Interpreting practice.informa


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Informa Work Based Learning Forum 22nd – 23rd November 2011 | Vibe Savoy Melbourne
Interpreting practice
Merilyn Childs and Regine Wagner1

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Interpreting practice.informa

  1. 1. 1Informa Work Based Learning Forum22nd – 23rd November 2011 | Vibe Savoy MelbourneInterpreting practiceMerilyn Childs and Regine Wagner1 Honorary Doctorate awarded to retired High Court judge Michael Kirby (UNSW 2008, Murdoch University 2009, Victoria University 2009)AbstractA number of speakers before us have defined practice, and talked about workbased learningfrom a number of perspectives. Rather than duplicating this focus, we will instead share someof our thinking about practice and workbased learning, drawing from our own practices.During 1994-2007 we established four postgraduate degrees at the University of WesternSydney, supported by a Recognition of Prior Learning entry process. These were theGraduate Diploma of Educational Leadership, offered to students in Iraq and in AliceSprings; the Graduate Diploma of Social Sciences (Community Services) offered inpartnership with the centre for Community Welfare Training and the Australian Children‟sWelfare Agency, the Graduate Diploma of Social Sciences (Adult Education), offeredthrough open enrolment; and the Graduate Certificate of Social Sciences (EmergencyServices), developed in partnership with the NSW Fire Brigades as the promotional programfor Station Officers developing job readiness for the role as Inspector. The first two wereworkbased degrees, the latter two were work-integrated degrees.In addition, in 2002-3 we were funded by the NSW Office of the Director of EqualOpportunity in Public Employment (ODEOPE) to develop a recognition process to enablemigrants attempting to enter employment in the public sector to articulate their priorknowledge and experiences in the contexts of work and Higher Education learning. For thesevarious projects, work was defined as curriculum and was expansively understood as a1 Affiliations: Associate Professor of Higher Education, Dr Merilyn Childs, Deputy Director of the FlexibleLearning Institute, Charles Sturt University and Associate Professor and Visiting Fellow, DrRegine Wagner, Flexible Learning Institute, Charles Sturt University
  2. 2. 2metaphor for productive labour. For example, “work” encompassed relevant paid or unpaidlabour, and included individual as well as socially mediated evidence. Central to our responseto “work” was our commitment to interpreting practice. We began with a simple proposition– life and work is more complex and potentially more thoughtful than a single undergraduateor postgraduate semester long subject. Our task then was to establish strategies whereby thatcomplexity could be understood, expanded, theorised and evidenced. In this presentation weoutline our approach, and a number of the strategies we used to develop university degrees atthe nexus of work and learning.In our presentation, we‟ll draw on some anecdotes from our practice, and some of theseyou‟ll see throughout this paper.Demystifying academic practiceWe‟d like to give a brief indication about the meaning we give to words like “practice” and“work” by saying that, by these words we are referring to “productive labour”; and by“productive” we are meaning economically, socially, democratically productive labour. Weare influenced by the German concept of Sozialpaädagogik2; which means we think about“practice” in relationship to “working on and in the social” (a social-societal orientation,Pretoriaus 2008, p.5) and this includes working on and in the social in the context of paidlabour, voluntary labour, or socially productive activity. In particular it is concerned with theinherent connectivity between learning, social actions and socially just futures. Humans arenot machines, and all human labour exists within, and shapes, multiple, complex and sociallyconnected worlds even when fire fighting!So often within the academe in Australia, “practice” is portrayed as the (lesser?) labour doneby paid professionals and para-professionals, outside the academe.Anecdote A week ago I heard an academic refer to the work of paramedics as “doing what they are told to do”. It‟s not the first time I‟ve heard this kind of claim, and some academics seem to genuinely believe that work with the hands – operational work – can be done without the mind. Clearly they have limited understanding about the complex nature of paramedic practice, even when it involves novice paramedics. They simply see Standard Operating2 In 2000, we wrote: “Although spoken of as educational innovation, WBL has a long history of experimentation and theeducational concepts and practices described as workplace learning and WBL have a rich epistemological tradition indebates about * the relationship between education and the economy * the relationship of theory and practice ineducation processes * the dualism of education and training and associated social and institutional divisions (Wagner andChilds, 2000, p.1).
