Technological developments and computerisation influence many jobs. The goal of this study is to identify to what extent employees need an increased and/or different understanding of science and technology to function in their jobs than is currently taught in schools. Whereas previous research tended to focus on very general skills (e.g., problem solving, communication) or long detailed lists of content knowledge, the focus of this study is on competences such as modelling and visualising. Companies most influenced by technological developments were selected in cooperation with National Centres of Expertise on vocational education. They were asked in which companies (1) more and/or different scientific and technological competences, and (2) creativity and flexibility are required. We focused on jobs at the level of senior secondary vocational education, as these jobs are most prone to being outsourced or taken over by computers. Employees working in the different companies were asked what knowledge and skills they use during their work, for example when working with machines and computers. Preliminary results show the influence of technological developments on almost all jobs. Required knowledge and skills are for example: data-analysis, the use of graphs and thinking beyond one's own job. The need for flexibility, creativity and insight in ‘black boxes' seems to depend on the level of education. Theory and aimsThe increased use of information- and communication technology and the influence of scientific and technological developments have caused many countries to redefine the key competences for adequately functioning professionals. This study specifically focuses on the needs of future employees: what competences in the domains of science and technology do they need to function adequately in their jobs, now and the future?Previous studies tend to focus on very general skills such as problem solving and communication (e.g., Holbrook & Rannikmae, 2007), which do not provide any specification of what should be taught. Other studies provide long and detailed lists of content to be taught in schools (e.g., AAAS, 1993). These lists run the risk of quickly becoming outdated as the amount of technical information is doubling every two years (Binkley et al., 2010). This begs the question whether we can identify competences that are general in the sense that we may expect them to stay valuable for a long time, but at the same time not too general to offer directions for curricula. This study tries to answer this question by interviewing employees in companies that are subject to technological developments. In the literature, two domains provide input to this study. First, a number of studies focus on 21st century-skills, lifelong learning competences, or key skills. For example, Binkley et al. (2010) analysed curriculum and assessment frameworks around the world, and identified ten competences, including creativity, critical thinking and ICT literacy. Voogt and Pareja-Roblin (2010) and Dede (2009) reviewed different reports about 21st century skills, generally relying on private/business initiatives. These reports mention skills such as communication, ICT literacy, social awareness, and creativity. Problematic is, however, that explicit links to educational levels are missing and the educational community hardly participates in this debate. These reports thus provide little direction with regard to the content of education. Second, we reviewed the literature about knowledge and skills used in the workplace. Here, hardly any studies exist on the use of science and technology at the workplace. There are, however, studies on mathematics that are general enough to be useful for science and technology as well (e.g., Bakker et al., 2006; Pozzi et al., 1998). These studies show the importance of: (1) knowing what processes are ‘hidden' in computers or machines, and (2) analysing relationships between variables, based on quantitative data. Data and MethodsParticipantsThe context of this study was vocational education in the Netherlands, preparing students for a job at levels ranging from assistant worker to middle management. This middle-level job was chosen, as it is likely to be most affected by technological changes, while employees are not specifically educated in this domain (Levi & Murnane, 2005). To identify companies most influenced by technological developments, interviews were conducted with National Centres of Expertise, who develop national qualification profiles for the different branches. Six interviews were conducted with representatives from: animal and plant care, car mechanics, audician/optician, graphical design, commercials/presentation, and nursing/care. Seven interviews were conducted with employees of these branches: a farmer using robots, employees of Ford cards, a company developing logistical systems, an ICT desk, an outsourcing company, and an audician. In November/December 2010, more interviews will be conducted in different branches, and nursing specifically. InterviewsRepresentatives of the branches were asked to describe developments with regard to: (1) the amount of science and technology, (2) the content of science and technology, and (3) flexibility and creativity needed to function on the job. Depending on their function, the employees were asked:- what kind of machines and computer programs they work with;- if they need to know the ‘invisible processes' inside;- how they are trained to work with new machines and computers;- what they do in case of an unexpected outcome or problem.All participants were asked to describe job situations in which scientific and technological knowledge and skills are used. Preliminary resultsFull results, including the remaining interviews and more examples from concrete job situations, are presented at the conference.- Required knowledge and skills: most employees need some basic knowledge of science and technology. For example, audicians need knowledge of the auditory organs.- Flexibility and creativity: at lower levels, employees are not expected to suggest improvements or solve non-standard problems. An exception is ‘defence/tank' mechanics. They need to know the exact working of tank engines, enabling creativity in emergencies.- Insight in black boxes: opinions seem to differ here. In general, employees can work with machines without knowing ‘what is going on inside'. For example, graphical designer can use software to make sketches without knowing how colours mix. Theoretical and educational significance. Most jobs seem to be influenced by computerisation and technology, leading to changed requirements in terms of knowledge and skills, creativity and insight in black boxes. The identification of these changed requirements could guide curriculum adaptations, better preparing young people for their future jobs. More research seems warranted on the use of science and technology at the workplace (following studies on mathematics). This study is a first step in this direction.
|Title of host publication||Proceedings at the 14th Biennal European Conference for research on learning and instruction,(EARLI) August 30-03 September 2011, Exeter, United Kingdom|
|Publication status||Published - 2011|
|Event||conference; Education for a global networked society; 2011-08-30; 2011-09-03 - |
Duration: 30 Aug 2011 → 3 Sept 2011
|Conference||conference; Education for a global networked society; 2011-08-30; 2011-09-03|
|Period||30/08/11 → 3/09/11|
|Other||Education for a global networked society|