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Promoting improved clinical and business outcomes through work-based learning

It is well recognised in practice and in the literature Eraut (1998) that a formal education and training provide only a small part of the preparation for work. This is evident with healthcare, in allied health, where Physiotherapy achieve the technical competency for a qualification, yet present to work lacking both technical skills and higher order transferrable skills.

These higher order skills such as:

-          confidence,

-          living and working effectively with others,

-          planning,

-          self-appraisal,

-          initiative,

-          acceptance of personal responsibility,

-          sharing and learning with others,

-          intellectual flexibility and the

-          capacity to contribute to the shared values of an organisation (Stephenson 2001)

Are critical for a practitioner and practice to prosper and are always insufficient in recent graduates, and frequently more experienced practitioners as well. It is not surprising, and not their fault, given the constraints and inflexibility of the only environments that the majority have known, school and university, which emphasise structured curriculums, rigid timeframes and formal appraisal.  

For a health practice and practitioners to prosper in a changing environment, they needs technically good practitioners with higher order skills, and these need to be delivered by the organisation they work for.

Beyond the weekly In-service and weekend course

This type of training which is similar to formal education, , is the most common way workplaces deal with the problem. However it is in essence simply repeating the deficiencies of University training and is insufficient for an organisation to become “capable”, rather than simply “competent”. Garnet (2001) states

“The capable organisation, like the capable individual has an all-round quality, an integration of technical expertise, belief in its capacity to perform in changing circumstances, confidence in its ability to learn and the capacity to make appropriate judgements within and explicit an relevant set of values.  The defining characteristic of capability is the capacity for autonomous learning in the context of change.

To achieve this employers need to teach the individual to manage their own learning. Critical to learning thorough work is interaction from others and support from supervising staff and significant others.  (Alderton 1999). Garnet suggests a “capability envelope”, which consists of partly:

-          An exploration stage. This includes reflection, articulation of aspirations and a strategic plan

-          A progress review stage. Learners are helped to monitor and review their progress

-          The demonstration stage. Learners are helped to articulate their achievements, learning and plans

Organisations learn only through individuals who learn, individual learning does not guarantee corporate learning, but is impossible without it.

Garnet (2001) Working with partners to promote intellectual capital (Ch 8 of Stephenson, J. 2001)

Eraut, M., Alderton, J.,Cole, G. and Senker, P. (1998) Development of knowledge and skills in employment. Brighton: University of Sussex Institute of Education Research Report No. 5.

Stephenson, J. (1998). The concept of capability and its importance in higher education. Chapter 1, in Stephenson, J. and Yorke, M. (Eds.) (1998). Capability and Quality in Higher Education. (pp 1 -13). London: Kogan.

Stephenson, J. (2001). Ensuring a holistic approach to work-based learning – The capability envelope. In: David Boud, D. & Solomon, N. (Eds). Work-based learning. A new higher education? McGraw Hill Education. UK


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