OK, an interesting title, but this article describes a process of considering and adopting more ‘innovative’ VET teaching and learning practices.
That is the niggle and the jiggle bit. The magic comes if you can anticipate and avoid the ‘squid’. Intrigued? Read on!
What’s this all mean I hear you ask!
A while ago, 2009 in fact, I was managing an NCVER project focused on trends in VET teaching and learning. It involved the production of two reports (Links to overviews of these two pieces of work – one Australian and one international – are here and here). Then we took things on the road around Australia and ran a series of workshops across five states and territories. Their focus was to get workshop participants to consider a teaching and learning innovation they would like to make.
Niggling, jiggling and ‘squidding’
The process described in Jane Figgis and Yvonne Hillier’s summary paper about these workshops involved participants identifying a problem that was an issue for them, or that their ‘clients’ – students and employers mainly, bought to their attention. That was the ‘niggle’. The next phase of the process involved developing a potentially workable solution (an innovation or ‘jiggle’) and then taking their innovation to ‘the market’. The idea of the ‘jiggle’ was that innovations often are not that ‘radical’, or ‘new’ but are more the products of experimentation or adaptation. They just have to be ‘new’ to the team or institution attempting to implement them.
Where does the ‘squid’ bit comes in, though? As the paper noted:
“Squidding is a form of critique where one looks for all the reasons why the innovation won’t work, all the blockages to implementation. The concept originates from the way a squid defends itself by shooting a cloud of ink at the offending object and running away. Although this concept sounds negative, it is really important that a potential innovator recognises all the limits and barriers to the great idea.”
OK, so now you see ‘squidding’ is really a positive process in the early stages of an innovation. It’s the way by which you anticipate the ‘ink’ that possibly will delay or prevent taking up a good innovative idea. However, the process also helps identify any potential flaws in the proposed innovation. It’s one way of doing what is, essentially, a viability assessment. It’s about designing and then marketing a potentially good idea.
The paper describes the process used, and that’s worth a look. Essentially, it involves being responsive to any perceived inadequacies in teaching and learning and receptive to ‘new’ ideas or ways of working. It requires experimentation with and adapting or adopting good ideas (their own or others’) and finally being ambitious, imaginative and inventive in trying to improve the quality of one’s work.
There are many things that can stop this innovative drive, though, and the paper summarises a few of them: a lack of time (and a lot of workshop participants mentioned this of course), the difficulty of being ‘innovative’ in the face of tight budgets and limited resources and finally the rigidities imposed by training packages, regulatory compliance and other system requirements.
How does the process come about?
Jane and Yvonne’s paper used the Brookfield model of reflection. It invites you to think about practice from various perspectives, including learners, colleagues (at your own institution or at others) and employers. It can involve talking to people, forming an action learning set, investigating new technologies, searching the ‘literature’ for materials, case studies etc. on the internet, or finding and using a mentor.
Messages from Jane and Yvonne’s work
Here, we draw on the key messages identified in the paper.
First, “changing practice is neither a quick nor painless process.” Second, the key to changing practice is “accessing fresh ideas, which are often passed on through networks. However, those wanting to ‘innovate’ need to convince other colleagues of the need for change.” Third, “recasting practice and rethinking assumptions” needs to “take account of deeply held values and experience.” And as I have already noted, “the most effective change may not be through radical reform, but through incremental improvements.”
And finally, it’s really important to develop “an organisational culture which encourages mainstream practitioners to reflect habitually on what they are doing and take action [on] what is needed, [and not to focus on] ‘star innovators.’ Providing the resources to enable this is also important.”