We are here in sunny Hawkes Bay, attending the New Zealand Association of Co-operative Education Conference. The conference celebrates work integrated learning, and particularly, learning by doing. Action is key to work integrated learning. In co-operative education students are actively learning in the workplace.
The keynote speaker for the conference is Mary Hill, from the University of Auckland, Faculty of Education. Mary works in the field of teacher education. Mary asks the question, “How do we know when students are ready to commence work?” She suggests that students should be able to make this judgment. To do this students need training in self assessment, clear standards and criteria, evidence of their achievement and feedback from teachers and practitioners. Mary is enthusiastic about students developing portfolios to evidence their knowledge and capabilities. The portfolios are practiced based, and allow students to demonstrate their knowledge of theory and add to this their own reflections. T
he portfolio encourages students to solve their own problems in the workplace. She makes the point that students value the learning in the workplace over their learning in their education institution. She raises the difficulties in making judgments about whether students are ready for work. There are problems for assessing student achievement when the criteria for work ready are not clear or are open to interpretation. Mary uses portfolios with highly structured tasks to capture student achievement. The students demonstrate how they have met the standards required and show analysis of data. The portfolios are useful for students in seeking work. She concludes that a portfolio is an exciting and innovative way for students to demonstrate their achievements.
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