Competency based, Time based or something in between?
July 2, 2014 3 Comments
I have been involved in a number of conversations recently about training (what a shock), but in particular about how long it takes to train some one. The easiest answer here seems to be well as long as it takes, different people will learn at different rates so the amount of time it might take me to learn something may be radically different from the amount of time it takes you to learn the same thing. Now essentially that is the right answer, particularly where we are talking about skills based training, if I am able to demonstrate that I can perform a skill to whatever criteria are necessary then surely I have demonstrated that I am competent and shouldn’t need to spend additional time on ‘learning’ that skill simply because it should take say 5 days to learn that skill.
I have a question though, lets take the example of making a cup of coffee. I attend an online training course called making a cup of coffee, the course is delivered in a state of the art simulated coffee-making environment, includes a range of videos from the worlds best coffee makers and lots of reading questions to think about. Oh and there is a ‘skills assessment’ at the end of the course where I have to make a cup of coffee in the simulated environment. I answer a range of questions about making coffee and do a project on how coffee makers work, well to be fair my project is about how the simulated coffee maker works and my answers are largely regurgitated from the videos and printed materials and it takes me less than a day to complete. These questions are assessed and found to be satisfactory. I then undertake the ‘make a coffee skills assessment’ and pass with flying colours. Am I competent?
Some people would clearly argue yes, of course I am competent I have done all that is required to show my competence in making a coffee, however what happens when I go out into the workforce with my making a coffee qualification, get job, and find myself confronted with a coffee machine that is utterly unlike the one I have used on every previous occasion (in the simulated environment) and my consumers are much more demanding about their java than my simulated customers ever where, and struggle to manage to make a cup of coffee. Am I still competent?
Would the situation have been any different if there was a requirement that the course took a minimum of 6 months and 100 hours of placement to complete or are we going to get exactly the same result. Am I more likely over this extended period of time to encounter situations and equipment and people who stretch my skills then I would have been with entirely online or face to face training plus a practical skills assessment.
When we add to this the added dimension that in most cases I am not undertaking this training alone, but rather as part of a group, a group which has both widely ranging skills and abilities, including how fast they learn, how does that affect not only my competent but the competence of the other members of the group.
The first thing to say here is that I am not bashing online training, I like online learning and find it really useful for what it is.
What my focus here is is the question that if we are truly serious about competency based training then surely we need to recognise that there is for the most part actually a minimum amount of time that it takes someone to become competent in a particular skill. Now for me whether that time comes from work experience before entering training or through work placement or on the job training is unimportant, what is important for me is that there is minimum amount of time and that that minimum should be part of the recognition of competency. If you have only ever done 40 hours of work in an aged care facility in your entire life and that was a training placement, then no matter how good the training is you have received I am going to really, really doubtful that you are actually competent across any real range of situations and environments. There is simply not enough time for you to have experienced enough variety of situations to be able to be competent, even if you have done hours of simulated, intensive, innovatively delivered training to go along side this. (To caveat this, of course there may be a very small range of people who after this type of training are competent, but in my opinion and experience not many)
We need to have a system that ensures that when someone is given a qualification that they are actually competent and one step towards achieving this seems to me to be the concept of mandating at least the level of placement hours that various qualifications need.
That’s what I think anyway.