Posted on: September 11, 2020 Posted by: admin Comments: 0

This week at Stroud Academy we’re going to approach things a little differently and talk about the individual learning process. When we talk education from this perspective, we’re really getting at the sum total of all individual life experiences.  This combination ultimately contributes to the method in which one feels most comfortable learning.  This means that adult learning is accomplished in a different manner than how we learn in childhood. The fancy words for this difference are andragogy (adult learning) and pedagogy (childhood learning) but regardless of how we all learn as well as how we learn to learn the concept of adult learning applies to every profession and professional across the various occupations framing our nation…and the vocational expert is no different!


Malcolm Knowles pioneered the adult learning theory process back in the ‘80s and distilled them down to 4 principles.  The first is that adult learners have formed a sense of self. The second is that adult learners have past experiences driving how they will learn as adults. The third is that they learn with a purpose. The last idea is that adults are driven by internal motivation that plays an active role in how they learn.


When you examine these principles, you can get a sense of how you learn as an individual and how others around you learn. Much is said about people being visual or written learners but if you distill it down to these principles then you can develop a clear understanding of the best way to educate an individual in regard to the chosen profession.


Vocational experts are no different in this realm than in any other occupation! The formed sense of self for a prospective vocational expert comes with that educational experience and background.  Full primary, secondary, and graduate levels of education formulate a higher level of understanding and awareness of these individuals and prepare them to apply critical thinking and reasoning during the learning process. The accomplishments along the way of earning different educational diplomas or degrees also increased their ability to exercise their thoughts in that training context


The vocational expert’s past experiences in their occupation as a vocational rehabilitation specialist or in other health or workforce development fields will also dictate how they learn and apply that learning with their chosen profession. This background allows them to understand new concepts and be able to relate them to episodes in the past and hopefully draw out better conclusions for the present-day activity. 


The effective vocational expert is definitely going to be purpose driven! Most will only learn how to do the job of an SSAVE if it is tied to something that makes sense and is actually driving the application of their time as an important factor at that point. The educational activity really needs to answer the question of “why” right up front and embed this focus into distinct learning objectives along with a way to measure overall performance.  These three things together join to really prove that fourth point of the internal motivation…driving success in each individual’s training as well as their internal motivation!


The trick now is to actually apply these four points in the search for programs that meet these principles. There are three methods currently available to educate the prospective vocational expert. The first is the current model underwritten by the Social Security Administration. This method simply includes issuing and holding you accountable to the SSA Vocational Expert Handbook.  While this is an admirable attempt and may help individuals whose 4 principles are satisfied through reading and doing self-research only, the handbook alone will not solve all the situations that a new SSAVE will encounter. The next method, largely predominant across the SSAVE field, is purely in-person and hands-on.  This method works…and works well…but presents two immediate issues. The first is if you are a vocational expert that is a sole BPA Holder (blanket purchase agreement with SSA) then you don’t have anybody to train you…or you rely on the SSA to find somebody willing to train you out of the goodness of their heart. The second issue would be if you own a firm with multiple vocational experts your cost in travel, time, and training program development and maintenance becomes prohibitive.  These factors don’t even begin to address the additional burden of the COVID-19 pandemic, making in person education even more problematic if trying to accomplish all of it through live, virtual means. The third method available to you is through e-learning. This is the area that has been most developed over the past few years, albeit in singular areas…not catering to a holistic SSAVE educational approach. That’s where a program such as the VELaunchpad can assist…not only exercising e-learning concepts but also actually applying all points of adult learning to really go through every single step of the vocational expert process and cater to the different type types of learning all vocational experts enjoy.


Think about it! How do you learn? How would you like to learn and what is available to you to learn? The answers to these three questions should really drive you to the source of information that you’re looking for, targeting the type of training that will going to prepare you or members of your team to become an SSAVE. At the very least you’ll learn something for the day…which makes it a good day whatever happens!!!