• An accelerated practitioner research approach (APRA) for leaders and managers

      Wall, Tony; Leonard, Dilys T.; University of Chester (2012-01-31)
      Negotiated work based learning pedagogies can be used to successfully engage busy professionals in higher level learning at universities, across professions and disciplines. Within this approach, professionals become familiar with designing, implementing and evaluating work based projects which contribute towards their degree. Yet when these professionals move from the familiar work based learning approach to ‘research’ (and particularly ‘insider-research’), they can experience significant challenge. There are a number of reasons for this: perceptions of (and beliefs about) ‘research’ as being objective/from the outside, diversity of approaches and language in research texts – and most significantly – the ‘extra layer’ of thinking of persuasive systematic inquiry (including focus, rigour and validity). In order to overcome this challenge, an accelerated approach has been developed and tested in practice to enable professionals to design rigorous practitioner research. An action research approach approach, drawing on appreciative inquiry and grounded theory, involved peer questioning, validation and idea development. Each cycle generated a new set of tools and approaches over time, including the design of a new ‘core process’, key questions, faciliated workshop, learning materials and re-development of the module specification. Within the ‘situated’ model, the professional starts/focuses on problems or areas for development in their own practice (not academic ‘gaps’) and adopts a ‘critical-practical’ philosophical lens. The ‘core process’ includes the professionals: in stage 1, reviewing context for desirable changes, reviewing external sources for insight and direction, and defining research purpose and research questions; and in stage 2, defining research approach, data collection and data analysis methods. We have found the following changes so far: professionals are more confident in designing and critiquing practitioner research; research designs are more focused, persuasive, realistic, rigorous and focused on ‘situated knowledge’; and designs are more strategically located within organisations. We also expect greater strategic impact when the designs area implemented.
    • An accelerated practitioner research approach for professionals: A study

      Wall, Tony; Leonard, Dilys T.; University of Chester (2011-11)
      Negotiated work based learning pedagogies can be used to successfully engage busy professionals in higher level learning at universities, across professions and disciplines. Within this approach, professionals become familiar with designing, implementing and evaluating work based projects which contribute towards their degree. Yet when these professionals move from the familiar work based learning approach to ‘research’ (and particularly ‘insider-research’), they can experience significant challenge. There are a number of reasons for this: perceptions of (and beliefs about) ‘research’ as being objective/outside, diversity of approaches and language in research texts – and most significantly – the ‘extra layer’ of thinking of persuasive systematic inquiry (including focus, rigour and validity). In order to overcome this challenge, an accelerated approach has been developed and tested in practice with professionals across professions and disciplines, to enable them to design rigorous practitioner research. Data is drawn from one of the largest centres for negotiated work based learning. Procedure and/or instruments : This study draws on practice and data from the University of Chester’s Centre for Work Related studies, one of the largest providers of negotiated, work based university-level learning, globally. Academics at the Centre worked with practitioners who were studying the ‘Research Methods for Work Based Learning’ module as part of their work based learning undergraduate or postgraduate degree. The module delivery team developed facilitative approaches and tools through multiple action research cycles over the last two years. Each cycle involved a grounded, appreciative inquiry approach by the delivery team (four academics), and the wider Centre for critical peer questioning of evidence and logic, peer validation and idea development. Each cycle generated a new set of tools and approaches over time, including the design of a new ‘core process’, key questions, faciliated workshop, learning materials and re-development of the module specification. The latest version is openly shared and critiqued. What are the findings and interpretations? : Critical reflections amongst the delivery team highlighted the initial challenges above. As a result, a new approach was defined based on a ‘situated knowledge’ model, whereby the professional focuses on problems and developmental areas in their own practice (not academic ‘gaps’). With such a ‘critical-practical’ philosophical underpinning, a new ‘core process’ and key questions was developed. The ‘core process’ includes the professionals: in stage 1, reviewing context for desirable changes, reviewing external sources for insight and direction, and defining research purpose and research questions; and in stage 2, defining research approach, data collection and data analysis methods. We have found the following changes so far: professionals are more confident in designing and critiquing practitioner research; research designs are more focused, persuasive, realistic, rigorous and focused on ‘situated knowledge’; and designs are more strategically located within organisations. We are also expecting greater strategic impact when the professionals implement these designs.
    • Developing a pedagogical model for facilitating situated learning: A study

