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Competence Based Learning in Europe & the Sloop2desc Model

Competence Based Learning in Europe & the Sloop2desc Model

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Published by Pierfranco Ravotto
This paper deals with the issue of competence-based learning starting from the definitions provided in the European Qualifications and e-CF Frameworks and suggests that it is necessary both to consider the three elements of knowledge, skills and attitudes separately, and act on them as a whole by placing students in concrete situations in which to produce results.
Then the experience of the courses Sloop2desc shows how it can be done in a virtual classroom eLearning course.
This paper deals with the issue of competence-based learning starting from the definitions provided in the European Qualifications and e-CF Frameworks and suggests that it is necessary both to consider the three elements of knowledge, skills and attitudes separately, and act on them as a whole by placing students in concrete situations in which to produce results.
Then the experience of the courses Sloop2desc shows how it can be done in a virtual classroom eLearning course.

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Published by: Pierfranco Ravotto on Nov 16, 2011
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Sloop2desc - Sharing Learning Objects in an Open Perspective to Develop European Skills and Competences
COMPETENCE-BASED LEARNING IN EUROPE& THE SLOOP2DESC MODEL
Pierfranco Ravotto
AICA, Milan, Italy p.ravotto@aicanet.it
ABSTRACTLABSTRACT
This paper deals with the issue of competence-based learning starting from the definitions provided in the European Qualifications and e-CF Frameworks and  suggests that it is necessary both to consider the threeelements of knowledge, skills and attitudes separately,and act on them as a whole by placing students inconcrete situations in which to produce results.Then the experience of the courses Sloop2desc showshow it can be done in a virtual classroom eLearning course. L'articolo affronta il tema della didattica dellecompetenze a partire dalle definizioni fornite neidocumenti europei EQF ed e-CF e suggerisce cheoccorra sia prendere in considerazione separatamente itre elementi conoscenze, abilità e attitudini, sia agire sudi essi complessivamente ponendo gli studenti in situazioni concrete in cui produrre risultati.Successivamente, a partire dall’esperienza dei corsiSloop2desc, indica come sia possibile farlo in uncontesto di corso eLearning in classe virtuale.
KEYWORDS:
Competences, Knowledge, Skills,Attitudes, Abilities, EQF, e-CF.
KEYWORDS:
Competenze, Conoscenze, Abilità,Attitudini, Capacità, EQF, e-CF.
1. INTRODUCTION
"2desc", added to the name of the previous projectSLOOP, indicates the scope of the transfer of innovation:the SLOOP model of online education and openeducational resources has been transferred to the field of competence-based learning and, in particular, informaticscompetences. "2desc" stands fo
"to develop the European skills and competences".
For some time the European Commission, trainingexperts and national and local authorities have beeninsisting, with regard to education, on two themes:competence-based education and the use of ICT tosupport education and training. These are two issuesgenerally addressed in a distinct way. Sloop2desc hashad the merit of joining them: is it possible to providecompetence-based teaching through the use of ICT?The courses offered to teachers, are a concreteexample of online competence-based learning: a modelthat has provided an affirmative answer to that questionand that can be transferred from the informatics contextand from teachers' training to students' training. This article presents the Sloop2desc model of competence-based learning, as it has emerged during the project and the training activities involving more then600 hundred teachers as students in three Europeancountries.The article is divided into two parts: competence-basedlearning and the Sloop2desc experience of onlinecompetence-based activities, followed by an appendix …
2. COMPETENCE-BASED LEARNING
In 2006 the European Commission for Educationand Training set up a list of eight recommended keycompetences which should be incorporated in all newschool curricula. Digital competence and learning tolearn are listed among those eight key competences.Even more at the professional level, there is attention tothe issue of competence and therefore the request toschools and universities to get engaged in competence- based learning.Competence-based learning brought into educationat all levels two major changes:
a shift from content of teaching and training paths tothe "learning outcomes" which are likely to beachieved and which can be used either in the further education, path or in the world of work and in anyother social context;
enables transferability of competences from onesubject area to another .But what do we mean by competences? TheEuropean Qualification Framework, EQF, and theEuropean e-Competences Framework, e-CF, about whichwe will talk later, substantially provide the samedefinition of competence.From EQF we read:
 
Competence
means the provenability to use
knowledge, skills
and 
 personal, sociaand/or methodological abilities
 , in work or study situations and in professional and personadevelopment”
[1]
.
1
 
