How can we use existing evidence when working with highly capable, but time-poor tutors?


Draft Professional Standards (3)

Let me tell you something you probably already know.

  • Sometimes, our best foundation education tutors are already the ones doing everything else as well.

You know who these folk are. Their students love them, they’re coaching their kid’s rugby or netball team on the weekend, they’re looking after extended family and more.

If they’re lucky they’re paid well. But most are not. Working conditions are tough. Some have the right professional qualifications and experiences. Others do not.

They have strengths. Sometimes they have tremendous expertise. And a few demonstrate amazing – and often humble – leadership in the work they do.

When you ask these tutors to engage in professional development and training, it adds another layer of complexity to their already busy lives.

It’s about time we gave serious thought to some better ways of working with our best tutors.

The system is kind of set up for this. But we’ve made it too complicated. It’s time to redesign and perhaps co-design how we want this work.

For example, if, as a tutor, you already possess skills and abilities, and you have the evidence to prove it, these should be recognised within the system that we use.

Let’s try and put it in context. I’ll use myself as an example. The boss comes to me with a professional development plan. Aside from the extra time costs, here’s what’s going through my head:

  • Don’t send me off to get training on how to use the Assessment Tool if I’m already using it with my own learners. I already know how to use it. Instead, can’t you use the evidence already generated by the system to attest to the fact that I’m already competent in this area?
  • Likewise, if I’m already delivering results working with my Pasifika learners, then let me show the evidence for this. Can’t we just acknowledge this in some way? Don’t send me off for cultural competency training.

But if there’s an obvious gap in my knowledge or experience, then it’s a different thing. I’m still busy but perhaps we should explore some different options. For example:

  • It’s clear to me that I lack confidence embedding numeracy into my vocational training. Why can’t you hook me up with some training that will allow me to become a better maths person and explore some different ways to work with numbers in the context of my training? Do I need to complete a whole other qualification?
  • Most of my learners are Maori. If I’m honest with myself, I can see that I need to know more about what works for my Maori learners. Perhaps I do need some mentoring in this area. I’ll take time out of my busy week and attend some workshops as long as I know they’re targeted towards the support I need. Perhaps I should even complete an online micro-credential that attests to these new skills.

None of this is to say that we should do away with professional qualifications for tutors.

But I think we need to acknowledge that we need some new and creative ways of recognising tutor competencies where we find them. And then designing bespoke approaches to training and micro-training where there are gaps.

And then let’s see how this connects with the qualifications.

What do you think?

Lifting our game: What goes into a capability framework for trades and vocational tutors?


Draft Professional Standards (2).png

By February next year, we’ll have a draft set of professional standards for tutors teaching foundation-level courses in Aotearoa New Zealand.

We’ve got some initial ideas about how and where to get started with this work. And we know why we need to take this next step.

But we still need to design this framework. This brings me to the next question:

  • What goes into a capability framework for trades, vocational tutors and others delivering foundation-level training?

It’s really up for grabs at the moment. But we have made a start on a structure. And we’ve started talking about some of the detail.

Over the last couple of months, we’ve been meeting with and talking to representatives from key organisations and agencies to make sure we get the starting points right.

This has included groups and individuals in government agencies such as at the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC), New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) and the National Centre for Adult Literacy & Numeracy (NCLANA).

This work is contracted through Ako Aotearoa, so we’re in regular contact with people and teams there as well.

Now we’re at the point where we need to cast our net wider and seek feedback from interested organisations and individuals in the tertiary sector.

If that’s you, here’s some further detail about the kind of structure that we’re looking at.

  • Four capability domains that encompass the professional knowledge, teaching practices, ability to engage with others and cultural capabilities that are relevant to tutors and others involved in foundation-level teaching.
  • Four levels of professional standard. Imagine a poutama or staircase with four steps. The first step describes knowledge about foundation teaching. The second step describes the application of this knowledge. This connects with some of the entry-level qualifications we have including the NZCALNE (Voc) and NZCATT at level 5 on the qualifications framework. Step three describes more extended capability and expertise. And the top tier describes expert tutors providing leadership in different contexts and capacities.

