Tony and Michelle's comment on my blog about "simplifying" a framework to make it accessible reminded me of the comments members of a group of researchers I belong to are always saying about my models/frameworks: They are very complex.
On the left is an example of one of the more complex ones which took research on community building and created a model of online community building. Needless to say, this is a framework in which many felt overwhelmed by the model!
However, I guess one of my problems is in determining how this framework for identifying work literacy will be used and for which audience. I found Tony's model as one of "information search", or even information literacy (which those in the field of library science have really been doing a good job on formulating), but not work literacy. I think it is important also that we distinguish between "knowledge work literacy" and "work literacy" which requires new knowledges in the 21st century.
Knowledge Work Literacy vs. Work Literacy
Knowledge work literacy (as I see it) is the understanding of the underpinning knowledge, organization, environment, and skills needed to accomplish work that is knowledge based (as opposed to material based). Michelle has outlined some good ways to categorize knowledge work. However, I would use different variables to format knowledge work: people to people knowledge work (customer service, social worker, mediator, consultants) technology to technology knowledge work (ITS, programmers, technicians, network developers), technology supported people interaction (retail, instructors, e-commerce, e-learning, radiologists, lab technicians), and information reformulators who, today, usually use technology to reformulate (analysts, librarians, journalists, web developers, instructional designers).
Work literacy, however, requires a broader vision of what is needed in today's work place. Our work processes have become much more sophisticated and complex in more traditional industries (i.e. manufacturing) which requires a higher level of thinking and access to information if a company is going to maintain a competitive edge. This makes categorizing "knowledge work" a bit more difficult. However, I think we can still apply the above categories used in knowledge work to the type of duties required by the worker. For example, within a manufacturing company, you have the personnel department who work primarily in people to people jobs. They are also information reformulators, however. Production supervisor duties are computer supported people interaction, but may also require technology to technology tasks.
Applying the new work literacy framework to the categories of workers
Now, applying the skill sets I identified previously to the category of knowledge work, we can identify which skill sets workers need to be proficient at or need training in to be "literate" in their job. This allows a more flexible and systematic way to analyze a position and what is needed to be literate for the position (rather than one size fits all). A personal assistant to the CEO in a Manufacturing plant will do both person to person duties, information reformulation, and, in many cases, computer supported person interaction. In the first case, he or she will need to have good social skill sets and good socio-cognitive (or collaboration) skill sets. In the second case, he or she will need to have good cognitive (or thinking) skill sets and socio-cognitive (or collaboration) especially at such a high profile job in order to network and put information into context for both senior management and outside stakeholders. In the final case, he or she will probably be evaluated on his or her ability to communicate and prioritize information using technology skills (such as typing X words per minutes), so performance skills will need to be used.
Process for Developing the Framework
Obviously, this is a complex idea which can't be accomplished overnight (and will probably take several years). As the comments and additions to Tony's original post suggest, there is a lot of information out there, but little work done in trying to make sense of the pieces and bring it into an accessible framework for trainers, educators, and management to use. On the one hand, it is important to make any framework we establish accessible to trainers, human resource personnel, elearning specialists, managers, educators, etc...On the other hand, it is important that there be a framework that can be used for ALL knowledge work and flexible enough to capture the complexity of today's work environment.
I would suggest that we begin by:
- Defining who the frame work is for. Are we looking at workers in the knowledge industry or are we looking at the new knowledge needed for workers regardless of the industry. This might take on a different look depending on which one we are developing the framework for.
- Once we have identified who the framework is for, we can begin to identify what type of duties workers do and develop categories to distinguish the various types of jobs and job tasks.
- We then will need to identified the duties and categories of jobs, we need to have an exhaustive list for each of the skills needed to accomplish these duties and categories.
- I would then suggest that we categorize those skills into skill sets which can be used to develop an inventory which users of the framework could then use to identify needs.
- Once gaps are discovered in the skill sets, we can begin to identify solutions, insuring workers are prepared for their jobs.
Accessible, not necessarily simple
Tony and Michelle are right in wanting to develop a framework that is accessible to anyone. My graphic above is an example of something that is too complex for most to follow. At this point, though, I think we need to first make sure we have all the pieces before we begin to oversimplify the framework. As someone who tends to write too directly, it is easier to edit and consolidate, than it is to add on and create.