1.2 Learning beyond course study
Learning how to learn has become an important goal in higher education. There is a national context in which an emphasis on ability to learn has come to prominence. It is now widely asserted that an ability to learn is as important an outcome of university study as knowledge of a discipline. This is a view put forward strongly by employers, for example, who have an interest in the employability of graduates and the skills they bring into the work place. It is a view which has been reiterated in government reports and in studies of what constitutes 'quality' or 'standards' in higher education.
Furthermore, the speed of change in occupational and social practices requires continual relearning and new learning for most adults, including those with higher education. Detailed knowledge in many disciplines has a very limited 'shelf life' and thus it is much more important to leave initial and higher education equipped with the ability to learn new knowledge and skills when required. A recent survey of several thousand UK companies asked about attitudes to training staff and found that there was often an expectation that employees themselves should take responsibility for keeping up to date and being able to cope with change. Employees were expected often to use their own time and resources to learn new skills and to 'learn how to learn'.
Learning is often referred to as a 'transferable skill' of paramount importance because it is the means through which all other knowledge and abilities are acquired. The arguments in favour of developing an ability to learn thus go deeper than the passing phases of national policy. Analysis, application of general principles, problem solving and so on are all capabilities required for learning effectively both in higher education and in the workplace. It is these various abilities to learn which are now seen as priority outcomes for graduates. Ability to pass examinations does not guarantee that a graduate has a critical grasp of knowledge or can learn 'on the job'. In line with higher education generally, therefore, the learning outcomes of this course emphasise that low-level rote learning is not enough. In-depth grasp of course concepts, ability to apply principles and understanding in diverse circumstances, ability to learn outside the formal course environment – all these goals form part of the aims of this course.