NL 42 A Learning Event
Capt Richard Teo FNI FCILT MAICD
This short story is an introduction to a journey of hope and aspiration that was mooted nearly three years ago in 2012. This hope began when the Asia Development Bank agreed to appoint a consultant to investigate and report on the continuous complaints from ship operators about the poor standards and or skills of the mariner. The initial feedback targeted at 3rd world suppliers and the manner in which their products had been trained and educated. The burning comments were that the young officers graduating from the various maritime institutions of learning were apparently not job ready and could not perform their duties and responsibilities to the industry’s requirements on their ships. This generalisation was detrimental to several supplying countries. The findings of the investigative consultation and research (Fisher Report 2013) suggested several initiatives. This story is about one of the initiatives.
The TKF-GlobalMET Workshop in Manila
- Takeaways – Competence, standards and competency based education, training & assessment – CBETA, Competency Based Learning –CBL, traditional teaching & learning, mind sets, cultural dimensions, andragogy, pedagogy, examinations, grading, assessment tools, validity, reliability, currency, fair, flexible, rules of evidence, competent and not yet competent, learning environment, training programmes , learning outcomes and outcome based education, action reflection learning, co-researching and action research, quality framework and assurance, focus groups, group dynamics.
The Learning Environment
The learning environment was the first challenge we faced. Everything was spanking new, including a digital projector and latest digital and public address equipment to assist the delivery of lectures. The seats were all nicely lined up in neat rows from left to right and stepped down gradually from the end of the room to the front where the teacher would stand or sit in authority facing all students. It was a very large theatrette.
Both Dr Haughton and I were not here to deliver lectures or to provide didactic learning processes to unthinking students. We were here to conduct a workshop with professional participants and facilitate transformational learning that enabled the right thoughts and activities. Thankfully the participants ranged in age from early 20s to late 50s in varying degrees of life experiences, including existing officer candidates from MAAP, our venue for this learning event.
With the help of our most efficient event administrator and learned friend Dr Baylon, we immediately inspected various other rooms and found the ideal room. The furniture however had to be removed and replaced by café tables and chairs from the dining room. The participants were distributed amongst the comfortable furniture with their learning tools and resources that they had remembered to bring along, per our joining instructions. And of course the obvious friends and colleagues were separated. Three focus groups (cross-functional) were formed.
There was work to be done and differing views and ideas were the theme. No groupthink and dominance was tolerated. The gang-plank awaited offenders. However the friendly café atmosphere encouraged discussion, debate and discourse; much needed commodities. This was not to say, participants could not reach over or visit other tables and make the right noises. This they did and the event was a success. The facilitators moved amongst the tables and encouraged discourse during the entire event. Needless to say, the gang plank was never rigged.
Fig 1. Group Dynamics in a Café learning environment
Unpacking the STCW code
“This document must quite easily be one of the most difficult books to read. The Contents were hard to read and items hard to find, “ was a remarkable remark often heard in the market place. But work it we did and participants were made to identify the various competences found in the qualifications at each level. Not an easy task it appeared as descriptors were either non-existent or poorly written.
Thankfully I had distributed the latest Australian Maritime Training Package to participants. Each competence for each grade of qualification had been published for all to see and use if needs be. This then provided the pathways for participants to identify what gaps might be missing in the delivery of training programmes in the Phillipines. Useful mapping would also help to ensure that missing competences would be included in the curriculum. Sadly the shipping industry despite their complaints had not to date identified what the real gaps are in the skills and competences of the current seafarers they employ against the STCW. A focus group researched into how three other administrations applied MET, namely, Singapore, Japan and the UK.
It’s not enough to express that current seafarers, officers and ratings are not competent. It is urgent that these inconsistencies are identified as competences or standards and not loosely said without meaning. These must include proper descriptors and outlining remedies for the poor performance. It is imperative that description of each incompetence is identified and be included in accordance with the performance criteria, not the subject of study.
Competence is about performance to a benchmark which has certain criteria. If the criteria is not met, then competence has not been attained or achieved. The criteria must include the level of underpinning knowledge and skills that must be attained to practise that competence. The assessment of the candidate for each competence or skill sets must follow the rules of evidence and be rigorous. It cannot be substituted by just written examinations or orals (viva voce).
It is imperative that the MET industry understands that competence is not knowledge of a unit of study that has been time-tabled.
Fig 2. Teaming and working in a Millennials focus group on Maritime Administration (Regulatory)
There is a mindset in many supplier countries that is consistent with traditional teaching and learning;
- That the teacher shall teach and be the sole provider of knowledge, skills and wisdom and
- That the learner is a student who must learn from the teacher.
- That the student will be examined on what he/she regurgitates from memory of what has been taught
This authoritarian approach spells good discipline and strict adherence to laid down learning and teaching styles that must control the learner at all times. All learners have a particular time period to take in all the learnings and will be graded on a minimum pass mark system. If you fail to meet the mark, you are then history.
So what is it then that is so wrong in this education of a young adult aspiring to become a ship’s officer? Surely it is correct that he or she must learn from the sage and expert. I would argue very strongly that there is nothing visibly wrong except that the young aspirant has no control or management of his/her own learning and so there might arise the tendency to commit to memory all things learnt and hope to regurgitate sufficiently to attain the pass mark at the big examinations.
This methodology described above is widely applied in many countries.
I won’t go into lengthy explanations on learning styles, ability and the psychology that is associated with any person’s learning. Most mariners who have taken up teaching and examination responsibilities and duties should already be well up on this.
It suffices to say simply that this is not competency based learning as required per the STCW Code.
However the ongoing culture in most institutions and regulatory jurisdictions reflect exactly the demand for the accumulation of knowledge in large chunks of memory work and for each aspirant to regurgitate all that by written examinations and a final mighty viva-voce session (Orals) that does not actually provide the evidence that demonstrates competence at all.
The challenge now was to allow the participants to find the way to change the paradigm from traditional teaching and learning to competency based learning CBL or competency based education, training and assessment CBETA.
To be continued:
In the next instalment I will continue the story that will engage the participants with issues and problems that have implications with,
Cultural Impediments, pedagogy vs andragogy, self-awareness, self-management and learning as critical technology.