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Service Evaluation of Teaching Practice in the Workplace

Introduction

Education is identified as a key pillar for development in the United Kingdom. Recognizing the importance of education in human development, the government of the United Kingdom has been implementing various policies aimed at raising the standard of education in the country. Apart from compulsory education and higher education, the government has shown great interest in further education (FE). This is additional education that does not fall under the category of higher education offered in universities. Policies such as Skills Strategy and Success for All are some of the policies for ensuring skill development in post-16 students. Further education constitutes vocational training and progressing attainment of skills to keep with demand. Teachers/trainers play an important role in the success of an educational program. The trainers are responsible for disseminating their knowledge and experience to their students and ensuring that they attain the relevant qualification.

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Learning and Skills Council (LSC) is the body responsible for facilitating further education in the UK. The agency provides funds to institutions offering further education. Organized around the forty-seven local council, the Learning and Skills Council has a budget amounting to 13 billion pounds (NCVYS, 2008, par 14). The main objective of this body is to expand and improve the provision of further education in the UK. LSC is motivated by the UK government’s desire to improve education for post-sixteen students as a way of achieving its developmental goals.

Further education including vocational training and workplace training plays an important role in skills development in the country. Trainers with knowledge and experience in various fields are responsible for FE. In the past professional teaching, qualification was not mandatory for an individual to work as a trainer (Coffield, Steer, Hodgson, Finlay, 2005). Knowledge and skills gained through experience, and willingness to work as a trainer was the main qualifications for one to become a trainer. This trend has, however, changed as new government policy emphasizes professional qualification before one becomes a trainer.

Currently, all teachers/trainers who work in Further Education organizations and work-based training providers who deliver Learning and Skills Council (LSC) funded programs, are required by law to hold a current teaching qualification and registration with the Institute for Learning (IFL). This also requires each trainer to complete 30 hours (pro-rata) of continuous professional development each year, to keep registration valid, and also to work to the IFL code of practice (NCVYS, 2008, par 17). This law came into effect in 2007 but the government paper Success for All (2002) suggests that this will, in the future, cover all teachers/trainers in the workplace, regardless of job title, number of hours teaching, and the content of the teaching.

County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust (CDDFT) has been offering training to facilitate high-quality health service provision. Considering that the new policy will also affect institutions not funded by LSC, all training facilitators within the trust will be affected by this policy. CDDFT currently has trainers that are both qualified and nonqualified teachers and the evaluation will review current teaching practice in the workplace and explore the impact of gaining an educational teaching qualification. The effectiveness of trainers after acquiring professional qualifications will be evaluated to recommend the appropriate response to the policy. The main purpose of this study is to find out whether professional teaching qualification has a significant influence on the effectiveness of workplace trainers.

Literature Review

Education and training have a significant contribution to the development of any country. It is through education and training that individuals gain important knowledge and skills to use in their daily activities. One of the major challenges faced by the United Kingdom and other countries in Europe has been the retiring workforce. Many people are leaving their jobs for retirement leaving a high scarcity of skilled workers. The scarcity of skilled workers has led to an increase in the inflow of workers from other areas. The government of the United Kingdom identifies education and training as one of the pillars for development (Coffield, Steer, Hodgson, Finlay, 2005, p. 78). The main targeted group in recent government policies is posted, high secondary students. Lack of relevant skills in students completing compulsory education is considered to be one of the major challenges affecting the students (Helena, 1997, par 5). Lack of skills is not only a challenge to students but also a setback in social-economical development in Europe. Without relevant skills, individuals are not able to contribute positively to the development and in some cases, they are not able to secure employment opportunities.

Challenges in Vocational Education in Europe

Vocational education plays an important role in skills development in the continent. Despite the importance of this education to development, there are various challenges encountered across the continent. Cort et al identifies the aging of teachers and trainers and ensuring the trainers have relevant knowledge and skills as some of the major challenges (Cort, Harkonen & Volmari, 2004, p 57). They assert that many countries in Europe have a scarcity of vocational teachers and trainers. They emphasize that even if some don’t have a scarcity at the moment, they expect to have scarcity shortly. Skolverket gives an example of Sweden where more than fifty percent of vocational teachers and trainers are above fifty years old (Skorverket, 2007, p.116).

