In New Zealand in the late 1990's, educators in the post school sector, both public and private, are working with the effects of decisions made at the beginning of the decade. In the late 1980's a Government policy paper, Learning for Life, (Minister of Education 1989) outlined a new direction for tertiary education and training in New Zealand. The intention of the reforms was to create a post school education system which is student centred, has nationally recognised standards, is widely accessible, and provides a 'seamless' transition from compulsory to post compulsory learning.
The, then Wellington Polytechnic, Bachelor of Education degree endeavoured to create such a student centred, user friendly system within a traditional academic framework. The degree was developed in 1994 as an applied, in-service, professional qualification for post school vocational teachers. Key features of the degree include: Ø An emphasis on praxis - "reflective action and active reflection", developing participants as critically reflective practitioners
Ø Development of a sound theoretical base and familiarity with current literature on adult learning and teaching, including transformative and emancipatory dimensions.
Ø Application of theory to participants own areas of teaching
Ø Attention to the context of teaching
Ø Delivery of coursework through a range of facilitated and self- directed approaches, responsive to varying learning styles and recognising the valuable experiential base of the participants as adult learners.
Ø Encouragement for participants to build on their prior learning
Ø Development of academic writing, discussion, study, and research skills.
(BEd approval document 1994) The extent of the BEd's student centred approach was tested in 1996 by a large new group of potential students, who wanted off-campus tuition in ways comfortable to them, with teaching delivery methods that matched their ways of knowing and learning, and recognised their particular needs and context.
This paper describes the ways in which our department utilised the flexibility which was built into the degree to enable the students to work with their preferred learning and assessment styles, whilst maintaining the academic credibility of the programme. The partnership that has developed between this institution and the learners grew out of a desire on both sides to resolve this dilemma.