Knowledge and Skills


Creation of Knowledge and Skill During the Learning Process

Professional development of students takes place during a consistent study programme.

Study programmes are classified as follows:

  • programme for the acquisition of knowledge;
  • programme for the acquisition of skills;
  • programme for extending responsibilities and the scope of independent operation;
  • winning credibility or Leader Programme. Leader Programme will take engineer to level 8, identified in the qualification framework for competences of an engineer.

In course of the programme, the student will acquire desired qualification or acknowledge competences that will allow him/her to act in accordance with changing requirements to skills. Professional development of students can be identified by measuring the quality and quantity of work performed. Work-related contextual factors will offer a characteristic framework, needed for understanding and measuring the developments that take place during learning. The work will be done, according to the completion ontology, used for the purposes of the doctor thesis, within the framework of a task.

Hierarchic implementation model, helping to explain relations between individual development and results of work, is given below. Dynamic components of professional development of a student are depicted on Figure 2.1

Values and indicators, measured for the purposes of the model of professional development students, are summarised in the table below [60]:

  1. Specialty-related tasks. The substance of a specialty-related task is defined by standard works that are to be performed in a specific job. Contextual task. Contextual task, which included the performance of specialty-related task, is supported and maintained by the educational institution with its pedagogic, social and psychological environment. Contextual task is also called the learning process. This model has two levels. For example: tasks given by a worker at craftsman’s level will be performed by worker, therefore, the vocation of a worker is more restricted (defined; craftsman is given in worker’s context).
  2. Performance of a task is influenced (configured) mostly by cognitive abilities and talents with performance motivation, specialty-specific skills and knowledge and meta-competences, which will simplify constructive response to changes. General abilities with personal characteristics (incl. values and objects of interests) and performance motivation will shape contextual performance.
  3. Specialty-specific skills and knowledge, meta-cognitive skills and general professional abilities are the outcome of both explicit and implicit learning. Explicit learning refers to growth and development that takes place within the framework of an official education programme and as its result, while implicit learning is related to natural learning opportunities that emerge in everyday life.
  4. Explicit and implicit learning are related to personality and talent. Cognitive abilities and talents and personal characteristics, values and objects of interest, that provide the grounds for individual abilities and learning motivation, are the main shapers of specialty-related qualifications and competences.
  5. Intelligence is an individual’s ability to distinguish, within the context observed, smaller components and more performance levels. Intelligence can be taught, however, not all students have the same academic talent. We must also not forget that emotional intelligence (characteristic, property) will usually have a much more powerful influence on a person’s life than academic intelligence would.
  6. Results can be divided into outcomes (that relate to specific objectives and are objectively measurable as they tend to be rather direct and can be documented and described)

Figure 2.1 Factors that determine learning performance [61]

and advantages that add value, being less tangible and having elements that are more indirect and long-term by nature and therefore, also more difficult to measure. Student’s own performance of a specialty-related task has respectively direct and indirect effect on outcomes and advantages, while contextual performance will take to advantages that value and only indirectly – to the outcomes.

  1. Performance motivation is shaped by different higher learning context factors, like supervisor’s support and encouragement, nature of the goals of curriculum, inspiring values, nature of assessment system and certain characteristics like self-esteem, entreprisingness and focus on service. Shapers of performance motivation stimulate, guide and maintain learning performance.
  2. Learning outcomes are not determined only by the given task and contextual performance, but also the learning context and its mechanisms. Learning context is not limited to immediate learning environment (syllabuses, physical learning conditions, team work, laboratory and practical stands, used technology, evaluation methods etc.); this will also include the context of educational institution and even more wide and general context that remains outside the educational institution. Organisational context includes, among other things, factors like the structure and culture of educational institution as an organisation, operating strategies, student’s vision and mission. External context is characterised by several macro-level changes, “mega trends”, i.e. technological changes and innovations, changes in economic and political environment (e.g. enhancing competition in the global market), the opportunity to create one’s own assets and changes in social environment. These factors all apply strong pressure for changes on internal organisational environment [61].

Nijhof, W. J., & Streumer [62] state that overviews of different skills and classification of skills are still useful and needed as the demand for abstract and cross-sphere qualifications and competences seems to be growing. In the society, individuals need professional abilities (thinking ability, communication skills and ability to shape one’s opinion), problem solving skills (ability to analyse problematic situations, understand human behaviour and interpersonal conflicts and interpret issues related to communication and information flows) and transferrable skills (ability to cope with changes in life, stress management skills and the ability to adopt decisions).

