Cognitive Structures Developed in TAFE Classes

Year: 1991

Author: Stevenson, John, McKavanagh, Charlie

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The purpose of this study is to identify and document the characteristics of TAFE classes and to examine the interrelationships among settings, cognitive holding power, teacher and student actions, classroom environment and cognitive structures. The design of the study allowed some comparisons to be made across different setting variables, e.g. theory versus practical classes and across colleges and trade areas. Hence, both descriptive and comparative results are provided (where possible). However, because of imbalances in the design, exhaustive comparisons between these categories are not undertaken, although overall effects are reported where possible. Theoretical and practical instruction, in three trade areas, across three TAFE colleges are studied in classes taken by new and experienced teachers with apprentices and prevocational students. The instruments are synthesised from theory and research concerned with the representation of cognitive structures (Anderson, 1982; Evans, 1991; Ryle, 1949; Stevenson, 1991; Taylor, 1991; Taylor and Evans, 1985) the processes of skill acquisition by learners (Anserson, 1982; Glaser, 1984; Gott, 1989; Scandura, 1981), environmental and institutional press (Murray, 1938; Pace and Stern, 1958); measurement of classroom environments (Rentoul and Fraser, 1979; Stevenson, 1990), and the factors which affect student utilisation and development of cognitive structures needed for transfer (Evans, 1991; Posner, 1982; Stevenson, 1991). The differentiation of instructional approaches is based on the extent to which emphasis is placed on the development of propositional knowledge, specific (first order) procedures and second and third (higher) order procedures. The study contributes to an understanding of teaching and learning in TAFE classes in the following ways. Firstly, it conceptualises TAFE teaching practices in terms of setting and cognitive theories, and reports practices in selected settings as a basis for further study. Secondly, it provides preliminary data for comparing some aspects of TAFE teaching. Thirdly, it establishes the relative emphasis on different kinds of cognitive structures in the selected settings. Fourthly, it enables an initial examination of the relationships among variables affecting teaching and learning TAFE. Finally, it helps to clarify the need for further research and theory development.