The current situation and objectives
- Social and health care workers form professional decisions and conclusions on a daily basis.
- The objective of this project is to develop new, innovative pedagogical models to enhance decision-making skills.
- Models are used to promote professional problem-solving, ethical consideration and counselling. The project is being carried out from the perspective of lifelong learning.
- Functional study is used as a tool to determine what types of problems social and health care workers face in terms of decision making and how they solve them.
- The study aims to determine how the developed pedagogical models – including online discussions applying the blended learning approach, simulation-based learning and collaborative development workshops – contribute to the development of professional problem-solving skills among students.
Benefits directly applied
- The results can be directly applied in the development of curricula and further education, workplace improvement projects, and education exports.
Mastering the art of decision-making
Social and health care workers form professional decisions and conclusions requiring problem-solving skills on a daily basis. The purpose of this project is to identify new pedagogical methods that can be applied to developing professional decision-making skills. The approach is focused on the concept of lifelong learning.
Lifelong learning is a subproject being conducted as a functional study within the social and health care sector. The aim is to develop new, innovative pedagogical models and methods. The project is being carried out from the perspective of lifelong learning. The project is part of the COPE project family.
The objective is, firstly, to identify the types of problems social and health care workers face and how they solve such issues, and secondly, to analyse how the developed models (such as online discussions applying the blended learning approach, simulation-based learning and collaborative development workshops) contribute to the development of professional problem-solving skills among students.
A total of 200 social and health care workers and Master’s degree students in universities of applied sciences are participating in the study. The focus is on studies at Master’s Degree programme level, because this involves education and training at both the basic and advanced levels. The study results can be flexibly applied. The results can be directly applied in the development of curricula and further education, workplace improvement projects, and education exports.
The implemented approach centres around lifelong learning. Lifelong learning emphasises a person’s ability to find employment and learn new things as the employment environment changes. The concept of lifelong learning also affects the education system. It calls for pro-active collaboration with employers to ensure that the curricula can flexibly adapt to changes in skill requirements. A degree-based education is no longer sufficient. We need continued professional education and on-the-job training to complement it.
A large part of continued learning takes place in the workplace, as processes and tools develop. In addition to these, learning involves updating social and cultural practices in the workplace. It is important to recognise any previously acquired skills and obtained qualifications, and view them in the frame of reference provided by the educational degrees in Europe.
Training and education should respond to employment needs and cover skills required in the future. To achieve this, we need pedagogical models that recognise students’ experiences and skills. These models should be based on evidence obtained of efficacy.
Pedagogical models take a holistic view of competencies. This means that students are able to apply theoretical information to problem-solving, experts have both cognitive and practical skills, and they are able to perform independently and take responsibility. Training must provide professionals with the means for critical thinking, for solving complex and unanticipated problems and for making decisions in changing operating environments. A professional must also know how to take responsibility for the development of individuals and groups, lead people and manage issues.
Within the context of COPE, professional decision-making is viewed as a core competency which impacts other competence areas such as multiprofessional co-operation, leadership and management, and innovation skills.
Freedom and the digital era
There is now more freedom of choice within the social and health care sector. Professionals are expected to be able to identify the needs of special groups to ensure equal access to services. These vulnerable groups include the elderly and the immigrant population, for example. Studies show that health care professionals tend to focus on rules instead of applying critical thinking. As a result, the well-being or the rights of clients may be compromised. Professionals should be able to make fair decisions, while taking account of the rights of individual citizens and what is beneficial for society in general. Professionals are further required to take a proactive approach and actively listen to their clients.
Digitalisation provides a further challenge for the social and health care sector, requiring skilled professional decision making, and placing large demands on education. Online operations and new data systems require some knowledge of information technology. Digitalised services are altering the traditional characteristics of client work – meeting in person is now accompanied by other forms of interaction.
Degree programmes based on different philosophies of education
Philosophies of education underlying different levels of social and health care training and education vary.
In universities, education and training is based on scientific realism, with an emphasis on factual data. In colleges and universities of applied sciences, education and training is taking on a more pragmatic approach, based on the underlying assumption that knowledge and skills develop as a person encounters real-life issues. Abductive reasoning, combining practical experience and theory, is considered a typical approach implemented in universities of applied sciences and colleges.
In addition to theoretical, self-regulatory and socio-cultural information, practical knowledge can be viewed as a subsection of professional knowledge. Learning occurs when a student combines various forms of information in order to solve problems. This is called integrative learning. According to integrative learning, it is important to create problem-solving processes connected to actual real-life workplaces and the related socio-cultural information.
Today, learning is seen as an active process, whereby students modify their understanding and thought structures in order to better understand phenomena in contemporary society. Teachers should be able to recognise any previously obtained information, skills and experiences, and challenge their students to implement critical thinking. Interventions comprising collaborative learning, peer contacts and active student-teacher interaction can markedly promote the development of critical thinking.
Experiential learning is learning through experience
Lifelong learning is a subproject being conducted as a functional study within the social and health care sector. The project aims to develop holistic, professional, problem-solving skills, and the related competencies, through experiential learning whereby a student’s personal experiences form the starting point of learning.
- Online discussions in blended education focus on the development of problem-solving skills and critical thinking. Online discussions are held in small groups and take place on a virtual platform. An online setting decreases the influence of external factors and thereby has advantages over the traditional setting, where students meet in person.
- Simulated learning is based on the development of multiprofessional decision-making and counselling. In the simulations, students play the worker’s role in situations simulating real-life, and then discuss their experiences. Simulated learning is particularly suitable for advanced and continued training, because it brings experience-based, tacit knowledge to the surface.
- In collaborative workshops, social and health care professionals address practical issues faced in the workplace. In these workshops, the emphasis is on multiprofessional collaboration and taking advantage of the social and cultural knowledge of staff in order to develop best practices.
A special focus is placed on taking advantage of the diverse forms of knowledge and digital technology. The objective is to generate discussion on the principles and policies underlying education, in order to develop applied pedagogics and update the learning environment.
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Article written by Soile Juujärvi & Sini Silvàn on 27th January 2017 .