Specialty-related literature gives some suggestions (also requirements??) on supporting and promoting key qualifications, required of labour market [62]. These can be summarised as follows:

  1. Management/development of general skills must be related to specialty context. While general skills are the same for every profession, some specific properties and their importance may vary in case of different professions and tasks. For example, problem solving skills, nature of communication and teamwork vary, according to the requirements of the profession, while the requirements of a profession vary in accordance with goals, tasks that form the process, organisation of work etc. Therefore, general skills (for example, project management skills, which assume, on their turn, project management software applications) are defined within a context and should be taught in a way that is, contextually, as authentic as possible.
  2. Learning environments of employees must reflect automatic working environment. Acquisition of general skills is most efficient in well-organised learning environment that resembles working environment. Traditional apprenticeship methods and cognitive apprenticeship methods are a good example, indicating how skills and knowledge are applied within an authentic learning environment [63].
  3. Teachers’ training and development of collective must use and promote the development of authentic learning environment. According to the widely spread socio-constructivist learning theory, high-quality mentoring/learning process includes the following elements: constructiveness (learner will create new knowledge that rely upon earlier acquired knowledge); intention (learner has acknowledged intent to acquire specific information); activeness (learning is the outcome of learner’s own activity), context (learning is linked to tasks/phenomena emerging from semantic real world), reflection (learner assesses learning outcomes and reflects the learning processes and decisions that are needed for the learning process), co-operation (learners work together and create new knowledge in co-operation with others) and transfer (learner can transfer the learnt material into new situations and apply the acquired skills and knowledge to acquire new knowledge). There are several opportunities for paying more attention to the needs of learner, for example, changing the teacher’s role from director to learning facilitator, use of functional project groups and information technology and different forms for learning by experiencing. Authentic learning environment will offer fertile grounds for development [60].
  4. Close and working partnership needs to be developed between education and working life. According to a study, conducted in Europe, learning by working meets its biggest obstacles as the consequence of poor co-operation between education institutions and enterprises in the process of developing training programmes and establishment of partner relationships. Dynamic and diversified partnership between education and working life will create new opportunities to cope with future challenges. Information models that parties understand and can link to their objectives are of assistance for devising the partnership.
  5. Description of skills should have social relevance. It is important to approach the skills and requirements to skills from a socio-cultural aspect, considering the following factors: how do the economic market forces, emphasising efficiency, and material values determine skills to requirements; how people really create workers and how do collectives shape tasks and learning. Skills must be assessed and measured from different angles and by different methods. Ethnographic studies provide information of new type, yet can’t completely replace analysis of tasks. Cognitive psychology offers also new opportunities for assessing skills [60].
  6. Transition of skills to new contexts is never spontaneous. Brown [63] shows that transfer of acquired skills and knowledge is specific to the extent that it will need guidance. Transfer will also depend on how the skills and knowledge was obtained and how knowledge is used in different situations; therefore, both general skills and fragments of skills, acquired within specific context, may be transferrable. Two pre-requisites must be met for the transfer. It is necessary to bring together context-specific knowledge and general skills and look actively for means for enhancing the transfer in learning situation; visual models developed by next chapters (Peatükk 5 page 104; Chapter 6 page 149) aare suitable for that purpose. If the goal of a training programme is to help the students to improve their knowledge transfer skill, the meaning of skill transfer ability should be paid attention to in learning situation. It is recommended to introduce the learners study methods that are used for learning (for example, 7E and 5E model, Peatükk 5 page 104). For example, students may be helped to find opportunities for applying skills, knowledge and experiences themselves, suggesting them a chance to attempt to transfer their skills into practice [64]. Transfer is always related to individual motivation and commitment. Students may be guided to growing their intellectual capital (patents, inventions).
  7. Reflection of what is already learnt and is to be learnt in future may link work and learning. Reflective processes are also linked to the development of deep thinking processes (professionalism). Therefore, learners should be encouraged to express their ideas in discussions with lecturers and other students. Mentors/supervisor and students may offer their views about specialty-related problems and also explain which schematic constructions they have developed to understand different interpretations and links between these interpretations (for example 6D model, Chapter 6, page 149 ).
  8. The primary task of higher education should be developing self-regulation abilities in students. Learning to learn is a basic skill that is needed for taking initiative and adapting to constant changes. Such changes include the development of working processes, structural flexibility and technological innovations. Adapting to changes requires faith in one’s ability to adjust one’s understanding and behaviour during life. The main challenge of technical higher education is to develop learning ability (capability, wish and intent) among those who will be pushed to the background as society and working life develop. In learning situations, it will be the task of instructor/advisor to place learning strategies into a context: learners must be shown, which strategies are available in a given situation, why and when they will become useful [64].

