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
Occupational socialisation is as frequently responsible for
defensive, exploitative practice as it is for good.
> Len Holmes
> [log in to unmask]
Dr James Atherton
School of Education
De Montfort University
+44 (0) 1234 793156