Archive for the ‘Innovation’ Category

Finding strategies to promote digital competences of teachers and trainers – Part Three: Examining innovation paths in the field of vocational education and training

June 5th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my two previous blog entries I started a series of posts with which I have linked my work in our EU-funded TACCLE4-CPD project (with focus on vocational education and training (VET))  to the work of other partners in other educational sectors (general education, adult education). As a starting point I presented  the Four-Step Model of the TACCLE4-CPD project that was developed in the recent project meeting in Bucharest. I found this model very helpful for finding and developing strategies to promote digital competences.  In my second post I discussed, how the model can be adapted to the field of VET. In this post I referred to different strategic options for promoting digital competences in the context of vocational learning arrangements. In this post I will illustrate them in the light of my interviews. Below I will firstly recapitulate my starting point and then discuss four parallel innovation paths.

Strategic options for promoting digital competences in vocational learning arrangements

As I mentioned in my previous blog, there are different options for linking the introduction of digital tools (and enhancement of digital competences) to the development of vocational learning arrangements. Below these options will be discussed as parallel innovation paths:

1) In some cases the main thrust of innovation is the shaping of a new curricular framework for a new occupation or occupational field. In such contexts the introduction of digital tools and web resources is adjusted to the curriculum processes.

2) In other cases the main thrust of innovation is to introduce integrative toolsets that provide tools for managing training and learning processes and provide access to web resources. In such contexts the use of the tools supports the curriculum implementation.

3) In some cases innovation projects are launched to shape off-the-job learning arrangements to support work process -oriented learning arrangements at workplaces that do not provide opportunities for learning alongside working. In such contexts the main thrust of innovation is to shape a simulated or virtual learning arrangement that makes the real work process accessible for learning.

4) In some cases the starting point of the innovation is the enrichment of ‘ordinary’ vocational learning arrangements by introducing digital tools and web resources to support action-oriented learning. In such cases the innovations can be limited to particular occupational fields or they can be promoted across different domains.

Illustrations of different innovation paths

Below I will present specific projects or innovative approaches that can be considered as exemplary cases for particular innovation paths. All these cases have been described in my overviews on parallel projects or in my recent interview reports (see also my earlier blogs).

  1. The “Kompetenzwerkstatt” path: The Kompetenzwerkstatt project tradition grew from vocational curriculum development projects in which the project team mobilised vocational teachers and trainers to analyse their occupational field and to shape curriculum structures. Later on, the project tradition was enriched with digital tools for managing learning situations, checking prior competences and presenting learning achievements. In the current phase the Kompetenzwerkstatt approach is being implemented in an occupational field that is developing holistic curriculum structures for initial and continuing training (the occupations for sanitary, heating and air-conditioning technologies).
  2. The “Learning Toolbox” path: The Learning Toolbox (LTB) was developed as the main product of the EU-funded innovation project “Learning Layers” and its Construction pilot. After a complex iterative process the partners involved in the Construction pilot developed an integrative toolset to support vocational and work process -oriented learning. From the trainers’ and apprentices’ point of view it was essential that the toolset supported a holistic view on working and learning tasks and a culture of self-organised learning.
  3. The “Brofessio” path: The Brofessio project was launched to support work process -oriented learning processes in such industries in which it is not possible to provide learning opportunities alongside working. In particular this is the case with sealed processes with major time constraints. For such industries the Brofessio project developed the concept of agile learning – based on SCRUM project management techniques, inquiry-based learning strategies and interactive learning culture. Thus, the learning arrangements were organised as a series of learning sprints with key questions and with responsible coaches. In such an approach the use of digital tools and web resources is dependent on the policies of the partner enterprise.
  4. The Smart OER-users’ paths: The fourth type doesn’t refer to a major project but instead to parallel initiatives of responsible teachers and trainers.  The key point is to integrate the use of domain-specific Open Educational Resources into vocational learning arrangements. Due to the pattern variance it is more appropriate to to refer to paths (in plural) rather than to a single path. Also, it is worthwhile to highlight the creativity of the users in finding the appropriate learning resources (rather than celebrating the existing OER communities and their products).

I think this is enough of this topic. I am aware that I have only presented a rather vague outline and I have to do some further work with this theme. Yet, I believe that the above presented set of innovation paths is important for the efforts to develop continuing professional development for vocational teachers and trainers. In particular it is important when we try to get a deeper understanding on the role of digital tools and web resources in vocational learning contexts.