  3. 3. 3 Procedures, and imagine all paramedics do is follow orders. Or fire fighters just have to “put the wet stuff on the red stuff”. It just isn‟t that simple.We offer the word “lesser” because practice is often associated with “un” words like:uncritical, un-theorised, and under-developed (un-thinking-ly meaning “with the hands”). Thework academics do is often associated with positive words such as: seminal, critical,evidence-based, and peer-reviewed (done insightfully, guided by the mind). It is as ifacademics are not in the labour force or even the same landscape as students; and “practice”is the thing other people do. It is the activity undergraduates learn to do after a three yeardegree, although even then it may be “uncritical” practice. In our experience, this assumedsuperiority creates blindness within the university to understanding and working withpractice.Anecdote: I attended a Professor‟s Forum at which education for practice was being discussed. The question of great interest was how the university might ensure that disciplinary rigour might be applied to practice. I asked if the model they were discussing allowed them to understand rigour from the perspective of practice. For example, how was “rigour” characterised within the practice domain by those practicing within it? How did a particular domain of practice foster criticality? How did it foster its evidence-base? How was new knowledge – for example, as derived from university research – taken up and used within the practice- domain? There was a long silence. The conversation returned to a discussion about disciplinary knowledge.In order to engage in meaningful ways with “practice”, we needed to see our own practice asexisting within the same rubrics, hierarchies and continuums as practice more generally. Thisallowed us to understand that statements we made about practice were automaticallystatements we were making about academic practice. If we asked students to interrogate andexpand their understanding of their practice; – then so too should we, in the academe.The academic practices we worked to demystify (Wagner & Childs, 2000) included: therelationship between work and learning; the subject; student contact hours with the subject;critical thinking; assessment; and the role of the academic in a critically engaged learningprocess. If we argued that reflective practice was important, then it had to be important asapplied to academic practice. If we argued that through their workbased projects, studentsmight mitigate or militate against structural disadvantage for their clients; then so too shouldthe academe in their practice. If we heard our colleagues say “we need to improveprofessional practice in the xxx industry”; then we automatically took this to mean “and to dothis, we need to improve academic practice”.
  4. 4. 4Students enrolled in the workbased degrees completed a workbased project that was either asession long (Graduate Certificate) or yearlong (Graduate Diploma). As work was defined asthe curriculum, and a project was defined as the learning process, the project needed to behighly relevant – and so too did the assessment practices. Learning evolved through threethematic stages (as distinct from the completion of single, potentially unrelated subjects).These stages were: describing practice during which student articulated their professional “known” through narrative and other forms problematising practice during which students posed questions about their practice through a variety of lenses, including appropriately chosen readings re-shaping praxis during which students made recommendations and articulated frameworks for future practice at the nexus of “the word” (critical thinking, speculation, theory formation) and “the world” (practice domains)In order for these stages to make sense in relationship to academic practice, we needed tomake a number of structural changes to our work, and this meant we had to understand ourown practice; see the systemic and pedagogical problems and learn more about how to solvethem; and re-shape our praxis.Anecdote When we designed the first postgraduate workbased program we were faced with some real problems. We had a series of individual subjects which required at least two assessment items per subject. There were four subjects in a session, and this meant eight separate assessment tasks. Broken up in this way suited academic practice, but bore no relationship to the world of work of community services professionals in Alice Springs – a world a great deal more complex and dynamic than single subjects in a university degree; yet needing new ideas and possibilities to solve real problems on the ground. We problematised our practice, integrated the learning outcomes across all four subjects, and created a learning process and assessment practices that allowed us to meet university workload, student load, and assessment requirements; whilst similarly responding respectfully to the practices of students who were adult workers in their own social contexts.Hierarchies of knowledge and knowingWe made a claim at the beginning – that life and work is more complex and potentially morethoughtful than a single undergraduate or postgraduate semester long subject. This doesn‟tsound like a very big claim, but in our experience it turns out that it is. From inside adiscipline, even if words like “multi” and “cross” are added to it; the discipline seems verycomplex. (Those involved in professional practice will have the same experience about their
  5. 5. 5own practice-domain). So, we specialise; and as part of this specialisation, we createindividual subjects that bite off a small part of the complex disciplinary picture in order toprovide students with that one small coloured dot that we specialise in, that contributes to thewhole picture. These coloured dots make up subjects, typically about 24 in an undergraduatedegree over a 3 year full-time period. These subjects, through the student experience of them,build disciplinary or professional capacity.In the process of creating the “bits”, we rely on hierarchies. Some bits are seen as moreimportant than others, so we have first, second and third years. Some bits are more complexthan others, so we have 5,000 word essays rather than 2,000 word essays. We have theory,and generally speaking this comes before and certainly above practice in our curriculumhierarchy. In our experience at least – all of the bits, even the first year, first semester bitstaken by experience professionals who are experts in their own right – are seen as moreimportant and more complex than practice. We know this, because whilst some AustralianUniversities may give credit for prior formal studies; credit for prior professional practice,lifewide and informal lifelong learning remains in a poor state of development3.Over the years we have participated in academic conversations based on a number ofunderlying and historic assumptions about the theory/practice relationship, and these can besummed up as: Students need to learn theory before they can practice Theory should be applied to practice Theory is more rigorous than practice Practice is un-theorised unless it has been interrogated through university studiesTheory is typically privileged, and celebrated, for example, through mandatory text booksthat form the basis of a learning process; learning in many subjects remains structured in linewith the chapters of a textbook. Theory is seen as systematic, ordered, abstracted and tested;universal therefore applicable to practice, and of its very nature critical. Practice on the otherhand is seen as un-systematic, not tested by peer review or experiment, context bound, and of3 Although Pitman argued in 2010 that “29 out of 38 public universities in Australia accepted RPL for the purposes ofadmission and/or credit”, he does not differentiate policy for RPL, and the actual practice of RPL, described by others asinadequate and patchy (eg Fox, 2007).
