Core skills in context, dispelling the myth of simplicity.
This thesis explores the derivation of the core skills curriculum prescription
through the layered perspectives of globalism and its interpretation at national
level. I critically examine the claims made in the government rhetoric around
improving the core skills of young people through vocational education and
consider the nature of core skills and the complexity inherent in the concepts of
embedded knowledge, transfer, and learning styles.
The introduction of core skills in GNVQs into a college of further education
shortly after incorporation in 1994 was the setting to explore students and
lecturers perceptions of core skills learning alongside the impact of the changes
in education policy. Drawing on the data that my study provided I analysed core
skills learning within the contextual complexities of a large college of further
education. I report the students and lecturers perceptions of the nature of the
core skills, the methods of learning established in the college, and their reactions
This thesis is partly about my journey which started with my accepting that the
curriculum prescription for core skills in GNVQs was appropriate for my students
and adopting a realist / empiricist approach to my research. As my research
proceeded my journey was taking me from the simple to the complex and this
led me to question this stance and adopt an interpretivist position as a way of
coping with the complex messages I was receiving from lecturers and students.
I analyse the lecturers and students perceptions and explain them through
linking the literature relating to innovation and change to that on the nature of
learning. I conclude that core skills learning and rhetoric mean little until they
are linked with innovation strategies and the nature of teaching and learning.
I suggest that core skills learning was unclear but was presented in the rhetoric
as self evident and its implementation in the college was reduced to a learning
design problem. This led to uncertainty, insecurity, anxiety and frustration for
both students and staff. I explore three models relating to innovation, planned
learning and fluid learning and demonstrate that oversimplified approaches to
a whole range of complex social, organisational and interactive processes are
unlikely to work and that innovation, planned learning and fluid learning are
linked and interlocked.