmosphere of curiosity and self-discovery. The curriculum must be built around the unique talents, strength, weakness, and learning styles of the student in the classroom. Activities which are meaningful to students must be organized (McCarthy, 1997).
The goal of brain-based learning is to provide maximum benefit to all students without using a ï¿½one-size-fits-allï¿½ formula. The more we approach meaningful, challenging, and relevant learning in the classroom, the more responsive learning will be to our apprentice population which must be prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.
2.4 3. What are the issues related to the implementation of a learner-centered model?
Rather than being seen as exceptions to the rule that schools cannot change, the development of a small number of innovative practices and schools may instead reflect the rule that schools can only change through the monumental effort, unusual resourcefulness, and strong leadership of key individuals or groups (Hatch, 2000: 581). Several factors that can restrict curriculum innovation have been identified in the literature. These relate to both the agent of change (instructional designers) and the context in which the innovation is taking place.
They include issues of time, expectations, unavailability of required instructional materials, lack of clarity about the reform, instructional designersï¿½ lack of skills and knowledge, and the initial mismatch between the ï¿½residual ideologiesï¿½ and the principles underlying the curriculum innovation.
Other obstacles relate to organizational arrangements such as role overload, rigid scheduling of time, reporting systems, and failure of administration to recognize and understand its role in change (Nolder, 1990; Gross et al. as quoted in Snyder et al., 1992). Research into curriculum dissemination and implementation, and factors determining their success, found a focus with the work of Fullan and Pomfret (1977), who studied 16 case studies of attempted innovation in American schools and found that all of them had resulted in some degree of failure. For nearly two decades, researchers examined the phenomenon of educational change, discussed its characteristics and determinants, listed the skills of the 'change agent' and suggested ways in which the process might be improved (Fullan, 1993).
All of this research has a common theme, and that is that curriculum change is a complex and difficult process and requires careful planning, adequate time, funding, support and opportunities for teacher involvement. Much of the literature recognizes the difficulty of determining a single model to suit all.
Smooth and successful curriculum change is enormously difficult and time consuming and cannot be accomplished without potential implementers becoming personally involved and accepting the change on their own terms and according to their own constructs of reality.
United Kingdom researchers (Kelly, 1982; MacDonald & Rudduck, 1971; MacDonald & Walker 1976; Rudduck, 1991; Stenhouse, 1975) long have stressed the importance of a strong participation role in curriculum change and the need for involvement of key personnel in the development and decision making process. However, ownership is fragile, very difficult to define or measure, and has many levels.
The human face of collaborative teams working creatively on defining and filling their own needs can be capricious and tense with conflict and emotion.
On the other hand, collaborative development often needs to be steered and coached, and sometimes top-down decisions need to be made on theoretical issues which are outside training analysts' knowledge and experience. Also, training analysts might need to be coached to cooperate in change.
2.5 What is Action-learning?
Action-learning (AL) is defined as a method that enables small groups to work regularly and collectively on complicated problems, take action, and learns as individuals and as a team while doing so (McGill and Beaty, 2002: 12). The most common applications of Action-learning are in professional and managerial learning and development (Revans, 1998). Revan states that AL is widely used to manage a work-based project or program in which set members are involved and for which they have a level of responsibility and are therefore able to realistically influence their actions. It is also used to find and implement solutions to an issue that concerns how set members operate in their work context, and one that they wish to improve and that could benefit from the support and challenge of the other members.
Action-learning usually involves:
* Participants tackle real problems (no ï¿½rightï¿½ answer) in real time
* Participants meet in small stable learning groups (called ï¿½Setsï¿½)
* Each Set holds intermittent meetings over a fixed program cycle
* Problems are relevant to a participantï¿½s own workplace realities
* A supportive collaborative learning process is followed in a Set
* Process is based on reflection, questioning, conjecture and refutation
* Participants take action between Set meetings to resolve their problem
By these means, Action-learning seeks to throw a net around slippery experiences, and capture them as learning. The individual makes sense of an experience by conceptualizing it and generalizing the replicable points; and he plans for future actions based on the learning gathered.
The set provides the forge in which an individualï¿½s actions are shaped through their own personal reflection and the questioning insight of fellow set members. According to Revans, a key point is that actions and outcomes still remain the responsibility of the individual participant. Action-learning provides a practice field for learning to occur, whilst recognizing that real responsibility lies outside any classroom environment: it lies with the participants who must own the business outcomes. Further, in using the organization itself as a learning laboratory, it does not require any special set of conditions to be in place before it can be effective. Action-learning works well in a bureaucracy, in a flat organization, in firms culturally hostile to education and development, in firms encouraging self-actualization (Smith & Peters, 1997).
