Next Generation Of Learners In The Electrotechnical Industry Education Essay

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The world needs to be less dependant upon conventional methods of energy generation, sustainability should be included in the electricians' curriculum as yet the curriculum is devoid of anything relating to this subject matter. Seventeen years on from when the government of the day announced that sustainability must become common place across education. With changes to the current government legislation and the world's attempts at reducing CO2 emissions by 40% before 2020, it is now time to look at how, the Electrical Installation Engineers pioneer, champion these new technologies and embrace change to enable sustainability into the trade and the curriculum through provisioned teaching, in a bid to comply with the governments long term plans for energy sustainability and learner sustainability within the trade.

Outline

The rationale for choosing such a topic emanates from personal concerns that relate to renewable energies and the impact they have on the wider public, not just specific issues pertaining to electricians; everyone uses electricity in some form or another. The craft of being a modern installation electrician has evolved immensely over the past decade, yet the curriculum has not kept pace with this rapid change in customer requirements. The electrical industry has had numerous technological advances that have require more specialist installation working practices, in areas such as micro generation systems, the renewable forms of energy. As yet; sustainable energies have yet to be embedded into the curriculum nationally and students are only made aware of such issues through extension work, research activities and target specific tutorials, which expand the learners' knowledge to appreciation the changes that are happening, this forms the outline to this conference paper.

The modern electrician has had to adapt to many evolutionary changes and have been pushed beyond the boundaries of conventional installation techniques and practices with the emergence of new technologies and the subsequent legislation that follows them; one such example is solar photovoltaic PV power supply systems as defined in the IEE BS7671:2008 section 712 (pg 200 - 203).

Almost all domestic installation electricians and their prospective customers are affected by the emergence of new technologies and these changes are affecting how they work and operate in the modern world, Minton (2005, pg 334) argues that:

"One of the biggest obstacles is attitude change. Education and training should concentrate on preparing students so that they can cope with change, and know how to learn and relearn to adapt rapidly, as their world suffers revolutions rather than slow revolution".

Using Minton's quote, it is now so important that the next generation of electricians and those undergoing formal training, are well equipped with the skills to change alongside the technology advancements that are being planned for; namely a sustainable energy future.

The use of constructivism

One way of achieving best practice is gained from the learner acquiring their knowledge through a process of building blocks which are then built upon, from a schema as part of the constructivist teaching strategy. Dewey as cited by Curzon (2005, pg 79 - 83) and Piaget by Armitage et al, (2007, pg74) and Hsiu-mei Huang (2002) all lean towards and champion this form of learning, as in most cases learners are not blank canvases, new knowledge cannot be imparted without the learner assimilating and formulating the ideas and ordering, accordingly. The learner then has to conceptualise this learning for themselves, by the learner's fitting these new knowledge blocks together into what they already know, based upon their own learning experiences and by reflecting on those experiences.

The tutors' role is to provide guide discovery, by discussion, appreciation and some verbalisation of new knowledge. As James Hartley (1998, pg 18) points out, some of the key

principles of learning are associated with cognitive psychology. He likens learning to the following:

"Learning results from inferences, expectations and making connections. Instead of acquiring habits, learners acquire plans and strategies, and prior knowledge is important.

A couple of the key principles he further identifies are abridged as follows:

Any instructions given should be well organized. So by having well organized material it is easier to learn and to remember.

Instructions should be clearly structured. The subject matters should have inherent structures, logical relationships between key ideas and concepts, which link the building blocks together.

Prior knowledge is important. These building blocks must fit with what is already known, if it is to be learnt and retained.

Another model used to develop the learners is the "Present, Apply and Review" (PAR), as described by Geoff Petty (2004, pg 414):

"The idea is that you must present new material, get the students to apply this learning, and review what has been learned"

Again this method is not in isolation of other teaching strategies and theories. The learners' are predominately mature males engaged on a part time evening course. The learners have three hours per week theory and a three hour practical workshops, six hours guided learning per week. In this time frame allotted, it is impossibly to teach them everything they need to become electricians.

From research by Chris White [on-line] it has been argued that learners don't just remember what a tutor tells them, but they must make sense of what they are learning and relate this information to what they already do know; and do. So to expand knowledge in the learner, the learner needs exposure to some form of activities, so that experiences will be developed to formulate a change.

Experiential learning to encourage change

Experiential learning, to be effective needs experiential activities. The key aspect of interested in is the learners' perspective, which is paramount to the experiential learning concept and ideas to formulate understanding, learners need to develop skills and ideas to become competent in their chosen career path, to formulate new ideas for themselves.

To define what experiential learning means is to describe how learning and development are gained through personally derived experience and involvement, rather than on just receiving training, usually through group, observation, listening, study of theories or from transfer of skills and knowledge already known and demonstrated to a group. The term "hands on" is commonly used to describe this type of learning and teaching which to all intent and purposes is experiential learning. The learners rely heavily on this method of learning to gain skills of hand techniques in the workshops. This experiential learning is controlled by the individual learners for their own needs and achievements allowing personal growth and development.

