Learning hierarchy

Listening and reading media related to groundsmanship over the past year, and more, makes it clear that there is a distinct difference between knowledge and understanding. One must not be frightened of accepting this but all too often it is convenient to ignore the difference and carry on regardless, yet this is an approach which is now reaping distinctly worrying outcomes.

The stages of learning are often represented as a knowledge hierarchy, or similar, such as the DIKW Pyramid, however, knowledge and understanding are typically wrapped up within the term ‘knowledge’ in many examples and I consider this has not served the grounds / turf care industry well.

“What’s in store for horticulture in 2017?” (13 January 2017, by HW team, HortWeek)  identifies the loss of staff specialism and professionalism within local authority parks departments and a shortage of skilled and trained turf operatives as major concerns for the coming year. This has actually been a concern for many years and the roots of the problem can be, partially and significantly, laid at the doors of the lack of vision in the late 1980s and 1990s with Compulsory Competitive Tendering and then Best Value requirements that were introduced for local authorities.

I’ve created my own version of the ‘knowledge hierarchy’ to emphasise the differences between the different  stages, indicating a clear distinction between knowledge and understanding, which I think is something that is often misunderstood within the grounds / turf care industry.

Learning Hierarchy

Within the grounds / turf care industry there is certainly a lot of knowledge, the enthusiasm of volunteers and employees is legendary and the sharing of the results of working practices via Twitter is of epic proportions. The question which arises though is ‘Does knowledge translate into an understanding and appreciation of the ‘why’ for the different activities?’ This distinct stage helps to provide the wrapper for knowledge and when fully embraced and ‘understood’ only hen helps to deliver a groundsman / sports turf operative who is competent in their work.

For spring 2017 and onwards, competence is to be evidence through the new Apprenticeship Standards which have a well-defined benchmark for what is required of a role. For a groundsman/ sports turf operative craft level (which is Level 2) a new apprentice standard was approved for delivery in September 2016.

Competence is developed and honed over time, so an individual who successfully achieves the required benchmark will need to continue learning, questioning and challenging, otherwise they will stagnate and essentially fall back to the knowledge stage of the hierarchy. The message (or maybe moral of the message) being that do not rest on your laurels once you have achieved a certain stage.

Understanding is developed from Level 2 through to Level 3, 4 and 5 by further education and training. Wisdom will, or can, arise following many years of practical experience and applications, combined with the development of sound theoretical knowledge, which is typically gained through formal study at levels 5 and above.

Learning is a lifelong process.

Chris Gray, 15 January 2017

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