Introduction

    Join me with “Working & Learning”

    November 9th, 2007 by Dirk Stieglitz

    I am Pekka Kämäräinen from Finland. From 2005 on I work as a senior researcher at Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB), University of Bremen.  With my blog I want discuss European innovations in vocational education and training (VET) and in workplace learning.

    Working & Learning

    The TACCLE4-CPD project takes further steps in its work – Part Two: Reflections on policy mapping in (German) VET sector

    June 10th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

    In my previous post I reported on the second transnational meeting of our EU-funded project TACCLE4-CPD and our efforts to develop tools and concepts for continuing  professional development of teachers and trainers. As has been the case with earlier TACCLE projects, we focus on integrating the use of digital tools and web resources to pedagogic approaches. In my previous post reported on the meeting itself and on our progress in adjusting our work program and the partners’ activities to each other. With this post I want to take a closer look at one of the tasks – mapping and analysing current policies – and what it requires from us (the German partners) working in the field of vocational education and training (VET). Below I try to give an overview on the role of regulative frameworks, innovation programmes and R&D initiatives in this context.

    On the role of regulative frameworks

    When discussing the role of educational policies, colleagues from other countries tend to refer to the “National Curriculum” as a key instrument and its implementation as the central process. This doesn’t apply to Germany. Since the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany (and after the German unification) the regulative powers have been given to the Federal States (Länder), not to the Federal Government (Bund). Thus, there are 16 autonomous Federal States deciding their own curriculum frameworks – with some level of mutual adjustment in the Standing conference of cultural ministers (KMK). Yet, the differences between larger states (like Bavaria and Lower Saxony) and the city states (like Hamburg and Bremen) can be considerable.

    When it comes to the field of vocational education and training (VET), there are further complications in the picture. For the dual system of apprenticeship (the mainstream model), the regulative powers have been divided. The Federal Government (Bund) has the power to regulate the workplace-based training, whilst the Federal States (Länder) are responsible for the school-based education. Furthermore, the intermediate training centres (überbetriebliche Ausbildunsstätten) that support training in the construction sector and in the craft trades are managed by the umbrella organisations of the respective industries and trades.

    In the light of the above, tracing the policy processes at the level of regulatory frameworks reminds me of putting together a jigsaw puzzle with numerous pieces.

    On the role of national innovation programmes

    Whilst the Federal Government (Bund) doesn’t have the regulative powers in (shool-based) education, there is a growing consensus that Federal funding is needed to promote digitisation and digital competence throughout the society – including the education and training system. For this purpose the key instruments are the Federal innovation programmes – such as the ones promoting the use of digital media in VET (DiMeBB and DiMeBB2). This funding includes R&D projects in which education and training providers work together with service providers and supporting researchers.

    Parallel to this, the Federal Government has provided special funding to promote digitisation and digital competences in the intermediate training centres. This funding is allocated partly to support the updating and upgrading of equipment and partly for supporting the staff training.

    This reminds me of putting together a mosaic when all the pieces are not (yet) available.

    On the role of local/ regional/ domain-specific initiatives

    In the light of the above it is worthwhile to pay attention on specific measures and initiatives in a local/regional context or in domain-specific training. These may influence heavily the ‘implementation realities’ in digitisation and in the acquisition of digital competences. Also, it is worthwhile to pay attention to the impact of earlier R&D activities – inasmuch as they may have had a sustainable impact on the education and training cultures. Here I can refer to the long-term engagement of ITB in introducing Project Management training in schools (in particular in Bremen and the neighbourhood). In a similar way we need to pay attention to the use of the Learning Toolbox (LTB) as a digital toolset to support vocational learning and organisational knowledge sharing.

    All this reminds me of describing changing facets of a caleidoscope.

    I think this is enough to illustrate, how complex these mapping and analysing exercises may be. However, the formulation that we agreed – “Policies looking for (appropriate) practices; Practices and initiatives looking for policy support” – is helpful. In this spirit I find it easy to continue our work with this task.