      Wall, Tony; Leonard, Dilys T.; University of Chester (European Association for Practitioner Research in Improving Learning, 2011-11)
      Learning through workplace activity and workplace projects, as part of a university level qualification, is an increasingly common approach for practitioners to study part-time higher education. In facilitating such ‘learning through work’ approaches, it is appropriate to adopt a learner centred pedagogy which is grounded in that workplace, and which creates ‘situated knowledge’ (Lave and Wenger, 1991). As described by Gibbons et al. (1994), this can create ‘mode 2’ knowledge which is situated, messy, problem-based and trans-disciplinary – rather than ‘mode 1’ knowledge which is academic/theoretical, sequential and organised by disciplinary boundaries. In assessing such ‘learning through work’ approaches, we have identified three recurring practical issues: learners focusing on describing rather than critical reflecting on their work for new insight, learners rejurgitating theory, and/or critically reflecting on practice without reference to mode 1 academic knowledge. As a result, the projects and assessments were considered to hold greater potential for change. This study draws on practice and data from the University of Chester’s Centre for Work Related Studies, one of the largest providers of negotiated, work based university-level learning, globally. In order to develop the facilitation of mode 2, situated knowledge, a pedagogical model was developed and refined over a period of two years – with learners across professional fields and disciplines, across different ‘learning through work’ subject foci including negotiated project learning, stress and stress management, communication skills, coaching practice and skills, academic skills, research skills, and so on. Using a cyclic first person action research methodological approach (see Whitehead and McNiff, 2006), the model was used in group workshop contexts and one-to-one facilitation contexts with professionals studying work based learning degrees at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Individual feedback was sought after each interaction and learner feedback and grades for assessments were monitored. What are the findings and interpretations? The University’s distinctive pedagogical model (reported by Brodie and Irving, 2007) provided a starting point for the investigation. In trying to develop an effective and practical tool to explain and facilitate learning in mode 2 knowledge generation, another model emerged. Three distinctive aspects emerged based on Gibbons et al’s (1994) conception of mode 1 and mode 2 knowledge, in the shape of a triangle: 1. theoretical knowledge (mode 2 academic ideas, principles, theories), 2. critical reflection (questioning for new insight), and 3. the workplace (activity in it, as a location/space focus). During the development period, we have identified that learners place a high value on the model to structure own thinking and to help them articulate and structure the assessments. For them, it clearly distinguishes three important elements to pay attention to. Teaching staff have also found it easier and quicker to explain the mode of learning and assessments.
    • Developing new work based learning pathways for housing practitioners whilst participating peripherally and legitimately: The situated learning of work based learning tutors

      Talbot, Jon; Leonard, Dilys T.; University of Chester (2009-04-30)
      This paper discusses the experiences of two work based learning tutors at the University of Chester in the context of developing work based learning for housing practitioners.
    • Facilitating situated learning: A 'mode 2' pedagogical model

      Wall, Tony; Leonard, Dilys T.; University of Chester (2011-09)
      Learning through workplace activity and projects, as part of a university level qualification, is an increasingly common approach for practitioners to study part-time higher education. In facilitating and assessing such ‘learning through work’ approaches, we have identified three recurring practical issues: learners focusing on describing rather than critical reflecting on their work for new insight, learners rejurgitating theory, and/or critically reflecting on practice without reference to academic knowledge. As a result, the work based projects and assessments were considered to hold greater potential for change. A pedagogical model to address this has been developed and refined over a period of two years (emerging from Brodie and Irving, 2007) – drawing on practice and data from one of the largest providers of negotiated, work based university-level learning. Using a cyclic first person action research methodology (Whitehead and McNiff, 2006), the model was used in group workshop contexts and one-to-one facilitation contexts with professionals studying work based learning degrees at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Three distinctive aspects emerged based on Gibbons et al’s (1994) conception of mode 1 and mode 2 knowledge, where ‘mode 1’ knowledge which is academic/theoretical, sequential knowledge, organised by disciplinary boundaries and where ‘mode 2’ knowledge is situated, messy, problem-based and trans-disciplinary. The model highlights three key areas for professionals to consider: 1. theoretical knowledge (mode 2 academic ideas, principles, theories), 2. critical reflection (questioning for new insight), and 3. the workplace (activity in it, as a location/space focus). We have identified that learners place a high value on the model to structure own thinking and to help them articulate and structure the assessments. For them, it clearly distinguishes three important elements to pay attention to, and for facilitators, it provides an easier and more efficient way to enable learners to engage in this mode of learning and assessment.
    • ‘Islands in the stream’ – causeways or compromise?