  6. 6. 6its very nature uncritical4. This latter assumption seems to be held without any understandingof practice-rigour either through research or anecdote.Anecdote: When I was working as an educational innovator in a Mathematical faculty at a German university, I asked the academics working in “Applied Mathematics” what type of work and workplaces their students would go to. Not only did they not know, they did not see it as their responsibility to prepare their students for work, they were „training‟ Mathematicians. In the end, we did develop a course “Mathematics and the Environment”, aimed at taking a first step into “applied” studies.As academics working in workbased degrees, we were repeatedly confronted with theobvious need to draw on multiple disciplines to develop, with students, an analysis of theirwork problems and strategies to move forward. We experienced firsthand the limitations ofany one disciplinary approach. We realised how work as a generative theme created the focalpoint for knowledge production, as it proceeded from a need to know and integrated variousapproaches, concepts and frameworks to reflect complexity in situ. As much as un-theorisedpractice is unable to respond to complex problems, un-practiced theory is bound by academictraditions rather than by the search for complex understandings and therefore remains limited.Both needed each other. We observed first hand student impulses to engage creatively andthoughtfully through practice to understanding – we were merely part of this largerprofessional and life journey.The theory (critical)/practice (uncritical) dualism is unhelpful in a workbased learningenvironment. To frame5 our academic education practice we developed four continua aspractice guiding principles for ourselves, and for students enrolled in workbased degrees: 1. process versus product orientation 2. investigation versus prescription 3. generative themes versus segmented knowledge 4. critical thinking versus mystificationThese four continua go to the heart of workbased learning for all workers, includingacademics.4 There is no doubt that post-modernism has challenged notions of grand narratives but it has not been able to undo thetheory/practice divide in the academe.5 If we inform our academic practice drawing on Vygotskii’s (1978) and Leont’ev’s (1982) thinking, there is no such thingas pure mind or pure hand work. According to these influential thinkers, all activity is based in the material world andmediated through cognitive processes.