    More blogs to come … 

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    The TACCLE4-CPD project takes further steps in its work – Part One: Reflections on our project meeting

    June 10th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

    As I had told in my earlier blog of December 2017, our institute ITB is involved in a new European project TACCLE4-CPD. This project is the fourth one in the TACCLE project family that supports teachers and trainers in integrating the use of digital tools and web resources into teaching and learning processes. Our project is developing tools and concepts for continuing professional development of teachers and trainers in different educational sectors. (For further information on the background and on the earlier TACCLE project see my blog of the 9th of December 2017.)

    Now we had our second project meeting and we were able to see, how we can bring our activities with different educational sectors and with different “Intellectual Outputs” together. As I had mentioned in my previous blog, the earlier TACCLE projects had been working with general education – with primary and (lower) secondary schools. In our project some partners continue the work with focus on these educational sectors whilst others bring into project insights from adult education (AE) and vocational education and training (VET). In our kick-off meeting we had a first look at the work program and on the starting points of different partners. Now we were  having reports on activities of different partners – both concerning the fieldwork and the conceptual work. In this way we were able to take further steps in adjusting our activities to each other and in including different contributions to the Intellectual Outputs. Below I will firstly discuss the progress with our work program and then some specific issues from perspective of the German team and of the VET sector.

    Progress with ‘streamlining’ the work program and the partners’ activitities

    In our meeting the dynamics was as follows: We had firstly activity reports of one or two partners, then we noticed that they served as a lead-in to some of the Intellectual Outputs. We had a brief debate with some challenging issues – and then ended up with a common conclusion that ‘streamlined’ the work for all of us. Below I will take up some topics that illustrate this:

    • Analyses of current policies to promote digitisation and digital competences: With the activity reports we were caught with the contrast between countries that have centralised educational policies (driven by the National Curriculum) and others with more fragmented power structures and policy processes. This led us to a brief debate on what is merely ‘local/regional’ and what counts as ‘policies’. With a little help of mindmaps and diagrams from other project we found a good formulation for streamlining our mapping and analyses: “Policies looking for appropriate practices – innovative practices and R&D initiatives looking for policy support”. In this way we could provide a European group picture without giving too much emphasis on explaining different policy contexts and instead draw attention to the ‘implementation realities’.
    • Developing a tool for quality assurance: In this context the responsible partner informed of their ongoing qualitative study with schools participating in the eTwinning programme. This triggered a discussion, whether other partners should replicate a similar study or not. However, in the course of discussion we noted that the study is shaping a matrix for analysing quality issues and in this way contributing to the project.
    • Developing a Route Map for promoting digital competences and Planning tools for institutional managers: In this context the responsible partner presented earlier versions of such Route Maps. They had been successfully implemented in earlier TACCLE projects and in national follow-up activities. Another partner presented a somewhat simplified and more condensed version (developed in another predecessor project) that could be taken as a basis of the planning tool. We agreed to merge the tasks and work with both variants of the tools.

    I guess this is enough as reporting on our meeting. We had several other points to discuss in the meeting. I will get back to them in due time. In my next post I will discuss the mapping and analysing of policies from the German perspective and with emphasis on the VET sector.

    More blogs to come …

     

     

     

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    Back to Tampere – Back to the Work Research Centre (WRC)

    June 9th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

    In my previous post I reported on my participation in the international conferences organised by Stockholm University in the beginning of May 2017 and 2018. In the middle of May I had another trip – this time to my old home town Tampere, Finland and to my old institute – the Work Research Centre (WRC) of the University of Tampere. It so happened that the WRC was celebrating its 30th anniversary and I had been one of the founding members. So, this was going back to the roots and via a long journey down the memory lane.

    I was particularly happy to attend this event because 30 years before I had missed the founding festivities due to clash of dates with some other obligations. Also, I was looking forward to this event, since my ex-colleagues had asked me – half a year before – to write a text on the founding phase of the WRC for a national event that took place in Tampere. At that time I could only send the text, not knowing how it will be used and in what kind of setting it will be presented. So, I was exited to see, what had happened with my old institute, how many friends of  old I would meet and who are the champions of the younger generation that are continuing the work. But let us go back to the memories before we get to the event.