2.2      Implementation of Knowledge and Skills

In the following I’m going to analyse, which knowledge and skills is considered useful and essential in Estonia in youth with higher education for coping in labour market, both for entering to labour market, remaining there and leaving the market (for example, in the case of retirement). Apart an overview of different knowledge and skills I’m also going to discuss who should see to the creation and development of such knowledge and skills. All these issues will be analysed from the perspective of three different parties (university graduates, employers and institutions of higher education), comparing and referencing different views [65].

Earlier studies of the same topic show various knowledge and skills that are linked to young people with higher education, entering the labour market. Pavlin (2009) lists, based on interviews, the following expectations of institutions of higher education and employers of five countries (Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia and Turkey):

  1. general and area-specific knowledge;
  2. skills related to learning (independent learning, self improvement, lifelong learning etc.);
  3. individual skills (team work, time planning);
  4. communication skills (incl. foreign language skills);
  5. handling information and communication technologies (ICT);
  6. other skills (incl. working experience, loyalty, tolerance, ethical values etc.).

Another international project, involving 12 European countries [65], attempted to define the main clusters of knowledge and skills, given by people by higher education (known under the name of Dublin descriptors):

  1. general knowledge, acquired through formal education;
  2. skills for the implementation of professional knowledge;
  3. skills for the interpretation and reflection of knowledge;
  4. communication and learning skills.

As the previous studies show, a number of quite universal, specialty-related knowledge, social skills and skills related to learning emerge. At the same time, several researches also demonstrate a number of rather specific or unique knowledge, skills, proficiencies and attitudes that are often justified with different objectives and methodologies, used for studies [65]. Organisation of education and labour market institutions is often seen as one of important explanatory factor in working links between education and labour market [66], which could, in turn, shape the expectations that employers have with respect to competences of young people with higher education, entering the labour market. Therefore, highly structured knowledge and skills may dominate higher education and labour market and these knowledge and skills are also expected of people, entering the labour market. From the other hand, training may take place only upon commencing employment, and the field graduated of specific knowledge and skills won’t be then as much dominating upon entry to the labour market. At the same time, young people with more wide-based knowledge, having graduated from a specialty more “general”, have more alternatives and therefore, also a bigger number of potential jobs to choose from [67].

As we study these research projects, they convey an impression that in most cases, university graduates are observed as paid labour and university graduate as a possible entrepreneur is left aside.

Apart more general institutional context, knowledge and skills, but also expectations regarding them may be different by disciplines [68]. The role and balance of general and specific knowledge is often highlighted as an aspect, distinguishing the spheres. This is also done to link specific sills to technical fields.

Therefore, for the purposes of labour market context, differences between specialties mean that young people with more general skills must often compete with young people with more specific knowledge and skills, while the presence of more specific knowledge and skills will give a certain advantage for entering the labour market, as according to employers, those people don’t need any more training and are ready to start working immediately [69]. This also means that the prospects of graduates of different specialities may be very much different in labour market. From one hand, this is due to general difference between knowledge and skills: while in case of some disciplines the focus is given to more general knowledge, the other focus on more specific stuff and knowledge and skills, acquired-reinforced in course of practice. From the other side, the understanding and expectations of both the graduates themselves and the employers are different with respect to certain specialties, which will set some limits, again, to both expectations and opportunities.

Individual’s coping in a modern world depends on his/her activity as a learner, willingness to see him/herself in learning situations as a subject, active and responsible “me” [70]. Responsibility shows individuals ability and willingness to decide upon the importance and effect of his or her behaviour [8]. Responsibility as one of the main components of human ethics is seen as one of the criteria of adulthood, which expresses to what extent an individual acknowledges him/herself and the surrounding environment [9].

The scope of independence/responsibility shows to what extent an university graduate can work independently, how much responsibility s/he can take for the outcomes of his/her work.

A study, conducted by Tallinn University in 2012 [71] shows that both the institutions of higher education and young enterers of labour market, the master’s degree is seen as labour market maturity indicator, while, according to their experiences, for employers, knowledge and skills rather than the degree are considered important and both institutions of higher education and the young people themselves are considered responsible for the creation of such knowledge and skills.

The same “personal responsibility” applies for the development of numerous social skills. Social skills – like teamwork, compatibility with collective, initiative, responsibility and the skills of independent work are competences that employers often appreciate, but are difficult to apply within the framework of curriculum and train separately. These are all skills you won’t find from curricula of institutions of higher education, but the absence of which would make coping in labour market rather difficult. This will enhance the “personal responsibility” of students in developing the competences, required by labour market, even more [71]. Students must also think about solving a dilemma, whether to focus on learning during their studies or also find some time for working.

Institutions of higher education will rather see movement towards integrating larger proportion of internship into learning to match the professional experience demand context while this would mean decreasing the share of general knowledge and skills [71]. According to earlier studies, internship will help to develop social skills that prepare young people for taking on obligations of an adult and entering the working world [72]: such an experience will develop communication skills, teach to behave in accordance to specific labour situation and organise one’s work [73], while being responsible and consistent and meeting the deadlines [72].

