In their text "Understanding Curriculum", Pinar et al (2008) describe the significant changes in how educators use the term. In the formal sense the curriculum is described in terms of the planned course of study, the teaching methods, content and assessments. There is also usually an informal curriculum; the opportunistic, unplanned learning experiences, such as adhoc coaching, observations and discussions. However, there is often a "hidden" curriculum, "the ideological and subliminal messages of both the formal and informal curriculum" (Wear and Skillicorn, 2009) which can be difficult to identify. To increase my understanding of curricula I will critically evaluate the Qantas Airways Cabin Crew Initial Training curriculum; a work-based program to train and assess Cabin Crew in aviation safety procedures; and Leicestershire County Council Youth Work curriculum which supports the learning and achievement of young people aged 13-25 through a process of informal education. I will evaluate these curricula in terms of all the planned experiences which the learner may be exposed to in order to achieve the learning goals. These experiences will depend on the institution's underlying philosophy, the purpose and context of the training, the aims and objectives, the timeframe available, and the demands of the relevant stakeholders.
QANTAS AIRWAYS CABIN CREW INITIAL TRAINING CURRICULUM
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In work-based learning, the main stakeholder is normally the employer and the motivations behind the curriculum are Utilitarian or Instrumentalist; "having a specific product, namely producing a skilled workforce" (Keeley-Browne, 2007:100). I expected this ideology to be reflected in the Cabin Crew Emergency Procedures Initial Training Program for Qantas Airways. The purpose of the training in this context is to equip newly employed Cabin Crew with the knowledge and skills to be able to operate safely and carry out the necessary procedures should an emergency situation arise. However, on reflection of the content, delivery methods and assessment of this curriculum I found that another stakeholder significantly affected the learning philosophy. It follows a more Classical Humanist approach, focusing on discipline and attainment in exams (Ross, 2000:104) due to the restrictions placed upon the training organisation by its regulator.
Training in this context is strictly regulated by the Australian Government Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA). Civil Aviation Regulation 217 [Appendix 1] states that all training and assessment provided by Qantas Aviation Safety Training (QAST) is subject to CASA approval. Additionally, Civil Aviation Order 20.11, App 4 [Appendix 2] explicitly dictates the practical and theoretical competencies that must be taught and assessed for Cabin Crew certification. These restrictions limit options for curriculum content, learning activities and assessment methods resulting in a curriculum that is highly specified with little room for teachers to adapt the program to meet the needs of the learners and even less opportunity for learners to direct their own learning.
As an Aviation Safety Training Instructor for the training provider, I find opportunities to use my professional judgment in the design and delivery of this curriculum limited. To remain compliant with the regulator, Qantas employs a strict, classical and unimaginative curriculum [Appendix 3] based on required competencies. The behavioural objectives are consistent with product models of curriculum advocated by theorists such as Tyler (1949) and Bloom et al (1956). While this provides clear learning outcomes and makes assessment more precise, it simultaneously discourages creativity for both the learner and teacher and leaves the focus largely on the outcomes of exams and assessment. Recent educational debate has accused testing-focussed curricula of de-skilling teaching (Darling-Hammond, 1988, McNeil & Valenzuela, 2000) as teachers will simply prepare the learners for the test at the expense of other learning experiences. The training utilises mostly traditional, teacher-centred methods. The theory of a subject is always taught by lecture using pre-prepared PowerPoint presentations with learners taking a very passive role. Theory is then practically applied in a simulated work environment using a demonstration-performance method which gives learners the opportunity to observe and trial newly-learned knowledge and skills. Learning styles or specific learning difficulties are not considered.
In discussing issues of inclusivity with QAST senior management it was clear to me that they define equality in training as treating all learners the same. Training is delivered at a set pace, there are no provisions for more competent learners to progress beyond the pace and only basic support given to learners who are unable to keep up. One manager admitted that the Instructors in this context are expected to be quite "militant" in their approach to learner performance citing the safety-critical nature of aviation as justification. I concluded there is a hidden curriculum which teaches conformity and compliance with procedures rather than independent thought and creativity. In Qantas there is an obvious hierarchy and trainees quickly learn not to challenge the status quo and that following procedures and passing exams is more important than being an independent, critical thinker.
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Although QAST teaches learners of all ages, the majority of new entrant staff are relatively young (18-25). This may be one reason that the organisation does not value the contribution of the learner to the process of curriculum design or evaluation. "Effectiveness" of the curriculum is ascertained through results of assessment and outcomes of real emergency situations. To gain a greater perspective, I wanted to research and evaluate a curriculum model in life-long learning which actively and successfully involves young learners in the process of designing, assessing and evaluating their own learning.
