INTRODUCTION: HOW IS LOGISTICS KNOWLEDGE ACQUIRED?
"For a career in logistics, you must be able to learn and contribute quickly" (Bragdon and Berkowitz 1996, 28).
One aim of the work reported here was to investigate whether the rate at which students at one British university develop their understanding of career openings in intermodal distribution could be raised, following concerns that the concept of "logistics" or the role of an "analyst" were not well established even in sophomores. The demand for such employment roles is relatively well researched (Bragdon and Berkowitz 1996), and there have been useful attempts to define particular roles (Murphy and Daley, 1997), but the ways in which student knowledge of these roles is acquired have not been widely reported. Before existing teaching regimes could be changed to make learning more effective, it was necessary to establish the existing levels of student knowledge at various stages in courses, given that some of the "softer" aspects of logistics, such as ethical education, may be difficult to teach or involve longitudinal teaching spread over several semesters (Daley, 1994). This approach is consistent with the ideas of educators who identify a learning process which may involve learning through a series of steps, commencing with "raw experience, ... energy flowing through the skin ... upon which we erect our perceptions, knowledge and epistemological systems" (Bogoun 1983, 173). Two levels of schema may exist, initially acting as pattern recognition devices, including cortical schemas which transform raw experience, in its entirety, into knowledge, and further schemas, which organize and retain knowledge. Because an experience is complete, this implies that if we see a pattern, it is associated with a concept, so that if a name tag attached to a face or melody is experienced, this tags a concept, in turn tagging a pattern represented by an abstract, imageless and wordless element of thought.
By asking how a student develops his/her understanding of employment roles in intermodal distribution, we are attempting to reconstruct and explore their concept structure. This assumes that words can tag the concepts in the structure, so that a cognitive map is defined where the territory of verbal concepts have been recorded on paper. Nonverbal concepts only become expressible when a socializing experience results in labels understood by at least one other person to be attached to them, and meaning requires at least two sensations to be mapped.
Any student of intermodal distribution and transport should eventually increase awareness and understanding of relevant occupations, to the point that empirical research might reveal some form of underlying schema development. In an attempt to trace the extent and nature of student knowledge at various stages of the existing study program in Transport at Plymouth, enabling areas in which changes in understanding were needed to be identified and prioritized, a questionnaire was devised to reveal the concepts which students were using to describe their understanding of these occupations. The questionnaires were administered to whole classes ensuring simultaneous replies by students in each group, overcoming some of the problems of conducting interviews, which demand longer time frames. As such, if responses were colored by more recent experiences such as lectures or field visits, they would probably have affected whole groups, with less random tainting of individual replies by such unstable influences. The nature of any schemas which emerged from this research were designed to be of interest to logistics teachers, rather than diagnostic tools for use by vocational guidance professionals. The latter are less interested in the levels of knowledge of students about particular employment roles, but more in skills competence for career management in "exploring resources, reflecting on past and present, planning, monitoring and evaluating self and situation and developing autonomy" (Kidd and Killeen 1992). …