For lecturers who are already graduates, teacher training provides an experience Of work and study within a genre or academic discipline that can be more or less different to one that has been previously studied. Such teacher training tends to be delivered by the HE sector according to one of two models. The first model, pre-service, is the less wide-spread model of delivery, involving a year of full-time study punctuated by work placement, typically at a further education college.
The second model, in-service, is larger, and involves studying part-time towards a teaching qualification whilst in paid employment, normally taking up to two years to complete. In-service aerogramme are delivered in universities, and in further education colleges on a franchise basis. Almost four-fifths of PACE teacher training provision follows this model. My research is focused on a PACE/Carted programmer that is franchised from a university on the North of England, and delivered to a network of FEE colleges in the North of England.
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The research that this paper rests on was carried out amongst a year one part-time student group at one FEE college. Theoretical framework This paper rests on two theoretical strands. The first is the concept of learning as socially situated within communities of practice: learning and knowing are aspects of broader social relations amongst people in the world and learning, through the shared negotiation of meaning is located within membership of communities of practice, of people involved in any kind of shared enterprise (Lave and Winger 1 991; Winger 1998; Avis et al 2002; Barton and Tasting 2005).
Within a community of practice, the role of discourse is of paramount importance. Different communities have different ways Of talking, different modes Of expression, and different shortcuts and jargon. These ways of talking can be found not only in conversation but also written down, in artifacts that embody the community’s work. And it is important to consider where these artifacts actually come from: “any community of practice produces abstractions, tools… Tories, terms and concepts that refry something of that practice in a congealed form” (Winger 1998: 59). Two of the key themes that am working with in this paper are conspicuous by their absence in a community of practice as originally conceptualized by Lave and Winger (1 991 pedagogy, and assessment, although ways of exploring assessment through communities of practice have been posited (Rёmere 2002; Price 2005). In this paper I shall go on to offer some ways of hinging about assessment and pedagogy within communities of practice.
An academic literates approach to student writing in higher education (Lea and Street 2000; Lists 2001) can be seen as situated within the broader conceptual framework of literacy as social practice, the second key theoretical strand for this paper. Theories of literacy as social practice view literacy events, mediated by texts, and which occur in different domains of life, as forming a venue for purposeful literacy practices which are historically situated and changeable (Barton 1994; Barton and Hamilton 1998).
Such iterate events are shaped not only by social institutions but also by power relationships within those institutions. Social approaches to literacy are sometimes grouped together under the umbrella term of the New Literacy Studies. This paper seeks to explore some of the literacy practices that are required and acquired by PACE/Carted students within a community of practice of teacher training, specifically relating to assessment.
A skills based approach to student reading and writing, the kind of approach that views study skills as discrete, transferable and generic, would suggest that students would not eve any meaningful difficulty in reading and understanding their assignment brief, and then completing their assignment (Burns and Canfield 2003; Cottrell 2003; Gresham 2001 prior experience as students or as teachers should equip them with the toolkit footballers skills and strategies necessary for successful completion of their PACE/Carted assignments.
The social practice approach that is taken here suggests that the ways in which students come to understand what is required by the assessment process is far from straightforward, and provides ways of exploring the process that a skills approach would not consider. The PACE/Carted Close-up: Communities of Practice Students are conceptualized as belonging to a number of communities of practice, of which the PACE/Carted is just one.
These communities include, but are not restricted to, past and present workplace communities (such as current places of work – colleges and HESS – and former places of work in craft or industrial settings); and past and present communities where participation as a student would have been their main experience of membership (current teacher training programmer, prior academic, vocational or technical programmer of study).
The key characteristics of a immunity of practice can clearly be seen at work inside the PACE/Carted (Winger 1 998: 73-85): mutual engagement in the work of the teacher training programmer, in classrooms, libraries, workplaces; joint enterprise in the students’ understanding of all being members of the same course irrespective of the fact that they teach in a range of settings; shared repertoire in the use of documents, course handbooks, textbooks, ways of talking and other artifacts that are identifiably part of the PACE/Carted course.