Learners and people in general need certain fundamental skills and knowledge for their every day function in the real world, this falls into two distinct categories personal needs and their work needs. This can be the start of personal development and life long learning, guidance should be offered which will assist the individual and help them flourish in society as well as in the workplace.

As an observation on society, the learning trigger points emanate from people as a whole, who genuinely feel unhappy or unfulfilled in their work or in life. Experiential learning certainly offers ways in which to address personal feelings of confidence, fulfilment and a sense of purpose.

In Higher Education teaching the needs of the "organisation" are indeed the primary drivers for learning; these consist of, course content, design and the delivery and assessment of that learning. Yet, in experiential learning the starting point is of course the individual and the primary driver is to help that individual grow and learn and develop in their own unique way and ultimately be self directed in their own choice of studies.

The overall benefits that could be achieved by developing people as individuals are extensive. By developing these learners as individuals rather than just imparting the knowledge, it can encourage and develop people's confidence, self-esteem, and personal qualities, giving them a sense of fulfilment which improves the individual's outlook, attitude, and skills for life. This lends itself to Maslow's ideas cited by Curzon (2005, pg 97 - 100) on learning and self fulfilment.

The role of the tutor is to help individuals discover what learning can offer, the experiences it can bring, the emotionally well-being and rewards and the development opportunities in the future that can transpire. However, inappropriate training has the opposite effect, if it does not interest them or make allowances for their preferred learning style; interest and involvement learning and personal development is lost.

Activities associated with experiential learning

The learner is central to all of the process throughout, the tutor provides the learner with some guidance and direction. The facilitator of this type of learning must empathise with these learners and encourage them to make use of learning opportunities given, to allow them to become personally involved in the learning process. This is achieved by individual learners' involvement to develop their understanding, by engaging in self critique and to personally evaluate their own conceptualisation of the activity and then work hard to apply the new knowledge; an abridged version of the PAR model.

Individuals can and do learn without any tutor facilitation, which is what we are attempting to exploit in our electricians. These learners learn by reflecting on their experiences, developing personal thoughts and understandings through involvement in planned activities that develop them technically. Experiential learning directs people to working things through for themselves by developing their own understanding and thoughts processes to come up with the ideal solutions.

The idea is to create an ideal opportunity for a valuable and memorable personal learning experience by creating a good experiential learning activity. The activity must engage, provide a mental challenge to all the individuals in the group, so they become absorbed in the task for themselves. The learning has to be reviewed and is an essential stage of every activity undertaken by the learner. If the session and activity is to be of benefit, an honest critique is required by learner and tutor alike.

Learners' need to be aware of the positive and negatives aspects of learning to become critically effective as a learner. It is too easy to focus on the negatives, however this usually undermine confidence in the learning and development phase. It is all too obvious if something goes wrong, however it can be favourable to appraise what has been accomplished well during that learning. Motivation and well being as individuals is achieved, by finding out what caused any success, by ensuring that activity and learning process slot into place and continue to do so, "make a thousand mistakes, just don't make the same mistake twice", (Mr McGill, RAF) a directed quoted to me during my engineering apprenticeship.

In conclusion

Experiential learning with my learners has been achieved by the development of a stand alone workbook which exploits the experiential learning abilities of each learner, developed over the last 18 months. It covers almost all aspects of the trade practices and develops literacy and numeracy along with individual and group work activities. They are a mixture of development activities and bridging exercises, the do, review, learn apply, is utilised to great effect, as described by Geoff Petty (2006, pg 297). Within this workbook provisions for extension work to cover areas not covered in the curriculum such as scaffold erecting, telephone points. On-going work on sustainability has being developed and included in the electrician's workbook, the incorporate of new ideas and concepts of renewable energies should take the learners forward in their own personal learning and application of learning. This workbook is intuitively student led tutor directed with lots of interest is generated; especially when money and alternative career paths are discovered from this type of learning. This research topic has uncovered some similarities associated with Gagne work on Neo -Behaviourism and structural behaviour as cited by Minton (2005, pg 303). I recognising there is still some way to go in developing this workbook, however it has had a tremendous effect on the learners and demonstrates students and tutors can change.

References

Armitage, A. et al, (2007). Teaching and Training in Post -Compulsory Education. 3rd ed. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Curzon, L.B. (1998). Teaching in further education, an outline of principles and practice. 4th ed. London: Cassell Education Limited.

Hartley, J, (1998). Learning and Studying: A research perspective. 1st ed. London: Routledge.

Petty, G. (2004). Teaching Today. 3rd ed. Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes.

(pg 414)

Minton, D. (2005). Teaching Skills in further and adult education. 3rd ed. London: Thomson.

(pg 303 - 334)

British Journal of Education Technology: Volume 33, No 1, May 2002

Towards constructivism for adult learners in on-line learning environment - by Hsiu-mei Huang

(pg 27 - 37)

Charles Clark 2003: http://www.data.org.uk/ generaldocs/sustainability/esdsection2.pdf [accessed 21st February 2010]

White, C. (2006) Learning to take control before taking control of learning [on-line], http://intranet.bpc.ac.uk/researchpapers/Chris_white.doc email

cwhite@bpc.ac.uk [accessed: 21 Feb 2010]

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