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.

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

  1. Hi Graeme,

    I’ve been thinking about the big picture of the framework before drilling down to the nitty gritty. Here’s my questions so far. Not expecting you to answer them, but maybe they can help set the parameters.

    1. What is the purpose of the framework?
    o Does it describe the skills and knowledge educators of foundation learners need for effective teaching?
    o Does it just describe capability or does it also plot existing provision?
    o Is the purpose for educators to understand what capabilities are needed, to recognise the capabilities they have, and to identify their professional learning and development needs?
    o How will the framework relate to a Professional Learning Pathway? Will it inform the pathway? (Like the Learning Progressions is this a framework, rather than a curriculum or pathway?)

    2. Who is the framework for?
    o Vocational and trades tutors
    o ILN tutors
    o ESOL tutors
    o Workplace LN tutors

    3. What definition of foundation learning are we using?
    Level 1 and Level 2 Certificates?

    4. What are the needs of foundation learners? (There will be overlap and interdependence, e.g., LN and cultural needs underpin all others)
    o Literacy
    o Numeracy
    o Employability (does this need to be defined, e.g., study skills, ICT skills, soft skills such as problem-solving, confidence, personal presentation, punctuality, social skills?)
    o ESOL
    o Cultural

    5. What are the needs of educators of foundation learners? What domains do we need? Which of the below do we need to include?
    o Pedagogy – effective teaching approaches
    o Assessment
    o Teaching literacy
    o Teaching numeracy
    o Teaching ESOL
    o Improving learners’ employability skills
    o Digital capability (using technology to enhance teaching; blended and online delivery; flipped classroom)
    o Cultural competency – culturally responsive pedagogy

    6. What is the place of KTL, KTD and KWTD in the framework? How can it be incorporated?

    • Hi Annette. Thanks very much for the in-depth set of questions here. These are excellent… I have similar questions and some answers from my own point of view and from initial discussions – at least in a partially formed way. It would be great to get together with you and flesh this out in more details soon if you are keen. Cheers, G

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