From education to employment

Enjoyable and impactful learning – factors for success

Tom Cheek

Educational responsibility

Education holds a responsibility to inspire, by presenting the opportunity of growth to the individual and social mobility for all.  It can empower a life-long passion for learning by delivering an engaging, dynamic and impactful experience, that’s both rewarding and enjoyable.

Some may challenge this statement, as their personal experience is one that is not consistent with this.  Through a negative learning experience that lacked engagement, direction and progress, it may imprint a negative perspective to learning, that can stick for a life-time, impacting negatively on the individuals path and prospects.

In this short article we consider some of the factors and learning essentials, that can deliver an enriching and enjoyable learning experience. Education holds the key to unlocking an individuals’ potential, supporting them to reach and exceed, beyond their own perceived ability.

The educational offer

Education should have clarity in its’ purpose and intent.  What can it deliver to the individual and how will it support progression and positive destination?  Is it fit for industry and does it fill a skill gap that can aid employment, or enable progression in learning?  

An early factor within the education offer is whether the subject resonates with the learner, along with a structure that enables them to explore it in a stimulating way.  Career advice that establishes a strong education alignment, that best matches that of a learners interests and passions, is an important step in identifying a route that brings connection and gratification, that can deliver on employment (entry and progression), or access to wider and higher educational routes.

The educational offer needs clarity to express the learning outcomes it will deliver, offering a framework from which clear learning plans can be established and individual milestones set.  This enables the learner to see the breakdown of a larger programme, as a series of more manageable and achievable, bite-size learning.  Allowing, over time, learners to build a layer cake of knowledge, competence and achievement, with a focus on key themes throughout.

Initial assessment and individualising the learning

Initial assessment with depth and range, is essential so to individualise the learning programme.  It identifies a learners’ current status of learning and explores how they best learn, the barriers that need addressing, and their overall wants and needs.  By engaging the learner at this starting point, it enables their participation in developing an individual learning plan, bringing ownership and empowerment to their own learning, together with an understanding of their accountability.

Having this sense and awareness, can best form a learning plan that echoes with the learners’ needs, forming a strategy that addresses barriers to learning early in the delivery, and a vision to stretch and challenge, so to inspire learners to aspire and reach higher. 

By keeping the individual learning plan live, with regular reviews of learning, it can ensure early intervention, resulting in a continued momentum of progression and a positive and engaging learning experience.  These opportunities of connection through the review process, demonstrates the value the educator holds to the individual, forming an environment where accountability from all parties is clearly understood.  This brings a commitment and shared value by both learner and educator to deliver on their responsibility to learning.

Independent learning skills

Supporting learners in developing their independent learning skills can pay dividends for the immediate education experience, whilst also providing a tool-kit for life-long learning too.  Skills in reflective practice, digital skills, the formation of personal learning networks, and growth of soft skills, enables individuals to take ownership of their learning, creating their own communities of knowledge that can impact beyond the confines of an isolated educational programme.  Therefore, education needs to offer the space for learners to grow and utilise these skills, so to enable them to learn more widely and facilitate amplified outcomes.

Learning activities and assessment

The quality of learning activities and resources have a direct bearing on the learning experience.  That’s not to say they need to be of high production value to offer high learning and engagement value.  There needs to be consideration of the accessibility of the resource, the effective timing and sequencing in how they connect, precision of the learner instructions, and clarity of the overall intent.

The quality of assessment feedback, be it ‘for’ or ‘of’ learning, is an essential part to a rewarding and enjoyable learning experience.  It can look to address aspects such as: confirming learning outcomes; challenging where gaps in learning are apparent; stretching to aspire higher; bringing confidence to an ability; establish next steps and how one learning activity links to another.  All of which validates to the learner an overall care for their learning progress. 

Learning theories and approaches

So far, in this article we have focused on the factors that can impact on provision.  We now consider a few developments in learning activities and/or theories, that can bring in further enjoyment and aspiration:

Competition – striving for excellence beyond competence, is an interesting area for education development, with learning activities that challenge an individuals’ perceived ability.  Competence and excellence criteria can be developed and validated by experts in industry, allowing learners to benchmark their level of skill against verified industry standards both on a national and global perspective.

Gamification – building on from the competition element, this brings in a level of competitiveness either to an individual’s own performance, or to that of their peers but through fun games or scoring systems.  Examples include learners completing an online, automated assessment where scoring applies to the speed of their response and/or level of accuracy, whether it be through the proficiency demonstrated by the learner on a simulator, or the answers they provide within an online quiz/game. 

Social Learning – this allows for social interaction to develop an understanding of a subject, through sharing of perspectives, views, ideas and opinions.  These interactions can establish a current understanding or challenge a stance, so to think of matters in a different way.  It encourages a learner to also grow their own personal learning network (PLN), that can allow for this engagement, gaining insights from multiple sources.  With the prevalence of influencers and video content shared on platforms, there is opportunity for learners to observe an approach or behaviour as part of this learning.

Virtual Reality – the pace of change here is incredible with huge potential for learners to access authentic, immersive experiences of occupational and industry through a virtual world.  For example, construction learners can encounter a realistic environment, through sensory suits and VR headsets, that allows them to experience picking up materials, moving around a construction site, completing tasks and generally engaging within the working space.  Or for those set to work in a logistics and warehouse environment, learners can receive their on-boarding within the organisation, including the familiarisation of the format of warehouse for which they will be based, through a VR experience, along with Omi treadmills to move around the site 360 degrees. 

All senses are being considered as part of VR developments, with the sense of smell also being applied into the learning experience.  This type of technology is expensive, and access can be challenging.  However, there is opportunity for collaboration to bring down costs through education provider partnerships, with the technology having the potential to improve accessibility to sectors for which there is limited real-world opportunities for learning, or high costs for facility developments.  

Connecting the dots

Educational offer needs to harness the opportunity of technology and the functionality it brings, by inter-weaving with the foundation of attentive teaching and training practice.  Through this combination it can deliver a cohesive and rewarding learning experience, that contributes to positive learner destination, whilst also providing a positive learning experience to the individual, that can inspire future learning and growth.

By Tom Cheek, PG Dip ODE (Open), MSET, Written on behalf of IgniteQuals

IgniteQuals primary goal is to re-define quality purpose-led Vocational Qualifications that are designed to meet the specific needs of learners who wish to take an alternative route to reach their potential. By pursuing an IgniteQuals qualification, learners will feel empowered and will go onto push boundaries within their chosen pathway – be it employment or higher education, so that they are able to live prosperous lives.

Tom has worked in technical and vocational education for over 20 years, in roles including: assessing; quality assurance; curriculum management; qualification design, technology enhanced learning; and policy. The experience has been gained through employment within the FE Sector, Private Training Providers, and Awarding & Professional Bodies.

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