Unpacking the TSP programYolanda Ballan
As the newest faculty member to the Foundations/TSP at the Sharjah Women’s campus (SWC) since March 5, I would like to share my observations and ideas about this bold HCT program.
The following blog builds on the above entry of April 20.
Through background reading of policy perspectives, I saw striking similarities between the policy themes of the HCT TSP program and the NCFE report “Reforming Technical and Professional Education . Why should it work this time?” (Mick Fletcher- March 2017).
NCFE is the Northern Council of Further Education, HCT’s accreditation body of the TSP program. The focus on the 16-18 year old learner cohort is indeed common, and is fast becoming a priority in many other countries, not just the UK and the UAE.
TSP’s aims are to deliver a “realistic balance of learning” of skills and knowledge to equip learners for entry level employability mostly for the private sector.
Reading this report enabled me to link the day to day challenges faced with broader drivers of the TSP program.
The current operational challenges faced at campus level in implementing this program clearly stem from the broader strategic and philosophical policy position manifested in the TSP program.
The target TSP learner, as i understand it, has not met requirements into an academic stream. TSP is intended to provide a balance between university style knowledge, and vocational style skills.
Therein lies the core of the challenges I faced as an instructor. The learning outcomes of the course are partly knowledge and partly skills. Teaching and assessment methods are not the same for skills and knowledge.
In conventional vocational curriculum, in my experience, learning outcomes (or performance criteria) is almost always skills based. Knowledge required under conventional vocational curriculum is given separately to guide instructor about depth of underpinning knowledge required.
In the TSP program the performance criteria are a blend of knowledge and skills often for the one learning outcome.
The low levels of English was also a challenge. I was saved by my limited Arabic speaking skills and was supported by my supervisors and colleagues to try different techniques in this inaugural TSP program at SWC to help enhance student success as its intensity proved beyond the capabilities of many of our learners.
This is how I (we) went about it …
- We looked at all units in current cycle and differentiated between skills & knowledge outcomes
- Four (4) projects were designed that
- included outcomes from 3 units (Collaboration, Fundamentals & Innovation)
- required each student to assume a role in a nominated familiar company
- included recording, PPT, report, plan, acting on feedback
- Knowledge assessments were designed and done by students under exam conditions – mostly multiple choice/matching/fill gaps
- Short answer knowledge assessments were designed where students had to find relevant input from provided text under exam conditions
- All assessments and teaching was couched in a specific workplace context
- Submissions assumed a worker role in all answers given by student in assessments
- All assessment tasks mapped to specific unit & learning outcome numbers
- Results entered on spreadsheet for each learning outcome
- Lifted focus off purely English and looked for evidence of competence
- Out of 2 classes (approx 46), estimated complete pass rate for units 8, 9 & 10 is approximately 20% (TBC) – remaining 80% have outstanding learning outcomes for which to provide evidence.
Moving forward, I am of the view that some of the following ideas may help improve this program:
- More communication between the various unit instructors to allow us to reinforce and scaffold on learning occurring in other units. (Eg English teach Innovation vocab, report writing) (Eg IT help learners produce business documents for assessment)
- Allow for a greater variety of assessment methods (Eg role plays, videos, posters, flow charts)
- Encourage student focus on choice of job / industry and opportunity to solve problem as a constant job holder.
- Enable easier result entry interface with HCT BBL system (s)
- Redesign templates used in all assessments to quality control documents.
- A very high number of students enjoyed the changes in teaching and assessment methods and showed greater engagement. Measurement of these sentiments will allow for better alignment of delivery approaches to learner needs and expectations.