      Talbot, Jon; Leonard, Dilys T.; University of Chester (2010-04)
      In recent years, policy drivers have given a strategic push towards encouraging ‘employer-led’ work based learning in Higher Education. For example, Leitch ( 2006?) and other key policy makers advocate institutional change and reform in HE to respond to market needs; HEFCE encourages HEI’s “Towards a strategy for work based learning”; the QAA has reflected most recently on ‘employer-responsive provision’. This paper sets out to explore the impact of these strategic objectives and some issues which emerge from the rapprochement of stakeholders and providers. It is based on experience in an institution where challenges and tensions are being met and overcome. The case example is part of a Higher Level Skills Pathway (HLSP) Project whose lead partner is the North West Universities Association (NWUA) in North West England. Learning Pathway provision for Housing Practitioners (via a Professional Certificate in Leadership) has been developed in conjunction with employers using the WBIS (Work based and Integrative Studies) framework at the University of Chester. This flexible modular framework puts knowledge and experiential learning gained in the work context at the core of learning activity. This paper uses the example to characterise the power relationships and tensions. Reflecting on the case study, it seems that by attending to such policy drivers, much compromise is required from both parties in terms of curriculum design and the relationships being built between Higher Education Institutions (HEI’s) and employers. The term ‘employer-led’ denotes an uneven power relationship and this may in the long run serve to undermine the hallmark of HE provision – quality and standards. In conclusion we suggest that the whole relationship needs to be predicated on co-produced provision in order to build sustainable relationships between employers and HEI’s. The term ‘co-production’ equalises the power relationship, encouraging the goal of dynamic interaction, mutual respect and benefits based on the expertise and knowledge of each party.
    • Practitioner enquiry for busy professionals: An accelerated learning model

      Wall, Tony; Leonard, Dilys T.; University of Chester (2011-11-04)
      Leaders and managers need robust data and analyses in order to make strategic decisions, though often have to act without this data in practice. Yet traditional forms of academic research have struggled to appeal and deliver for professional leaders and managers undertaking real decisions in complex, changing workplace environments. Professionals can perceive academic research (or research as part of an university programme) as a lengthy, costly and generally irrelevant process – representative of the ongoing, so-called ‘relevance gap’ (between higher education and the ‘real’ world) in many countries. In addition, managers can make decisions about research (more specifically, a data collection method such as a survey), without wider strategic thinking about their position (and hence research utility) or what they are trying to achieve. In order to resolve this, a model has been developed for the rapid management learning of practitioner research methodology. The model has been strategically designed to focus on the practical challenges of professional managers in the workplace, so it draws on a ‘critical-practical’ philosophical underpinning (enabling emancipatory approaches to be selected when desirable for the professional), and has been constructed through an appreciative-inquiry and grounded-theory approach to action research. The conceptual starting point of the facilitation model is a key “change / problem / development” that is important in the managers’ professional context - and clearly specifying 'who needs to be convinced of what'. This is then creatively and critically explored from different positions and perspectives (both as-professional and as-researcher) – and includes appreciative scanning of existing sources of knowledge currently available to the practitioner, inside or outside of their organisation. This is then used to specify a precise research purpose and precise research questions. In turn, this helps the practitioner decide a desirable and feasible research strategy, followed by data requirements, methods for data collection and analysis, and finally, a schedule. This model has been tested and developed in practice, as part of an ongoing appreciative inquiry process, and the findings are presented. Amongst other findings, managers have found that their confidence in their capacity to make methodological decisions has increased. The findings and model are critiqued further and new directions are identified.