As a sector, we know quite a lot about what kinds of skills, competencies and other outputs we expect from our tutors with regards to the first two steps above.

But what we need to know more about, and where the really exciting work is, relates to our best tutors. And this means the top two tiers of our proposed structure.

For example, how can we describe the capabilities of expert tutors who are more experienced, who can demonstrate extended knowledge and application of foundation teaching skills?

This is where we need to ask a lot of questions. For example:

  • Who are our high-performing and best tutors? And what makes them better? What kinds of evidence can we point to?
  • How can we unpack the skills and capabilities that great tutors already have in a way that helps us inform the design and development of this framework?
  • What about tutors who demonstrate the ability to provide leadership, guidance and mentoring to others? What does that look like in practical terms?
  • What are the findings from current research and best practice about how we should be working with priority learner groups including Maori, Pasifika and youth?

Once we can articulate this in a clear way we can do a couple of things.

One is that we’ll be able to describe tutors with a range of skills and abilities when we need to. This includes new tutors, expert tutors, and – yes – tutors who might not be letting their light shine as brightly as it could.

So organisations will be able to highlight their strengths and needs in terms of tutor capabilities.

The second thing is that we’ll have a set of tools to design bespoke approaches to professional development where we do identify gaps and needs. And by we I mean you.

And this should apply at both the level of the organisation as well as with regards to individual tutors.

My vision for this is that it becomes something that empowers tutors to go from good to great. And creates clear pathways for professional and career development.

It’s time to lift our game: building tutor capability in foundation learning.


Draft Professional Standards (1)

In Aotearoa New Zealand, the government has invested seriously in building an infrastructure for embedding literacy and numeracy into trades and vocational education since 2007.

And as educators and tertiary organisations we’ve all invested as well. Sometimes this has been our time, but often it’s included our money as well.

The infrastructure has included professionalising the workforce as well as a suite of tools and resources for tutors, trainers and adult educators to use.

If you’ve contributed or participated in some way, whether small or large, you should give yourself a pat on the back. Ka pai e hoa…!

And now, we’re at the stage that we have to look at how to lift our game once more.

Ten years on, we have a much better idea of what is working and what isn’t. And we know that just about everything that we touch – or that touches us – in the sector has evolved.

This includes policy, the needs of educators and organisations, and research not to mention the knowledge base that underpins professional development in the foundation learning sector.

From here we need to improve our current system of professional development and capability building, be better connected, work more effectively and do all of this with greater coherence.

We know that some of what is offered for tutor professional development is not working as well as it could. At least, we not seeing the deep changes that we want to see in our tutors and education organisations.

That is not to say that we haven’t seen positive change. There is certainly tremendous and ongoing work happening around the country.

But here’s the thing.

Some tutors, even despite performing well when they are completing professional qualifications just go back to the way they were after they finish the training.

I’m not saying everyone is like that, of course.

In fact, we all know plenty of tutors who complete a programme like the New Zealand Certificate in Adult Literacy & Numeracy Education (NZCALNE) and have a classic lightbulb moment (or two or three).

But some tutors and organisations are just sitting on their hands. Others are stuck. You know who I mean.

And there’s more to it than that of course… it’s a complex eco-system.

As a country, we are super fortunate to have a suite of high quality, entry-level professional qualifications as well as resources for our trades, vocational and workplace tutors.

However, as a recent review commissioned by the TEC suggests, we need to figure out how to take it to the next level.

In other words, we all need to lift our game. And this means providers and those of us involved in delivering professional development as much as tutors and trainers.

Developing a professional standards framework that describes tutor capability is a big step in this direction.

The intention is that a framework like this would help us do a couple of things.

One is that it would help us identify strengths and needs at both an organisational and individual tutor level. And the other is that it would help inform coherent professional development pathways and new capability building opportunities moving forward.

What I’m talking about here is bespoke approaches to ongoing capability development.

This last part is important if we want to be pragmatic about designing meaningful professional development. This is the age of customisation, of the 3D printer. Not the factory.