THE LEICESTERSHIRE YOUTH AND COMMUNITY EDUCATION SERVICE YOUTH WORK CURRICULUM
The purpose of Youth Work is to support young people in their personal and social development as they make the transition from adolescence to adulthood. The main aim of Youth Work in Leicestershire County is for learners to become "happy, confident and healthy adults who can articulate their views and opinions and make a positive contribution to the communities in which they live" (Leicestershire County Council, 2007). Youth Workers help achieve this through a process of informal education. The curriculum is designed to be very flexible, providing maximum choice and freedom for the learner and the Youth Worker.
The ideology appears be an interesting mix of Personalisation and Social Reconstructivism; education as a means of change and social reform (Aretakis-Fredo, 2003). The curriculum is based around six core curriculum areas covering the major issues that young people face as they move in to adulthood and ultimately affect their contribution to society.
In contrast to the Qantas curriculum, this model is highly personalised and inclusive. Youth Workers provide open access to young people aged 13-25 regardless of gender, ability, ethnicity and social class. They encourage learners to participate in learning experiences, both planned and unplanned, and support them as they reflect on those experiences. The curriculum simply provides a framework for planning [Appendix 4] and suggests desirable learning outcomes [Appendix 5]. Young people are central to the process of Youth Work and are offered a wide range of learning opportunities and experiences which are negotiated and planned in conjunction with the Youth Workers to meet the needs, interests and preferred learning styles of the individual.
The above curriculum planning model (Leicestershire County Council, 2010) is based on Kolb's (1984) Experiential Learning Cycle. This theory defined learning as "the process whereby knowledge is created through transformation of experience" (Kolb, 1984:41) and involves four stages of doing, reflecting, analysing and action planning. Kolb explained that "simple perception of experience alone is not sufficient for learning; something must be done with it." (Kolb, 1984:42). For effective learning, each stage of the process has to take place and Youth Workers will actively encourage learners to reflect on their learning experiences and make plans for future action. Unlike the Qantas curriculum, this model stresses the importance of the process of learning more than the end product.
One of the challenges of the Youth Work curriculum is that its success rests upon the quality of the Youth Workers involved. Whatever learning strategies are used, the relationships formed between the young people and Youth Workers will greatly affect the outcomes. Opportunities and experiences offered will reflect the skills and experience of the Youth Worker themselves but also the resources available to them. Not all experiences can be planned in advance, one of the skills required of youth work is to turn unplanned events and experiences in to learning opportunities for young people. Potentially, less experienced workers will not recognise and encourage all opportunities for learning.
Additionally, the learning outcomes are more difficult to measure. Formal assessment is rejected in favour of a more subjective evaluation evidenced through methods such as portfolios, observations, reflective accounts, action planning, artwork and displays. Irrespective of the methods utilised, the learner is central to the process of assessment of learning. Self-assessment is considered part of the learning process and vital to personal development.
This analysis represents just two of the contexts in which education is offered in the lifelong learning sector and highlights two very different ideologies and methodologies. On reflection of the two curriculum models I have identified a significant failure of Qantas Aviation Safety Training in developing a curriculum that is both inclusive and effectual. While restrictions placed upon the training provider by the regulator may limit options for content and assessment, this should not be justification for an outdated and oppressive approach to learners and a neglect to provide reasonable adjustments for issues of diversity. "Inclusive teaching avoids pigeonholing students in to specific groups with predictable and fixed approaches to learning" (InCurriculum: 2010). In the next task, I will further analyse this curriculum and make suggestions for greater inclusivity within the context of aviation safety training.
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Assignment Task 2 - Discussion on how the Qantas Airways Cabin Crew Initial Training Programme may be made more inclusive for the learners.
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The role of airline Cabin Crew has historically been an exclusive profession. While discrimination due to gender, age, ethnicity and appearance have long been outlawed in the UK, the Equality Act (2010) still enables an employer to restrict selection to those able to carry out functions essential to the role such as those in Appendix 6. Consequently, the aviation context does not allow for certain issues of diversity such as persons with significant visual, hearing, motor or mental impairments. Nevertheless, there are a number of inherent differences within any adult learning group for which a learning organisation should make reasonable adjustments.
Qantas Aviation Safety Training (QAST) management believe equality exists in the Initial Cabin Crew curriculum as all learners are treated the same. Herbert and Knowles (2010) refute this assertion and define equality in training as "recognising and meeting each individual's needs and developing their skills, strengths and interests" (Pg. 33). This can be achieved through Inclusive Education "an anticipatory approach which takes proactive steps to identifying and meeting the needs of learners (and providing) appropriate learning support so that all learners have the opportunity to maximise their learning outcomes" (NHS Education for Scotland, 2010:3).
