Thursday, 16 May 2013

Learning outcomes

Any of you who know me will know that I'm a sucker for doing courses in things that interest me, so you won't be surprised to learn that I've recently added "tour guide" to my list of qualifications. Luckily, the taught sessions fitted nicely around my working week, but a friend who was also doing the course was not so lucky, but did manage to get given some time off work to do it. In these straightened times, there is a need to justify much of what we do, so in order to prove the potential value of the course to her employers, I helped my friend think about her expected learning outcomes.

Learning outcomes can be quite a tricky thing to get to grips with, especially if the training or course you are doing is very short, for example over a half day, when you could spend a large proportion of the time considering what you expect to get out of the session etc. thus shortening the time you have to actually learn on the course! The course we were undertaking was spread over a period of 5 months, and a detailed plan was issued before the start of the course. This meant we had plenty of time to consider what we might be taught, what we wanted to learn, what we expected to learn and how we would put this learning to good use after completing the course.

For me, I found this in-depth consideration of what I expected to get out of this course extremely useful, and it focussed my mind on how to get the best out of the course, what transferable skills I already had that I could improve upon or those I didn't have that I could gain, and how I might use these skills, and my new knowledge, in the future. So, what was important to me was not that the course lasted for 5 months, but rather I wanted to concentrate on the outcomes.

You may be wondering where I'm going with this ... so am I! There's something niggling at the back of my mind ... I recently read on the CILIP website that the current qualifications - chartership, fellowship, accreditation, revalidation - are being somewhat revamped under the Future Skills Project. Excellent: It's always good to keep things fresh and up-to-date. However, what struck me most was the following statement:

"A revised model for revalidation will be implemented which has a stronger focus on inputs (amount of time spent on CPD) than outputs (impact of CPD). "

Now, if you know me well, you will know that I do have a habit of making literal translations of things! So, to me the above statement says: Spend more time doing CPD activities, but don't worry if you don't learn anything along the way. It seems odd to me that in today's financial climate one is expected to undertake lots of CPD, often with an associated high cost, and that the rationale one has to produce in order to persuade one's organisation to pay for your attendance at any training event is no longer of any relevance to your professional body! Personally, I would have said that the outcomes were far more important than the amount of CPD you do. That said, this is not a criticism of CILIP, merely a comment on my preferred way of doing things.

I suppose, for me, it’s a bit like if you don’t have a plan, how do you know when you’ve reached your goal, or achieved anything, so having a set of learning outcomes allows you to see what you expected to learn and then you can see if you’ve learned this and more, and thus, provided you have learned something, you feel you’ve achieved something!

Well, that’s all for now! Call back in a little while for the next post which, if I remember when I come to write it, will be about evaluation … !

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