It does so because its whole ethos is learning about the surrounding context, and learning to be effective within it, thus leveraging the prevailing culture to its own advantage.
As a result, the development needs of the organizationï¿½s managers, executives and high-potentials are satisfied through activities which focus on the significant current and future needs of the organization. This leads to the justifiable charge of Action-learning as a narrow (but deep) learning agenda, rather than a broad but superficial one.
This development is addressed as a business service provision; geared to provide precisely what is required, when it is required, where it is required, in the form in which it is required.
2.6 What is the Action-Learning Framework?
The Center for Applied Research (2005) describes the action-learning framework has having four phases. Learning occurs in each one.
1. Frame ï¿½ Define the specific problem the group is trying to address, explore the assumptions made in defining the problem. Tie formal learning to problem definition.
2. Charge ï¿½ Set explicit goals (deadlines and performance expectations) for the project team to accomplish, and describe the process and staffing required.
3. Act ï¿½ Execute project work, following an agreed upon workplan. Connect to executive sponsors and other key stakeholders for guidance and approval.
4. Reflect & Review ï¿½ Step back from action and reflect on experience, linking team work to personal development.
Consolidate lessons learned and incorporate them into the project as it unfolds. At the end of the project, distribute lessons learned to the larger organization in a meaningful way.
The process is iterative. The lessons learned by the project team should increase understanding of the issues and lead to a re-framing of the problem.
Figure 2.2ï¿½ the continuous Action-learning process
Having established what Action-learning is, who should be involved, and how it could aid transition, it is important to establish what the barriers to a successful Action-learning process could be.
Clearly Action-learning could be a powerful tool but there will be things that will get in the way of it being successfully implemented into any organisation (Marquardt, 1996: 406). Some of these barriers are real and some are merely perceived. Some are internal and some are external.
2.7 Barriers to Organizational Change
Changing the way we do ï¿½businessï¿½ creates chaos. But within chaos is an array of opportunities. Bush (2006 p.45) suggests that change can be inhibited by existing structures within an organisation; this can be explained further by O'Neill (2006) who implies that permanent teams who may have settled work and social patterns are likely to be highly resistant to change. This concurs with the teachings of Barbour (2005 p.45) who found that ï¿½members are truly interdependent on each other and are close sociallyï¿½. O'Neill went further to suggest that collaborative management models such as Action-learning may only experience the essential early success where individuals can elect to work on the basis of existing friendship groups or where they feel that they personally will gain more by collaborating than by acting in isolation (2006 p.85).
Goals and Objectives
Undefined goals and objectives can be a barrier to Action-learning. Fabian and Simpson (2002) suggest that staffs are likely to have uncertainties and insecurities at times of change. Therefore, clear goals and objectives must be an integral part of the Action-learning process.
Organizational culture is ï¿½the pattern of shared basic assumptions - invented, discovered, or developed by a given group as it learns to cope with its problems of external adaptation and internal integration - that has worked well enough to be considered valid and therefore to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problemsï¿½ (Schein 1985).
Leadership commitment is identified in the literature as an important and major factor to successfully implement Action-learning. In successful implementation in any organization, leadership and culture play a major role. Some of the characteristics of leaders have been identified as their being visionary and transformational; they promote and approve of team work, learning, involvement, and collaboration. The leadership style of managers can drive an organization to success by helping them attain their goals and objectives (Rad, 2006).
Low tolerance of change
Resistance is an inevitable response to any major change. Individuals naturally rush to defend the status quo if they feel their security or statuses are threatened. Folger & Skarlicki (1999) claim that "organizational change can generate skepticism and resistance in employees, making it sometimes difficult or impossible to implement organizational improvements". Undoubtedly, resistance to change is a key topic in change management and should be seriously considered to help the organization to achieve transformation.
In summary, apprentice trainees need an instructional model that will challenge the learning potential and better prepare them to join the workforce. The traditional model does not prepare trainees adequately, especially where higher levels of thinking skills are involved. Traditional teaching and learning models, which convey a formal, abstract process, are often far removed from the specificities of real world practice. The current model was established in the early 1970 and was not revised since then. The traditional model is no longer appropriate to provide trainees with the skills, knowledge and attitude required to meet a fast changing and rapidly growing company.
