22 SES 12 D, Learning and Competence Development: New approaches
The aims of this paper are to:
- compare and contrast ‘applied degrees’ and institutions that offer these programs in Europe and North America;
- apply this analysis to an examination of colleges in the Province of Ontario in Canada to consider whether they have developed in the tradition of European or North American models.
- contribute to European debates about the nature of applied knowledge and the differences between applied and academic higher education institutions.
Many jurisdictions in Europe, North America and elsewhere have developed alternatives to universities which are described as ‘applied’ higher education institutions (OECD, 1971; Furth, 1973; Grubb, 2005). Thus, Fachhochschulen are authorised to translate their name into English as ‘universities of applied sciences’. These in turn have been authorised to offer bachelor degrees which are often called ‘applied’ degrees, either formally or informally. But (1) what does ‘applied’ mean and (2) how is it applied in practice?
Skolnik (2016) observed two broad tendencies in structuring universities and applied higher education institutions. European countries tend to construct their academic and applied education as parallel streams from upper secondary education, and many European countries have authorised their applied institutions to offer applied bachelors and masters degrees. In contrast, the USA and some Canadian provinces have constructed their universities and applied higher education institutions in a vertical relation to each other. Academic and applied education may be differentiated in the final years of USA secondary education, but typically more weakly than in Europe. The USA model has typically restricted applied institutions to offering short cycle higher education such as diplomas and associate degrees of up to two years’ duration. Graduates of these institutions who wanted to extend their education were expected to transfer to universities in the academic stream.
Ontario 24 colleges of applied arts and technology were established from 1965 more on Europe’s parallel model than the USA’s vertical model (Skolnik, 2016). However, Ontario colleges were not granted authority to offer bachelors degrees ‘in an applied area of study’ until 2000. While degree-offering was early for applied institutions established on the USA model, it was very late for applied institutions established on the European model. Furthermore, Ontario colleges’ authority to offer bachelors was very circumscribed, ‘indicative of at most a tepid adoption by the government of the European model, but the circumstances of the legislation suggested the government might have preferred the American model to the European model’ (Skolnik, 2016: 45).
The three research questions addressed by this paper are:
- What is the nature of applied theoretical knowledge in applied degrees and how is this understood by the institutions that offer them?
- How do applied degrees differ from ‘traditional’ degrees and how are these changes reflected in the structure of curriculum?
- Have Ontario’s colleges developed on the USA or European model?
The broad theoretical framework underpinning this study is Bernstein’s (2000) distinction between theoretical and everyday knowledge, and the way they are organised in curriculum as ‘singulars’, which refers to ‘pure’ academic disciplines; ‘regions’ which refers to the way in which disciplinary knowledge is recontextualised as applied disciplinary knowledge for fields of practice and the way in which the requirements of fields of practice are systematised, codified and incorporated in curriculum; and fields of practice, which includes established rules and practices and tacit knowledge of workplaces. Bernstein’s concepts of classification and framing were used to analyse each type of knowledge and how it was structured in curriculum. Classification refers to the ‘what’ of curriculum, whereas framing refers to the ‘how’ (or pedagogy). The way these concepts were used is explained in the methods section.
This paper draws on three sources of data: the research literature; a comparative curriculum analysis; and, interviews. The research analysed literature on 'applied' higher education institutions (OECD, 1971; Furth, 1973; Grubb, 2005; Skolnik, 2016), 'applied' bachelor degrees (CMEC, 2007; PEQAB, 2017; Skolnik, 2013, 2016; Townsend, Bragg and Ruud, 2008; UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2012; Walker and Floyd, 2005; Wheelahan and colleagues, 2017), and 'applied' knowledge (Bernstein, 2000; Collier 2003; Young, 2006). This included a review of the explosion of the restructuring of practical knowledge during the Industrial Revolution (Valleriani, 2017). Bernstein's (2000) concepts of 'classification and framing' were used to analyse curriculum in each type of institution. Classification refers to the 'what' of curriculum, whereas framing refers to the 'how' (or pedagogy). Classification refers to the strength of the boundaries that distinguishes the academic disciplines, whereas framing refers to the way in which knowledge in curriculum is selected, sequenced, paced and evaluated. The 'pure' academic disciplines are often strongly classified with strong boundaries between them, whereas applied knowledge is often more weakly classified because the principle of selection is the requirements of practice, rather than the structures of knowledge. Different elements of curriculum and pedagogy can either be strongly or weakly framed, so that students have more or less control over the selection, sequencing, pacing and evaluation of curriculum. We compared the curriculum of bachelor degrees (12 degrees in total): *'in an applied area of study' offered by four Ontario colleges in three fields of study, in applied arts, business and technology; *four cognate degrees offered by two Ontario universities that emphasise the applied and experiential nature of their programs; and *four cognate degrees offered by three traditional Ontario universities. The study compared classification and framing in these cognate degrees' program maps, objectives and content. The degrees' content was examined by comparing the weight of theoretical and applied knowledge in the curriculum, the structure of the degree, and curriculum breadth. Curriculum breadth was examined by finding whether students were required or had opportunities to undertake learning outside their main discipline. The study examined work integrated learning experiences by finding whether students were required to undertake a co-operative learning or work placement. We interviewed 18 Ontario college leaders and 35 teachers at seven colleges, all of whom were at colleges which offered bachelors degrees except two college leaders. The interviews focused on curriculum, pedagogy and institutional identity.