    “How it all started” – what did I write down

    The colleagues had asked me to write a text on the founding phase, because they new that I had been involved in a preparatory planning initiative  (1986-1987) and that this particular initiative did the seeding work that led to the decisive steps in 1988. For me this was of fundamental importance, because that planning task was my first job after graduation. And after the founding of the WRC I worked as a semi-senior researcher for laying the foundations for research on “Education and Working Life”. This work took me first to Nordic (Scandinavian) cooperation (1988-1992) and to European cooperation (1991-1994). In this process I got deeper involved in research in the field of vocational education and training (VET). And then, at the advent of the Finnish EU-Membership I was sent as a national seconded to the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop), which at that time was located in Berlin. And after Finland joined EU, I got a job in Cedefop as a temporary official of EU and moved with Cedefop to Thessaloniki, where it was relocated in 1995. (And after my time in Cedefop I ended up – via a transitional phase – to my present job in ITB, University of Bremen.)

    What could I then bring into discussion on the founding phase – having been there a relatively short while and then having been so many years elsewhere. Probably the best service I could do was to reconstruct the history of creation of the WRC as an achievement of an innovative movement that sought to upgrade the standing of research on working life in  the university structures and to stimulate interdisciplinary cooperation in theory and practice. Firstly this was sought by planning an interdisciplinary post-graduate Master programme for R&D in working life. In the planning of this concept I did my best to pass information on similar initiatives in Scandinavia and in Germany. Moreover, I tried to pass information policies and innovation programmes to improve quality of working life (LOM in Sweden and Humanisierung der Arbeit in Germany). Whilst, the post-graduate Master programme was not picked up as such, the idea to strengthen the institutional status of research on working life was taken seriously. At that time a new government coalition was being forged and the trade unions were heavily in favour of stronger support for specific research activities on working life. Also, the new management of the University of Tampere understood, what was coming up. Therefore, a decision was made to strengthen research on working life throughout the university faculties and to set up a special research unit – the WRC.

    Whilst there were many processes that contributed to the founding of the WRC, the relatively young researchers who started there with project funding, had to develop the patterns of work and the modes of cooperation from scratch. But, for creative young researchers this was a source of inspiration rather than a factor of demotivation. And, given the strong winds from research policy and the support from Social partners, several flagship projects were launched already in the early years. Some of them were intensively working with the Social Partners – in particular the action research projects on quality of working life in municipal organisations or on the modernisation of work processes in textile and clothing industries. In the long run these projects provided the basis for a research tradition that has been continued later on. This was my message.

    How was it received – reflections on the event in Tampere

    I arrived early, so the first thing that I saw was a poster exhibition – consisting on three major posters. In the first one there was a brief description on the founding of the WRC with several photos of the early years. In the second one was my text nicely lay-outed. In the third one was a specific history of the action research projects with photos from different project generations.

    When the event started, there was s short welcoming address on behalf of the University of Tampere, then some music played by a band consisting of young professors and researchers. Then, the interim manager Sirpa Syvänen (already involved in the earliest action research projects) gave a speech on the development of WRC. The very way that she relied – explicitly – on my text and drew upon the analysis when continuing to the newer phases – that gave me a good feeling. The researchers of WRC were telling their own history, how they made the WRC sustainable via their own work. And this was mirrored by a young researcher who reflected, how WRC could develop in the future.

    Then, the event moved to a phase of two successive slots of parallel workshops, During the first slot I attended the workshop on dialogical innovation projects – referring to the flagship project “DINNO”. Here I was pleased to see that these projects are built on wider networks – involving other research institutes alongside WRC and involving regional universities of applied science (when the training of healthcare professionals is concerned). In the second slot I attended a workshop that discussed myths and facts on modern employment relations. Here the speakers were professors and researchers from the Faculty of Social Sciences – with affiliation with the WRC. They were referring to projects using national and Nordic statistics. Here I was pleased to see that the boundaries between the WRC and the faculty departments were easy to cross and that practical cooperation was everyday life practice.

    At the end of the event the recently appointed new director of the WRC – a newcomer from a neighbouring university – was presented and she gave the concluding speech with a commitment to continue the good work in such a collaborative spirit as had been demonstrated in the event.

    I guess this is enough of my memories and of this very special event. I was happy to see that I had been able to contribute something special for the preparation of the event. And I was even happier that the WRC could proudly celebrate itself as a thirty-year old research unit that had been built and carried on by project-based researchers relying on their own competences and on collaborative spirit. We agreed to stay in contact and I am looking forward to next encounters.