More blogs to come …

 

Finding strategies to promote digital competences of teachers and trainers – Part Two: Adapting the Four-Step Model for vocational education and training

June 5th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous blog entry I started a series of posts with which I try to link my work in our EU-funded TACCLE4-CPD project (with focus on vocational education and training (VET))  to the work of other partners in other educational sectors (general education, adult education). As a starting point I presented  the Four-Step Model of the TACCLE4-CPD project that was developed in the recent project meeting in Bucharest (in which I couldn’t participate). I found this model very helpful for finding and developing strategies to promote digital competences.  However, my critical point was that it focused primarily on schools, adult education providers and (general) educational authorities. In this post I will discuss, how the model can be adapted to the field of VET. Below I will follow the steps and make some comments from the perspective of VET.

The starting point: The education and training contexts in the field of VET

As I have mentioned, the Four-Step Model has been developed to support school managers, adult education providers and educational authories – to promote the digital competences of teachers. When shifting the emphasis to the field of VET, it is essential to take into account education and training partnerships between vocational schools, enterprises and intermediate training centres. In such contexts the schools are contributing to the enhancement of digital competences together with the other partners. Moreover, the introduction of digital tools for learning is part of the enhancement of digital competences in the occupational domain.

Identifying policies: educational, occupational and wider societal perspectives

When discussing with my interviewees in the field of VET I have come to the conclusion that there are multiple policies that have an impact on promoting digital competences in the field of VET. In this context it is worthwhile to mention government policies at the national (federal), regional (federal state), sub-regional and municipal level. In addition there are public innovation policies and sectoral stakeholder -led initiatives as well as local partnership-oriented initiatives. From this perspective it is appropriate to look at the VET-specific policy constellations that are being followed.

Identifying strategic initiatives and shaping action plans

In addition to the above-mentioned diversity, it is worthwhile to consider, what kinds of strategic initiatives are available for enhancing digital competences in the field of VET. From the perspective of curriculum design/development it is possible to specify the following options:

  • Introduction of vocational curricula to new occupational domains or reshaping the existing training with a new (whole curriculum) approach;
  • Enrichment of existing vocational learning arrangements with integrative digital toolsets;
  • Enrichment of particular vocational learning arrangements with domain-specific digital tools and web resources;
  • Incorporation of simulated learning opportunities into workplace contexts that do not provide opportunities for on-the job training.

In the light of the above, the educational actors can have very different starting points and strategic options.

The role of a “Routemap” and a “TACCLE handbook” in the field of VET

Considering the above presented comments, it is appropriate to take a closer look at results of the interviews with teachers and trainers and with the working perspectives that they have outlined. Once this has been completed, it is possible to discuss, how these products can be adapted to the field of VET. In my next blog post I will take a first step towards interpreting the findings from my interviews in terms of ‘innovation paths’.

More blogs to come ...

 

Trainers’ views on introducing digital tools to vocational learning – Part Three: Insights into special areas of learning

May 23rd, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous post I started a series to report on interviews with vocational teachers, trainers and supporting researchers or consultants for the TACCLE4-CPD project. The project seeks to develop  continuing professional development (CPD) of teachers and trainers – with focus on enhancing digital competences. As I have mentioned, my work concentrates on the field of vocational education and training (VET). In my two previous posts I have summarised some of the pedagogic points raised by the trainers and their general views on the use of Learning Toolbox (LTB) as support for apprentice training. With this third post I want to draw attention to the role of LTB as support for two special areas of learning. Here I am reporting directly from an interview with an expert partner in health and safety and in supporting language learning on foreign apprentices. Here it is worthwhile to note that in both areas the use of LTB was started at the end of Learning Layers (LL) project and the trainers of Bau-ABC have been developing their own solutions.

Using Learning Toolbox (LTB) to support training in health and safety

Concerning the area of health and safety, trainers from different trades worked as an informal working group. This effort supported the creation of a coherent LTB stack and helped the trainers to prepare their domain-specific instructions in a coherent way. Now, that the trainers and apprentices in all trades are using LTB, it makes the health and safety material present in a new way – it is no longer info sheets in a folder. The LTB can be accessed by trainers and by apprentices at any time. This has helped to make the training in health and safety more creative and situation-adjusted – as lived practice.

Using Learning Toolbox (LTB) to support foreign apprentices’ language learning

The LTB-stack to support Spanish apprentices in learning occupational vocabulary has been created together with trainers and an external language teacher. It has been enriched with quiz tasks that have made the learning more exciting. Also, this stack has included health and safety terminology. The stack has been helpful in preparing the apprentices for their tests and it will be developed and updated regularly. The usability has been greatly enhanced by the fact that Spanish is provided by LTB as an optional language.

