David Guile & Toni Griffiths present a multi dimensional analysis on the development of work experience by students before their graduation and subsequent absorption to the job market. Contemporary learning theories, new developments in adult learning and education as well as curriculum development theory has been used as a basis to critique the current thinking that underlies work experience learning.
What the authors aim to bring out in their analysis is the issue of context as it applies in learning through education. According to them context has been ignored by most models that seek to explain work experience and as a result they recommend a formulation of new curriculum frameworks that acknowledge that work takes many forms and within the wider context of work, students should be engaged fully in theory quest for acquisition of knowledge, skills and identity.
To expound further on the above aim of the paper, the authors analyze different systems of work experience activities that are available to students from various European countries.
These activities aim to help students learn and develop vertically as well as horizontally within the many contexts of education and work. The paper does also analyze the different models that explain the approaches used in acquiring work experience. The models also examine the policy changes that have taken place towards the learner, skills acquired, and to the field of pedagogy.
The analysis in the paper borders on the critical. Guille and Griffiths argue that the any analysis of work experience must incorporate the different contexts in which the topic of study falls. They also argue that most of the models that are used in this studies approach issues generally hence fail to give a clear picture of what work related studies are and how they are executed. The general approach also fails to examine the weaknesses that the system has hence thee programs remain unaltered for their betterment.
The authors finally suggest a drastic review of the VET programs to ensure that students gain from them by learning to relate their vertical development to their horizontal development. Theoretical learning that characterizes learning that takes place in the classrooms is vertical. Failure to put in place an elaborate horizontal learning environment that can only be provided by these programs only produces half baked students to the job market.
The paper concentrates on the pedagogical perspective of learning. Pedagogy is a teacher-centered approach where the teacher decides what to feed the learner. In pedagogy, the teacher decides the content how it should be done and when. Andragogy on the other hand is mostly suited for adults where learners have a say on what they should and should not be taught.
In andragogy, the learner is pretty much in control. In the paper, David Guile & Toni Griffiths present a learning experience where the students will be absorbed to some sort of apprenticeship in different contexts. The learners will not have much say on what they will learn, rather their host organizations will.
Though an andragogical approach may apply to some extent where their views will be sough and possibly some modifications made to their learning program, they will most of the time take what they will be taught. According to Lave and Wenger (1991) as quoted by Guile & Griffiths (2001), organizations only need to give students learning through work experience some legitimate peripheral participation in the learning for them to acquire the required knowledge and skills from the experiences others (p. 5).
Lack of an explicitly endorsement of an andragogical approach to the learning of the students by David Guile & Toni Griffith is a clear indication that they prefer the mode of learning that is presented in the paper-pedagogy. Further more, Guile & Griffith (2001) say that the extent to which the host organization may decide to allow students in apprenticeship to interact with more knowledgeable others depend on the HR departments (p. 5).
However, on calling on the review of the way the programs work, the authors are advocating for a change in the approach on the work study programs that include a bigger role for andragogical approaches. They cite a recent EU policy that calls for a reassessment of the relationship between work and education as well as the role of work experiences in academic and vocational programs.
The call for the EU review is motivated by the increasingly globalised word with a corporate and civil environment that demands pro-activeness. The review that has been called on by the EU is meant to support life long learning and it can only be achieved by an andragogical approach to work study experience.
Many scholars in the EU and North America however challenge the suggestion that radical measures have to be taken to ensure an andragogical approach to work study programs.
Quoting (Miller et al 1991; Stern & Wagner 1999a) and (Griffiths et al 1992, Miller & Forrest 1996, Stern & Wagner 1999a) Guille & Griffiths say that the approach is can only be successful to a certain extent. These scholars further adopt only a function view of the success of these programs and the relationship between work and education.
Though they acknowledge that the working context of work experience are stable environments that these programs may works, their effectiveness and success is greatly hindered by the global economic pressures together with speedy development of information and communication technology that is fast changing the business environment. The result is the great polarization between those organizations that are knowledge rich and those that are knowledge poor (p. 3).
The above position therefore presents a look warm endorsement or andragogy as the mode of learning in the work experience work contexts.
The paper presents five models of used in the learning approach taken by students in work experience learning. One of the models is the experimental model.
This model seeks front the idea that work experience should be a co-developer just like classroom studies are. It advocates for the learner to be put through experimental learning so that students can be exposed to useful frameworks of understanding about their work. The model gives impetus to the students social and interpersonal development compared to the formal education that he receives.
Additionally, the model aims at fulfilling the desire to equate the value of learning to the practical applications that go along with it as well as ensuring students easily adjust to the dynamic trends of labor (Guile & Griffith, 2002). The model is more forceful in its trajectory of student development in the work place.
It is also seen as a form of co development of interested parties i.e. the student and the host organization as the employee and employer respectively. The model advocates for the development of education partnership between the learning institutions and the potential employers in the respective fields where the learner fits.
An in-depth look that is presented in the paper has one major weakness. It can only be used to identify and classify a learner as a converger, diverger, assimilator, or accommodator.
Furthermore, it can fail to identify a learner in one of the above classes potentially injuring a learner’s reputation and through the internship reports. This is more likely in situations where the learner may not be placed in the right department owing to the stringent processes that will be required to select them from their learning institutions, which most of the time do not take place.
The only way to avoid a scenario like the above is only to use the model sparingly without giving much emphasis to an extent it will normally determine if a learner is fit and ready for the job market.
Another weakness of the experimental learning model is the failure to develop the learner. Kolb himself is on record to have said that experimental models including his own as other such as Honey and Mumford and Junch are all about learning and little about development.
According to Kolb, the limitations of his learning cycle are brought because the model represents only elementary learning orientations. These orientations will in the long rum accustom a learner to apply the practical skill that he leant across the board without much consideration of the field of practice.
Again, the model is not all incorporating nor doest it acknowledge the importance of self reflection instead it aims at feeding the learner with practical with little regard to personal preferences and feelings. It also does not take into account the different cultural experiences and conditions that a learner and work places fall into.
Some experimentation may be in complete conflict with people’s beliefs hence the result will not be a pleasant learning experience for the learner. Beside, there criticism that the idea steps to evaluating every learner’s potential are not realistic and are overly ambitious.
The steps can easily be jumped or ignored. Their neat and near perfect presentation make them just simplistic. The same can be said of the relationship between learning and knowledge. Finally there is little empirical support to accompany the evaluations that Kolb suggests.
To counter the limitation, Kolb suggests inclusion of a development model that will ensure the learner develops as he learns.
The learning institution that in this case is the place of work where the learner will be stationed, can immensely benefit from the implementation of the above model. Through the method, the learning institution will be able to select the right people with concrete experience that will easily conceptualize, reflect, and come up with unique business solutions. However, as said earlier, success of the above model depend on implementing it with other learning and development styles to ensure work experience study objectives are achieved.
A review of the programs that exists in the provision of work experiences is necessary. However it’s important if it could reflect the realities that face the working environments in the 21st century.
Guile, D & Griffiths, T (2001), Learning through work experience. Journal of Education and Work, vol. 14, no. 3, pp113-131.