Support for work-based learning: a package for work-based mentors of Foundation degree students in the Health and Social Care sector
Bucks New University
Completed October 2009
This project had two aims, both related to supporting those in the workplace acting as mentors to Foundation degree students:
1 To develop a generic educational audit tool that can be used to assess the appropriateness of the work-based learning environment to achieving the learning outcomes of the Foundation degree
A series of focus groups were held with Foundation degree course leaders to explore whether an educational audit tool would be useful and, if so, what form it should take. There was agreement that the student experience would be enhanced by the establishment of an audit tool establishing the suitability of their workplace to support the student's learning and meet the requirements of the course. It would also play an important role in ensuring equity and parity across all courses and enhance the quality management processes of the Foundation degrees. Due to differences between the settings of the various Foundation degrees, it was agreed that some required a more structured educational audit than others. Given this, it was agreed that the audit should be made available electronically to allow the course team to devise a flexible tool that met the needs of their course.
2 To develop and validate an educational programme for identified mentors of students undertaking Foundation degrees in the Health and Social Care sectors
During the project, two educational programmes were developed and delivered for mentors of Foundation degree-level students and feedback gathered from the students and lecturers. The first was a certificated course, 'Introduction to Enabling Learning', delivered at Level 6 attracting 15 CATS points, and the second was a non-certificated, attendance-only four-day course.
An electronic audit tool was developed and, following approval by the course teams, was prepared for trial during 2009/10.
The certificated course 'Introduction to Enabling Learning' was developed as an interdisciplinary module. Three mentors attended the course, of which one successfully completed. The students experienced some issues with workload and time constraints which led to difficulties with attendance and meeting assessment deadlines; in addition, the students found the academic level challenging and felt they needed considerable support to reach the academic standard required. Feedback from the lecturers also highlighted this issue, and noted that students were diverse in educational and work background and starting at different points on the lifelong learning continuum. However, all students commented on the value of the interdisciplinary forum and learning from each other, and the lecturers found it stimulating and challenging to facilitate such a mixed group of professionals. In terms of level and progression the students were concerned about their professional development and how they could build on the course academically and gain recognition in the workplace. There appears to be a need to identify a recognised career pathway for work-based learning mentors to develop their mentoring/coaching skills.
The non-certificated attendance-only course was offered to work-based learning mentors across the faculty and five took up the offer. All the students commented positively on the interactive work and the value of sharing experience and challenging practice. All commented that at the end of the course they were interested in doing an assessed course and further formal study, having enjoyed the experience of higher education. The students were keen to have the University Certificate of Attendance to add to their Professional Development Portfolio and felt that it would be useful to them and their employer in the workplace.
LINK TO FULLER REPORT