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The aging of vocational trainers is also identified as a test in Australia (NCVER, 2004, p. 62). Compensating for retiring teachers and trainers has been a major challenge in various countries. Many leaving vocational trainers are not replaced leading to scarcity. Skorverket also identifies competition for trainers between vocational training institutions and companies as another challenge. He explains that most companies offer competitive salaries to vocational teachers and trainers making it challenging for vocational institutions to compete.

A second major challenge in vocational and workplace training is identified as ensuring the trainers have relevant up-to-date knowledge and skills as required in their fields. Knowledge and skills requirements in workplaces change frequently due to frequent changes in the work environment. Up to date skills and knowledge has a significant role in the performance of teachers and trainers. According to Lynch, relevant work experience has a significant role in the performance of teachers and trainers (Lynch, 1998, p.167). Lynch explains that experience in relevant modern workplaces gives trainers and teachers confidence as they carry out their duties. Lynch however warns that work experience that is beyond a certain threshold does not have a significant contribution to teachers’ and trainers’ performance.

Harris et al insist on the need for trainers to remain up to date. In a study conducted in Australia, the researchers found that 28% and 55% of full-time and part-time trainers respectively rated their skills as up to date (Harris, Willis, Simons & Underwood, 1998, p. 126). Full-time trainers did not consider their skills as up to date and showed interest in gaining the skills. Harris advises that trainers need to encourage.

Gerard et al. (1998, p. 71) warn that although there is a need for trainers to have technical skills in workplaces, they should also be equipped with pedagogical skills. They say that while voluntary education institutions focus more on ensuring that their trainers are familiar with the workplace, what is required more in improving training is giving the trainers pedagogical skills. They explain that trainers not only transmit practical skills to trainees but also transmit theoretical knowledge (Gerard et al., 1998, p. 75). They also help the trainees to be aware of social codes in their workplaces, but most importantly they are responsible for managing the trainees.

The ability to transmit practical skills is more than the capability to use them. Not all individuals with practical skills can be able to transmit their skills to others. An individual may be having some practical skills but fail to be able to help others gain similar skills (Bell & Dale, 1999, p. 76). Harris et al. assert that special skills are required in teaching. In a study conducted in Australia, the researchers found that social skills such as communication skills were highly valued by trainees. The research also found that most trainers in the country felt that lacked the necessary social skills to respond to training demands (Harris, Simons & Bones, 2000, p. 81). Findings from the study indicated that trainers were more effective in skills development when they were skilled with essential social skills. As concluded by the researchers, many trainers in the country felt training courses help them improve their supervisory skills and become better trainers (Harris, Simons & Bone, 2000, p. 83).

Training has a significant influence on how trainers conducted their roles. In a study in the United Kingdom, Evans et al found that trainers who lacked relevant training tended to focus more on occupational skills while neglecting important social skills such as team-working and communication ( Evans, Dovaston & Holland, 1990, p. 173). The study also showed that the trainers without essential training viewed their roles as trainers as not special but additional to their main jobs. The researchers concluded that special training for trainers was essential in helping them to be more effective in their training roles. Evans et al. Further posit that training workplace trainers did further benefit to a company. They say that the benefits spill over to other individuals in the company as other workers participate in the training of the apprentice. They say that containers colleagues had a significant role in training by answering questions asked by apprentices, helping apprentices learn to perform tasks, and providing informal feedback to trainers. Robertson et al. (2000, p. 56) say that such informal training has a significant role in the learning experience, mainly in small and medium enterprises. Harris et al. conclude that all workers involved in training should be equipped with essential training skills. They recommend that even the workers that are involved in training in informal ways should also have some training skills to ensure effective training (Harris, Simons & Bone, 2000, p. 92).

