In today’s world, rapid changes in the working life and in the society, the fast development of technology and changes in the organisation of work call for the recognition of the value of learning throughout the working career. The European Union has for long promoted lifelong learning and the necessity of continuing development of knowledge and skills. (Collin, Van der Heijden & Lewis, 2012; Tynjälä, 2013). In Finland, a new type of professional postgraduate education - specialisation education - has recently been created. Specialisation education is designed to support the professional development and specialisation of the participants and is meant for higher education graduates who already have prior work experience. Specialisation education is provided by universities and universities of applied sciences, and the studies amount to a minimum of 30 ECTS. The studies are based on the research and development competencies of universities, and they pursue to answer the needs of and to develop the practices of working life.
The purpose of this study is to look into the process of assessment of expertise and expert learning, and to gain insight into how assessment would best be organised in work-based higher education. Miller’s Pyramid (1990) forms a well-known and widely utilised framework for the assessment of professional competence. The model consists of four consecutive layers that denote increasing competence and assessment tools best suited for each layer. The bottom layer deals with factual knowledge (knows) and the next layer with knowing how to apply that knowledge (knows how). The third layer assesses performance in a simulated/laboratory environment (shows how), and the top layer deals with performance in authentic circumstances (does). (Tigelaar & van der Vleuten 2014.) Single assessment methods are not considered to be enough to assess the complex nature of competence. Thus, Miller’s pyramid requires for a programmatic approach to assessment and calls for combining multiple methods of assessment in a programme. (Baartman, Bastiens et al. 2007; Kaslow et al. 2007; van der Vleuten and Schuwirth 2005). Assessment is also context dependent, and thus professional competence should preferably be assessed in authentic professional practice settings (Tigelaar & van der Vleuten 2014).
Fenwick (2014, 1278) states, that when determining the basis for assessment, attention should also be payed on how learning is perceived. Thus, central to the assessment of expertise is to understand how experts learn, how expertise develops and what elements constitute the basis of expertise. Research has shown that connective learning environments, boundary crossing and the integration of theoretical and practical knowledge supports the development of expertise (Guile & Griffiths, 2001; Griffiths & Guile, 2003; Tynjälä, 2008). According to Tynjälä (2003; 2008; 2013), professional expertise can be described as consisting of four elements: theoretical or conceptual knowledge, practical or experimental knowledge, self-regulative knowledge and sociocultural knowledge. Tynjälä proposes that the key to expertise development is the integration of the different components of expert knowledge. This can be achieved by using certain pedagogical approaches such as work-related project-based learning, problem-based learning or by reflecting work experience with the help of theoretical tools.
Baartman, L.K.J., Bastiaens, T.J., Kirschner, P. & van der Vleuten, C. (2006) The wheel of competency assessment: Presenting quality criteria for competency assessment programs. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 32, 153–170. Collin, K., Van der Heijden, B. & Lewis, P. (2012). Continuing professional development. International Journal of Training and Development, 16(3), 155–163. Fenwick, T.J. (2014). Assessment of Professionals’ Continuous Learning in Practice. In S. Billett, C. Harteis & H. Gruber (eds.), International Handbook of Research in Professional and Practice-based Learning (pp.1271-1297). Dordrecht: Springer. Griffiths, T. & Guile, D. (2003). A connective model of learning: the implications for work process knowledge. European Educational Research Journal, 2(1), 56–73. Guile, D. & Griffiths, T. (2001). Learning through work experience. Journal of Education and Work, 14(1), 113–131. Kaslow, N., Bebeau, M., Lichtenberg,J., Portnoy, S., Rubin, N., Leigh, I. Nelson, P. & Smith, L. (2007). Guiding Principles and Recommendations for the Assessment of Competence. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 38, 441–451. Landeta, J. (2006). Current validity of the Delphi method in social sciences. Technological Forecasting & Social Change, 73, 467–482. Miller, G. E. (1990). The assessment of clinical skills/competence/performance. Academic Medicine, 65(9), 63–67. Tigelaar, D. & van der Vleuten, C. (2014). Assessment of Professional Competence. In S. Billett, C. Harteis & H. Gruber (eds.), International Handbook of Research in Professional and Practice-based Learning (pp.1237–1270). Dordrecht: Springer. Tynjälä, P., Välimaa, J. & Sarja, A. (2003). Higher Education, 46(2), 147–166. Tynjälä, P. (2008). Perspectives into learning at the workplace. Educational Research Review, 3, 130–154. Tynjälä, P. (2013). Toward a 3-P Model of Workplace Learning: a Literature Review. Vocations and Learning, 6, 11–36. van der Vleuten, C. & Schuwirth, L. (2005). Assessing professional competence: from methods to programmes. Medical Education, 39, 309–317. van der Vleuten, C., Schuwirth, L.., Scheele, F., Driessen, E. & Hodges, B. (2010). The assessment of professional competence: building blocks for theory development. Best Practice & Research Clinical Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 24, 703–719.
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