From this situation emerged a need to revise the current education model with one that can focus in developing future employees that are capable of thinking and solving problems. Curriculum change is a complex and difficult process and requires careful planning, adequate time, funding, support and opportunities for designers and trainers involvement. To achieve this ambitious goal, action-learning appears to be the ï¿½toolï¿½ of choice. Action-learning provides a tried and true method to assist individuals and organisations to adapt to a rapidly changing world and to handle difficult situations changing a curriculum more effectively. This approach is considered to be one of the most important concepts to have emerged in management and organizational development.
This action-research is based on the following research questions:
1. What are the issues with JSC&TUï¿½s current instructional development model with regards to Saudi Aramcoï¿½s apprentices program for new employees?
2. How might a learner-centered instructional development model help resolve the issues from our current instructional model?
3. What are the issues related to the implementation of a learner-centered model?
4. How might Action Learning support a sustainable change in Company X curriculum design unitï¿½s instructional design model?
This study adopted action-research as a methodology to creating change in Company X training and development. In this study, action-research and action-learning are synonymous. The main difference lies in that action-research is the reporting of the findings where action-learning is the process used for the action-learning project. This approach is supported by Hase in ï¿½Developing Learner Capability through Action-Research: From Pedagogy to Heutagogy in the Workplaceï¿½ (2006). Using action-learning created a paradigm shift in Company X job skills unit. Employees who became members of the AL team were no longer isolated in their practice. In other words, the AL team became a community of practice where members connected through shared problems, explored new possibilities to solve them, learned from each other and acted to deliver results to the organization.
3.1 What is research?
First it must be established exactly what educational research is. Research is the orderly investigation of a subject matter for the purpose of adding to knowledge. Research can meanï¿½re- searchï¿½ implying that the subject matter is already known but, for one reason or another, needs to be studied again. Alternatively, the expression can be used without a hyphen and in this case it typically means investigating a new problem or phenomenon (Borg and Gall, 1989). Within the realm of educational planning, many things are always changing: the structure of the education system, curriculum and textbook s, modes of teaching , methods of teacher training, the amount and type of provisions to schools such as science laboratories, textbooks, furniture, classroom supplies, and so on. These changes may lead to an improvement, or a worsening, in the quality of an educational system.
In comparison, Pearson (1995:15) tells us that researchï¿½is the systematic process of collecting and analyzing information to increase our understanding of the phenomenon under study. It is the function of the researcher to contribute to the understanding of the phenomenon and to communicate that understanding to others. There are many types of research methods available to a researcher. Research methods are used to determine, discover, interpret, and devise facts. The word research and its derivative means, "to investigate thoroughly".ï¿½Research methodsï¿½are used to come up with "new knowledge". Through investigation and discovery processes, research methods help to advance many different scientific fields. In summary, research is a powerful activity and is conducted for specific reason: to answer a particular question or to solve a specific issue (Depoy and Guitlin, 1998).
3.2 Qualitative or Quantitative Data?
This research used quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis. Kerlinger argues that "There's no such thing as qualitative data. Everything is either 1 or 0" (Miles and Huberman, 1994: 40). D. T. Campbell asserts that "all research ultimately has a qualitative grounding" (Miles and Huberman, 1994: 40). Many other researchers agree that these two research methods need each other more often than not. However, because typically qualitative data involves words and quantitative data involves numbers, there are some researchers who feel that one is better (or more scientific) than the other. Another major difference between the two is that qualitative research is inductive and quantitative research is deductive. In qualitative research, a hypothesis is not needed to begin research. However, all quantitative research requires a hypothesis before research can begin.
Defining the role of the researcher is another key difference between the two. In quantitative research, the researcher is ideally an objective observer that neither participates in nor influences what is being studied. In qualitative research, however, the researcher learns about a situation by participating or being immersed in it. These basic underlying assumptions of both methodologies guide and sequence the types of data collection methods employed.
Although there are clear differences between qualitative and quantitative approaches, some researchers maintain that the choice between using qualitative or quantitative approaches actually has less to do with methodologies than it does with positioning oneself within a particular discipline or research tradition.
The choice of which approach to use may reflect the interests of those conducting or benefitting from the research and the purposes for which the findings will be applied. Decisions about which kind of research method to use may also be based on the researcher's own experience and preference, the population being researched, the proposed audience for findings, time, money, and other resources available (Hathaway, 1995).
Some researchers believe that qualitative and quantitative methodologies cannot be combined because the assumptions underlying each tradition are so vastly different. Other researchers think they can be used in combination only by alternating between methods: qualitative research is appropriate to answer certain kinds of questions in certain conditions and quantitative is right for others. Others think that both qualitative and quantitative methods can be used simultaneously to answer a research question.
