Development and negotiation

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Learning Agreements are central to the WBL approach and their importance as a key learning process cannot be underestimated. At the heart of all WBL degrees is the pedagogical focus on learning as a process. The learning process is strongly learner-centred and along with the actual learning itself, is situated within the context of the workplace. Rather than learning outcomes expressing the requirements of a content-driven curriculum, they are “based on, or derive from, the context of work or the workplace” (Hills, et al[1], 2003, p.225).

The philosophical underpinning within WBL theory identifies that a critical feature of Learning Agreements is that the learner has control over the curriculum and determines how the learning is to be undertaken, the context in which it is to be learned, the identification of appropriate learning outcomes, the learning support structures that will be used, and the manner and criteria which the learning will be measured and assessed.

WBL programmes at Otago Polytechnic are positioned within the NZQF level descriptors for levels 7, 8 and 9, as well as the specific and general competencies within the graduate profile of the qualifications. Learning outcomes show the interconnection between knowledge, understanding, application, analysis, synthesis, evaluation and abstraction.

In WBL, a Learning Agreement is negotiated between the learner, the employer or assigned sponsor and an academic staff facilitator or academic mentor/advisor. Linking learning to existing practices in the workplace potentially provides benefits to both the learner and the employer and evidence of tangible improvements in workplace performance, practice, efficiencies, processes etc. are a desired outcome.

It is shaped so that learning activities will be undertaken in the workplace; in order to achieve particular learning goals and that specific evidence of the learning acquired will be produced to demonstrate that the goals have been reached. It will also specify the time frame in which the primary learning activities will be achieved, the resources and support required and the form and style of the assessment presentation.

From the outset, the learner is encouraged to identify their own learning needs and to develop learning outcomes and implementation strategies consistent with those needs. The main advantage of a learning agreement is that it can be tailored to suit different learners and particular contexts and situations.

The details of the learning outcomes are held within the individual learner’s Learning Agreement. This is a key document that records the outcome of the identification of the learning focus, the negotiation and the agreement between the learner, the employer and Otago Polytechnic. This concept of partnership around the learning focus and learning outcomes are a fundamental dimension of WBL.

The completed Learning Agreement is submitted to the Learning Agreement Approval Committee, a sub-committee of Otago Polytechnic’s Academic Board and approval must be given before implementation of the Learning Agreement.