I think this is enough of these examples. Altogether these interviews have given me a good feeling that the main result of our joint LL project – the Learning Toolbox – has been used actively. Moreover, it has become clear that the LTB has not been whatever digital tool among others. Instead, in the context of vocational learning it has proven to be a strategic toolset to promote digital competences and to enhance vocational learning. But we need to work further with these themes.

More blogs to come …

Trainers’ views on introducing digital tools to vocational learning – Part Two: General views on the use of Learning Toolbox

May 23rd, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous post I started a series to report on interviews with vocational teachers, trainers and supporting researchers or consultants for the TACCLE4-CPD project. The project seeks to develop  continuing professional development (CPD) of teachers and trainers – with focus on enhancing digital competences. As I have mentioned, my work concentrates on the field of vocational education and training (VET).  I  still have some interviews on my list. Yet, it has been helpful to write down some points raised by full-time trainers of the training centre Bau-ABC. In this second post I will draw attention to the use of the digital toolset that we have co-developed in the Learning Layers project. I will start with the transition from the common project work to using the main product after the project.

Getting clarity on terms of service and permissions to use the toolset

The Learning Layers (LL) project had been a wide trans-national research and development (R&D) project in which many research partners, technical partners and application partners had been involved. During the long funding period they had co-designed, co-developed and pilot tested digital tools to support learning in the context of work. The digital toolset Learning Toolbox (LTB) was the main product that was developed in the Construction pilot of the LL project. After the project the LTB-developer team launched a start-up company (StackServices) to develop the LTB further and to support user organisations. This provided the basis for further use of the toolset after the project.

After the funding period the service provider has developed a differentiated set of contracts and permissions to regulate the use of the LTB software, the use of the LTB platform and the use of the services of the LTB-developers.

Shaping common structures for trade-specific LTB-stacks and overarching themes

In the LL project the LTB was shaped as a digital toolset that provides stacks (consisting of different kinds of tiles) for the users. During project the trainers who participated in the pilot testing developed their own stacks for their own apprentices and based on their own pedagogic priorities. After the project the trainers have developed a common structure for trade-specific stacks and for overarching themes. Also, they have coordinated the filing of digital worksheets and of photos. Thus, they have common patterns to work with the LTB.

Using LTB to enhance vocational (work process -oriented) learning

In the LL project the use of LTB was adjusted to the apprentices’ learning projects (that were shaped from the perspective of holistic look at planning, task preparation, task implementation and assessment). The learners were guided to self-organised (individual or team-based) learning. Whilst the LTB was at that time used mainly as trainers’ tool to provide guidance and instructions, it is now increasingly used as apprentices’ tool to report on their projects. Moreover, the use of specific Apps like GoConqr quiz apps has considerably enriched the learning process.

In particular LTB has served well as a central channel to essential web resources, such as the norms or regulations (as summaries) that need to be taken into account in construction work and to users’ guides for machinery and vehicles (also as summaries).

Using LTB from the perspective of apprentices

In all the interviews I got the picture that the apprentices have received well the use of LTB – once they have got the login sorted out and created their own account. The WLAN functions better and there are tablet PCs available at the training workshops. Via LTB the apprentices get advance information on the forthcoming training projects with which they will work during the next presence period in the training centre. When they are working with the projects the LTB serves as a documentary toolset for recording the interim results and final results. Moreover, the apprentices can check whether they are working correctly and eventually ask for advice (with reference to their photos etc.). And if something is not quite right, they can take the necessary measures and update their documentation. However, the final reporting with the apprentices’ portfolio reports has not yet been digitized – that is depending of training regulations (not  a matter for local decisions).

I guess this is enough of the general picture on using Learning Toolbox as support for training. In my next blog I will discuss the relevance of Learning Toolbox for two overarching learning areas – training and learning in ‘health and safety’ and support for learning German as foreign language (with focus on domain-specific vocabulary in construction sector).

