Not many people have heard of Associate Degrees although this is gradually changing as more information is getting out there and graduates of Associate degrees spread the word about how great they are.
So let’s get formal. This next paragraph is from a conference paper (the abstract actually) that my colleague, Helen Smith and I wrote for The Learner Conference in 2014.
The Associate Degree in the Australian Qualifications Framework (the AQF) aims to prepare graduates for both paraprofessional work and pathways to further learning. In other words, at the end of this qualification a student should be confident that they could decide to go and get a job in their chosen field, and be successful in that job, or continue on to a Bachelor Degree for which they should have considerable credit.
Helen and I noted that the dual aims of the Australian Associate Degree present a particular challenge for program designers and teachers in higher education: assessing and teaching across traditional academic boundaries.
Educational teams and managers are designing learning and assessment strategies to bridge the vocational/academic divide, and this means a new orientation to the theory/practice relationship and to the way this is realised in assessment and learning practices.
It is a very exciting space to work in.
I have outlined in a previous blog how work-based projects can be framed by scholarly practice.
Here is piece I wrote about observing Associate Degree student presentations. They had completed their design projects and were then talking about their experiences and their learning.
The very best presentations addressed the assessment criteria and presented garments not as simply “show and tell” (“I quite like this”), but with an analysis of the design and why it works as design. Such students brought a conceptual understanding to the process, and may have discussed historical derivations or political and social values that influenced them. They described how the design changed over time and why. They could articulate the links between mood boards, aesthetics and how the design worked.
They referenced design in other disciplines such as visual arts, architecture, film, photography etc. They could talk about the essence of the piece, especially the signature piece, and its technical and design challenges. The signature piece was an expression of their personal values, aesthetics and philosophy. They were not afraid to take risks with experimentation. And they could explain all this and were comfortable with the language of design.
It was such a pleasure to listen to such presentations and witness such holistic learning!