Breakfast time launch of £50 million funding to make a difference for adult learners
Late last night I travelled down to London to be at the at the breakfast time public launch of the UfI Charitable Trust funding programme. The new Chair of the Trust, Ray Barnes, announced that the £50 million gained from the sale of learndirect will be used to offer innovation funding in six key areas:
- Staff skills
- Analytic tools to help inform changes in teaching models
- Empowerment of learners to review each others’ work
- Enabling learning professionals to collaborate on development of curriculum content
- Large scale projects offering learning in Maths to Level 2
- Projects working on simulation and games
These recommendations are based on the findings of the report – Scaling Up- Achieving a Breakthrough in Adult Learning with Technology. Clive Shepherd, Dick Moore, Seb Schmoller and Adrian Perry have produced a thorough and useful report which is bound to become a focus for debate in the coming months. Full report
Investment of this sort in the current climate is welcome but really must be regarded as a once and for all chance to get it right! We are not likely to see funding for innovation at this level for some time to come.
It was heartening to see that at the launch meeting, a blind faith in the automatic power of technology to transform learning for the better was challenged by many from the floor. Barry Shearman MP called on the Trust to recognise the value of mediators and many others pointed to the new key roles of trained professionals in ensuring that learning does change for the better and that the positive ‘disruption’ that technology provokes can not be predicted.
Learners Peer Review (Priority 3)
For me, the most radical of the UCTs themes is the plan to empower learners to review each others’ work. The full text of the UCT briefing document talks about encouraging them [learners] to build their own understanding of subjects. Whilst this reads a little clumsily, I agree wholeheartedly with what is in effect a call for a more wholesale adoption of Social Constructivist approaches to learning. Information transmitted is largely information forgotten or not valued. Knowledge distilled by the learner themselves from the rich mix of what Allison Rossett has called the Stuff and the Stir of learning . This report is encouraging us to focus on the quality of the stir. No-one will be surprised that the writer of this blog come down heavily on the side of good quality stirring of learning!
However, the ability to offer constructive and realistic feedback to peers is a fairly high level skills and needs even greater sensitivity in a online environment. This is a bold and important aim which will benefit from collective wisdom. I guess that the debate on how to achieve this is now declared well and truly open. I’ll be there!
Training for professionals (Priority 1)
I was also delighted that training of a wide range of learning professionals is listed as the very first priority and, whilst there is still some need for technical training, the discussion this morning really confirmed that the training needed is in applying the pedagogies which increase learner autonomy. I am yet to be convinced that all the training eggs should be placed in the suggested single basket which is a single large-scale, open, online course to develop the knowledge and skills of learning professionals.
The professionals are now such a wide and varied group with different starting points. Also their training needs will vary from short sharp ‘just in time’ bites as well as more measured and lengthy periods of professional development.
My verdict: Yes to professional training, No to a single open course.
It’s not just skills!
I cycled away from the launch meet at the Wellcome Institute this morning with ‘Skills Skills Skills’ ringing in my ears. But we know that learning is also about knowledge and we forget values and attitudes at a our peril. Indeed in a world where ’employability’ and enterprise are so often linked to ‘soft skills’ when we examine the softness of the skills we see they are actually much closer to beliefs , values and attitudes.