  7. 7. 7Anecdote When I was a student myself, I had to sign up to a „theory/practice seminar‟ for two years, which involved team based practice as educators in professional development programs for child care and youth workers. Our practice led us to choose discipline based offers at our Uni, across a broad social science spectrum, ranging from educational to sociological to psychological courses. We explored research methodologies, philosophical and ethical issues, political and economic aspects, communication and design. The point was, those course were organised around our field of practice, to respond to our need to understand and develop strategies for our next encounter with our „clientele‟ and as such were utterly relevant. At the same time, as student/practitioners we were able to ask pertinent questions of academics, who were also practitioners engaging in the same fields. …. And we had to produce a minor thesis to be able to graduate form an undergraduate degree.Practice, including WBL, as a site of interpretationIn order to talk about practice, we needed to introduce the idea that hierarchies of knowledgebased on a (critical) theory/practice/ (uncritical) dualism existed as an invisible curriculum,and we had to develop strategies that turned the dualism into continua. Work-integratedlearning, field placements, “authentic learning” and personal learning environments are allreally useful approaches to improving the student experience. However, they are typicallyused to enliven a theory-lead curriculum; or to tentatively allow students to engage in practicein a controlled and limited way.Anecdote: I recall when one of the large Sydney universities announced they were going to introduce a mandated subject for all undergraduate students who would be required to do volunteer work as a subject in their degree. No mention was made of valuing the voluntary labour many students may have already undertaken on their own cognisance, or of a mechanism that might allow any student to register the learning outcomes that the university aspired to achieve through their voluntary labour. All that counted was voluntary labour manufactured within the codification offered (and advertised) by the university.We began this presentation by making reference to three honorary doctorates awarded toJustice Michael Kirby, a worthy recipient, in 2008 and 2009. We did this to point out in thesimplest way possible that Australian universities do value practice achieved throughrecognition. Justice Kirby‟s workbased learning over many years was judged by threeuniversities to be equivalent to (more likely exceeding) a doctorate. The statement producedby the University of Melbourne supported the awarding of the doctorate by interpreting
  8. 8. 8Justice Kirby‟s practice by making reference to his career highlights, his increasinglyprestigious appointments, awards, and service. At the upper end of the hierarchy ofknowledge, we know how to interpret practice – Justice Kirby is tertiary qualified, and hiscontribution to the law and society has been exemplary. That is why it is equated to adoctorate.The underlying principle remains useful – universities are able to value and interpret practicefor the purposes of a qualification. Whether acknowledged or not, students more generallyare adults for whom formal university studies take place within diverse and complex lives –of course not to the extent of Justice Kirby‟s and the awarding of a doctorate, butnevertheless developing practice through work and life. Let‟s look at some statistics. In 2009,the Australian Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEET)released the enrolment statistics of all students by age group and broad level of course. Onemillion adults aspired to enrol in an Australian University in 2009. According to DEET‟sfigures, the total number of students enrolled in all Undergraduate (UG) courses in publicuniversities in Australia in 2009 (excluding enabling and non-award courses) was 790,810(DEET, 2009). Of this total, 13% were aged over 30 years old (100,633); 9.5% were aged 25-29 (75,032); 45% were aged 20-25 (358,398). A total of 67.5% of all UG students enrolled inAustralian Universities were aged over 20 years old and were legally “adults”, and of these22.5% were aged over 25 years. Only 140,466 or 18% were under 18 years old. Universitystudents are not all seventeen or eighteen year olds straight from school, but adults who willhave aspirations, life experiences, learning journeys and spaces, outside the institution.Students come to their University studies from somewhere, going somewhere. Jackson (2010)argued that a university can change its “conception of curriculum” (p.496), and discusseshow this has unfolded at Surrey University (UK) through the development of a “life-widelearning award” that values workplace learning curriculum, new learning through part-timework and volunteering, and experiential learning gained through “life wide enterprise” gainedoutside the academic curriculum. The award recognizes the learning spaces in which studentsengage in learning, and the “building blocks of an epistemology of practice (Raeline 2007,cited in Jackson, p.495) achieved in those spaces. This approach to curriculum reform isqualitatively different to reforms that attempt to “improve the student experience” withoutchanging the university‟s conceptions of curriculum.
  9. 9. 9Whether we design a work-integrated, workbased or a recognition curriculum, we askstudents to interpret their practice – for example, as a narrative of understanding, through thelens of theory, through a rubric, as assessments. This approach to learning changes what isrequired of us, as academics, in relationship to a student‟s practice and their productivelabour more generally. We can no longer privilege a textbook chapter or a pet theory derivedfrom a favoured discipline in order to work with students to translate their practice into agenre that can then be used for assessment.Anecdote: In 2005 I did some part-time teaching for a large city university. The subject I was teaching was “Program Development” in a Bachelor of Adult and Vocational Education. The policy of the course, and one of the theoretical stances of the subject, was that program development should be responsive to a student‟s prior learning. As mature aged students with substantial post-compulsory program development experience, at least a third of the class could have taught the subject just as well as I could. When I referred these students to the Course Coordinator with a request for Recognition of Prior Learning to exempt them from the subject, their requests were denied. They