University of Tasmania
Salter_whole_thesis.pdf (2.79 MB)

Bushfire behaviour training & learning : examining bush fire-fighter pedagogy : the problem of learning complex practice

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posted on 2023-05-27, 10:13 authored by Salter, A
This thesis is concerned with the bush fire-fighting domain, where personnel are required to respond to complex, dynamic situations, drawing on their formal and informal learning to fight bushfires. South Eastern Australia is one of the most fire-prone areas of the world and agencies responsible for fire and land management face many challenges from escalating fire-weather conditions coupled with demographic changes which have increased the vulnerability of communities. At the same time increases in the turnover of personnel and emerging demands of working in extreme conditions have placed greater pressure to develop bush fire-fighting expertise. Australian bush fire-fighters need critical knowledge and skills to meet these changing circumstances and increased demands. It is therefore important to understand the complex learning needed for new and emerging competencies. Workplaces, including work-based training, are important sites for learning. From a situated learning perspective, it is proposed that it is through engagement in activities that individuals learn and moreover, that these situational and social factors influence the knowledge that individuals construct. In addition, knowledge is conceived as being embedded in domains of activity (social practice) and how these tools are used and enacted in circumstances and activities is crucial to understanding how capabilities and expertise are formed. However, as complex practice comprises abstract, broader and more deeply associated knowledge, cognitive activity is a second and equally important domain of activity. This thesis adds to the growing body of research that seeks to explore how social and cognitive activity combine to affect learning in practice contexts. The interest here is a need to build understandings about how these factors underpin learning processes in training and how to capitalize on these to enable the requirements for more complex practice. This problematic is examined in relation to the bush fire-fighter curriculum and learning approaches. A case study approach was used to examine different components of the bush fire-fighter curriculum. An initial research phase examined the standard curriculum and the associated teaching practices used to train bush fire-fighters. A second phase examined a new component of that curriculum, a simulation-based approach, to understand how this facilitates understandings of bushfire behaviour. As there is limited research into the novice bush fire-fighter curriculum, the first focus of the research enabled an examination of the strengths and weaknesses of current bush fire-fighter training. The findings show that there is a strong and intended emphasis on preparing novices for a deeper and broader level of skill. However, based on trainers' reflections of the experienced curriculum, concerns were expressed about whether these goals are being met. Trainees also experienced various levels of frustration. An analysis of an example of the enacted standard curriculum confirmed that the higher-level goals are not being realized. In contrast, an examination of the simulation-based learning context suggests that learners are expected to engage at higher cognitive levels and the pattern of interaction between trainer and learner is more intensive and inclusive. The investigation also demonstrated how a situated immersive pedagogy affords access to the skills and knowledge critical to entry-level bush fire-fighters. The analysis and findings suggest important learning processes that enhance this learning model. The learning processes identified and conceptualised include the processes of (1) immersive 'noticing', (2) the overlapping and integrating of concepts and (3) participation and social engagement. This model of pedagogical engagement provides a conceptual framework which identifies the pedagogical skills needed for trainers to enact these learning practices. It is concluded that for novices to build successful conceptualisation and categorization of domain problems, they require access to practice (or practice-like contexts) as well as expert guidance and feedback. However, in addition to engagement with the day-to-day actions and problems (real or simulated), trainees require access to higher orders of engagement (more mature practice). The model described furnishes strategies for application on a broader scale.


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Copyright 2016 the author

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  • Open

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