To a certain extent, researchers on all sides of the debate are correct: each approach has its shortcomings. Quantitative research often prompts responses or people into categories they might not belong in, in order to make meaning. Qualitative research, on the other hand, focuses too closely on individual results and fails to make connections to larger situations or possible causes of the results. Rather than discounting either approach for its downsides, we should find the most effective ways to incorporate elements of both to ensure that their studies are as accurate and thorough as possible.
It is important for researchers to realize that qualitative and quantitative methods can be used in conjunction with each other.
For the purpose of this research, qualitative data were collected in parallel to quantitative data and consisted of the following:
* Trainers and trainees questionnaires
* Classroom observation,
* In-depth interviews with trainers, and
* Document Analysis (especially evaluation reports and gap analysis reports)
Action-research is known by many other names, including participatory research, collaborative inquiry, Action-learning, and contextual action-research, but all are variations on a theme. Put simply, action-research is ï¿½learning by doingï¿½ - a group of people identify a problem, do something to resolve it, see how successful their efforts were, and if not satisfied, try again. While this is the essence of the approach, there are other key attributes of action-research that differentiate it from common problem-solving activities that we all engage in every day.
Gilmore, Krantz and Ramirez (1986: 161) define action-research as: "Action-research...aims to contribute both to the practical concerns of people in an immediate problematic situation and to further the goals of social science simultaneously. Thus, there is a dual commitment in action-research to study a system and concurrently to collaborate with members of the system in changing it in what is together regarded as a desirable direction. Accomplishing this twin goal requires the active collaboration of researcher and client, and thus it stresses the importance of co-learning as a primary aspect of the research process."
Several attributes separate action-research from other types of research. Primary is its focus on turning the people involved into researchers, too - people learn best, and more willingly apply what they have learned, when they do it themselves. It also has a social dimension - the research takes place in real-world situations and aims to solve real problems. Finally, the initiating researcher, unlike in other disciplines, makes no attempt to remain detached, but openly acknowledges their bias to the other participants.
Figure 3.1ï¿½ Action-research System Model
This study intends to use the Action-learning methodology. By its nature, Action-learning is a way of accelerating peopleï¿½s learning and building capability for handling challenging situations to bring about change. If a change is desired, and the means by which the change should take place is unknown, then Action-learning is a good way to proceed. This approach has been used in many organizations from different industry sectors as well as in educational environments where it is extremely effective. In response to our dynamic world of work, current organization often demands continuous employee learning and development.
In many situations, a fundamental assumption is that organizational survival is dependent on learning, keeping pace with, or advancing beyond the rate of change exhibited in the external environment (Boshyk, 2002). In the case of Company X curriculum unit, change in the way curriculum is designed is needed to support trainers in delivering knowledge, skills and attitude using a learner-centered approach. The traditional teaching model no longer suits the needs of young Saudis. The company needs a workforce whose knowledge and skills are built around critical thinking rather than memorization.
Action-learning is a problem-solving tool. It is built around a problem (in this case, a project). Giving the opportunity to those that perform the job of designing curriculum to identify solutions and to implement them can significantly increase success and create sustainable change. Research demonstrates that learning without application is ineffective. An action without learning fails to develop your organization (Dixon, 2004: 18-23).
It marries analysis and action, reflection and doing, organizational development and bottom-line performance. By uniting these efforts, you drive to results in new ways and build capability.
In ï¿½Action Learning ï¿½ Improving Organizational Performance through Team Learningï¿½, the Center for Applied Research (2005) listed key principles of successful Action-learning:
* Executive Sponsorship is Crucial ï¿½ In order to have an effective learning process, an executive sponsor must ensure that proper resources are given to the project and oversee the process and results. In this case, the research was converted to a department initiative, resources and budget was allocated, and the initiative was tracked by upper-management.
* Connect Action-learning to Real Business Issues ï¿½ The thrust of the projectï¿½the problem to be solvedï¿½must be relevant to the strategy or current needs of the organization. Otherwise, the results of the project might not be seen as significant by the larger organization, and the project feels like an ï¿½exercise.ï¿½ Since the goal of this research was aligned with a real business-need, recognized by both the business-lines and the training department, the outcome of it was of enough significance for the company to allocate resources, time and money to it.
* Learning is Continuous ï¿½ Learning happens throughout the process, not just at the end.
* The Future is Already Here ï¿½ The Action-learning team need not start from scratch. The solution to any problem probably already exists somewhere in the organization. Action-learning uncovers and amplifies those solutions.
* The Potential Solution Should Have Impact ï¿½ A challenge posed by Action-learning is the perception that it produces extra work. If the process is linked to a long-standing or critical problem, however, the process will be thought of as productive rather than just extra work.