Giovanni FULANTELLI, Lucian OPREACompetence-based learning in Europe & the Sloop2desc modele-CF defines competence as follows:
Competence
is a demonstrated ability to apply
knowledge, skills and attitudes
to achieving observable results”
[2] [3]
.
From this definition three major dimensions or  bulding blocks of competences emerged:
Knowledge,
Skills,
Personal, social and/or methodological abilities or attitudes.But a competence is not a simple sum of them: it isthe
proven ability
to use them
in a context
achieving
results
!What recommendiation can be given to teachers at alllevels and authorities responsible for preparing neweducational programs? Essentially the following twomain concepts:
all three dimensions - knowledge, skills and attitudes(or "personal, social and/or methodological abilities")- must be taken into account when preparingeducational programs or individual teaching lessons;
it’s not enough to ensure the acquisition of knowledgeand skills, or the possession of attitudes; it’s necessaryto promote their application in situations to getobservable results.Let us first consider the three issues separately.
2.1 Knowledge
EQF defines Knowledge
 
as
“the outcome of theassimilation of information through learning. Knowledgeis constituted by a set of facts, principles, theories and  practices related to a field of work or study”.
E-CF defines it as
“the set of know-what (e.g. programming languages, design tools...) and can bedescribed by operational descriptions”.
Very often schools and individual teachers onlytransmit knowledge, the programs are often a list of content that the teacher should explain and that thestudent must study. The necessary criticism of such amodel, however, has resulted, at times, anunderestimation of the importance of acquiringknowledge. As Calvani writes
“Today the school has significantly reduced its attention to the cognitivedimension in favour of "other". It has given space toother dimensions, in itself also important (the socio-affective, or awareness of the great problems of theworld, etc.); the risk is to assume that these othedimensions are in themselves sufficient to form thecompetences that future citizens will need" 
[4]
.
Knowledge is one of the bases of competences andtherefore must be acquired. If it is desirable that theschool activity is not limited to a simple transmission of content, and if it is not at all certain that transmission isthe most appropriate methodology for the acquisition of content, should however be noted that it is necessary tocheck carefully that students have acquired the collectionof facts, terminology, principles, theories, procedures, ...that support the competences to be achieved.
2.2 Skills
EQF defines
Skills
as
“the ability to applyknowledge and use know-how to complete tasks and  solve problems”.
E-CF defines them as
“the ability tocarry out managerial or technical tasks”.
The “school for everyone” was born to make peopleacquire skills: the famous mastery of literacy andnumeracy. In language and mathematical teaching, aswell as in design and technical subjects, the skills, know-how, has always been the centre of teaching activities.But it is not always so: often the "know how" isconsidered a "result”, almost automatic, of knowledge or something to be put off to the work environment.Knowledge and skills are indeed intertwined, but if skills can generally originate from knowledge, it is alsotrue that “doing” can stimulate the acquisition of knowledge. In addition to this, the acquisition of skills ismore likely to be self-checked by the student with a positive effect on her/his involvement in the achievementof learning goals and on her/his motivation to learn.Even for the skills, like knowledge, should beemphasized the importance of a careful verification of their acquisition by students.
2.3 Attitudes
I use the term a
ttitudes
, proposed in e-CF because itis more concise, but I consider it, at least in firstapproximation, as the equivalent capacity of personal,social and/or methodology abilities to which EQF doesnot add specifications.e-CF defines
 Attitude
as
a “cognitive and relational capacity (e.g. analysis capacity, synthesis capacity, flexibility, pragmatism,...)”.
It specifies: “
 It is close tothe concepts of ‘manner’ and “demeanour”, it is the French ‘savoir être’”.
e-CF also contains the followingconcepts:
“If skills and knowledge are the components,attitudes are the
 glue
 , which keeps them together”.
The discourse on attitudes is certainly more complexthan that of knowledge and skills as this item impliesabilities of very different types. Leaving for anotheoccasion the objective to classify them, we limitourselves here to a list including personal capabilities,methodological and social abilities (according to EQF)and/or cognitive and social capacities (according to e-CF):
storage capacity, interpretation, extrapolation, link analysis, synthesis and evaluation;
autonomy, responsibility, target orientation/results,ability to organize, ability to concentrate and focus;
awareness, flexibility, ability to orient themselves;
ability to pose and solve problems;
ability to listen and communicate;
ability to work in groups, to accept different points of view, to support his own point of view, to coordinateand agree to co-ordination;
...2
 
