The Learn@Work Socrates-Minerva Research Project 2005–2007
What did it do and what happened with it since?
While the design features above are common in adult and community-based education they are generally less encouraged in the pedagogical conception of formal education and training events. In particular they raised challenges about how assumptions are made regarding the ‘profile’ or ‘identity’ of the worker-learner in the traditional sense, about designing for the ‘generic’ or ‘normal’ student, about preferences to describe learning in terms of academic levels, pre-determined learning outcomes, assessment and certification, and not to engage with learner support beyond induction (Murphy 2007a; Murphy et al. 2008).
A more practical challenge was related to access to computers and broadband internet connection in workplaces where ICTs are not commonplace, or where workers are outdoors or mobile, regardless of their prior levels of learning. The design team was acutely aware that workplaces are complex sites with complex subsystems of organisation and inter-relationships. They took close note of the advice of the Royal Irish Academy (2006) in relation to the interface of academia and the workplace which urged a principled approach to research projects and to knowledge production based on clearly articulated expectations, strong personal relationships and a culture of trust and mutual understanding, urging academics to be more tolerant of risk, more adaptable and more nurturing of individual innovations. The team also took careful note of changing discourses in relation to the remit of higher education as a public knowledge institution and the growing expectation that it should make research products available for the benefit of society and the economy in a coherent and accountable way. In this policy context the team generated a framework of working principles to inform the design, implementation, evaluation and dissemination of Learn@Work materials as follows:
Principle 1: the design of the package should be informed by an understanding of both traditional college-based learning and of emerging paradigms of learning through work
Principle 2: the pedagogical approach in delivery of the package should take account of motivation, self-efficacy, affordances and supports in relation to the specific context of users/worker-learners
Principle 3: the design and delivery approach should be open-ended, loosely structured, adaptive, responsive and authentic
Principle 4: the design should be un-inhibited by technologies of modularisation, credit systems, assessment or certification
Principle 5: the package should be free from pre-determined learning outcomes pitched at particular levels
Principle 6: the language, style, images and general formatting of the package should take account of good literacy practice
Principle 7: the package should include paper-based materials, CD materials, computer-based and internet-based materials, so as to minimise inequities of personal resources and workplace affordances
Principle 8: induction and support should include face-to-face contact at a level appropriate to the needs of the particular worker-learners
Principle 9: activities within the packages should be adaptable to the authentic context of the worker-learner
Principle 10: the overall thrust of the package should be towards development of worker-learner capabilities to direct their own sustainable and independent learning and to decide their future learning careers.