* Get the Learning Noticed ï¿½ Exporting outcomes from the project into the wider organization is critical. A process is needed to capture and distribute learning throughout the organization. To support this research, a number of action-learning meetings have been conducted within Company X curriculum unit, sister units from the same division as well as the Training & Development department. A fascinating outcome of this is that, although these meetings were meant to support this specific action-learning research, a number of growing initiatives to tackle similar issues are now being researched and implemented at all levels.
This process is unlikely to be without its problems. Primarily, most people are unfamiliar with the basic procedures and capabilities of Action-learning. Secondly, Saudi Aramco managers are not used to nor inclined to trust and delegate their control. Finally, managers may not be willing to provide the time that Action-learning groups require to solve this problem.
An important step in Action-learning is to clearly define the root problems to solve. Action-learning advocates questioning and reflection to prompt a deeper level of analysis, to test assumptions, and to explore possibilities. Within a group, work-based problems are discussed and reframed in a learning context. Therefore, the researcher has gathered some key finding from Company X accrediting body the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET) which conducted a comprehensive evaluation of the curriculum design, delivery, and management of Company Xï¿½s apprenticeship program for new employees (APNE). The objective of the evaluation, as specified by Company X administrators, was to determine to what degree the APNE program is meeting its goals and to recommend changes or improvements that might be warranted. The data from this audit were gathered in October and November 2008 by the certifying body during sites visits. In 2011, another evaluation, which was aimed at a specific phase within the APNE program, was conducted by the Centre of Applied Linguistic (CAL), a non-profit organisation. Both organisations, ACCET and CAL came up with very similar findings.
Since these visits, the situation has not improved.
The following findings were highlighted in the ACCET report and were used to define the issues with our program of instruction and to form the basis for moving the curriculum from teacher-centered to learner-centered.
Table 3.1ï¿½ Certifying Bodyï¿½s Findings
h the mission and goals. The institution maintains all required documentation.
The action-learning team for this project was 14 members of staff chosen at random from the curriculum unit. One participant was selected from the five group leaders, one from the two available senior designers, seven from the 24 available designers from the curriculum writer group, one from the teaching staff, one from the graphic group, and one from the document design staff. Table 3.2 explains the sample for the qualitative research and will be used to ensure the anonymity of respondents in this report.
Table 3.2ï¿½Sample Group
Code of Interviewee
The learning preferences survey was administered to five groups of 12 students from each job of the APNE program, chosen randomly: Metals Mechanics, Welding, Operators, Process Control Technicians, and Maintenance Technicians. The teaching preferences survey was administered to one of the two teachers responsible of teaching the preceding crafts. A semi-structured interview was used with each supervisor responsible of each of the five job ladders to compare with the views collected via surveys and observations from the classroom. This enabled the researcher to reflect similarities or differences between what was compiled from the surveys, observations and interviews of the trainees and the trainers.
In this research, involving a smaller amount of subjects reduces investment in time and money. It is believed that samplingï¿½can actually be more accurate than studying an entire population, which in this case is over 2600 trainees, and 650 trainers in five different locations throughout the country, because it affords the researcher a lot more control over the subjects.
Finally, having a smaller data set will allow the researcher to avoid human error when inputting and analyzing the data set. On the other hand, there is room for potential bias in the selection of suitable subjects for the research. This may be because the researcher selects subjects that are more likely to give the desired results, or that the subjects tend to select themselves.
3.5 The Data Collection Tools
Many ways to gather data are required to undertake the research and as Denscombe (2007:3) explained, there is no one right direction to take. Different strategies should be used depending on the issue to be undertaken. Triangulation requires the collection of data from a variety of sources, in a variety of ways, with a variety of perspectives. In this study, interviews, audit reports, questionnaires, and observations were used to collect data in a variety of ways.
3.5.1 The Interview
The interview as a data collection tool was considered as it provides an opportunity to collect better or more data at less cost (Ribbins, 2007). The researcher has decided to use semi-structured interviews as the method for collecting my qualitative data as it fosters a deeper understanding of the views of the interviewees. The semi-structured interview can be described as flexible, allowing new questions to be brought up as a result of what the interviewee says.
In a semi-structured interview, the interviewer has generally a framework of themes to be explored (Lindlof and Taylor, 2002: 195). The interviewing technique is employed in this research because it serves the exploratory nature of the study. It seeks in-depth information about skill formation outcomes. The latter issue and the information to be obtained are very sensitive to interviewees in this study.