Sloop2desc - Sharing Learning Objects in an Open Perspective to Develop European Skills and CompetencesSurely these are the skills to which teachers aregreatly concerned and which affect, in important ways,educational attainment. Often the assessment made byteachers brings together knowledge and specific skillsand cognitive abilities (and often social abilities) butwithout offering the student a clear description of itsdeficiencies and of related improvement targets.Above all the risk is to consider attitudes a personalcharacteristic, something determined by genes and/osocial conditions, something on which the primary schoolmay take action, while university and perhaps even thesecondary school can’t intervene any longer being themalready acquired (or not acquired) at that time.So the "glue", that holds together knowledge andskills and which is an essential component of competence, is often left out of the training, or, anyway,there is not a conscious, explicit and "organized"intervention.
2.4 Competences
If competences are not a simple summation of knowledge and skills but their use, enriched by the glueof attitudes, in practical situations, the school must putstudents in situations already during their training pathsguiding them to operate and interact to produceobservable results.Even if not generalised, experiences of this typealready exist. They are substantially of two types: work- based experiences and project-work activities. Work- based learning, by definition offers a work context withits own dynamics and its products. Work-projectactivities focus on the results to be achieved, individuallyor in-group, and generally go beyond the meredisciplinary context.What suggestions can be given to promote acompetence-based teaching? In my opinion the followingones may help:
clearly define the competences to be achieved as a basis of the educational contract with students,
 precisely define the knowledge and skills on whichthose competences are based and provide "objective"evaluation tests,
make the necessary attitudes explicit and helpstudents self-evaluate and improve in respect to them,
 propose collaborative project activities suitable tomake students consolidate and reinforce knowledgeand skills, and in which they could measure anddevelop their attitudes (personal, social,methodological abilities),
organize experiences to be carried out outsideschool/university where, again, they could measureand enhance knowledge, skills and attitudes.
3. ONLINE COMPETENCE-BASEDLEARNING IN THE SLOOP2DESCEXPERIENCE
The course, which will be described in the nextchapter 5, “The Sloop2desc course”,, intended to help participants acquire competences both in the use of eLearning and Web 2.0 tools, and as far as competence- based learning is concerned. To achieve this it worked both on the ground of the acquisition of individualknowledge and skills, and on the development of attitudes, placing the participants in a concrete context inwhich to produce usable results (teaching materials to usewith students).First it is worth clarifying that the online learningmodel we adopted is the virtual classroom in the Moodleenvironment:
the participants are organized into classes (30-40 people with two tutors), each of them in their own"course",
activities are scheduled so that the students carry outthe activities at the same time,
a strong interaction is required between the studentsand between students and tutors (in forums and usinge- mails, chats, videoconferences), sometimes asdebates and exchanges of ideas, some other times ascooperation in carrying out activities (also using toolssuch as wikis, googledoc, mindmap, ... ).The course expected the acquisition of a set of 
knowledge
, for example, concerning theCreativeCommons licenses, the European documents onkey competences, EQF, e-CF, the EUCIP syllabus, ... To provide such knowledge either links to existing presentations and to the original documents have beenincluded or slides with audio, or videos or SCORMobjects have been developed.To consolidate this knowledge, activities like"reading, listening, …" have been accompanied by arequest to discuss it in forums starting from inputs provided by the tutors. For example: "WhatCreativeCommons license do you think is more suitablefor teaching materials?" (and here a broad discussion of whether to introduce the constraint of “not commercial”has developed).There are many
skills
that the Sloop2desc course wasintended to capture: open a Moodle course, includeresources, monitor activities of students, produce alearning resource with eXeLearning, create a slideshowwith audio and make it available on SlideShare,communicate via Skype, collaborate on a wiki, useGoogleDoc, put a resource to be shared in freeLOms, …To promote the acquisition of these skills the course proposes existing, or ad hoc developed, tutorials, often inthe form of videos on YouTube (or Vimeo) or SlideShare presentations, work proposals, sometimes individual,sometimes in groups. So, for example, as for the use of Moodle a "trial course" has been created where participants could practice including resources andactivities.All the modules include a discussion forum and,therefore, the discussions among peers and between peersand tutors is one of the main features of the course. InModules 2 and 3 collaborative activities are planned.Collaborative activity in Module 2 is essentiallyfunctional to learn how to use tools like Skype,3

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