were told they had not studied the textbook assigned to the subject, and could not therefore show they knew the theory of program development. The rationale was that they knew the practice, but we (the university) knew the theory, and the theory could only be found in this single textbook.Justice Kirby did not have to articulate his life‟s work in relationship to a discipline or set ofdisciplines. He did not have to refer to seminal works nor compartmentalise his lifewide andlifelong learning into assessments that responded to textbooks that had been privileged. TheUniversity of Melbourne interpreted his achievements through a portfolio of evidence againsta policy framework related to excellence as a quality.The act of translation does not lie in the hands of students alone. As we pointed out throughour example of Justice Kirby, the act of translation lies also in the hands of the academe. Inthe case of our workbased degrees, we had to translate what we were doing in relationship topolicy, and to our peers, and to try to find models within the university that could createprecedence for our innovations. Academics working with students in the context of practicemust engage in acts of interpretation in ways that are totally different to teaching content,then marking an essay. They need to be able to value practice as holding the potential for praxis recognise theorised practice, and value theory formation recognise rigour in the practice-domain recognise “graduateness” and graduate attributes in the practice-domain recognise equivalence
  10. 10. 10 recognise criticality through its many iterations as action and activism foster learning in the context of practice-domains, including academic practice-domainsConclusionIn this presentation we have outlined aspects of our approach and some of our experiencewith workbased learning in higher education, told from within the small window ofopportunity that presented itself in the tumultuous years of accelerated change and continuousrestructuring of universities in the 1990s and the first decade of the twenty first century. Webriefly outlined what we mean when we talk about “practice” and outlined the problemsposed by the (critical) theory/ (uncritical) practice dualism that characterises a great deal ofacademic talk about practice.Valuing and interpreting practice, including work as a practice-domain, lies at the heart ofworkbased learning. Our approach to integrating and interpreting practice/praxis benefittedtraditional and “non-traditional” students (now often referred to as lower SES students),academics and industry partners we worked with at the time. These achievements werepossible because of the way we perceived, valued, recognised and problematised practice,including our own. Work as learning creates a deeply authentic and connected curriculum notonly to Higher Education, but also to productive labour more generally. It demands adifferent way of thinking about practice from the point of view of the academic, and theacademe.Since our work in workbased learning, the sector has moved on and is experimenting withdifferent work related models, often at the individual subject level. As far as we know,workbased learning – that is, learning where work is the curriculum – is yet to be acceptedbeyond a few local examples by the Australian HE sector. Perhaps the widely adopted “workintegrated learning” model made popular during the Australian Learning and TeachingCouncil era is one small step towards a more radical understanding of what it means totheorise practice and to practice theory to achieve praxis? Our story about Justice Kirbyprovided proof of the sector‟s capacity to value practice in its complexity and rigour, in hiscase, through recognition. It seems possible that those designing “authentic learningenvironments” and “learning spaces” might add to their tool box the capacity to value,translate and problematise existing authentic learning environments and spaces, designed
  11. 11. 11through and in the life world (Childs and Wagner 2011) and populated by adults, who oneday may be students?Finally we return to a claim we made at the beginning, and expand it a little – life and work ismore complex and potentially more thoughtful than a single undergraduate or postgraduatesemester long subject – and perhaps even an entire undergraduate or postgraduate degree.Some final questions: What do you think about our proposition? Have you thought aboutrigour from the point of view of practice? What might it mean in the context of the practice-domains with which you work? What are its characteristics, and how might it sit comfortablyalong a continuum with academic rigour? Do you value practice? If you do; how? Does thevalue you place on practice benefit the student/novices and student/experts with whom youwork? How do you interpret practice within the rubrics available to you? Do you think, byand large, practice is uncritical and needs theory to make it critical? What blindness does thiscreate for you, as you work with students and design learning environments?Anecdote – what else is possible? In 2000 and 2001, we facilitated a workbased graduate diploma in education change management with staff of the Ministry of Education who became interested in the concept‟s applicability to schools. In a lecture, I used the „Tvind‟ example. Tvind, an experimental High school in Denmark did not teach classroom based curricula but used all activities required to keep a residential school running as learning sites. Students were engaged in grounds, vehicle and building maintenance (curriculum areas: biology, technology, design, physics, mathematics, mechanics); financial management (curriculum areas: budgeting, accounting, statistics), catering (curriculum areas: health, nutrition, communication, planning, measuring, stock maintenance), organisational management and development (curriculum areas; social studies, conflict resolution, internal and external partnership management, marketing), entertainment (curriculum areas: performing arts, sports, travel and tourism). Over several years, the majority of students passed the national matriculation exam with flying colours and then went on a twelve months bus trip around Europe, as part of the school‟s curriculum, to experience cultural diversity and assist in community projects. Interestingly enough, the Iranian Ministry of Education was interested in the concept; alas we were interrupted by 9/11.ReferencesChilds, M. (ed.) (1997) A slight breathing space. A guide to working with micro and small to mediumbusiness enterprises for adult educators and the VET sector. University of Western Sydney Nepean.
