Introduction to the Principles of Adult Learning

PROFESSOROne can probably write a book on the principles of adult learning and few people have time to read that much. Therefore, I will begin by just listing and briefly explaining them. I will discuss each principle separately in the weeks to come and you are invited to share your opinions, experiences and knowledge about the topic with us. Here they are.

  1. The totality principle. A holistic approach should be followed in learning and assessment.
  2. The individualisation principle. Every student learns at his or her own pace.
  3. The motivation principle. A learning atmosphere should inspire learners to learn.
  4. The perceptual principle. Learning should originate from how people perceive their environment and the impulses to which they are exposed.
  5. The objectivity principle. All learning activities should lead towards the achievement of one or more specific objectives or outcomes.
  6. The activity principle. Learning should as far as possible include doing things as well as participating in group activities.
  7. The development principle. Learning should lead to growth in the knowledge and skills of the learner.
  8. The communication principle. Communication should support meaning and facilitate understanding.
  9. Responsibility for learning. Adult students are responsible for their own learning.
  10. Authority relationship. The adult student will only accept authority if it is justified, mature and in his or her own interest.
  11. Time perspective. Learning should take place and be assessed at the most appropriate time for the interventions.
  12. Experiential background. Previous learning should be utilised to enhance current learning.

In closing, the application of the principles is largely dependent on the learning content and the context in which the learning takes place. Till next week, then.

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Do Occupational and Vocational Learning Practitioners require Academic Qualifications?

BA BOOKS PHOTO FEB 16People with qualifications in trades, such a mechanics, carpenters, electricians, etc. are often utilised as lecturers at TVET Colleges and instructors or trainers at industries that offer training. Some of them are even posted as training managers, assessors, learning materials developers, etc. This is fine seeing that they are the experts with lots of experience in their respective fields. There is, however, a huge difference between teaching and doing. You all know the old joke about those who can, do and those who can’t, teach. In reality the other way around often proves to be even more difficult.

Conducting education and training is a vastly different science from executing a specific trade. Experts in trades often do not know how to prepare learning event plans, develop training materials, and many more. Tragically nobody seems to care. Or is it possible that the responsible people and bodies do not understand that teaching people trades also requires educational methodology? Thinking that the science of occupational and vocational education and training (OV ETD) is simple is not only myopic, but also uninformed. Even though on the same, if not higher level, the educational methodology needed for OV ETD differs vastly from that in use by universities.

OV ETD educators need more than just practical and rather limited training skills. They need to also know the theory and philosophy upon which work integrated learning rests. What is needed is at least a Bachelor’s Degree in Occupational and Vocational Learning which will prepare educational practitioners in both occupational and vocational learning for their jobs.

I identified ten salient fields of knowledge that would at least alleviate the flaws in the quality of learning currently offered in OV ETD. Keep in mind that such learning practitioners, be they facilitators, assessors, training managers, researchers or whatever, should have much deeper knowledge than just outcomes based education and training if they are to pursue a career in occupational or vocational learning.

  1. They need to understand and know how to communicate orally and verbally.
  2. They need to understand and know how to manage OV ETD, including facilitation, mentoring, coaching, assessment and quality assurance.
  3. They need to understand and know how to plan and manage an OV ETD institution strategically.
  4. They need to understand and know how to design and develop assessment instruments as well as how to conduct assessment.
  5. They need to understand and know how to guide and support students.
  6. They need to understand and know the theory of OV ETD methodology.
  7. They need to understand and be able to act as leaders in OV ETD.
  8. They need to understand and know how to conduct quality assurance of OV ETD, including internal and external quality assurance. Internal quality assurance should include moderation of assessment.
  9. They need to understand and know how to plan and execute projects in OV ETD.
  10. They need to understand and know how to design OV ETD curriculums.
  11. They need to understand and know how to develop learning materials for OV ETD.
  12. They need to understand and know how to conduct research in OV ETD.

In closing, practitioners in OV ETD do not only need skills, i.e. practical competence. They also need foundational competence and this requires comprehension. It is not good enough to be able to execute certain tasks – true foundational competence requires a deep understanding of the theory behind the fields of learning. Only once the theory is understood can one, through experience, gain reflexive competence.

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Open letter to Mentornet Facilitators



For the love and passion for training, let’s always remember the following.

Some courses tend to have more exercise than needed, if time is not on your side while facilitating, only do what can be fit into the course schedule. Carefully select the important exercises and leave out the rest this only applies to the formative assessment.
Classes starting at 08:30 must not end earlier than 16:00. If learners want to finish earlier than the prescribed time, the class needs to start earlier and learners need to have shorter breaks.
When facilitating, playing games need to be kept to a minimum, don’t play games that do not relate to the course content, learners need to receive the highest quality of training possible and playing games could rob them of the time to do so.
Course reports need to maintain the quality we strive for at Mentornet. The correct unit standards must be used throughout the report when writing them.