Therefore, interviewing is the most appropriate approach. This can be achieved through a small sample of representatives from selected sectors rather than focusing on a large scale population. Interviewing also enables the interviewer to supplement information obtained from responses, with those gained from observation of nonverbal reactionsï¿½ (Kumar, 1999:115). Furthermore, this qualitative research falls within the context of discovering possible barriers and challenges for organizational change by implementing a new instructional approach. Therefore, it is essential to prevent any possibility of misunderstanding of research questions that will be asked as the interviewer can either repeat or explain such questions in the spot which can only be accomplished through face-to-face interviewing. The use of standardized instructions warranted that each supervisor had a similar involvement. Linking the closed questions from the trainees and trainers questionnaire meant that the responses of supervisors could be directly compared to the questionnaires without the need for a deep analysis from the researcher.
3.5.2 The Questionnaire
A questionnaire was administered to the trainees and the trainers by the researcher based upon Gary J. Contiï¿½s (1983) work. The Principles of Adult Learning Scale (PALS) was developed and validated for measuring congruency between adult education practitioners' actual observable classroom behavior and their expressed belief in the collaborative teaching-learning mode. The PALS is self-administered, has 44 items, and can be completed in about 10 to 15 minutes (Conti, 1990).
There are several reasons behind choosing this instrument; it is easy to administer, it is easy to interpret, it is self-scoring, and not scored by an external agent, it is relatively quick to administer and complete, it has easily reportable scales, and it has reliability and validity supported by the research.
PALS leads to a single score and which can be divided as follows:
* Teacher centered-extreme: 0-105
* Teacher centered - very strong: 106-125
* Teacher centered - increased: 126-145
* Learner centered-increased: 146-165
* Learner centered - very strong: 166-185
* Learner centered - extreme: 186-205
Nearly everyone has had some experience completing questionnaires and they generally do not make people apprehensive. They are less intrusive than telephone or face-to-face surveys. When respondents receive a questionnaire, they are free to complete it on their own timetable. Unlike other research methods, the respondent is not interrupted by the research instrument. Written surveys are not subject to this bias because there is no interviewer. On the other hand, the lack of an interviewer limits the researcher's ability to probe responses (Walonick, 1993). Contrasting with in-person interviewing, there are no verbal or visual clues to influence a respondent to answer in a particular way.
Many investigators have reported that interviewer voice inflections and mannerisms can bias responses (Barath and Cannell, 1976). Written surveys are not subject to this bias because there is no interviewer. As suggested by Bell (2007) the researcher needs to avoid ambiguity, leading and double questions to ensure the responses are valid and useful in the research. Some might argue that the lack of an interviewer limits the researcher's ability to probe responses. Structured questionnaires often lose the "flavor of the response", because respondents often want to qualify their answers (Walonick, 1993). By allowing frequent space for comments, the researcher can partially overcome this disadvantage.
Observation is a way of gathering data by watching behavior, events, or noting physical characteristics in their natural setting. Marshall and Rossman (1995) define observation as "the systematic description of events, behaviors, and artifacts in the social setting chosen for study" (p.79).
Observation methods are useful to researchers in a variety of ways. They provide researchers with ways to check for nonverbal expression of feelings, determine who interacts with whom, grasp how participants communicate with each other, and check for how much time is spent on various activities (Schmuck, 1997).
Observations, as used in this research, enabled the researcher to validate the result of both surveys. Participant observation in their learning environment allowed the researcher get the feel for how the material is being taught and evaluated. It also gave the researcher a better knowledge of the learning culture of the trainees against the teaching culture of the trainers.
The researcher conducted a focused observation using the same PALS questionnaire administered to the trainers and trainees. An extra field was added for observation notes. A focused observation emphasizes observation supported by interviews and questionnaires, in which the participants' insights guide the researcher's decisions about what to observe. As Wolcott (2001) notes, one should take note of what he is observing, what is being put into the field notes and in how much detail, and what one is nothing about the researcher's personal experience in conducting the research.
3.6 Reliability and Validity
The researcher realises the importance of reliability and validity of the measuring instruments. Schumacher and Macmillan (1993:404-406) state, ï¿½Qualitative researchers typically use as many strategies as possible to insure the validity of the design.ï¿½ The traditional criteria for validity find their roots in a positivist tradition, and to an extent, positivism has been defined by a systematic theory of validity. Within the positivist terminology, validity resided amongst, and was the result and culmination of other empirical conceptions: universal laws, evidence, objectivity, truth, actuality, deduction, reason, fact and mathematical data to name just a few (Winter, 2000). Joppe (2000) gives the following account of validity in quantitative research:
ï¿½Validity determines whether the research truly measures that which it was intended to measure or how truthful the research results are.ï¿½
Researchers usually control validity by asking a series of questions and will often look for the answers in the research of others. Reliability as defined by Joppe is:
ï¿½ï¿½The extent to which results are consistent over time and an accurate representation of the total population under study is referred to as reliability and if the results of a study can be reproduced under a similar methodology, then the research instrument is considered to be reliableï¿½ (Joppe: 2000: 1).