Minimum Standard for Trainers

Formal qualifications for trainers vary from one country to another. Relevant working experience is the major necessary qualification in the most country while few require pedagogical skills. Some countries such as Austria, Switzerland, and Germany however require some form of pedagogical and management competence before an individual becomes a trainer. In Switzerland individuals wishing to work as trainers are expected to go through training that takes a minimum of 100 hours.

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The level of qualification determines how trainers perceive themselves and the way they are perceived by other workers. According to Kirpal and Tutschner (2008, p. 87), minimum qualification has a significant influence on the way trainer perform their duties. They report that because of lack of training qualification, most trainers in companies do not view themselves as distinct from other workers. They also say other workers likewise do not perceive trainers as special in the work environment. Instead, most trainers are viewed just as workers providing training in addition to their other duties. The researchers argue that trainers that are not aware of their special role in training are less likely to seek training. Their study also reports that companies that do not distinguish the responsibility of trainers from other roles provide fewer training opportunities for their trainers. They conclude that considering the effect of lack of formal training on training performance, minimum training should be made obligatory. The effect of lack of compulsory training can be understood by referring to the case of Germany. Suspension of compulsory training led to a drop in the quality of workplace training (BIBB, 2008, p. 54). Previously individuals that wished to work as trainers had to sit and pass a national exam that constituted an optional course. This requirement however was suspended as some companies complained that the condition was a barrier to the provision of workplace training (Curzon, 2004, p. 67). Evaluation of workplace training after the suspension showed that the quality of workplace training had been affected adversely because of the suspension. Despite the suspension, most training and non-training companies view formal qualification as a minimum requirement for trainers (BIBB, 2008, p. 67). Muhlemann et al (2007, p. 165) say that although obligatory training implies additional cost, it has a positive effect on the overall level of training.

Need For Teaching Qualification

A teaching qualification is essential for one to become an effective trainer. Galbraith (1998, p. 37) identifies questioning as one of the essential teaching qualities that have a high influence on learning. Abell (2000, p. 87) and Stolovich (1999, p. 78) on the other hand consider listening as the important skill required by a trainer. They explain that listening enables a trainer to direct the attention of learners. Wlodkowski (1993, p. 231) on the other hand considers feedback as one of the most powerful trainer’s competencies. A trainer should also be able to create a good training community to be effective (Olson & Pachnowski, 1998, p. 371). Learning communities enable learning by facilitating feedback. Caudron (2001, p. 137) emphasizes that trainers should embrace retraining to gain new ideas. Cited in Caudron (2000, p. 89), Caffarella and Merriam (1999, p. 131) say that trainers should make use of collaboration to plan and organize learning. They also emphasize that trainers should create a learning environment for them to facilitate learning.

Methodology

The methodology used for this study is mainly qualitative. A qualitative method was primarily determined by the nature of the research objectives identified. The qualitative method has previously been found to be effective in a study on workplace training (Thompson, 2001, p. 67; Leach, 1996, p. 53; Olson, 1994, p. 173).

Relevant topics in the literature, both local and international, were identified used to build a conceptual framework. A preliminary interview on the subject was conducted to develop the constructs used in the study. Survey instruments as used by Leach (1996, p. 87) and Olson (1994, p. 73) was included in the study. A list of issues related to teaching qualifications required by law was identified. Few knowledgeable individuals with the trust were interviewed to obtain preliminary information.

Structured questionnaires and interviews were the main methods of data collection. Open and closed-ended questions were used to obtain a broader view of the respondents. Closed questions were used where the researcher required precise straightforward responses. Open-ended questions were where broader opinions of respondents were required. The questionnaires were self-administered. The simple language was used while ambiguity was eliminated to obtain the exact opinions of the respondents. Respondents are identified in the trust. The respondents are required to answer the simple questions in the questionnaires and return them in the required time for analysis. Respondents for interviews are also identified. Interviews are to be used to confirm and verify opinions expressed through the questionnaires.

