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.

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