We know it intuitively, but we need to recognise explicitly that organisations are not the same. Working in industry as a trainer is not the same as working in a Polytech.

Individual experiences and prior knowledge are not the same either.

Maori learners are not the same as Pasifika learners. And for some, classes might feel like they’re more representative of the United Nations.

But hopefully, and with your help, a robust framework like the one we’re talking about here might be a way to bring coherence to how we stitch all this together.

That leads me to my next question:

  • What goes into a capability framework for trades and vocational tutors?

Feel free to chime in if you’ve got something to say.

Where do we start when it comes to developing a capability framework for trades and vocational education tutors?


Draft Professional Standards

This is a question that I’ve been pondering a lot lately.

One of my jobs at the moment is to help draft a set of professional standards for tutors teaching at foundation level in Aotearoa New Zealand.

In the education sector, we already have professional standards for some different kinds of teachers. For example, there are standards for teachers at primary and secondary school levels.

There are also standards for teachers in the Adult Community Education (ACE) sector.

However, if you work in the post-secondary-but-not-university-or-ACE teaching space then you know that the tutors who inhabit this world are different to their colleagues in these other sectors.

And in particular, I’m talking about tutors teaching programmes that sit at Level 3 and below on the NZQA qualifications framework.

These are just my observations. I haven’t conducted any kind of empirical survey.

But I have been working with these kinds of tutors and teachers delivering professional development and training since 2007.

Something I know from personal experience is that tutors working in the foundation learning space often find their way into education from industry.

This means that they often have a very “hands-on” approach to how they do things.

And in industry, relationships, skills and experiences often trump the traditional qualifications and credentials that we’ve historically valued so much in the academic world.

It’s no wonder that our tradies are suspicious of our professional development offerings.

We make it worse when we try to bring in approaches that seem too academic.

Or when we offer PD programmes that are delivered by academics without the kind of street cred that vocational and trades tutors inherently recognise.

The Learning Progressions framework that we now have in place as part of our literacy and numeracy infrastructure is a case in point.

Now, there’s a sense of acceptance for the Learning Progressions for adult literacy and numeracy. However, in the early days, this was pitched in a way that was too academic for steel fabricators, hairdressers and engineers.

The result was a lot of angry tutors. And it wasn’t because they weren’t smart enough to understand it.

I think we’ve fixed that issue and moved on from it. But it’s a lesson that is firmly in my mind when it comes to new developments.

Which brings me to the current project and question:

  • Where do we start when it comes to a set of standards for describing the capabilities of trades and vocational education tutors delivering training at the lower levels of the NZQA framework?

The answer to this is open for discussion. And here is what I think are some of our starting points and assumptions:

  • We now have a robust suite of entry-level professional qualifications for vocational tutors and trainers in Aotearoa New Zealand.
  • The knowledge base and infrastructure that underpins these qualifications, while never static, seems to have matured in recent years.
  • Government agencies with a stake in education and training now have access to a lot of data which suggests that certain approaches are working for our learners, while others are not.
  • Key priority groups such as Maori, Pasifika and youth are already well-identified with strategic initiatives underway that we need to tap into.
  • There are organisations and individuals doing tremendous – and often unrecognised – work with our most at-risk learners in foundation education.

From here I think we have a firm foundation from which to start talking to our best vocational and trades tutors to unpack what makes them great.

What I’d like to end up with is a set of tools that are pitched at the right level. In other words, I’d like to end up with a set of tools that work for our steel fabricators, hairdressers, horticulturalists and all the other trades represented.

The tools should provide us with a way of describing great tutors when we find them.

And they should also provide us with a way of describing bespoke professional development pathways for tutors who are working towards developing their capabilities in areas that are relevant to their learners, programmes and organisations.

What do you think?

Let me know in the comments.

Drafting Professional Standards for Foundation-Level Tutors


Sunset chaser

Here’s what I’m working on at the moment – drafting professional standards for foundation-level tutors in Aotearoa New Zealand.

This is a short-term project involving a wide range of providers and experts from the foundation teaching sector and running through until the start of next year.