The PACE/Carted is found within a constellation of communities of practice (Winger 1998: 127) that I characterize as a constellation of immunities of teacher training in post compulsory education. This constellation links a number of communities, some of which are institutional, located within official and powerful organizations: the PACE/Carted course; the university department; the FEE college that franchises the course. Other communities are informal, located in the activity of their members: student study groups; networks of students who meet and talk about their studies outside of class.
If the PACE/Carted is conceptualized as a community of practice, then the participation of the students is, in one sense, problematic: they are indeed articulating in this community, but not so that they can become full members of a community of practice of teacher training. In fact, their deliberately peripheral participation within this community is a necessary process in order that they will be allowed fuller access to other communities of practice: those communities that are found in their places of work (colleges, adult education centers, workplace training providers).
That is to say, it is necessary for them to engage in the practice of one community in order to continue participation in another (Lempel 1 997: 42-3). Assessment and Communities of Practice How to make sense of assessment as an activity located within a community of practice of teacher training, which is itself within a broader constellation of communities of 3 practice in HE where assessment can be found? Assessment, as a form of pedagogic activity, fundamentally opposes one of the paradigms on which communities Of practice rest: that there is no pedagogy, no discourse Of instruction within a community (Lave and Winger 1991).
In contrast to this, assessment can be seen as an aspect of the paradigmatic trajectory of the peripheral participant as s/he negotiates meaning within the community Winger 1 998; Rёmere 2002): that is to say, ‘doing’ assessment enables the student to move towards the completion of their work within the teacher training community which in turn impacts on their fuller participation within another community of practice, one of teaching and learning in PACE.
The process of assessment becomes a part of the repertoire of the community of practice of teacher training reified in textbooks, journals, course handbooks and assignment briefs, as well as located within the discourse of the community, perhaps as a discrete Assessment Discourse.
At the same time, here is a ‘gate-keeping’ aspect to assessment (Lists 2001) that does not sit comfortably with the rather benign notion of the community of practice as set out by Lave and Winger: notions of the impact of the (MIS)use of power within communities of practice can be found in other places, both in terms of power employed by newcomers (Lea 2005) and in terms of newcomers being denied access to aspects of a community’s work (Avis et al 2002).
One further conceptual dissonance needs to be addressed: there is, as Lave and Winger point out, a contrast between learning to know, and learning to display knowledge for evaluation (1991 12).
If assessment practice constitutes a reified form of activity within the community, then it can be seen as embodying the “double edge of reification” (Winger 1 998:62): this explains that approach to assessment, of and by students, as part of the course (part of the repertoire of the community) that is described in the “how to” literature as instrumental and mechanistic: the focus on the product of assessment at the expense of the learning process that accompanies it. Or, to put it another way, the moment when one of my students says to me, “do need this bit for y assignment? Literacy artifacts for assessment: the assignment brief It is an example of the shared repertoire of artifacts that are referred to above that forms the close focus of this paper: specifically, those artifacts that are employed as a consequence of the process of assessment within the community: the assignment briefs. Am not at the present time going to talk in detail about where those artifacts come from, exactly, or why they are the shape that they are or written the way that they are.
What I will focus on is the variety of literacy practices and literacy events that are encountered by dents, and why this complexity of activities shows a skills based approach to student writing to be insufficient if we want to understand fully this aspect of 4 the learning process. I will explore these practices through an in depth exploration of one assignment brief. Students take four modules during the first year of the course. A full description of each module is given to students in the course handbook, and this includes detailed assignment briefs.
A key literacy artifact of the course, this is an AY document of nearly 120 pages, normally given out to students at the start of the academic year. As well as module specifications and assignment briefs, the pathway handbook also includes more general, instructional and pedagogical material relating to the course (a section on reflection, a section on plagiarism, a section on Harvard referencing with several examples) and regulatory and administrative information (for example, attendance requirements, a calendar of dates, notes relating to e- resources).