Most literature we reviewed posits two types of knowledge: theoretical knowledge, and theoretical knowledge that is applied to practice, or applied knowledge. We identified three types of knowledge in three domains: disciplines which have theoretical knowledge; fields of practice which include established rules and practices; and between them 'regions' (Bernstein, 2000) or 'concrete sciences' (Collier, 2003) which include recontextualised disciplinary knowledge and systematic procedural knowledge. We answer our first question by arguing that in this context that 'applied' has two meanings. It refers to disciplinary knowledge that is recontextualised for regions or concrete disciplines, and to established rules, practices and know-how of a field which have been restructured and codified as systematic procedural knowledge. Our college interviewees emphasised the applied nature of their degrees as a key distinction. Compared to traditional universities, college bachelors were more weakly classified and included a higher proportion of applied studies, a lower proportion of theoretical studies, and a lower proportion of studies outside the main discipline. The curriculum of universities which emphasised the applied and experiential nature of their programs was between colleges and traditional universities on these characteristics. There were similar differences in relations of framing (Wheelahan and colleagues, 2017). We answer our second question by concluding that Ontario college bachelor degrees are distinctive in curriculum and pedagogy. It is perhaps too soon to answer our third question definitively. In their bachelor degrees Ontario colleges are probably continuing along a mild European model as much by circumstances as by design. However, many bachelor graduates hope to proceed to an applied masters which colleges are not authorised to offer. Our third question may be answered by whether college graduates are able to continue their study by gaining admission to universities' masters or by colleges being authorised to offer applied masters.
Bernstein, Basil (2000) Pedagogy, symbolic control, and identity: theory, research and critique, revised ed. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. Collier, Andrew (2003) In defence of objectivity, Routledge: London, pages 37-45. CMEC (Council of Ministers of Education, Canada) (2007) Ministerial statement on quality assurance of degree education in Canada, https://www.cmec.ca/160/Statement_on_Quality_Assurance.html Furth, Dorotea (editor) (1973) Short-cycle higher education. A search for identity, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, Paris, https://archive.org/details/ERIC_ED081325 Grubb, Norton (2005) Alternatives to universities reconsidered, pages 15-46, in OECD (editor) Education policy analysis 2004, OECD, Paris, http://www.oecd.org/edu/school/educationpolicyanalysis2004.htm OECD (1971) Towards new structures of post-secondary education; a preliminary statement of issues, https://eric.ed.gov/?q=%22Towards+new+structures+of+postsecondary+education%22&id=ED052698 PEQAB (Postsecondary Education Quality Assessment Board) (2017) Handbook for Ontario colleges applying for Ministerial consent under the Post-secondary Education Choice and Excellence Act, 2000, http://www.peqab.ca/Handbooks.html Skolnik, Michael L (2013) Reflections on the nature and status of the applied baccalaureate degree, in Nancy Remington and Ronald Remington (editors) Alternative pathways to the baccalaureate: do community colleges offer a viable education to the nation's knowledge deficit? Pages 128-147. Stylus Publishing, Sterling, Virginia Skolnik, Michael L (2016) Situating Ontario's colleges between the American and European models for providing opportunity for the attainment of baccalaureate degrees in applied fields of study, Canadian Journal of Higher Education, volume 46, number 1, pages 38-56. Townsend, Barbara K, Bragg, Debra D and Ruud, Collin M (2008) The adult learner and the applied baccalaureate: national and state-by-state inventory, https://eric.ed.gov/?q=The+adult+learner+and+the+applied+baccalaureate+&id=ED504474 UNESCO (2012) International Standard Classification of Education ISCED 2011, http://www.uis.unesco.org/Education/Pages/international-standard-classification-of-education.aspx Valleriani, Matteo (2017) (editor) The structures of practical knowledge, Gewerbestrasse, Switzerland: Springer. Walker, Kenneth P and Floyd, Deborah L (2005) Applied and workforce baccalaureates. In Deborah L Floyd, Michael L Skolnik, and Kenneth P Walker (editors) The community college baccalaureate: emerging trends and policy issues (pages 95-102). Sterling, VA: Stylus. Wheelahan, Leesa, Moodie, Gavin, Skolnik, Michael L, Liu, Qin, Adam, Edmund G and Simpson, Diane (2017) CAAT baccalaureates: What has been their impact on students and colleges? Toronto: Centre for the Study of Canadian and International Higher Education, OISE‐University of Toronto. https://www.academia.edu/34112325/CAAT_baccalaureates_What_has_been_their_impact_on_students_and_colleges Young, Michael (2006) Reforming the further education and training curriculum: an international perspective curriculum, in Young, Michael & Gamble, Jeanne (editors) Knowledge, curriculum and qualifications for South African further education, Human Sciences Research Council, Cape Town, http://www.hsrcpress.ac.za/, pages 46-63.
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