Rooted in this citation is the idea of repeatability of results or observations. Although the researcher may be able to prove the research instrument repeatability and internal consistency, and, therefore reliability, the instrument itself may not be valid.
To attain methodological and respondent triangulation in this research, the researcher used several strategies such as observation, interview, document analysis, and questionnaire. Bush (2006) stated that checking requires triangulation, which means at the data-collection stage seeking further evidence including talking to others, studying documents and observing action.
3.7 Ethical Considerations
Because action-research is carried out in real-world circumstances and involves close and open communication among the people involved, the researcher must pay close attention to ethical considerations in the conduct of his work. Confidentiality must be a given. Richard Winter (1996) lists a number of principles which were respected throughout the study:
* ï¿½Make sure that the relevant persons, committees and authorities have been consulted, and that the principles guiding the work are accepted in advance by all.
* All participants must be allowed to influence the work, and the wishes of those who do not wish to participate must be respected.
* The development of the work must remain visible and open to suggestions from others.
* Permission must be obtained before making observations or examining documents produced for other purposes.
* Descriptions of othersï¿½ work and points of view must be negotiated with those concerned before being published.
* The researcher must accept responsibility for maintaining confidentiality.
* To this might be added several more points:
* Decisions made about the direction of the research and the probable outcomes are collective
* Researchers are explicit about the nature of the research process from the beginning, including all personal biases and interests
* There is equal access to information generated by the process for all participants
* The outside researcher and the initial design team must create a process that maximizes the opportunities for involvement of all participants.
The researcher must also ensure that the research participants give their consent voluntarily. Additionally, this consent can be withdrawn at any time (TCPS2, 2011).
This is confirmed by Busher and James who state that ï¿½a key principle for constructing ethical research is that of voluntarism by the participant when engaging with research (Busher and James, 2007: 110). Also confidentiality will be achieved by maintaining anonymity. Hart (2003) describes anonymity as referring to concealing the identity of the participants in all documents resulting from the research. In conducting interviews, ethical issues are one of the main concerns. Ethical guidelines published the University of Leicester Code of Practice (2012, Online) were used to guide the research process.
Following these principles, the action-learning team was assembled for this research. An initiative was proposed to the department head. From this proposal, the action-learning team met and developed a formal project proposal.
The project proposal was submitted to the Accelerated Transformation Program team and was later approved. The team met again and a project plan was elaborated in consultation with everyone in the action-learning team.
A formal presentation about Action-learning was conducted and the action-learning team elaborated ground rules to be followed for each action-learning set. The following action-learning principles and ground rules were charted and adopted:
* Only in a group where it is safe to disclose ignorance, admit weakness and ask for help is it possible for the problem owner to learn at sufficient depth for him to develop as an individual
* Keep to external and internal time boundaries to ensure each person has a fair share of the time available.
* Statements only in response to questions; anyone can ask questions.
* Only one at a time. Only one person at a time is the issue holder, for that time, the set members are there to listen and to enable. If the problem owner is not getting the sort of help that is needed, he should say so.
* Team members have authority to intervene whenever he identifies learning opportunities.
* Team members need to be able to try out new ways of relating, knowing that they will get constructive feedback and not be blamed for getting it wrong.
* Team members need to get over any notion of competitiveness or ï¿½better thanï¿½ notions.
* Being a member is voluntary. Any members can elect to leave the action-learning team at any moment without explanations.
Additionally, supervisors were informed that they could withdraw from the interview at any time and approved verbally at the end of the interview to their data being used. By returning the questionnaire trainees and trainers gave agreement to use their data.
Finally, since the research participants have the right to remain anonymous, all information solicited was treated with confidentiality and used for the purposes of the dissertation only. The documents provided by the participants were returned or shredded upon request. Hart (2003) describes anonymity as referring to concealing the identity of the participants in all documents resulting from the research. All participants were guaranteed that the information solicited was treated with maximum confidentiality.
