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Firstly, we need to make the world less dependant upon conventional methods of energy generation, sustainability should be included in the curriculum, and building designers are now governed by law to improve sustainable homes. With changes in current government legislation and the world's attempts at reducing CO2 emissions by 40% before 2020. It is now time to look at how we, the Electrical Installation Engineers pioneer, champion new technologies and embrace change, to enable sustainability of the curriculum and the trade through teaching, in a bid to comply with governments long term plans for sustainability with new energy generation ideas.
The rationale for choosing such a topic emanates from my own concerns and feelings pertaining to renewable energies and the impact they have on the wider public, not just specific issues pertaining to electricians. The craft of being an installation Electrician has evolved over the last decade or so, however the curriculum has not kept pace with this change. We have had numerous technological advances that require more specialist installation working practices, in areas such as ICT equipment and communications and data transfer, uninterruptible power supplies and so forth. This has broken through into variations in the curriculum nationally only by means of the hidden curriculum. Charles Clark in 2003 quoted:
"We need to embrace sustainable development across the education system so that best practice becomes commonplace"
This is yet to be embedded into the curriculum nationally. The modern electrician has had to adapt to these many evolutionary changes, and they have been pushed beyond the boundaries of the conventional installation techniques and practices, as the emergence of these new technologies and legislation appear. This is usually without any formal training or knowledge testing; therefore issues must be raised as to competency levels of these electricians undertaking this kind of work, do they know about changes in Waste Electrical Electronic Equipment legislation (WEEE, Aug 2005), transportation of waste materials in vehicles all relevant to the electrical trade but not taught. My concerns are that with the introduction and release of the new IEE Wiring Regulations BS7671:2008 new changes were brought in on many disciplines that electricians need to comply with, namely working with solar photovoltaic power supply systems. (IEE BS7671 section 712 Pg 200). Albeit a non statutory regulation, however, it falls under the banner of Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which is a statutory act, along with The Electricity Safety, Quality and Continuity Regulations 2002 (ESQR).
Almost all domestic electricians are influenced by technology and emerging technologies and they are changing how they work and operate. 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".
It is important that the next generation of electricians are equipped for the technology advancements that are being planned for, namely a sustainable future.
How do I achieve learning with my own learners?
My teaching strategies and that of my department is that learners acquire their knowledge through a process of building blocks which are then built upon, from a schema as part of the constructivist teaching strategy. Dewey and Piaget 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 accordingly. Then to conceptualise it for themselves, namely learners fitting new knowledge together what they already know. This is why learners need explore and be able to construct personal building blocks of learning based upon their own experiences and by reflecting on those experiences exposed to. My 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 associated with cognitive psychology. He likens this to:
"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 identifies are abridged as follows:
Any instructions should be well organized. Well organized material is easier to learn and to remember.
Instructions should be clearly structured. Subject matters are said to have inherent structures, logical relationships between key ideas and concepts, which link the parts together.
Prior knowledge is important. Things must fit with what is already known if it is to be learnt.
It would be wrong for the reader of this to assume that this is the only way we teach or impart knowledge to our learners. I tend to lean toward the model of "present, apply and review" (PAR), 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 is not in isolation of other teach strategies and theories. Where am I going with this, well my learners are predominately part time evening adult learners, the question is where are they going with their studies. I have 3hrs per week theory and 3 hrs practical with them, I cannot possibly teach them everything they need to be electricians in the 30 weeks they are programmed in for. I therefore start by planting a seed in the first couple of weeks that they must become self directed learners to get the maximum benefit of the course and ultimately enjoy the course and pass the unit exams.
So where do we go, from research it has been agreed that learners don't just remember what a tutor tells them, but they must make sense of what they are learning and relate this to what they already know. So to expand knowledge the learner needs exposure to activities and so experience is developed to formulate change.
Experiential learning is referred to as experiential activities, and other variations of the term. The aspect that I am interested in is the learner's perspective, which is paramount to the experiential learning concept and ideas to formulate understanding.
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 the 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. My learners rely heavily on this method of learning in the workshops. I try and steer clear of how I was taught at school; many of you may empathise with the term "chalk and talk" a style of training which contains no experiential learning whatsoever for the learner, very little learning actually does take place when andragogic learning process are being developed.
This experiential learning is controlled by the individual learners for their own needs and achievements allowing personal growth and development, whereas in conventional training organisations they tend to be designed and be delivered for organisation purposes not for developing the capabilities of the individual or group of people, usually this is to satisfy qualification criteria or the syllabus.
Learners and people in general need certain pre skills and knowledge for their every day function in the real world, this fall into two distinct categories personal needs and their work needs. This is 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 an observation most problems tend to emanate from people as a whole genuinely feel unhappy or unfulfilled in their work or in life. The conventional skills and knowledge transfer given training or teaching does little to counter these effects, as previously mentioned they learning from self actualisation. Experiential learning certainly offers ways in which to address personal feelings of confidence, fulfilment and a sense of purpose.
In mainstream teaching the needs of the "organisation" are indeed the primary drivers (bums on seats and revenue generation) of the learning these consist of, the content of the course, the 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. However, the idea of developing people as individuals is regarded by many employers as less efficient and ineffective over that of the conventional training normally given. Ultimately it's the organisation and the learners' needs that need to be addressed. This is because employers and educational policies makers only see qualifications not the standards of learning and knowledge attained during learning.
