Working life and learning
Working life and learning

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2 The transformation model

Work is a productive human activity, and so whatever we call work will have some identifiable outcomes, at least some of which we will see as beneficial to ourselves and/or to others. A model that can be useful to developing our understanding of this view of work is the transformation model (sometimes called the input/output diagram). The basic transformation model is shown in Figure 2.

Described image
Figure 2 The basic transformation model

Any job or work task can be seen as a transformation process requiring certain resources that must be input and producing certain outputs. Let us use the simple example, seen in Figure 3, of preparing a sandwich.

You can see clearly the main inputs (food ingredients), equipment (a knife) and human effort and expertise. These all feed into the work (transformation process) of making the sandwich, which produces the desired output of… a cheese salad sandwich on brown bread.

Described image
Figure 3 An example transformation model

There are three things to note here that relate to this course's idea of work.

  • The seemingly simple job of making a sandwich involves a range of other small tasks: spreading of butter, slicing or grating of the cheese, preparing the salad, assembling the sandwich, and slicing and presenting the sandwich to the eater. Each of these tasks involves a range of simple skills which, at some time or other, need to be learned.
  • These skills must also be carefully coordinated by the sandwich maker in order that the final output becomes what was intended at the beginning rather than a mess of ingredients. In order to do this, the maker must at some stage learn what a sandwich is.
  • As the job of making a sandwich is practised more often, the maker inevitably learns both how to do the job more quickly and efficiently, and how to improve the sandwich for the eater – improving the flavour, for example, by using different or additional ingredients. The most important thing about work then is that, no matter how simple the job, it is packed with learning. Figure 3 shows us how learning of one form or another can be an input, part of the work itself and an output.

Activity 2 Seeing work as a transformation model

Timing: Allow about 40 minutes

Think of a simple job you do routinely, either at work or at home. Choose one that is not too complicated. Draw a transformation model diagram, like the one in Figure 3, to analyse the task.

Label clearly (a) the inputs, (b) the tasks and skills involved in transformation, and (c) the outputs. Write a few sentences to describe the drawing you have made.

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Drawing diagrams like the transformation process model can be useful in a variety of ways. It is important to start simply, which is why we asked you to identify a small job rather than your whole work role. However, you can always come back to the diagram, add to it, change it or even start again. It is not meant to be a piece of artwork, just a way of clarifying your thinking about a subject.

Did you learn anything new about the job you described in the diagram or the skills you bring to it? What did it tell you about how you organise yourself for the task or how it might be done better next time? How about any common problems you encounter?

There are opportunities for learning in any work – this includes recognising the previous learning you have done to reach your current skill level. Whether we realise it or not, we can learn something from whatever we do. This module will help you identify the learning opportunities from your work activities. As the module progresses, we will encourage you to seek new opportunities and to develop your learning from them to a level appropriate for OU study.

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