It’s broader than the work I’ve been doing in the adult literacy and numeracy education delivering professional development and training. And I’m loving it.

One of the best things about this project is that it allows us to build on the great work that many people have contributed to in this sector over the last 10 years.

The short version of where we’re at right now is that we have a solid infrastructure including professional qualifications, learning progressions, a national assessment tool, online learning and various kinds of professional activities happening around the place.

What we’re lacking though is a cohesive framework that allows us to pull it all together in a clear way.

Also, most other professionals including teachers have professional standards that they have to measure up to after gaining their credentials. There are lots of great models out there that we can learn from.

Hopefully, too, a set of professional standards for tutors delivering foundation-level training gives us a set of tools for designing bespoke approaches to tutor capability building and professional development.

And that’s one of the things we need next and I get kinda excited talking about it.

Organisations are not all the same and it follows that we need tools that help organisations and tutors design the kinds of professional development and capability building that works for them.

Sometimes this might include professional qualifications like our new content for the new NZCALNE (Voc) which you can have a look at on Pathways Awarua.

And sometimes it might include ways of validating the capabilities that tutors and others already have. If we can link these capabilities to the different qualifications that are out there it would be even better.

I’ll be sharing more about this work on a draft professional standards framework for foundation tutors as we engage with different providers and experts over the next few months.

For now though, here are a couple of details. Nothing is set in concrete, but at this stage, we’re looking at:

  1. Describing tutor capabilities for professional knowledge, practice, engagement and cultural capabilities.
  2. Four domains spanning literacy, numeracy, English language and employability skills.
  3. An explicit focus on tutor capabilities for working with priority adult learner groups including Maori, Pasifika and youth.

More to follow soon, but I’d love to hear your comments, ideas and feedback.

Job Posting – Literacy and Numeracy Facilitator


TLW-logo-CMYK

Occasionally, I post or repost jobs relating to the adult literacy and numeracy education sector. Here’s a good one.

My friends at The Learning Wave are looking for LN Facilitators. They’re a great bunch to work for. I know as I’ve worked with them on the professional development side of things for just a little under 10 years.

If you’re a graduate of the NCALNE (Voc) or NZCALNE (Voc) and you’re looking for interesting work that combines adult literacy and numeracy with business outcomes then you should apply.

The Learning Wave have a very open mind about the location of facilitators and ways of engaging with them… What they’re after is trainers with the “X” factor. I know that applies to many of our graduates.

Because of the growth that they have forecasted, they may also be interested in people working as associates in other major facets such as leadership, health and safety leadership or learning design.

There’s a generic email address for enquiries here: roles@thelearningwave.com if you want to send a CV or bio and areas of interest.

The full job ad is here on Seek. And I’ve pasted it in below as well.


The Learning Wave are seeking people who have:

  • the empathy and patience required to work with diverse groups of learners within a team committed to the delivery of high-quality personal and business learning outcomes
  • relevant and engaging front-line, adult learning delivery skills and experience
  • the ability to support learners on a journey that is linked to business outcomes
  • a qualification such as the National Certificate in Adult Literacy and Numeracy or its equivalent.

You will be working as an associate of The Learning Wave to deliver integrated workplace literacy and numeracy programmes to a number of our business clients.

You will deliver learning programmes on-site to small groups (typically 6-9 learners). The programmes are tailored to meet the specific business requirements of our clients and their employees. You will have varied hours and work locations that will be throughout New Zealand, depending on the client’s programme and worksites.

You need to have a good understanding and experience of facilitating adult literacy and numeracy programmes in workplaces. You must be eligible to work in NZ to apply for this role. If you’re the right person, we can discuss whether this is a contractor or full-time role.

About The Learning Wave:

The Learning Wave is one of the largest government-funded workplace literacy and numeracy providers in New Zealand. Operating since 2005, we have worked with many organisations throughout New Zealand to integrate workplace literacy and numeracy skills into organisational change programmes. We have some exciting opportunities to grow our business in 2018 and need to make sure we have the right team of facilitators who can deliver to our clients.

Please send your covering letter and CV by Monday 16th October 2017.