Discussion

The new training requirement influences training in County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust. Although the policy currently affects Learning and Skills Council (LSC) funded programs, it is likely to be implemented in other programs not funded by LSC in the future. The policy requires that each individual wishing to work as a trainer have completed a two-year teaching qualification. Trainers are also expected to participate in three hours of progressive retraining and be registered with the Institute of Learning (IFL). These changes imply that training roles in the trust will be significantly affected. Considering that most of the trainers in the trust are not trained, the new policy implies that most of the trainers will have to enroll for a teaching qualification. The policy may affect the trust negatively as some trainers may opt to stop their training roles because of the high demand implied by the policy. The training requirement involves quite a lot of money. Before embracing the policy, it is appropriate to evaluate its significance to training effectiveness. It is appropriate for the trust to understand whether implementation of the policy could help to improve training performance.

Training has a significant role in National Health Service. The body has the responsibility of ensuring high health standards for all. At County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, training is considered an important intervention for ensuring high health care. The effect of the training requirement, thus, has a significant influence on health programs supported by the trust.

Training skills are not easily developed. An individual has to have significant experience to be able to be an effective trainer. Leach (1996, p. 89) observed that trainers that had training experience of fewer than two years were rated low as those with more years of experience. This result verified what many trainers experience in their roles as trainers. Leach’s study showed that trainers that had been training for 10 to 20 years were rated as excellent in their roles. This indicates that many years of experience was required before one becomes a good trainer. 10 to 20 years is a long duration of time for an individual to become a good trainer. Interventions that can enable one to perfect training skills in less duration of time are thus, important. As Leach (1996, 91) recommends, training can enable trainers to carry out their roles with fewer difficulties and lead to positive results for trainees.

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Social economical development in the United Kingdom requires more than compulsory primary and secondary education and higher education. There is a need for individuals to be equipped with relevant knowledge and skills progressively (Secretary of State for Education and Skills, 2006, par 5). The further education program in the UK aims at filling the gap left by this formal education. With appropriate policies, Further Education can position itself as central to comprehensive lifelong learning (Knowles, 1975, p. 57). FE can play an important role in economic development (Secretary of State for Education and Skills, 2006, par 7). By adopting relevant strategies, FE can play a significant role in information and development of skills and contribute significantly to economic development. With proper policies, FE can be central in the development and supply of local skills. For instance, by adopting a healthy relationship with the employer, FE can help in the development of up-to-date skills that would be central to social-economic development.

As Galbraith (1998, p. 91), Abell (2000, p. 78), Stolovich (1999, p. 67), and Wlodkowski (1993, p. 231) found out, teaching qualification is essential for an individual to become an effective trainer. The scholars identify various essential skills for effectiveness in training. Qualities such as questioning, listening skills, communication skills, training management, and the ability to create learning communities are essential in training (Hiller, 2005, p.89). Teaching requirements as deliberated in the new policy are geared toward providing trainers with essential teaching skills. The policy recognizes that having skills is not equivalent to the ability to transmit the skills to other individuals. Teaching requirements would provide trainers with essential teaching skills and make them more effective in their roles.

Conclusion

New United Kingdom’s education policy requiring all trainers and tutors to undergo a two-year learning qualification course has raised the various issue. While others view the move as a step in improving the standard of workplace training, others consider it as a barrier. Trainer and tutors in Learning and Skills Council-funded institutions and projects are required to have a two-year teaching qualification. This requirement is intended to be implemented in other projects that are not sponsored by the agency. Quality of education is a key pillar for social-economical development in the United Kingdom. Recognizing the importance of education in human development, the government of the United Kingdom has been implementing various policies aimed at raising the standard of education in the country. Apart from compulsory education and higher education, the government has shown great interest in further education (FE). This is additional education that does not fall under the category of higher education offered in universities. Policies such as Skills Strategy and Success for All are some of the policies for ensuring skill development in post-16 students. Further education that constitutes vocational training and progressing attainment of skills is essential in the supply of skills in the country. Teachers/trainers play an important role in the success of an educational program. They help learners gain knowledge and skills more easily. By gaining teaching qualifications, trainers and tutors can be able to gain essential teaching skills and be effective in their roles.

Reference List

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