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Revisiting Kostelec 2: Insights into the sessions of the “Crossing boundaries …” conference

October 24th, 2010 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous blog posting I presented my positive impression on the international conference “Crossing Boundaries: The multiple roles of trainers and teachers in vocational education and training” (14.-15.10.2010 in Kostelec, near Prague). With this posting I want to look back at the sessions and to what made the conference such a positive experience.

Firstly, it is worthwhile to note that I am writing primarily as a conference participant (my role as a member of the organising network was not a central one). However, I also had some duties as a facilitator, so I had to pay attention, how to get the sessions running well and with good spirit. Yet, I must emphasise that the key factor in the success was the fact that the participants were interesting in building up a good dialogue-oriented event.

The first thematic session that I attended, was based on two contributions from Germany.

  • Alrun Schleiff and Simone Wanken from the University of Trier gave a presentation on “The learning tandems”. Their university is piloting with a special curriculum that combines the learning processes of traditional students (doing their degrees in adult education) and non-traditional students (training specialists in companies, who are in a certificate programme). The fascination of this programme lies in the cross-mentoring approach that supports both target groups and brings them into a cross-mentoring relation during the field studies.
  • Johannes Koch from Friedrichsdorfer Büro für Bildungsplanung gave a presentation on lifelong learning in production contexts. In this presentation he examined the transition of workplace learning into internet-supported and innovation-oriented learning. In this context the role of intermediate agencies is to support the search processes, election processes and utilisation of cutting-edge knowledge.

The second thematic session was dedicated to professionalisation of teachers and trainers in VET in Spain.

  • Jose Luis Garcia Molina gave a comprehensive picture on the professionalisation of VET teachers and trainers in Spain and on the role of tripartite cooperation. Interestingly enough, both topics that had been taken up in the previous session were also discussed in the light of the Spanish input.

The third thematic session was based on contributions from the host country, Czech Republic.

  • Stanislave Michek provided insights into quality assurance in the Czech vocational schools via self-assessment and self-evaluation.
  • Jan Sperl presented the development of National Educational Portal and provided insights into the use of the different resource areas  by teachers and trainers.
  • Lubomir Valenta gave an overview of the development of Europass tools and of the use of these tools in the Czech Republic.
  • My general impression of the discussion was that all these presentations were presenting cutting-edge European developments and putting the host country into a European group picture. Also, I could notice that the participants from Nigeria and Romania made good use of this information.

The fourth thematic session was shaped as ‘speed learning cafe’ during which two short presentations are discussed parallel to each other. After half an hour the groups change the table and the presenters start a new discussion. The two presentations focused on workplace learning and  developmental tools in Germany and on assessment of workplace learning in Norway.

  • The presentation by Ludger Deitmer and myself focused on the role of holistic working and learning tasks and on the role of participative development tools. The two groups emphasised the importance of genuine and well-thought working and learning tasks as well as the role of dialogue-oriented tools. However, it was emphasised that the tools alone cannot guarantee the result if the participants are not well prepared for self-organised learning and for self-assessment.
  • The presentation of Haege Nore problematised the boundaries of learning and raised the question “who are the right assessors”. The presentation also brought into picture the potential role of co-participating researchers (basic inquiries, interactive accompaniment and evaluation).
  • Here, the groups made good use of the time but it was difficult to share the results across the two groups (discussion to be continued at a later occasion).

The fifth thematic session that I attended was also planned as a speed learning cafe with two presenters. However, one of the presenters had to cancel his participation. Thus, the session was transformed into an interactive workshop with one presentation.

  • Sandra Sukhan from Canada (originally from Guayana) gave a lengthy and highly inspiring account on her internship as a marketing manager of a newly launched training centre in Botswana. Her real life story gtave a deeper meaning to the topic “crossing boundaries” and to the necessity for taking new roles in a challenging training context (where the sustainability of the training centre and learning results were at risk all the time). Also here, the participants were not left as passive audience but were invited to think loud, what kind of lessons could be learned (when the story was told halfway). Then, this discussion was continued with further insights into the concluding phase of project (and the real life strory).

Here I think it is appropriate to stop this overview. In my next posting I try to make a shorter comment on the working climate in the conference.

Watch this space!

Pekka

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