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Training for a Reflective Workforce: Transfer of learning for support worker apprentices

Karen Vaughan and Jo MacDonald

This project focuses on capability-building through a new apprenticeship for support workers. 

It grew out of the recognition of changing needs in the health and community support sector. Clients’ (and their family’s) needs are changing. There is more demand for restorative models of care and client-driven (person-centred) support. These changes shift the nature of support work away from being focused on straightforward task performance, such as occupying the attention of mentally and/or physically disabled clients. Support work now demands a deeper inquiry into client needs. The work necessarily involves problem solving and critical thinking, relationship management, inter-professional collaborative work, and a strong sense of professionalism, in ways that typically involve significant “emotional labour” (Hochschild, 1983). 

In response to these changes, training (and potentially also recruitment) needs are also changing. Person-centred support in service delivery is a fundamental principle in the development of Careerforce’s new apprenticeship programme. The name of this project therefore pointed to an important development: training for a reflective workforce. This would be a workforce of support workers who are nimble in the face of evolving client needs, and who can and will review situations and actions taken in order to make sense of what is happening and inform their future practice. In other words, a reflective workforce would be a workforce of lifelong learners. 

We examine what capability really means in terms of a transfer of learning―applying what is learned in different situations - at three different levels. Our report presents "far transfer" as  the ability work in different or more complex situations that cannot necessarily be predicted or prescribed in advance. Reflective practice can then be a way to support this transfer of learning as well as being a way to enact that transfer of learning. Together, far transfer and reflective practice help health and community support workers to make sense of experiences and events, informing their decisions and actions, and improved work performance.

Please find the report here on the careerforce website and the summary below.

Year published: 
Publication type: 
Research report
Full text download: 
not full-text
Karen Vaughan