The overall benefits that could be achieved by developing people as individuals are extensive. By developing these learners as individuals rather than just lecturing the knowledge we can encourage and develop people's confidence, self-esteem, personal qualities, giving them a sense of fulfilment which improve the individuals outlook, attitude, and life skills. This lends itself to Kolb and Maslow's ideas on learning and self fulfilment.
When individuals are helped to discover what learning can offer, the experiences it can bring the emotionally well-being and rewards, they can then be exposed to further development opportunities in the future. Inappropriate training has the opposite effect, if it does not interest them or make allowances for their preferred learning style, we tend to put people off learning and personal development for some considerable time even permanently as I was.
Experiential learning is a way of breaking out of the old pre conditioned training and learning and the archaic teaching practices of the past which stifled people's personal development. I felt so constrained at school by chalk and talk and bigoted teaching that this method of experiential teaching I now champions this learning myself, against the grain of others tutors.
Activities associated with experiential learning
Breaking it down "Conclusion"
Firstly, the learner is central to all of the process throughout, the tutor provides the learner with some guidance and direction. Me as the facilitator of this type of learning I must empathise with my learners and encourage them to make use of their opportunities given to them to become personally involved in the learning process that they have embarked upon. This is only achieved with personal involvement to develop their understanding, by engaging in self critique and evaluate of their own conceptualisation of the activity and then work hard to apply the new knowledge.
Individuals can and do learn without tutor facilitation. Learners learn by reflecting on their experiences, developing personal thoughts and understandings through involvement in planned activities that develop them emotionally. Experiential learning directs people to working things through for themselves by developing their own understanding, so tutors must ensure this happens on a regular basis. Effective facilitation can add value, however, tutors should remember that inappropriate facilitation can hinder and sometimes stifle the learning process. Therefore a good understanding of the subject is essential as guidance may be required via abstract thinking and activity development.
A good tutor should help to create a positive learning environment that enables learners to recognise and make use of these given opportunities. The tutor should be able to provide guidance and support through each segment of the learning cycle by creating an learning environment that is activity rich, that will provoke and initiate the new learning process, creating a framework to be critical reviewed by the learner.
By developing the basic skills in a supportive environment which can be easily done given time and trust; changing the learners behaviour on the other hand is another matter, and beyond this paper. I achieve this in my classes by exuding always a positive attitude and by display my own personal confidence. I have managed and found it is easier to implement any changes without challenge, it's a matter of trust, similar to that of what we expect from visiting a doctor or when we get on plane to go on holiday we trust the people at the front. Again the learner is in the driving seat here the learner has to want to learn.
The idea to create an ideal opportunity for a valuable and memorable personal learning experience must be by creating 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. It should not involve any role play or any artificial outcomes, as learners formulate real life images not pretentious ones. All the activities must be designed, managed and facilitated very carefully so that each activity has the maximum learning impact on each individual, (perceived difficulty).
The learning has to be review and is a essential stage of every activity undertaken by the learners. This should be planned as part of the original planning and design of the activity, and the ideal is that the review should involve the learners own personal thought and ideas. If the session and activity is to be of benefit, an honest critique is required by learner and tutor alike.
"The positives vs. negatives" this is the difficult part and knowing individual learners is required for this to be effective. The learner needs to concentrate on both aspects to be a critically effective learner. It is too easy to focus on the negatives, human nature drives this forward but this usually undermine confidence in the learning and development phase, especially for people who are not robust enough to cope well with criticisms. It is all too obvious if something goes wrong, however it can be favourable to appraise what has been accomplished well during the learning. (The praise sandwich effect) Motivation and well being as individuals is achieved, by finding out what caused this success makes that activity and learning process slot into place, "make a thousand mistakes, just don't make the same mistake twice", that's what my old tutor (Mr McGill, RAF) quoted to me.
By controlled and planned questioning techniques given by the tutor, who facilitates and reviews these sessions. It should bring about assimilation and syntheses of the information gleaned by the individuals or as a group in the form of a discussion. This allows the learner's time to formulate and draw upon their own conclusions. This facilitator/ tutor must resist directly telling someone how they should learn. It is a privileged position to be in observing learning, if the learning points are not exposed there and then, develop another session to exploit the learning outcomes required time permitting. Similarities should be seen here in the present, apply, review process (PAR).
During my time as tutor I have developed a workbook; which attempts to exploits the experiential learning abilities of my learners. It covers all aspects of the trade and develops literacy and numeracy along with individual and group work activities. They are development activities or bridging exercise of sort, the do, review, learn apply, as described by Geoff Petty (2006 pg 297). Within this workbook I provide extension work
Having gone through interviews and filter test we select these individuals on the assumption that they can and will make experiential learning work for them, the most difficult aspect of this learning style as a tutor is believing in the learners, appreciate that they have the skills to make progress and plan for success, you are the tutor and are in a role to provide opportunities to learn and progress on their course and learning for life.
Being an effective tutor come facilitator you have to be first satisfied with your own knowledge levels before offering out solutions, otherwise they will go unused be undervalued by the learners. Appreciating learners in the early stages of their personal learning can bring rewards in the future when you see the learners develop far beyond what was perceived there threshold of education. I left school with no qualifications, some 26 years ago. Having been exposed to some radical tutors during technical training they inspired me, by allowing me the flexibility to learn and learn for myself.