More blogs to come …

 

 

Field visit in the region with a group from Namibia – Part Two: Getting ideas for future-oriented training

April 12th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I reported of a field visit to regional training provider organisations with a prominent delegation from Namibia. I joined the group partly because I needed to arrange meetings with vocational teachers and trainers from both organisations. With the help of these meetings I wanted to revisit the materials from the training activities of the EU-funded Learning Layers project (2012-2016). My aim is to develop with a future-oriented training concept for promoting digital competences of teachers and trainers in vocational education and training (VET).  With the trainers in the training centre Bau-ABC I can refer to our shared experience in implementing training schemes during the Learning Layers project and to the introduction of the digital toolset Learning Toolbox (LTB). With teachers of BBS Wildeshausen I was interested of other pedagogic solutions and of the use of Open Educational Resources (OER). These all should be taken on board when preparing the support materials for developing continuing professional development (CPD) to promote digital competences of teachers and trainers in the field of VET.

When listening to the contributions of the teachers and trainers during the field visit I got more and more convinced that such materials should not be shaped as overarching ‘encyclopedia’ of digital tools, web resources and mobile apps. Also, I understood that the materials should not be written in the style of cookbooks with ready-made recipes. Instead, they should be well-selected and contextualised exemplary stories that inspire the readers to find their own solutions.  And these solutions should give a picture, how to use appropriate toolsets and web resources for the respective vocational learning environment. Also, these materials should open the perspective to using digital tools and web resources from the initial steps to first strategic choices and to wider use of tools, resources and complex teaching-learning arrangements.

From this perspective I started to outline an updated and extended training model based on the “Theme Room” metaphor that we used in the Learning Layers project. The ‘theme room’ can refer to a physical space or to a virtual space that has been made available for a selected theme and for a flexible time frame. Once the participants have completed the learning tasks and checked themselves out, the theme rooms can be furnished with other themes. That was the original idea.

Below, inspired by the impulses from the field visits I would like to outline a rough draft for an updated “Theme Room” structure:

Theme Room 1 – Entrance lobby: Getting used to work with some basic digital tools and apps – with the aim to make use of them in one’s own teaching or training activities.

Theme Room 2 – Starting points for working with integrative digital toolsets: Brief introductions to integrative toolsets that are appropriate in vocational learning contexts – such as the Learning Toolbox or the Kompetenzwerkstatt toolsets.

Theme Room 3 – Using enriching web apps and platforms: Working with apps, tools and platforms that help to make learning tasks more inspiring and challenging – such as the toolsets provided by Go Conqr and H5P platforms.

Theme Room 4 – Working with complex teaching-learning arrangements: Insights into learners’ projects that involve construction of new tools/devices or manufacturing of new products that can be used in learning contexts.

Theme room 5 – Using the digital toolset “Learning Toolbox” to support vocational learning processes: Insights into the use of Learning Toolboox as an instrument for delivering training and for promoting self-organised learning.

Theme room 6 – Using the digital toolset “Kompetenzwerkstatt” to support vocational education and training processes: Insights into different Kompetenzwerkstatt tools that raise learners’ awareness of their progress in vocational learning.

Theme room 7 – Using Open Educational Resources (OER) to support vocational learning processes: Insights into the work of OER-communities (and support agencies) and into their services.


Theme Room n – Workshops on the options for digital transformation in one’s own domain: Whilst enhancing one’s own digital competences in the context of vocational learning tasks or project, it is necessary to keep an eye on the big picture of transformations in entire production and services processes & networks.

I guess this is enough for a rough structure. As I said, this should not be seen as a basis for a ‘cookbook’ or for a ‘product catalogue’ but as an introduction to explorative learning in order to find one’s own solutions and in order keep oneself on track with new developments. This is the challenge – there is work to be done in the meetings with teachers and trainers.

More blogs to come …

Catching up with the TACCLE4-CPD project – Part Three: Drawing conclusions for future-oriented training

March 31st, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous posts I have started a series of blogs that present my contributions to our ongoing TACCLE4-CPD project. In this project we are looking at concepts and models for  continuing professional development (CPD) of teachers and trainers with emphasis on promoting their digital competences. In my first post I reported on the document that I had  produced for our policy analyses (with emphasis on the field of vocational education and training (VET)). In the second post I presented my starting points for revisiting our predecessor projects – the three earlier TACCLE projects with focus on classroom teachers and the Learning Layers project with focus on vocational and workplace-based learning.

In this post I want to present a summary of my results – conclusions for future-oriented training (with emphasis on the field of VET):

“Looking back at the project histories (of the predecessor projects) it becomes clear that the project teams have been able to ‘hatch out’ of the original scripts and face challenges that were not anticipated in the proposed work plans. Therefore, it is appropriate to consider the past training concepts as impulses for a future-oriented training approach – instead of taking them as ready-made models to be replicated. In particular this is important when discussing the value of the legacy of prior TACCLE projects and the Learning Layers project for future work in the field of VET.