    More blogs to come …

     

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    Back to Stockholm – Back to the cruise conference(s)

    June 9th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

    Both last year and this year I had the privilege to participate in the International Vocational Education and Training (VET) conferences organised by Stockholm University in the beginning of May. These conferences have become already a tradition – the 2017 conference was already the sixth and this year it was already the seventh. The practical arrangements are also very special – the conference starts at noon in a the conference rooms of a cruise terminal. After the first sessions the whole conference boards on a ship and continues it work in the conference rooms of the ship. While we are working, the ship makes the trip through the Stockholm archipelago and finally stops at the port of Mariehamn (Maarianhamina) – on the Swedish-speaking island Åland (Ahvenenmaa) between Sweden and the Finnish mainland. In the morning the ship starts the journey back to Stockholm and the conference continues until the ship is getting near the port of Stockholm.

    When looking back at the two cruise conferences in which I have participated, there was a clear difference to me regarding my personal life situation and in my work. In 2017 I had had a treatment of severe illness behind me and I was in the process of recovery. Also, we had just completed the EU-funded Learning Layers project (2012-2016) and finished the last reporting duties arising from the final review meeting (January 2017). So, when I prepared my contributions for the conference, I was still to a great degree working in a ‘reporting mode’ – describing the activities of the project and explaining the specific choices of the construction pilot and the accompanying research team of our institute ITB. And – although I have a background in the Nordic and European VET research cooperation – I was a ‘newcomer’ in this setting. So, I had to familiarise myself with this conference pattern in order to  learn as best I could from the other contributions.

    Now, thinking the conference of this year, my situation was completely different. During the year that had passed by, I had been monitoring the follow-up initiatives of the Learning Layers’ Construction pilot (efforts to extend the scope of working with digital tools in organisational and individual learning contexts). Moreover, I had had the chance to revisit the theoretical and methodological roots of our approach that we had followed in the project. So, I had a chance to discuss the challenges of our innovation research in a transition phase – from the original project to the successor activities. And I had the chance to discuss, how our approach had built upon its predecessors but also, what new elements our context brought into discussion.

    I will not try to give an overview, what all themes were covered in these conferences – that would go beyond the limits of blog articles. Instead, I am better off referring to the website of the conference organisers:

    https://stockholminternationalvet.com/

    This website provides information on the previous conferences as well as on the recent one. And – moreover – it provides links to the book publications based on the conference material. The book based on the 2017 conference was just published for the next conference. And the book based on the 2018 conference material will be produced even quicker – that is what we all hope. (In the meantime I will also publish updates on my ‘project’ spaces on the ResearchGate portal.)

    What I want to emphasis in this context is the very specific atmosphere of these cruise conferences – they bring the participants from the Nordic circles, from the European circles and from the wider international circles closer to each other. Moreover, this conference has more intellectual flexibility to take on board interim reflections – not only finalised results and completed theoretical discourses. From that perspective it has gained an acknowledged position as a valuable ‘interim conference’ vis-à-vis the annual ECER conferences and the VET research program of the VETNET network.

    However, having said that, I have to mention that for this reason the VETNET community had agreed on new conference schedules. Parallel to this Stockholm conference, we experienced the emergence of another similar ‘interim conference’ with similar features of bringing different circles of international and European VET researchers together. With this ‘other’ I refer to the “Crossing Boundaries in VET” conferences that were started in Bremen in 2015 and continued in Rostock in 2017. With these conferences the organisers had thought that the timing – one week before the annual ECER conference – would be helpful for the international participants. But this was no necessarily the case. Therefore, a mutual agreement was reached that the Stockholm conference will be organised from now on every two years and that in between the “Crossing Boundaries in VET” conference will be organised elsewhere in Europe.

    So, after wrapping up my experiences with the Stockholm conference, I had to start working with the proposals for the next “Crossing Boundaries …” conference that will take place in May 2019. As the organisers of that conference want to deliver the proceedings already at the conference (and have managed to do this both times), the call for proposals was closed already at the end of May. So, to quote an old phrase: “After the conference is – before a conference”. Also in this respect, May 2018 was a busy month. But there were also other activities.

    More blogs to come …

     

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