  12. 12. 12Childs, M and Wagner, R. (2011). „Beyond The Look – Viral Learning Spaces as Contemporary Learning Environments‟. In Mike Keppell, Kay Souter, Matthew Riddle [Eds], Physical and Virtual Learning Spaces in Higher Education: Concepts for the Modern Learning Environment, Information Science Publishing, Hershey, pp.33-50.Childs, M. and Wagner, R. (2010) Rethinking margin and centre in student equity in higher education: The sound of viral learning spaces: voices from praxis2nd Annual Student Equity in Higher Education national Conference, Melbourne October 2010.Constable,J., Wagner,R., Childs,M. Natoli, A. (2004) Doctors become Taxi Drivers. Recognising Skills – not as easy as it sounds. _not_as_easy_as_it_sounds.pdfDEEWR (2009). Students: Selected Higher Education Statistics, Accessed February 22nd 2011,, Tricia A. (2005) Adult learning and recognition of prior learning: The white elephant in Australian universities. Australian Journal of Adult Learning, 54(3), pp. 352-370.Jackson, N. (2010) From a curriculum that integrates work to a curriculum that integrates life: changing a universitys conceptions of curriculum. Higher Education Research & Development; Oct2010, Vol. 29 Issue 5, pp491-505Leont‟ev, A.N. (1982) Action, cognition and personality, Weinheim, Beltz. (in German)Pitman, T. (2010). The use of recognition of prior learning in the Australian higher education sector. In Proceedings Western Australian Institute for Educational Research Forum 2010. releases (Justice Kirby) 2009 2008;Statement of claim:, J. W. M. Translation (2008) of Chapter 1, Sociopedagogics as a science, from Opvoeding, Samelewing, Jeug, J. L. van Schaik,Pretoria, 1979.Accessed 1st November 2011,, L.S. (1978) Mind in society: the development of higher psychological processes, Cambridge, Harvard University Press.Wagner, R. (Ed) (2003) Recognition of Prior Learning in Higher Education and the Australian Labour Market. The case of skilled migrants and refugees. ISBN 186341 824 5, 90Wagner, R. and Childs, M. (2006) Exclusionary narratives as barriers to the recognition of qualifications, skills and experience – a case of skilled migrants in Australia, Studies in Continuing Education, 28 (1) 49-62.
  13. 13. 13Wagner, R. and Childs, M. (2005) Critical social pedagogy: Colliding with neo-liberal education management, International Congress for Social Education, Barcelona, March ., R. and Childs, M. (2000) Workbased learning and the academic workplace. Working Knowledge: Productive Learning at Work, International Conference, UTS, Sydney. pp551- 559.Wagner, R .and Childs, M (2000a) Workbased learning as critical social pedagogy, 3rd National Conference of the Australian Vocational Education and Training Research Assoc. (AVETRA), Canberra, February 2000. excerpt summarising the approach of the speakers; taken from Solomon, N. & Boud, D.2011, Researching workplace learning in Australia, in M. Malloch, L. Cairns, K. Evans & B.OConnor (eds), The SAGE Handbpook of workplace learning, SAGE Publications, London,pp. 210-223:As RPL has been a strong feature of work-based learning degrees, some academics involved in thedevelopment and delivery of these degrees have focused their research on knowledge and learningthat crosses institutional boundaries. Working within a social justice and social participationframework, the research of Regine Wagner (RMIT, formerly of University of Western Sydney) andMerilyn Childs (Charles Sturt University, formerly of University of Western Sydney) has contributedto pedagogical practices in educational institutions in recognition to recognition of prior learning(Wagner, 2007; Wagner and Childs, 2006; Childs et al 2002) and post-graduate work-based degrees(Wagner et al., 2001). They have also researched the nexus of work, learning and social change inindustrial settings such as fire fighting (Childs, 2006, 2005), community service and privateorganisations. Central to their work is a questioning of the way higher education institutions act asgatekeepers and mediators of social, educational and labour market change. More recently they havefocused on critical social pedagogy at the nexus of work and learning within the professional practiceof university learning and teaching (Childs and Wagner 2010). They define critical social pedagogyapproach as „the application of an inter-disciplinary action focus with the aim to balance powerinequities and economic, social and political disadvantage”. This particular take on social pedagogyadds a cohesive critical theoretical f framework to the activist and pragmatic traditions of socialpedagogy in the nineteenth and early twentieth century (p.219, bold in original).
  14. 14. 14