In addition, students receive a module pack for each module. This is a shorter document, replicating the module specifications and assignment briefs of the course handbook. Different module packs include varying annuities of forms that student have to fill in, ranging from a single AY cover sheet that is attached to the front of an assignment submission, to an Individual Learning Plan which is completed during the course of the academic year. For all of the modules in year one of the course, a few common themes can be highlighted concerning the assignment briefs: they are divided into clear sections.
A number of typeface styles, including italics, bold type and underlining, are used to highlight key points. Bullet points are used to indicate the discrete sections of the assignment as a whole. A small umber of what might be called specialist terms or examples of jargon, are used: “inclusive practice”, “differentiation”. Across year one of the course, a quite diverse range of genres of writing (Swales 1990) are required of the students as shown in figure one, below (pace Stirrer 2000:183-186).
This variety of assessment practice is typical of professional HE courses more generally: it blends the theoretical and the practical, valuing both academic work and experience gained from the workplace; and the variety Of assessment methods used (essays, portfolios, reflective writings) can be seen s ensuring the validity, reliability, sufficiency and authenticity of the assessment experience as a whole (Skeletons et al 2006; Brown 1999; Young 1999; Taylor 1 997; Atkins 1995).
These different assessment practices demand in turn the use of a range of other, different literacy artifacts that may include textbooks; academic journals (print and on-line); teaching and learning materials, and other administrative materials, used and/or created by the students, as teachers, in the workplace. Figure One: Assessment practice Year One Modules Module Kinds of writing Module One “Critical account’ “Critical review” Module Two Reflections on teaching Teaching/learning materials Module Four “Critical report” Reflections on learning The ere “Portfolio of evidence” “Seminar paper “Developmental commentary/’ An assignment brief in detail To provide an example of an assignment brief as a literacy artifact, I shall provide a brief description of the brief for module one. First and foremost in the assignment brief comes academic writing, which is essentially essayist in form (Lists 2001).
The assignment asks for two essays, each of 1500-2000 words in length, titled “understanding the learning process”, and “managing he learning process”. The word “essay/’ is not used, however: the first is described as a “critical account’; the second is described as a “critical review”. The requirements for the two essays are set out in considerable detail: the instructions consist of 1 76 words distributed over nine bullet points which set out what effectively become the different sections of the essays.
It is common practice in the FEE sector particularly, and to a lesser extent in other PACE areas, for teaching and training staff to design schemes of work and lesson plans following an institutional template culture, a pattern of work hat can be seen as being driven by the increasingly managerial nature Of the PACE workplace, including (amongst other factors) audit and inspection. Put simply, the standardization of lesson plans and schemes of work has become part of the repertoire of quality assurance within the PACE sector.
As part of the assignment, students are asked to design a scheme of work, covering a minimum of five sessions, and two lesson plans. “Appropriate learning materials” for these two sessions should also be designed and produced. All these may in fact come into being in two ways: either they will e created by the student purely for the purposes of the assignment and then used in teaching practice; or they may be 6 transferred, with or without alterations of some kind, from existing teaching materials currently used in the workplace.
Students will be more or less familiar with such planning processes depending on workplace experience and context (for example, an FEE college lecturer is likely to have experience in such planning, and for such planning to be evaluated by line managers or inspectors; evening class tutors often work with a lack of such close supervision and with less demands for such documents). Students are also asked to complete a piece of reflective writing, although no indicative word count is given. Reflective practice is a key component of the PACE/Cert. Deed curriculum.
Again, depending on prior educational experience, students will be more or less familiar with this concept. Students with a background in social work or nurse education are likely to have encountered reflective writing before. For this first module, therefore, students are asked to submit an assignment that draws on a variety of literacy practices: different genres of academic writing (essays, and reflective writing); the creation and/or collation f different literacy artifacts from the workplace (lesson plans, schemes of work, teaching and learning materials).
