TITLE: PREPARING STUDENTS FOR THE WORKPLACE THROUGH DESIGNING PRODUCTIVE ASSESSMENT TASKS: AN ACTIONABLE KNOWLEDGE PERSPECTIVE
Lina Markauskaite & Peter Goodyear
Preparing students for the workplace and assessing their readiness are often major challenges for university teachers. What kinds of concrete tasks help students develop professional capacities needed for situated knowledgeable action in a broad range of possible future workplace settings?
Our research examined assessment tasks that university teachers set for students in courses that were preparing them for work placements in five professions: nursing, pharmacy, teaching, social work, and school counselling. We combined ‘actionable knowledge’ and ‘objectual practice’ perspectives and investigated what students were asked to do, what they were expected to learn and how. Specifically, we analysed the nature of the objects that teachers selected for assessment tasks and the nature of the concrete artefacts that students were asked to produce.
Our results show some fundamental differences in teachers’ choices of objects. They ranged from basic and very specific aspects of professional work to some of the hardest and most broad-ranging challenges in the profession. The tasks also required students to engage in the production of a wide range of artefacts. We classified these as ‘cultural artefacts’, ‘conceptual artefacts’ and ‘epistemic artefacts’. Our discussion draws parallels between these three kinds of artefacts and the notions of ‘work ready’, ‘work knowledgeable’ and ‘work-capable’ graduates, respectively. We argue that teachers, through task designs, shape ways in which students learn to link action (skill) with meaning (knowledge). Our findings raise some important questions about the kinds of authentic tasks that help prepare work-capable graduates for future learning.
The slides and notes for my lecture at the Deakin University Learning and Teaching conference last week – Thriving in higher education: how does good design help? – can be found here.
On the day after the lecture, Lina Markauskaite and I led two workshops.
Morning: Assessment as boundary work: between the discipline and the profession
Summary: This workshop is for academics, learning designers and academic leaders who work with developing assessment tasks across the spectrum of work integrated learning initiatives. Participants are asked to come with an assessment task that they have used, or plan to use, for students preparing for, or reflecting on, a work placement, practicum or simulated work experience. The workshop will explore how these types of assessment tasks create a dialogue at the boundary between academic discipline knowledge and the reflexive knowledge of a skilled practitioner. Peter and Lina will draw on their recent work on epistemic fluency to introduce the workshop. They have analysed a range of assessment task designs in a variety of professional education contexts to try to identify the multiple forms of knowledge and ways of knowing with which students have to become fluent in preparing for professional practice. Many aspects of professional work involve the creation of new understandings – such as in inter-professional dialogues or client consultations. Often this epistemic work goes unnoticed, though sometimes it involves conscious problem-solving and innovation. The workshop will be a hands-on investigation of how these ideas about epistemic fluency, knowledge work and actionable knowledge can be applied in designing better assessment tasks.
Afternoon: Working in the third space: how do we explain and strengthen what we do?
Summary: ‘Design for learning’ is still not a widely or deeply understood concept in universities, even though most universities employ a variety of people with titles like “Learning designer”.
The capabilities that underpin good design work are rarely articulated and have little institutional visibility. This workshop is for learning designers, academics and academic leaders who need to explain the role of design in learning and teaching. The workshop will explore the following questions: How do we articulate what we have to offer in and through design? How can we further strengthen the university’s design capabilities – given what we can see about the future of learning and teaching and new insights emerging from research across the learning sciences?
Some of these issues are being pursued, at a national level, in the ascilite TELedvisors SIG.
I received a request for this paper earlier today. It started life as a keynote at the Networked Learning conference in Lancaster in 2006. Maria Zenios visited us in Sydney later that year, and we were able to work together and develop a more extensive treatment of the issues. We used a recent paper in BJES by Effie MacLellan as a springboard. We combined ideas from Stellan Ohlsson, Allan Collins, Dave Perkins and Carl Bereiter to introduce epistemic tasks, forms, games and fluency. Then we linked this with research on learning through discussion by Helen Askell-Williams and Michael Lawson and by Rob Ellis and myself, to distinguish between weaker and stronger forms of collaborative knowledge building. If you’re serious about helping students prepare for work in complex knowledge creating jobs, then you need the stronger form.
I hadn’t reread this paper for a while, and I think it still stands up quite well. As of today, it’s had 87 citations, not all of them by me. I’m also glad to see that research on learning through discussion in higher education has been growing in the last 10 years. The literature was quite thin in 2006/7.
In 2008, Lina Markauskaite and I wrote a grant proposal that allowed us to do some of the ‘cognitive anthropology’ hinted at in this paper. The outcomes, and a much richer understanding of matters that were only sketched in the BJES paper, can be found in our ‘magnum opus’ – Markauskaite, L., & Goodyear, P. (2017). Epistemic fluency and professional education: innovation, knowledgeable action and actionable knowledge. Dordrecht: Springer.
Over the last year or so, there has been a good deal of online soul-searching about the field or discipline of educational technology: about its nature, foundations, scope and purpose – including whether and how it can make a difference to policy and practice in higher education, which is ascilite’s home ground. In this talk, I want to focus on the production of educational design knowledge: knowledge that is useful to people who design for other people’s learning. I will use, as an illustrative example, the ACAD framework – an Activity-Centred approach to Analysis and Design – to make some points about the creation of useful design knowledge. In so doing, I hope to (a) draw attention to a family of approaches to research and development that are particularly well-suited to understanding and improving complex learning systems through local action, and (b) explain why analysis and design processes involve epistemic fluency (an ability to work with different kinds of knowledge and ways of knowing). The talk should be of interest to anyone who is concerned about connecting inquiry and action in educational technology.
In October 2016, David Boud and colleagues at Deakin University (Melbourne) held a symposium on evaluative judgement in higher education. I gave a brief presentation connecting some of the ideas that Lina and I have been developing on epistemic games and epistemic resourcefulness to evaluative judgement. We’ve written a chapter for the “book of the symposium” which Routledge should be publishing in 2017. Here’s the abstract for that chapter:
This chapter examines the development of evaluative judgement from the perspective of professional education, with a focus on the abilities needed to deal with problems that are both complex and novel. Professional work regularly entails engaging in knowledgeable action in previously unencountered situations and formulating methods, on the fly, for making judgements about the adequacy of one’s actions. On this view, evaluative judgement is an epistemic (knowledge creating) activity. We show how developing evaluative judgement can be understood as learning to play a range of epistemic games, and how epistemic resourcefulness enables one to frame complex judgements in principled ways.