What you will study
This module investigates practice and policy in relation to learning and its assessment and the theories that underlie them to better understand learners and how to support them. It draws on sociocultural theories that are increasingly influential as educational tools that offer an understanding and analysis of learning. Sociocultural theories of learning shift the focus of attention from being solely on the learner to thinking about the settings that learners are in and how the resources and the participants including teachers, mentors, colleagues and peers, influence what is made available to learn. Taking account of the wider social context in which learning occurs shows how structures – policies and practices, and beliefs about people and society that underlie them – at institutional level and beyond determine what knowledge and ways of being a person are valued. The module considers how these beliefs, values and structures shape teaching and assessment practice in educational and workplace settings. The module uses sociocultural research in a range of educational and workplace settings to challenge traditional views of the goals for learning and the pedagogic means to achieve them and to offer alternative ways of thinking about how to enhance learning and assess it more validly.
This approach offers a way to better understand:
how learners’ different ways of knowing and being mediate their experiences in educational and workplace settings
how practices in settings can limit or open up the possibilities for learning for different learners
the tasks and practices that enable those responsible for supporting learning and its assessment to open up practice in settings where learning is the goal, be it in a school subject, or in the context of the workplace and professional development.
The module framework relates views of learning, knowledge and pedagogy that are developed through the Study Guide and applied to understand practice as it emerges in settings. This allows you to:
develop an understanding of the theoretical perspectives that underpin policy in learning and its assessment
relate these to a sociocultural perspective
critically examine your views in relation to these.
The module approach allows you to maintain an important connection between theory and practice, in that practice is understood as dynamic and emergent. The module will provide you with the tools to develop a critical understanding of the perspective which can be applied to analyse and evaluate your own and others’ practice in any kind of educational institution or situation, including the workplace.
The Study Guide is in five sections:
Section 1 Introduction to the course explains the learning pathway that you will take through the module, and to the module framework and its key concepts. These include: the concepts of theory and practice; the relationship between collective and individual learning and the location of meaning; and the dialectical relationships between people, social activity and the world.
Section 2 Learning and practice offers a sociocultural view on learning and its assessment, and asks you to consider the evidence for the usefulness of examining learning from this perspective. In making these claims, alternative views are explored. Examples drawn from practice highlight the way that an individual agency can be constrained, and offer tools for opening up practice so as to enable participation and learning.
Section 3 Understanding pedagogy takes forward your understanding of learning, and you begin to consider what that might mean for your approach to pedagogy. To help with this, the section introduces you to ideas and tools to use to interrogate your own and others’ practice in order to further develop your view of learning and begin to relate it to practice and pedagogy.
Section 4 Knowledge and practice asks you to consider views and representations of knowledge from both educational and workplace perspectives. This examination is deepened through a study of assessment policy and practice, and how knowledge and achievement are represented and valued within them. There is discussion of the challenge presented by sociocultural views of knowledge to the goals of learning, and how these are addressed is exemplified through case studies that take account of learners’ multiple identities and ways of knowing.
Section 5 Cultural bridging provides you with opportunities to develop your understanding of culture, to synthesise your views about learning and knowledge, and to consider what they suggest about your pedagogy and, in turn, about the practices that you value. Your study is supported with case studies of practice spanning educational and workplace settings, and you are offered a number of ways of examining them to allow you to begin thinking about issues in your own practice.
The Study Guide is supported by three readers and a module DVD which includes a range of audio-visual resources spanning educational and workplace settings. The module Study Planner includes the study timing for each section of the Study Guide and the associated elearning aspects of the module.