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Professional competence enhancement via postgraduate post-experience learning and development

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to determine the ways in which postgraduate study in vocational fields supports the development of advanced competences amongst mid-career professionals. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The extensive written communications between health and safety professionals taking a postgraduate course in health and safety management and their tutor were investigated to determine the competence domains where learning was taking place or attempted. The individual written communications were analysed and each issue raised allocated to a learning area. The quantitative results for each area were determined. The learning areas were assigned to one or more competence development domains. Findings ‐ The quantified results demonstrate that the main domain where mid-career professionals on this postgraduate course were most strongly challenged to learn and develop in advanced competences was the meta-competence domain on the Cheetham and Chivers model. Research limitations/implications ‐ This study was based on written communications passing between a limited number of students and one tutor on a single postgraduate study programme. There is clearly great scope to extend this form of research given the large number of postgraduate vocational study programmes now undertaken by mid-career professionals. Practical implications ‐ Tutors need to focus strongly on supporting the very demanding learning leading to the growth of meta-competencies. Given the ready availability of relevant factual information to mid-career professionals in the information age, there is much less need to focus on teaching facts, although supporting the interpretation and application of such factual information by students retains great importance. Originality/value ‐ Few other studies exist which attempt to analyse written communications between tutors and postgraduate students on professional/vocational courses in terms of how such courses are developing professional competences.
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Keywords: Communications; Competences; Learning; Postgraduates; Professional education

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 2, 2007

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