Throughout history, an educator’s role has been to get their students through their exams, which is very important. At the end of the day, a student needs to pass their exams in order to obtain their qualification.
But what if a student is unable to relate what they learn to their day-to-day work? Being able to apply knowledge in this way is key to meeting employers’ and clients’ expectations of a tuition provider – if a trainee can’t do this, then was the qualification worth the effort?
For you to be able to effectively apply your knowledge in your workplace, you must fully understand the subject matter. This requires a deeper level of understanding as opposed to just absorbing knowledge from a book, and this takes more time and more effort in order to achieve.
And that’s the problem. Being able to perform in the workplace is something all employers will be attracted to, whilst students are motivated by exam success. It’s their only short-term goal, and they are reluctant to put time into any activity that is not entirely directed at helping them pass their exams.
Why develop a deeper understanding?
In order to be motivated towards developing a deeper understanding, you need to appreciate the “WIIFM” (what’s in it for me) in relation to your short-term aims of passing your exams, as well as your longer-term career goals.
The good news is that in addition to becoming more employable, a deeper understanding will also lead to an increased chance of exam success, as it enables you to better adapt to the scenarios presented in the exam.
One of the dangers of surface-level learning is the limited range of situations in which that knowledge can be demonstrated. By fully understanding the subject, you are able to use your knowledge, working through the implications of different factors in order to deduce the correct answer. You will be able to cope better with a slight variation in exam-style or a ‘curveball’ question.
How can I develop a deeper understanding?
There are a number of ways to develop a deeper understanding of a subject. These two work really well for our students.
Case studies show how knowledge can be used in real life. By providing context, you appreciate why a process is needed or how a piece of information could be used. Case studies also allow you to see how different parts of a syllabus fit together so you can see the bigger picture.
In a traditional classroom, the teacher conveys their knowledge to you. You may make some notes and together you may work through some brief examples. For homework, you are often set some longer questions to practice applying your knowledge. The big problem with this is that the teacher might never get to find out how well you have taken to a subject and whether you have gained the knowledge you need.
In a flipped classroom, the homework is performed up-front when you acquire some of the basic knowledge via textbooks or some form of online learning. Then, in the classroom, your teacher can work to embed that knowledge and can set questions allowing them to assess how well you are getting on. Questions of varying difficulty can be given based on your rate of progress. This ability to differentiate the experience for each student helps tuition providers to better support them to make sure they have the understanding they need.
The “employability gap”
Being able to apply the knowledge gained from studying is one aspect of building a successful career. The other is having the necessary skills to operate in a professional environment.
The so-called ’employability gap’ is a hot topic for both educators and employers. Employers frequently claim that newly employed graduates or apprentices do not have the necessary basic skills or experience to be able to work effectively. Professional bodies are also concerned and understandably the argument is raging over who should take responsibility for developing these skills within the workforce – is it the educator, the employer or are both responsible?
More often employers are turning to educators to help bridge the gap, and there is no reason why this can’t be achieved. A good understanding of exactly what skills employers are looking for, along with an innovative and effective approach to education, means you can gain much more than a qualification as you study. For example, by adapting the learning process to include more group activities and collaborative work, teachers not only allow you to more effectively gain knowledge, but you also develop skills such as communication and teamwork.
The expectations of employers have moved beyond just a qualification. A smart student must recognise the importance of standing out from the crowd, and must demand more from their educators than simple knowledge alone.