Making sense of the assignment: student meaning making Before students use all these literacy artifacts as part of the process of assessment, the requirements of the actual process need to be understood. The assignment briefs are written in fairly straightforward English, using a few – but not too many – examples of jargon, and are written for a student body who are also teachers and trainers, and who themselves, one can assume, have to deliver assessment advice and guidance to their own students.
A skills based approach might lead us to assume that what the students know, as teachers, can be straightforwardly transferred to their role of being students, thereby allowing the students to help themselves. On closer examination, this does not always turn out to be the case. In what follows, student interviewees are talking specifically about the assignment brief for module one.
Melissa, a year one PACE student, has previously studied at degree level quite recently, and now works as a lecturer in law: It would have been helpful I think for somebody to sit down and say because e were given these sort of module packs, for somebody to actually sit down and maybe this is what I know my students expect from me and say no we don’t teach like that, you take responsibility, but actually ideally having someone sitting and saying to me, right, okay, [first module], what you need to do is this, this, this and this and I’m going to talk you through the pack but I appreciate that actually 7 you know, that’s not the best way of learning and you know my students expect me to do that and don’t do it Almost despite herself, or despite her own preconceptions Of what institutes the “best way of learning’, Melissa acknowledges the need for formal, pedagogic activity to tell her what to do with the assignment: she needs to be told what to do. Her experiences as a teacher are conflicting with her student role. Her PACE/Carted tutor, Kim, agrees the need for instruction: I feel that most years I take on the role of interpreter… Eel that its my responsibility to some point to try to act as that sort of bridge between what they do know, what they need to know to be successful in completing the assignment. So really what I will do is flesh out some of the basic points which hind are quite straightforward and provide quite a good structure for them to work to, but that they don’t actually quite understand what it is asking of them. Anne is also a student on the course who is new to HE study. She has a background in corporate and personnel training, and now works in the FEE sector. For her, the process is much less problematic. [the assignment brief] didn’t seem too bad, and think just the way it was laid out in clear sections as well, that was, you know, it seemed a logical order.
TO take her students (including Anne and Melissa) through the assignment acquirement, Kim designed a class-based exercise, written up on a handout, which included, amongst other activities, a close reading of the brief: to start, students were asked to use a highlighter pen to indicate those parts of the brief that they thought were of particular significance; and to indicate those parts that they thought might be difficult. Following this, they discussed what they had highlighted in pairs, before feeding back their discussions to the plenary. From her teacher perspective, talking about this exercise, Anne is quite clear as to why she thinks the assignment brief is suitable for the PAGE/ Carted students: Jonathan: … You’ve highlighted almost all Of it with the exception Of… Things like ‘introduces’, ‘and the. Almost, almost the whole thing.
Anne: It is, but then, with that, that’s got to be very, ERM, obviously you don’t want loads of words, it’s got to be very concise and detailed. 8 Jonathan: Why does this need to be so concise? Anne: … Because if there was loads of words there you might turn people off before they’ve even started. Elizabeth, a student with prior HE experience in the sciences, and now working as a trainer in first aid, also found the exercise helpful: id find it [the class exercise] a useful process, because if I’d sat down and read that myself I thought I wouldn’t have a clue what was going on… Whereas now I can at least pick that now back up and think “well at least I know what they re talking about”.
And, like Anne and Melissa, she has her own conceptions of what the process of assessment should involve: don’t, don’t think, there shouldn’t be so much put in bullet points, why [not] just put in an overview? Because they’re more or less saying this is how you’re going to do it, and this is how we want to do it, to see it done, to see in it. Aren’t we supposed to be being a bit more sort of individuality here, and actually looking at what the individual’s going to say about things? How to begin an explanation of the ways in which these three PACE/Carted students, who are also teachers, approach the assignment brief? A study skills approach would assume that Melissa and Elizabeth would find the process quite uncomplicated.