QANTAS AIRWAYS CABIN CREW INITIAL TRAINING CURRICULUM
Contrary to the assertions of QAST management, this curriculum does not embody equality or promote inclusion. The curriculum is planned and scheduled precisely in terms of times, methods of delivery, specific learning outcomes and assessment [Appendix 3]. The curriculum is designed by Aviation Safety specialists to meet the requirements of the regulator and ensure the required competencies are met. Despite the range of subjects and the mix of theoretical and practical sessions, learners are mostly passive in the process. Theory sessions are always instructor-centred and delivered by lecture and PowerPoint presentation. Practical skills are taught by demonstration and repetition. Assessment is dictated by the regulator and to achieve compliance, Instructors take an authoritarian approach which intimidates many learners.
Provisions for diagnosed learning difficulties are limited and discussed and agreed on an individual basis. These may include a scribe or reader for written exams, written instructions or adapted handouts (colour or font size). There are no provisions for learners who speak English as a second language, or have mobility, hearing or severe visual impairments as these learners would not meet the essential criteria of the job role.
After reviewing and reflecting on the current QAST curriculum, I suggest the following changes to promote inclusivity.
"Twenty-first century classrooms challenge traditional, teacher-centered curriculum to meet the increasingly diverse needs of students and make the required increases in achievement gains" (Brown, 2003:49). Altan and Trombly (2001) demonstrated how learner-centred curricula can help support more inclusive learning. This approach does not employ a single teaching method but puts the students in control of their own learning, supporting multiple learning styles. As a result, learners are more engaged and become autonomous learners constructing their own knowledge, developing core skills, building self-confidence and taking responsibility for their own learning (Petty, 2009). QAST Instructors can facilitate learner-centeredness in their training by facilitating group discussions or designing small group or paired tasks, such as case-studies, to allow learners to research, discuss, and reflect on the learning materials and maximise participation from all learners. Another method would be to involve learners in planning and evaluating their own learning. While the learning outcomes and assessments are dictated by the regulator, the learner themselves can help set targets, plan learning activities and evaluate their progress in collaboration with the Instructor.
An increasingly popular and effective learner-centred strategy is the use of e-learning. Numerous studies, including O'Leary & Janson (2010) have shown that e-learning significantly increases knowledge retention and competence. E-learning is very inclusive and personalised as learners can study at their own pace and focus on the areas they choose. Effective e-learning accommodates multiple learning styles, is engaging and highly interactive as it utilises various multimedia (University of Manchester, 2011). Tummons (2009:114) acknowledges e-learning as a way to widen participation in education and training as it is flexible and allows access to groups who have additional commitments that may interfere with scheduled learning, such as parents, carers and those with work commitments. It also allows the use of software designed to support learners with sensory impairments or diagnosed learning difficulties. Draffan (2003) suggests "text to speech facilities, magnification, changes in desktop settings and various methods to help with the input of text" as just some of the technologies that can assist with access to e-learning.
QAST currently utilises some computer-based training packages for pre-course learning. Inclusive learning can be enhanced by increasing the number of e-learning resources and making them available on the learner website. To increase participation, attainment and enjoyment for the learners, I would recommend QAST designs e-learning packages as an alternative to some theory-based teaching sessions, giving learners the option to self-study certain materials. This could also be an effective way to provide extension activities for more competent learners to progress beyond the standard.
QAST makes some practice examination papers available for download on the learner website but Rogers (2007:61) suggests that results of assessment are best delivered when the effort of making the attempt is still fresh. Replacing past papers with e-assessments would help facilitate faster feedback and results. Also the provision of an online discussion forum would allow both learners and teachers to share ideas and give feedback.
On reflection of my own professional development, perhaps one of the most important and necessary changes I can suggest is the development of the QAST organisation (management and teaching staff) in terms of their knowledge and understanding of issues of diversity and the importance of inclusive learning. While course content and assessment is regulated in aviation, as a work-based learning provider, QAST does not follow any professional teaching standards and few Instructors have undertaken formal teacher training. In avoiding issues of diversity QAST may be guilty of indirect discrimination and/or harassment as described by the Equality Act (2010). An investment in training and development for QAST employees could help in changing the ideology of the organisation. Instructors would be better equipped to recognise and plan for issues of differentiation.
Despite restricted access to the job role, Cabin Crew, like any other adult learning group, are diverse and the learning experiences available to them should reflect, promote and facilitate this. Inclusion is the legal and moral responsibility of an employer or learning provider. Differentiation does not necessarily have to involve large commitments of time or money. By simply making teachers aware of issues of inclusivity and diversity they will be better equipped to accommodate the needs of all learners.
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