Apart the information provided above, the understanding and expectations that people have with respect to higher education and related skills and knowledge, may differ by different stakeholders [65].More specifically, the understanding and expectations of employers to young people with higher education, entering the labour market, may not coincide with the expectations of institutions of higher education, which will result in an ambivalent situation for young highly educated individuals, entering the labour market and therefore, their perception of knowledge and skills, required by labour market, given by institution of higher education, may not be equally acknowledged by employers.

For the purpose of considering the diversity of perception and expectations to knowledge-skills-credibility and the factors that shape them, the current analysis attempts to set out the positions of different stakeholders (young people with higher education, institutions of higher education, employers). For that purpose, I have analysed interviews with employers, representatives of institutions of higher education and young graduates of institutions of higher education, who have experienced unemployment, referenced the visions of all three groups. Adding the interviews of young people, who have experienced unemployment, to the sample will given an opportunity to include the aspect of compliance of “expectations and reality”, explaining the conformity or non-conformity of understanding and practice, governing the institutions of higher education and labour market, in the best possible way. The latter is also important to understand the strategies and course of action, chosen by different stakeholders, in general. Should the visions of different stakeholders coincide, young people entering the labour market will find coping with transition from school to work easier while different understanding may result in a number of conflicts and challenges that will mostly make the young new participants of labour market suffer [71].

2.3      Teaching and Learning as a Dialogue

How could we explain the definition of education more explicitly? For the purposes of education system, teaching/education is described as a (bilateral) communication between teacher (mentor) and student, resulting in increased knowledge and experiences of the student, better independence and responsibility. As education is acquired, students are given educating information by means of communication and collected feed back for mentor to evidence the achievement of established learning goals and introducing adjustments, where appropriate. At least two different angles are needed to define the definition of education. Teacher can influence, indirectly, directly/explicitly and dynamically, the cognitive, influenced and conative learning processes and learning outcomes of students by choosing the right information, teaching methods and support materials [74]. The definitions is illustrated in Figure 2.3.

Figure 2.2 Visual depiction of related concepts of teaching and learning [74]

The dialogue between student and teacher may be in both verbal and written form. Dialogue involves communication of information. Sometimes there may be non-verbal communication between two or more people or participants.

Dialogues have been studied from teacher’s point of view. The main characteristics of dialogues are teacher’s ability to think, reflect, personal and professional identity concept. Teacher will focus on pedagogic skills, repertoire of activities, teaching methods, knowledge that are hidden into learning content, and also to organisation of the teaching process (Figure 2.3) [75].

Figure 2.3 Dynamic dialogue in teaching and learning [76]

Thinking stands for “action or activity of someone who thinks, by formulating in his or her mind the method for justification, assessment, belief or mental engagement” [74]. Thinking, at teaching level, refers to critical thinking skills. Critical skills that a teacher / lecturer should have:

  • perception of knowledge as consumable that can be sold and transferred;
  • perception of knowledge that can be different or based on different understanding; it is important to make a distinction between different positions;
  • processing, writing of knowledge will create new knowledge; this is also one of the reason why the importance of written papers as a part of learning process is emphasised;
  • understanding of empathy, the desire to understand and help other people.

Thinking may be expressed either verbally or in writing. To be a good thinker, we most move from verbal methods of communication to written. This results in the need to create links that explain the ideas of a thinker, visually. It is necessary to create illustrations and diagrams to shape thinking into a logical model.

In our everyday activities, in thinking, we use mental models that represent internal pictures of our world and the way it works. They restrict us by safe thinking and acting methods. Therefore, the discipline for the management of mental models is highly important as we consider the education of a lecturer. Mental models may be simple and highly complicated theories. It is important to understand that these are all active and represent the way how people act and influence what the see and look at.

2.4      Summary

Fresh teachers often describe their profession by using parameters that include academic knowledge and professional competence (doing certain things well), positive and proper attitude towards students and good communication skills. As their experiences increase, teachers will start to shift their focus from single components (actions of a teacher) to more general aims, goals, mental values and principles. The following is needed for highlighting mental/spiritual values and principles:

  • dynamic and also visual tools for representing different perception of learning and teaching;
  • for a lecturer, also methods for giving education that are capable of adapting to rapidly changing and new requirements, develop the thinking of student, enhance mental7spiritual values and increase emotional stability;
  • when giving a lecture, lecturers should treat the learning process, happening in the classroom as a complete entity. Apart good knowledge of facts a professor will also need the ability of sensing the subject taught as a summation;
  • creation of adequate and explaining models that will take the lecturer from regular routine and task context to details and back, where appropriate.