National TAFE Council AGM: Cut to “nominal hours”
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 127 No 6, 12 August 2022, page no. 18
At the recent National TAFE Council AGM, I took part in a workshop on “cuts to nominal hours” that, in effect, looked at how many times can you shave ice from a purportedly well-designed sculpture (or in this case training package) and still find it recognisable.
How many times can someone be asked to “shave” delivery from a unit, then “bundle” it with other units, then have one of those units superseded (with increased hours), yet still be expected to deliver it in the same shaved amount of time, particularly when the shaved time now “frees up” the teacher to go and deliver additional units, which shortly might be shaved again.
Nominal hours are the hours a standard student should need to complete a qualification. These hours are part of the volume of learning and are made up of supervised training, self-directed training (structured homework, online etc), and work-based learning (workplace learning supervised by the teacher).
Reducing these hours reduces learning time for students and increases delivery “availability”, thus creating workload/stress for the teacher, who now has less time to prepare for more units of delivery. The students may struggle more with less delivery, and problems could occur that can’t be rectified with the volume of hours of delivery, producing a downward spiral.
We also discussed the term “unit": a unit is actually a subject, and a student is a student, not a client. Let’s take back the corporate language and teach students the subjects of our trades we are so passionate about.
TAFE is where those who need a bit of extra support go to get into the career they want or to make the step to university. Yet the support for this stepping stone has been decreasing, making slipping and falling more likely for those students who actually need more support. Supervised delivery is being cut, and self-directed delivery is increasing, even though these students need the support of quality educators.
Teachers have the added pressure of being on contract and trying to “make budget” to keep their department alive so they have a job next term and passes (“Js”) make that more likely than fails. However, if the nominal hours are for a standard class in a major centre (eg. Brisbane), how can the same results be asked of a teacher in Central Queensland or Bamaga (the campus at the tip of Queensland) or one of the outer Torres Strait Islands, who suffer from lower quality internet and greater literacy needs?
The way some managers compare regions on volume of learning/nominal hours makes one question whether they know their learners?
Perhaps it is time for “nominated supervised learning hours”. A specified learning delivery volume of hours that every registered training organisation is required to deliver face-to-face, or online at a minimum. Maybe it is time for negotiation with managers regarding shaving based on learner need re literacy results of cohorts/demographics, rather than a reaction from a financial position. Let’s hear about your successes!