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CAPABILITY-FORUM  June 1998

CAPABILITY-FORUM June 1998

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Subject:

Re: Assessment of Capability

From:

"James Atherton" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Thu, 25 Jun 1998 16:18:56 GMT

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (76 lines)

Len

I agree with you generally, but I'd argue with one or two points.

> The idea of basing assessment on 'evidence of 
> (achivement of)learning outcomes' may appear attractive, and 
> is the basis of the NVQ approach as well as other 
> competence and capability approaches. 

I want to draw a distinction between competences which refer 
primarily to task performance, and the outcomes of the learning 
process. Competence-based models assume that if you can see the tip 
of the iceberg, the rest of it must be there under the water: 
theoretically they must be valid, but there are often difficulties 
with generalising the results. For me, outcomes are about what people 
are supposed to be able to do (including know) at the end of the 
learning process and therefore, for better or for worse, refer back 
primarily to the learning programme rather than to the demands of the 
job. The challenge then is to devise a learning programme which will 
address all the job requirements in depth, including underpinning 
knowledge and reflection.

Having said that, of course all assessment judgements are judgements, 
and subject to vagaries of interpretation: that even applies to 
computer-marked MCQs. Someone somewhere has decided what are the 
important questions to ask, and what constitute valid answers.

> Lave and Wenger's version of Situated Learning theory, as 
> 'legimate peripheral participation' in communities of 
> practice, suggests ways forward on this. What are the 
> practices of this occuaptional arena? How can they be 
> represented in activities of novice practitioners, whether in 
> 'learning' or 'assessment'?  - providing, of course, that we 
> don't seek to objectify these, but continue to recognise 
> their interpreted, constructed nature.

I'm not wholly convinced by Lave and Wenger, either. I do agree 
with their strictures on training in educational settings, where 
all one really learns is how to be a student. But otherwise their 
view is rather "romantic" and tends to assume an idealised community 
of practice. I can't distinguish it from occupational socialisation. 
I used to have lot to do with residential care, and by their nature 
(close-knit staff groups, lots of face-to-face contact, etc.) 
residential establishments socialise staff very effectively. 
Unfortunately the standard of practice into which they socialise them 
is frequently not very good. Going back to NVQs for a moment, one of 
the problems they faced with the introduction of those in social care 
was that of the "incompetent workplace". Such communities of practice 
set up working myths, comprising ideological elements (in the 
Mannheim sense) and recipes for practice (Schutz) which are very 
powerful but frequently do not represent best practice (I wrote about 
this in "Interpreting Residential Life" Tavistock 1989). Nowhere do 
Lave and Wenger demonstrate that their midwives and butchers in 
particular are any better in their practice than those who are more 
formally trained. 

Occupational socialisation is as frequently responsible for 
defensive, exploitative practice as it is for good.

James

> 
> ----------------------
> Len Holmes
> [log in to unmask]
> 
> 
> 
Dr James Atherton
School of Education
De Montfort University
+44 (0) 1234 793156
http://www.dmu.ac.uk/~jamesa


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