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SCOLDINGWritten by Dr J.P. Nel, MD of Mentornet (Pty) Ltd

One of the quality criteria that Higher Education Quality Assurance Bodies (HEQABs) love to check when evaluating Higher Education Learning Institutions (HEIs) applying for accreditation is if they have an agreement with other learning institutions to conduct external quality assurance of their student performance. This is a type of peer review. The second type of peer review that they make use of is to have members of accredited (HEIs) evaluate applicants for accreditation against certain quality criteria.

The above sounds like a good system, right? Wrong, it is a quality assurance system that ignores every single principle of quality assurance.

To begin with, the approach is unfair. HEQABs should not make it compulsory for HEIs to close agreements with peers. Peer review should always be a voluntary process. Peer review group members should be contracted only by the bodies responsible for the activation and administration of reviews. They should never be contracted by the institution being evaluated. Requiring HEIs to arrange their own performance peer review by closing agreements with other learning institutions is a form of capillary power in which learning institutions are seduced into policing themselves.

Secondly, the approach is not transparent. Peers should be independent and of equal standing as the institution being evaluated. This means that the institution being evaluated must know who the peer is and have sufficient opportunities to discuss quality issues with the evaluator. Bodies responsible for the activation and administration of peer reviews should publish clear and transparent guidelines regarding the selection of reviewers and the criteria and processes to be used. Peer review should always include a site visit and should include discussions with and feedback to the institution being quality assured. In practice, site visits seldom take place and discussions with the people who did the peer review is not allowed. In fact, it is sometimes impossible to find out from the HEQAB who actually conducted the evaluation.

Thirdly, the approach is not developmental. Peer review should lead to mutual learning for both parties and should never be a one sided affair. Peer review should achieve transparency, visibility and comparability of equal standards. It should be a focused exchange of experiences and knowledge. In addition, peers should always count among their number independent, external experts who possess appropriate skills and who are competent to perform their evaluation functions. Some HEQABs refuse to accept their responsibility to provide guidance and support to learning institutions applying for accreditation. Mutual learning is not possible because the applicant does not even know who the peer or peers are. One actually gets the impression that these HEQABs try to catch applicants out rather than to add value to the educational system. Is it possible that they do not have the capacity to do what is expected of them? Feedback by peers should always be critical yet sympathetic. HEQAB feedback is often limited to a vague and unsubstantiated written report.

Fourthly, the approach is not sufficient. Peer review should never be used just because the quality assurance body does not have the capacity to conduct quality assurance. Some HEQABs rely entirely on peer review as an evaluation approach, making it a subjective and one-sided process.

Fifthly, peer review should be valid, authentic and reliable. Peer review can easily become an abusive relay of power if the HEQAB has political motives in mind. The involvement of public universities to evaluate private higher education learning institutions can become a strategy to ensure that private learning providers do not become competition for such universities. This is especially valid in the current South African environment with students rioting on many different grounds, thereby threatening the future existence of public universities.

Six, peer review should be flexible and practicable. Peer review based on a large number of different quality standards or criteria can easily lead to a compliance culture and generate excessive bureaucracy. In addition, only evidence of compliance submitted online is accepted. There are no alternative methods to submit evidence, making it impossible to submit the bulk of evidence which a reputable quality assurance body would consider. The viability of a qualification can, for example, not be evaluated without checking the contents of the learning materials.

In closing, peer review should be based on voluntary cooperation between HEIs. It is most certainly not a way in which quality assurance bodies can overcome lack of capacity. Peers should do the following:

  • Use common instruments and criteria.
  • Strengthen open communication in the interest of protecting and promoting the interests of the students.
  • Increase the relevance of higher education through systematic involvement of all relevant partners.
  • Identify and launch projects of common interest to improve the quality of learning offered by both parties involved in peer review.
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Why free university education will not work

imagesuniversityAdapted from an article written by Jonathan Jansen

Yet another culture shift that has shaken the ground under us has to do with changing attitudes among many students towards public universities. Whereas before universities were treasured as engines of economic growth and gateways for social mobility, they are now seen as little more than welfare organisations representing an extension of the duty of the state to care for the poor. The notion of a university as a site of excellence for research and a competitive space in the global economy of higher education has been reduced to one of low-quality production machines that churn out semi-literate graduates.

Most alarming is the observation by most employers that graduates fresh from university do not have knowledge or skills that will add value to the workplace.

It is now acceptable for students to publicly abuse university leaders, who are seen as little different from municipal managers, the institutional face of the welfare state. And if the militant minority does not get its way, well then, incinerate libraries or computer centres or lecture rooms. These are no longer sporadic events; such behaviour represents the new normal. Plans are already under way for the 2017 disruptions. Our universities will never be the same.

The only solution would be Private Higher Education Institutions offering work integrated learning and providing students with financial incentives based on academic performance. Government, read the Council on Higher Education, knows this and yet they deliberately do their utmost not to accredit private learning institutions. Is government really serious about the development of the youth of South Africa?

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