Practitioner Research for Professional Learning in CET


Conducted from 2010 - 2011


Dr Helen Bound, Senior Research Fellow [Read Bio]
Institute for Adult Learning


What are the questions?


  1. What beliefs do WSQ adult educators have about learning and teaching and how do these relate to their practice?
  2. In what ways does practitioner research facilitate reflective practice?
  3. What contextual factors mediate beliefs and practice?


Why is it important?


Contextual conditions (such as curriculum design, policy and funding regimes) shape what adult educators do and what they and their training providers believe they can do. Reflective practice is a marker of an effective adult educator and undertaking their own research is one way of providing prompts for deep reflection.


How did we do the research?


A total of 23 adult educators and managers from two CET centres were interviewed for this study. Adult educators from these centres undertook their own practitioner research projects, facilitated by IAL, to explore approaches to learning and teaching. This informed an online survey of 592 WSQ adult educators to investigate their beliefs, professional learning experiences and approach to training (The report from this survey will be ready in the third quarter of 2011).


What did we learn?

  • Adult educators have varied beliefs about learning and teaching, but commonly there is a dominant understanding that shapes their practice.
  • These beliefs do not always fit with the design of the curriculum, so they find ways of inserting their ideas, mostly through incorporating their stories in the contextualization of content.
  • They tend to see the curriculum as inflexible and fixed, and not fully allowing them to teach creatively and effectively.
  • Adult educators seek opportunities for professional development in relation to learning and teaching and to keep up to date with industry knowledge.
  • Adult educators do reflect on their practice, but need deeper knowledge of learning and teaching for this to be effective in improving quality of training.


What are the implications?


  • We should review the form and content of ACTA to engage with different approaches and understandings of teaching and learning to deepen adult educators’ knowledge in this area and to lay the foundation for them to become reflective practitioners.
  • There is a need for further professional development opportunities to develop adult educators’ understanding of teaching and learning, and relate these to their practice. Instead of one-off, adhoc sessions, these opportunities should be available through committed, long-term programmes with possible collaborative arrangements between training providers.
  • Consideration should be given to the flexibility of the curriculum, and how this is perceived, to make the most effective use of adult educators’ abilities and experiences.
  • Opportunities should be provided for adult educators to conduct research on their own practice to encourage critical reflection and continuous improvement.
  • Adult educators should be able to share their ideas and experiences with other adult educators and CET professionals.

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