From this perspective it is worthwhile to pay attention to the following differences between the training concepts in the early TACCLE projects and the Learning Layers project (and its Construction pilot):

  • For the TACCLE projects the key instruments for promoting the teachers’ digital competences have been the TACCLE handbooks. The TACCLE courses have been closely linked to the preparation of the handbooks and to use of their contents.
  • For the Learning Layers project (and its Construction pilot) the key instrument for promoting trainers’ and apprentices’ digital competences has been the digital toolset Learning Toolbox. The training campaigns that were implemented in earlier phases of work have served as preparatory phases. However, when looking at future-oriented training for trainers, the role of such toolsets as support for vocational and work process -oriented learning needs to be taken into account.

In addition to the above-mentioned points it is necessary to consider the twofold meaning of ‘digital competences’ in the context of VET. As has been emphasised in recent studies (see Sloane et al. 2019 and Gessler & Ahrens 2019), this concept refers to mastery of ‘digitisation’ at the operative level and to mastery of ‘digital transformation’ at the level of work processes at organisational level (and across production, supply and service networks).

From this perspective it is appropriate to revisit the ‘theme room’ approach from the perspective of bringing together different training impulses and addressing different training needs with the help of different instruments to promote training and learning.

Here, it is possible to build upon the success factors of the TACCLE and Learning Layers projects. Yet, it is necessary to take into consideration critical issues and challenges that emerge in the current work with digital tools in education and training. In this respect it is possible to outline the ‘cornerstones’ of a future-oriented training model on the basis of the training concepts of TACCLE and Learning Layers projects (in particular with reference to the ‘Theme Room’ and the peer tutoring in the introduction of the Learning Toolbox). However, this legacy needs to be enriched with new experiences in the field.”

So, I have taken the course to update the “Theme Room” model and to enrich it with newer experiences from the field of VET – in particular regarding the the use of digital toolsets like the Learning Toolbox and taking into account different meanings of ‘digital competences’. There is work to be done.

More blogs to come …

PS: If someone wants to read the full document, I can send it via e-mail or share a link to Google Drive folder. PK

Catching up with the TACCLE4-CPD project – Part One: New version of policy analyses

March 31st, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

During the last few weeks – after getting my computer problems sorted out – I have tried to catch up with my duties for our ongoing EU-funded TACCLE4-CPD project. As I have told in my blogs last year, this project is looking at concepts and models for promoting continuing professional development (CPD) of teachers and trainers with emphasis on digital competences. The project builds upon a series of TACCLE projects that worked with classroom teachers. Now, the challenge is to develop CPD models for wider use – including also adult education (AE) and vocational education and training (VET). In particular the extension of the scope to the field of VET provides a challenge since this brings into picture different governance models, different training providers and different learning venues.

In the light of the above I have written a document with the heading “Policy analyses as background for continuing professional development of teachers and trainers in the field of vocational education and training (VET)”.  Here I share a summary of my interim conclusions:

“This document was started with an overview of educational governance and steering models in the field of vocational education and training (VET). After a rough overview a closer look was taken on the specific features of federal governance and dual system of organizing VET in Germany. As we have seen, the picture of policies promoting digital competences has remained somewhat patchwork-like.

The third section has given a closer picture of local educational and VET contexts as well as of recent R&D projects. These descriptions have given an understanding on the state of the art and of pioneering initiatives. Also these descriptions have given a picture of a patchy landscape of local developments. From this perspective it is worthwhile to ask, what kind of role integrative frameworks can play and how they can be shaped.

The European “DigCompEdu” framework was presented in the fourt section. It differs clearly from European Qualification Framework (EQF) or European Frameworks for Credit Transfer (ECTS and ECVET) or from  European Quality Assurance mechanisms. This framework is not paving the way to intergovernmental agreements with signatory states. Instead, it provides practical assistance for linking digital tools and enhancement of digital competences to different learning contexts.

However, from the perspective of the VET sector, the DigCompEdu framework remains very generic. Yet, in this sector, there are very specific challenges for promoting digital competences. Therefore, the framework study of the project Berufsbildung 4.0 starts with a useful differentiation between ‘digitisation’ (at operative level) and ‘digital transformation’ (at the level of whole organisations and networked production/service processes). Taking into account both levels the project is looking for development perspectives for future-oriented VET provisions. From these starting points the project has worked with several theses and feedback workshops and synthesised the results in transversal themes and analyses that focus on different levels or educational steering and change management.