The purpose of this study was twofold. One: to identify the learning styles of company X trainees enrolled in the industrial technical colleges and the teaching styles of the instructors. Two: to determine if the use of action-learning can change the delivery of curricula from a teacher-centered model to a brain based learner-centered model. This chapter will explain the analysis conducted to identify the current learning-teaching styles, discuss how the data collected helped the action-learning team identify the problem, and demonstrate how the use of action-learning can be an efficient tool in changing Company X training design and delivery.
4.1 Finding 1
Based on the PALS trainers and trainees questionnaire, the researcher was able to define the specific problem the action-learning team is trying to address. The Principles of Adult Learning Scale (PALS) Conty (1983) was developed and validated for measuring congruency between adult education practitioners' actual observable classroom behaviour and their expressed belief in the collaborative teaching-learning mode. PALS, trainers and trainees versions, is self-administered, has 44 items, and can be completed in about 10 to 15 minutes (Conti, 1990). Half of the items are worded positively, the others negatively and are arranged randomly. The PALS questionnaires factor scores are calculated by summing the value of the responses for each item/question in the factor. Then, the researcher compares each trainerï¿½s factor score values to their respective means. Both groups were given a consent form.
The PALS trainersï¿½ questionnaires were distributed to five trainers during spring of 2012. Participation to the survey was not mandatory. Surveys were collected and placed into an envelope which was sealed before the trainers. Data analysis was conducted before the classroom observations took place.
The PALS is interpreted as follows:
If the score is equal to or greater than each respective mean, then this suggests that such factors are indicative of the trainerï¿½s teaching style. Those scores that are less than the mean indicate possible areas for improving a more learner-centered approach to teaching. An individual's total score on the instrument is calculated by summing the value of each of the seven factors.
Scores between 0-145 indicate that the style is ï¿½teacher-centered.ï¿½ Scores between 146-220 indicate that the style is ï¿½learner-centered.ï¿½ The overall PALS score can be broken down into seven factors as shown in Table 4.1.
While the overall score indicates the trainer's general style, the factor scores identify specific elements that make up this style. A high score on each factor represents support of the concept implied in the factor, while a low score indicates support of the opposite concept
Table 4.1ï¿½ Factor Score Values
Of the five trainers' that responded to this survey, all five of their scores were below the mean score of 146 which indicated that they all prefer a teacher centered approach to teaching.
4.1.1 Trainees Questionnaire
The second objective of this survey was to determine the students learning preferences against the trainers teaching preferences. The trainees from the same group of trainers participated in this study.
The students were given the questionnaire during one of the class sessions in the spring term of 2012. A discussion of learning styles and explicit instructions on how to complete the survey preceded the distribution. Student participation was voluntary, so only completed surveys were placed in an envelope. After all the surveys had been collected, the envelope was sealed and taken by the researcher for analysis of the data.
The results were then analysed and compared with the Index of Learning Styles (ILS) formulated by Richard M. Felder and Linda K. Silverman as per the table below.
The Index of Learning Styles was created in 1991 by Richard M. Felder, a chemical engineering professor at North Carolina State University, and Barbara A. Soloman, then the coordinator of advising for the N.C. State First-Year College. The four learning style dimensions of the instrument were adapted from a model developed in 1987 by Dr. Felder and Dr. Linda K. Silverman, an educational psychologist then at the University of Denver.
The first version of the instrument was administered to several hundred students and the data were subjected to a factor analysis. Items that did not load heavily on one and only one item were replaced with new items to obtain the current 44-item version of the instrument. The learning styles surveyed are shown in the table below.
4.1.2 Classroom Observations and Interviews
The researcher observed classes at the site visited, selecting a sample of classes from each discipline. Following the class, the researcher spoke with the relevant instructor and their supervisor and reviewed the various documents used for the course. The documents typically included a Student Manual, an Instructorï¿½s Manual for Training, and an Instructorï¿½s Manual for Testing.
Classrooms were all equipped with projectors, whiteboards and flip charts. Materials used included PowerPoint presentations, lectures, whiteboard use, videos, and animated graphics. In many courses laboratory exercises and hands on physical activities (such as fabrication, lining up bearings, welding, control operations, electrical boards, etc.) were observed. All classes observed by the researcher were given in lecture format. Teachers focussed on content rather than on illustrating the content. Congruent with a Teacher-Centered style, trainers would ask closed questions, or ask trainees to restate the content in their own words. With the case of Arab trainers, the content is delivered first in English, and then restated in Arabic. Students would then be probed to summarize the topic in Arabic to check understanding. The trainer would then move on to the next topic.
From these findings, the action-learning team started formulating possible solution regarding the first research question ï¿½What are the issues with JSC&TUï¿½s current ins