Learning through practice
There is a growing interest in practice-based learning in countries with both advanced and developing economies. Much of this interest is directed towards augmenting students' learning within vocational or higher education programs of initial occupational preparation or those for professional development (i.e., further development of occupational knowledge across working life). The worth of contributions from practice settings and experiences with authentic instances of occupational practice, of course, has been long acknowledged in the major professions and trades. Indeed, most trades and professions have a requirement for individuals to engage in an extensive period of practice prior to being accepted as a tradesperson or professional. So, there is now a growing interest in occupationally specific higher education programs providing these kinds of experiences for novice practitioners. However, beyond their use in initial occupational preparation, there is a wider set of considerations about the utility of practice-based experiences to promote ongoing development across working life. In particular, occupational practice and experiences in practice settings are now being used as a vehicle for professional development and, increasingly, educational programmes organised by universities, technical colleges, and professional bodies, which are promoting this kind of learning, often either premised upon or partially based within the learner's occupational practice. Hence, at this time, there is a wide and growing acceptance that the experiences provided in practice settings, usually workplaces or work settings, are essential for developing the knowledge required to effectively practice occupations. However, often, in both initial occupational preparation and professional development, practice-based experiences are seen as an adjunct to an educational provision that is organised and structured in colleges or universities or through programs offered by professional bodies and other agencies, rather than experiences that are both legitimate and effective in their own right. Such is the association between effective learning and educational institutions that these kinds of experiences are often seen as being both posterior and inferior to those provided through educational institutions and programs. However, it is important that the qualities, processes, and outcomes of learning through practice be appraised: understood, utilised, and evaluated on their own terms, rather than as being positioned as merely augmenting those provided by educational institutions. This appraisal is important because much of what is assumed to constitute effective learning experiences - processes that enrich the outcomes of that learning, including conceptions of curriculum and pedagogy - is premised on the norms and practices of educational institutions. Yet, these premises may be quite unhelpful and/or inappropriate for understanding the processes and outcomes of learning occurring through experiences outside of those institutions, and the development of curriculum models and pedagogies suited to practice settings. Hence, a fresh view and appraisal of what we know about practice settings, their contributions, and how these might be progressed to secure effective outcomes for learners is now required. Consequently, the overall project for this book is to explore ways in which learning through practice can be conceptualised, enacted, and appraised through a consideration of the kinds of traditions, purposes, and processes that support this learning, and the curriculum models and pedagogic practices used to support these purposes. It is these issues that are taken up through the contributions from the two sections of this book: Conceptual premises of learning through practice, and Instances of practice.
Learning through practice: Models, traditions, orientations and approaches
Education not elsewhere classified