Altogether, the above-presented sections provide very heterogeneous impulses for anyone, who wants to grasp the essence of policy processes and their impact on policy implementation in the field of VET. Yet, the impulses, insights into field and explorations on framework documents or framework studies need to be considered when taking further steps in shaping continuing professional development of teachers and trainers. For this purpose the next working document is looking more closely at developments in the previous TACCLE projects and in the parallel project Learning Layers. Both projects have a history in developing training for teachers and trainers. Now it is time to put these developments into a wider European picture.”

These were my interim conclusions from the ‘policy analyses’ with which I tried to provide a background understanding for discussing the theme ‘promoting digital competences’ in the field of VET. This takes me further to the next document with which I have been working recently – but that is already a topic of its own.

More blogs to come …

PS: If someone wants to read the full document, I can send it via e-mail or share a link to Google Drive folder. PK

And the award goes to … Kubify – LTB for ePosters (@LTBePosters)

November 29th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

Some time ago we were pleased to announce the our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project had received the European VET Research Excellence 2018 Award in the context of the European Vocational Skills Week 2018 in Vienna. Now we have another reason to celebrate. Our former partners from the LL project who have continued the development of the Learning Toolbox (LTB) with their start-up companies have been successful. The start-up company Kubify that develops LTB for ePosters has won the Tech Watch Award 2018 at the international event of conference organisers.

For us, the LL partners, who have been intensively involved in the co-design, co-development and introduction of LTB in the North-German construction sector, this is great news. Also, we are happy that we have piloted successfully with the ePosters at the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) and in its VETNET section in Bolzano last September. However. looking at the photos from the #IBTMWorld event organisers’ event – see below –  we can observe that our LTB-developers have taken many steps forward. This award is richly deserved!

From the introduction for new users to the creation of users’ own ePosters

Introduction to ePostersePosters for different conferences

Working with ePosters: From the Mini-Poster Wall to user engagement at the ePoster Arena

Mini-Poster WallePoster Arena

The Award Winners and The Award

Kubify Team receiving the AwardThe IBTMworld Award

Congratulations to the award winners and keep on doing the good work! We are very interested in continuing the good cooperation with you – with the LTB and with the ePosters.

More blogs to come …

 

Thinking about change

August 9th, 2018 by Graham Attwell


I like this video by Kate Raworth about Three Horizons Framework, created by Bill Sharpe, and presented as a useful tool for sharing with groups thinking about transformative change. I am not sure if I agree with their different categorisations but it does not really matter – the point is that the tool is only trying to get people thinking. And it overcomes the myth that the way we introduce technology – or any other change for that matter – is inevitable. We have choices to make about how society utilises technology. Those choices do not have to be soley in teh hands of the big corporations.

Finally the video is very well scripted and narrated. I particularly like the ideas for how the Framework could be used in a teaching and learning context

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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    See here for more information


    Zero Hours Contracts

    Figures from the UK Higher Education Statistics Agency show that in total almost 11,500 people – both academics and support staff – working in universities on a standard basis were on a zero-hours contract in 2017-18, out of a total staff head count of about 430,000, reports the Times Higher Education.  Zero-hours contract means the employer is not obliged to provide any minimum working hours

    Separate figures that only look at the number of people who are employed on “atypical” academic contracts (such as people working on projects) show that 23 per cent of them, or just over 16,000, had a zero-hours contract.


    Resistance decreases over time

    Interesting research on student centered learning and student buy in, as picked up by an article in Inside Higher Ed. A new study published in PLOS ONE, called “Knowing Is Half the Battle: Assessments of Both Student Perception and Performance Are Necessary to Successfully Evaluate Curricular Transformation finds that student resistance to curriculum innovation decreases over time as it becomes the institutional norm, and that students increasingly link active learning to their learning gains over time


    Postgrad pressure

    Research published this year by Vitae and the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) and reported by the Guardian highlights the pressure on post graduate students.

    “They might suffer anxiety about whether they deserve their place at university,” says Sally Wilson, who led IES’s contribution to the research. “Postgraduates can feel as though they are in a vacuum. They don’t know how to structure their time. Many felt they didn’t get support from their supervisor.”

    Taught students tend to fare better than researchers – they enjoy more structure and contact, says Sian Duffin, student support manager at Arden University. But she believes anxiety is on the rise. “The pressure to gain distinction grades is immense,” she says. “Fear of failure can lead to perfectionism, anxiety and depression.”


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