Higher Education through Open and Distance Learning

By Keith Harry | Go to book overview

Chapter 4

Professional reflective practice and lifelong learning

Patrick Guiton

While professional continuing education may have been comparatively slow to recognise the significance of open and distance learning, the number of distance and off-shore MBAs and similar credential courses now offered by universities, colleges and commercial training bodies indicates that professional workplace learning is changing rapidly. The context in which many professionals work is being transformed as information technologies and more particularly the PC and access to the Internet are giving more working professionals direct access to career upgrading and problem-solving information on a day-to-day or even an hour-to-hour basis. Reflective practice (Schön 1987) can now involve the keyboard in addition to and perhaps increasingly in place of the seminar. This chapter looks at some of the possibilities which are now emerging for professionals to guide and direct their own career-long learning.


The changing world of professional continuing education

When Schön (1987) wrote about ‘reflective practice’ he was concerned primarily with the need to establish the practicum as a basic element in the initial training of undergraduates in university professional schools. He quotes the dean of a maritime engineering school who recognised that he was teaching students how to build good ships but not which ships to build: there was a clear need for training to be placed in a context which would better enable graduate professionals to apply their specialist knowledge effectively.

Universities have tended to recognise two categories of graduate. Postgraduate describes those who remain in the system in order to proceed to higher degrees. A broader term for those moving on into careers, jobs and other post-university lifespans is alumni, which carries connotations of completion, celebration and in most cases a more or less tacit expectation of future financial contribution. But most of the contexts into which alumni, and indeed many postgraduates, pass after graduation have become increasingly fluid. Job security, even for the highly skilled, is less certain and

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