Sheq training methods must change

Johan Geere is a learning director at an adult training provider.
Johan Geere is a learning director at an adult training provider.

Current Sheq training methods would not produce the level of skills described in the SAQA unit standards, writes Johan Geere of Noyeo Training.

Employers understood the 1998 Skills Development Act, and the implementation of an Outcomes Based Education (OBE) system in South Africa, as a new educational structure aimed at redress of past inequalities.

However, deeply debated educational principles, that were at the core of the motivation to change worldwide, were not properly promulgated nor implemented. Some valuable benefits of the new system did not actualise.

The Skills Development Act, 97 of 1998, came soon after the change of government, and was interpreted as a new policy on skills development.

All the road-shows of the Mine Qualifications Authority (MQA) Sectoral Education and Training Authority (SETA), announcing the changes, referred to new structures, such ETQA’s, SGB’s (among which SGB 8 was Standards Generating Body for occupational safety and environmental management); and new designations such as Assessors, Moderators, and Skills Development Facilitators. It did not properly promulgate the fact that it was driven by educational principles.

One objective of the system that was continually promoted was “redress of the past”, a worthy objective, but it obscured the required development in education and training methodology itself.

Other countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, who had well-structured educational systems, also committed to outcomes based systems, at huge expense. Clearly there were scientific reasons for change.

Education science had come to understand teaching and learning in a new way. A new paradigm was required, and had developed in education.

The established perspective of a Learner was that he/she was an empty slate or vessel that had to be filled by a Teacher /Trainer with knowledge, thus an “outside-in” paradigm with a” filling-in” method.

The consequences of the former (and largely still current in South Africa) paradigm, are described by Slabbert, of the University of Zwane:

The ‘Knowledge Assumption’ paradigm;

  • makes knowledge primary, and thus tries to transfer knowledge
  • requires teachers to present knowledge, and learners to accumulate knowledge
  • requires knowledge itself to educate, leaving learners passive
  • requires teachers to demonstrate tasks, requiring learners to imitate
  • offers teachers as the source of knowledge, leaving learners dependent.

In general, we train Learners as we ‘see’ them, or according to our perspective, which dictates our methods.

Skills are inside, not on top

The realisation that a Learner is not an empty vessel, but a unique person with an inherent potential, requires a new paradigm; the Learner is a dynamic entity, filled with potential, destined to serve society in a capacity that endorses his and her potential.

The purpose of the Trainer, according to this paradigm, is to assist the Learner to express and maximise his/her inherent potential to the benefit of all and everything; on the outside. Now we have an “inside-out” paradigm.

Now we need a different methodology; Learning is “being”, an instrument to enable expression of inherent potential. Learning is a search for oneself and everything that is contained within oneself.

As in Exodus 31:2, the Creator refers to Bezaleel, the man appointed to make artefacts for the tabernacle, as one He had “filled with… all manner of workmanship.” Thus skills are inside, not ‘on top’!

The methodology of the new paradigm requires the Facilitator to challenge, evoke and elicit Learners to develop their capacities, such as critical thinking, to create new knowledge.

Some educationists called the new method ‘Constructivism’, meaning that the Learner has to construct his and her own meaning of the subject, in the process of learning.

It brought us new theories and perspectives, such as Meta-learning, Self-directed Learning, and Authentic Learning.

An example of a complex work environment at Ingula Power Station underground construction site. Workers need more than job instructions to work safely. Training methods are crucial to enabling Sheq skills.
An example of a complex work environment at Ingula Power Station underground construction site. Workers need more than job instructions to work safely. Training methods are crucial to enabling Sheq skills.

An important aspect of modern society is the information explosion. We have so much knowledge available that it is impossible to know it all.

We need instead to develop the ability to solve problems, and how to acquire, select and apply the available knowledge to solve problems.

Some graduates cannot work

During the 1950s, American industry discovered that successful college students could not function  effectively in the workplace. They could not apply what they had learned.

The Senate had appointed Dr Benjamin S Bloom, an American educational psychologist, to investigate, and he found that there are six levels of learning, as he labelled them:

  1. Knowing,
  2. comprehension,
  3. application,
  4. analysis,
  5. synthesis, and
  6. evlauation.

Dr Bloom suggested that each required different instruments for assessment. Most assessments used in education, training, and industry, test only knowledge, comprehension, and some applications.

OHS unit standards require more than knowledge

The knowledge paradigm could not give us these higher learning levels, such as analysis and synthesis. And practical experience is a slow and expensive trainer. Most employers do not have the capacity to re-train workers.

The level descriptors that we find in every unit standard, describes the areas in which, and the levels to which, the Learner should develop. Comparing requirements of different levels of the same area, reveals that we cannot achieve the required skills by simply increasing levels of knowledge.

Unit standards thus demonstrate the need for a new methodology, to transform Learners to higher levels.

The transformation required within Learners, is evident from a comparison between the two unit standard levels shown below, Level One, and Level Five;

Level One skills

  1. Scope of knowledge, in respect of which a learner is able to demonstrate a general knowledge of one or more areas or fields of study, in addition to the fundamental areas of study.
  2. Knowledge literacy, in respect of which a learner is able to demonstrate an understanding that knowledge in a particular field develops over a period of time through the efforts of a number of people, and often through the synthesis of information from a variety of related sources and fields.
  3. Method and procedure, in respect of which a learner is able to demonstrate the ability to use key common tools and instruments, and a capacity to apply him/herself to a well-defined task under direct supervision.
  4. Problem solving, in respect of which a learner is able to demonstrate the ability to recognise and solve problems within a familiar, well-defined context.
  5. Ethics and professional practice, in respect of which a learner is able to demonstrate the ability to identify and develop own personal values and ethics, and the ability to identify ethics applicable in a specific environment.
  6. Accessing, processing and managing information, in respect of which a learner is able to demonstrate the ability to recall, collect and organise given information clearly and accurately,sound listening and speaking (receptive and productive language use), reading and writing skills, and basic numeracy skills including an understanding of symbolic systems.
  7. Producing and communicating information, in respect of which a learner is able to demonstrate the ability to report information clearly and accurately in spoken/signed and written form.
  8. Context and systems, in respect of which a learner is able to demonstrate an understanding of the context within which he/she operates.
  9. Management of learning, in respect of which a learner is able to demonstrate the ability to sequence and schedule learning tasks, and the ability to access and use a range of learning resources.
  10. Accountability, in respect of which a learner is able to demonstrate the ability to work as part of a group.

