What personal histories of workplace learning reveal about assessment practices in vocational education and training.

Mnisi, Nondumiso Innocentia
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This research report is concerned with the acquiring and assessment of tacit knowledge in the workplace, that is, craft or vocational knowledge. It is part of a broader research initiative on the part of SAQA, which is aimed at informing the NQF and how it should represent the outcomes of vocational education and training. This broad project is based on ethnographies of a number of workplaces — this one was carried out in a furniture factories. It focuses on data drawn from the personal histories of ten workers, who are at various points on the mourned form novice to expert furniture maker. The personal histories approach, which relies on in-depth interviews, adds a component to the full ethnography of this workplace, which is ongoing. The study proposes certain stages in the pathway from being a novice to becoming an expert, which are encountering, experiencing, mediation, internalization and consolidation of the knowledge of a craft trade. The data from each interview reveals that when workers participate in a craft, they perform minor activities such as observation, imitating, collaboration and helping with cutting. Through these practice and daily experiences, which mostly involves trials and errors they learn and rectify their mistakes using guidance and instruction that they receive from the master craft person as well as their skilled peers. In this way their learning shifts from merely being an observer to becoming an expert as they develop and become more skilled. More skills enabled them to make judgements or to assess their own work and the work of others