 Level Five skills

 Scope of knowledge, in respect of which a learner is able to demonstrate an informed understanding of the core areas of one or more fields, disciplines or practices, and an informed understanding of the key terms, concepts, facts, general principles, rules and theories of that field, discipline or practice.

  1. Knowledge literacy, in respect of which a learner is able to demonstrate the awareness of how knowledge or a knowledge system develops and evolves within the area of study or operation.
  2. Method and procedure, in respect of which a learner is able to demonstrate the ability to select and apply standard methods, procedures or techniques within the field, discipline or practice, and to plan and manage an implementation process within a well-defined, familiar and supported environment.
  3. Problem solving, in respect of which a learner is able to demonstrate the ability to identify,evaluate and solve defined, routine and new problems within a familiar context, and to apply solutions based on relevant evidence and procedures or other forms of explanation appropriate to the field, discipline or practice, demonstrating an understanding of the consequences.
  4. Ethics and professional practice, in respect of which a learner is able to demonstrate the ability to take account of, and act in accordance with, prescribed organisational and professional ethical codes of conduct, values and practices and to seek guidance on ethical and professional issues where necessary.
  5. Accessing, processing and managing information, in respect of which a learner is able to demonstrate the ability to gather information from a range of sources, including oral, written or symbolic texts, to select information appropriate to the task, and to apply basic processes of analysis, synthesis and evaluation on that information.
  6. Producing and communicating information, in respect of which a learner is able to demonstrate the ability to communicate information reliably, accurately and coherently, using conventions appropriate to the context, in written and oral or signed form or in practical demonstration,including an understanding of and respect for conventions around intellectual property, copyright and plagiarism, including the associated legal implications.
  7. Context and systems, in respect of which a learner is able to demonstrate the ability to operate in a range of familiar and new contexts, demonstrating an understanding of different kinds of systems, their constituent parts and the relationships between these parts, and to understand how actions in one area impact on other areas within the same system.
  8. Management of learning, in respect of which a learner is able to demonstrate the ability to evaluate his or her performance or the performance of others, and to take appropriate action where necessary; to take responsibility for his or her learning within a structured learning process; and to promote the learning of others.
  9. Accountability, in respect of which a learner is able to demonstrate the ability to account for his or her actions, to work effectively with and respect others, and, in a defined context, to take supervisory responsibility for others and for the responsible use of resources, where appropriate.

Where are Sheq training methods now?

Have we transformed health and safety training methodology, to develop Learners according to the requirements of the unit standard level descriptors?

With the implementation of the SAQA system in the mining industry, abundant opportunities opened up, and many mine managers were appointed as training managers.

The result was that senior positions were filled by mining experts who were ignorant and inexperienced in education science. They emphasise subject knowledge, and a knowledge paradigm.

They followed the way they were trained themselves. Education specialists were kept busy with structural changes, and were not re-trained.

Employers and educators fell into the trap of continuing to teach by rote. Could this ‘new’ and misunderstood system, deliver Health and Safety Practitioners who can identify risk, analyse it, design solutions, and evaluate the results?

We have a fine system to guarantee the quality of training, in the ISO 9001 system. It was originally designed to guarantee the quality of products and delivery.

Guarantees that we consistently do the job the same every day, are useless in education and training, where we want progression every day.

Quality, in the abstract psychology of training, is a different thing from a beautiful paper trail of attendance, assessments, Assessor’s qualifications, and so on.

Could an ISO auditor define Learning, and verify its quality? Are health and safety specialists equipped to train? Do human resources practitioners understand the deep end of learning theory? Do they have any roles to play in skills development? Could managers dictate training methods?

We need education specialists, with skills described by the ETDP SETA, in health and safety training.

As long as Sheq training methods, exams, assessments, and registrations remain stuck in the old knowledge and imitation paradigm, we will have managers and workers incapable of working safely, and health and safety ‘professionals’ incapable of advising them.

How do we raise Sheq skills? More ambiguous laws, control, bureaucracy, and registration bodies, is not the answer.

Health and safety education and training needs to:

  • Appoint educationists to manage training.
  • Design a new education quality management system which measures quality of learning, by standards relevant to learning; such as the presence of conditions conducive to learning, and the application of methods compatible to the culture of Learners, including standards, exams, RPL, CPD, Assessment, and AQPs.
  • Replace ten-day classroom courses with a higher level, and multi-level, skills training. Sheq training methods are as important as course content.

  • Johan Geere (Loss Control Management diploma, Chamber of Mines; Mine Overseers Certificate of Competency; Trainer Development Diploma), is a former mining shift boss, and former Training Manager at President Steyn Gold Mine. He had designed training for operators of various construction machines, and for a monorail at Ingula Hydro Pumped Storage Scheme. He initiated various training facilities, and training in mining and construction at the Ingula power Station project. He is director of learning at Noyeo Adult Training.
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