Archive for the ‘Innovation’ Category

My journey with Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB) – Part Six: The expedition with the Learning Layers (2012-2016)

December 11th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous posts I started to write a serious of blogs with the heading “My journey with Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB)”. These blogs are intended to support the work (or follow-up) of the ITB “Klausurtagung” that will take place on Friday 9. December 2016.  The inspiration to write personal blogs that deal with the history of ITB comes from the Klausurtagung 2015. With this series I try to compensate my absence due to health issues and to pass a message, wah has happened at different times and with different themes. In the first post I tried to cover my first encounters –  my study visit in 1989 and participation in the Hochschultage Berufliche Bildung 1990 conference. In the second post I gave insights into the Modellversuch Schwarze Pumpe and to related European cooperation projects 1995 – 1999. In the third post I discussed the Europrof project, the Unesco International TVET meeting in Hangzhou 2004 and its follow-up. In the fourth post I discussed the  TTplus project and the European Consultation seminars in the years 2007 – 2010. In the fifth blog I discussed the  Work & Learning Partners (2005-2006) and the Euronet-PBL (2009-2010). In this sixth and final post I will discuss the expedition with the Learning Layers project (2012 – 2016).

Here, it is worthwhile to emphasise that this ‘journey’ has taken me and my ITB colleagues through different periods of European cooperation. Not all of our efforts have been that successful. Yet, we have achieved respectable results and we have learned a lot. It is also important to emphasise that there is a strong continuity with underlying theoretical concepts and guiding principles for R&D activities (participation, dialogue and social shaping – all in one word: Gestaltung). With this interim conclusion I try to give a nutshell picture of the latest leg of the journey – our expedition with the EU-funded Learning Layers project (on which I have been blogging the last four years).

The starting points of the Learning Layers project

Thae Learning Layers (LL) project was funded by the 7th Framework Programme of Research, Technology and Development of the European Uninon (EU FP7). The aim was to support informal learning in the context of work and organisations by using digital tools, web resources and mobile devices. Special emphasis was given on addressing SMEs (and their networks) as users and to scale up innovations during the project. As a contrast to the previous projects discussed in this series of blogs, our (= ITB) starting position was completely different:

  • Firstly, the previous projects had mainly been initiated and/or led by ITB and carried out with a partnership that we new of the vocational education and training (VET) research community.  In the Learning Layers project we joined in a consortium that was led by research institutions from the fields of educational technology, software solutions, knowledge management and infrastructure architectures. Pontydysgu had made the contact between us and the emerging project consortium.
  • Secondly, the project plan had initially envisaged only one field for piloting (the healthcare sector in England, represented by General Practice stations affiliated with the National Health Service, supported in the project by Leeds University). In the final phase of the preparations the construction sector from Germany (supported by ITB) was included into the project plan as the second field for piloting.
  • Thirdly. the project concept was relying on a good synchronisation of different contributions from the technical partners in a co-design process, so that the users could easily take up the tools (with the support of an integrated scaffolding model). In this concept there was no clear pre-defined role for us (other than coodination fo the sectoral activities with the application partners in the German construction sector.

The above mentioned plan and project concept were reflected in the set of work packages in which we found our role primarily in the WP7 (deployment and promotion of LL tools in the pilot sectors). However, during the project the ‘cards were mixed and redistributed’ in the processes of co-design, tool development and bringing them to users.

The starting points of the construction pilot

Looking back, the starting point for the construction pilot was somewhat similar as the earlier educational pilot projects (Modellversuche) and the innovation programme on Work and Technology (Arbeit und Technik). Obviously, we could consider that our role was similar to the accompanying research (Begleitforschung). Yet, we had to start with a relatively open research agenda visà-vis the predecessor projects. And, compared to our colleagues in the healthcare sector (Leeds University) we both had an intermediate position between the technical partners and the application partners. Ye, in the course of the project, the pilot activities and our roles developed into somewhat different directions. I will try to summarise the points below:

  • As a contrast to the Modellversuche or the AuT programme, the accompanying research team of ITB could not take a pedagogic pilot concept and related working hypotheses (Versuchshypothesen) or explicit programme goals (AuT-Gestaltungsziele) as points of reference.
  • Concerning the project concept, the accompanying research team had to take an intermediate and interpretative role regarding the achievement of project goals in the context of apprentice training and within organisational learning in construction sector.
  • Concerning the co-design processes, the healthcare pilot worked with three parallel design ideas (and emerging tools) towards a integrative approaches. This process was supported by separate tool development teams of technical partners. In the construction pilot the overarching design idea went through two iterations before the co-design work took the course towards an integrative toolset – the Learning Toolbox. This development process was prepared jointly by the application partners, research partners and intermediate partners, whilst the technical partners joined in later.

In this respect the accompanying research team in the construction pilot had to reconsider its tasks and contributions and to take new roles in the course of the project work.

The R&D dialogue in Bau-ABC – the iterative process

In the co-design process in Bau-ABC (intermediate training centre of of North-German construction industry) was to digitise the Bau-ABC White Folder (collection of training materials, worksheets and reporting documents) and the related training and learning processes. In the initial phase the ITB team engaged heavily Bau-ABC trainers and apprentices by work process analyses and storyboard workshops to identify potential points of intervention (for using digital tools). In the subsequent co-design workshops a lot of attention was paid on haping the tools in such a way that they support vocational learning – and reflective learning. However, in two iteration cycles the joint conclusions was reached to give up the over-ambitious digitisation agenda. Instead, the course was taken to develop a flexible and integrative toolset – the Learning Toolbox – to provide access to web resources, to create own resources and to share knowledge and communicate in real time.

Immediately after this shift into new phase the ITB team together with the LTB developers and colleagues from Bau-ABC started outreach activities that engaged more construction sector professionals and apprentices in discussions on the emerging toolset – on the elementary functions and what could be added upon. These talks were carried out in the Brunnenbauertage trade fair (in Bau-ABC), in the Demo Camp workshop event (also in Bau-ABC) and in the NordBau trade fair (in Neumünster). Also, a closer cooperation with the first interested construction companies was started at this phase.

The training schemes as capacity building and contribution to tool development

Already before the abve mentioned shift in the co-design process the partners in the construction pilot had agreed to start a multimedia training scheme for the trainers in Bau-ABC. The first scheme was developed step by step to equip the participants with basic multimedia competences and capability to assess possibilities for using existing apps or tools and for co-creating and co-developing new ones. In this context the Bau-ABC trainers started working with their domain-specific blogs (Zimmererblog, Maurerblog, Tiefbaublog, Brunnenbauerblog) and to develop them into repositories of their own training materials and supporting content. After the first multimedia training the Bau-ABC trainers (who had participated) produced series of videos pointing to specific contexts for using the toolset to optimise work processes and to support workplace-based learning.

In the next phase a more overarching training programme, based on the “Theme Room” concept (initiated by Bau-ABC trainers) was implemented as a ‘whole organisation’ campaign involving all  training staff of Bau-ABC. The training scheme consisted of four Friday afternoon workshops in November 2015 with focus on two main themes – ‘Use of Social Media’ and ‘Production/Use of Digital Learning Materials’ – with two workshops for each theme. The training staff in Bau-ABC (Rostrup) was divided into four parallel groups (and a fifth group in the branch centre Mellendorf). Each group was tutored by one Bau-ABC trainer and a researcher from ITB team. Altogether this campaign gave a strong push for using digital tools, and web resources in the apprentice training. Moreover, it paved the way for improvements in the infrastructure to enable the piloting with the Learning Toolbox – within the apprentice training of Bau-ABC.

The breakthrough with Learning Toolbox and the completion of the project work

In February-March the Learning Layers project project started the active use of Learning Toolbox in the apprentice training for selected pioneering trades. After the Kick-off event in March the trainers started to spread the piloting via peer tutoring and via joint projects involving several trades. This process was supported by accompanying researchers from ITB, the Learning Toolbox developers and visiting researches from Innsbruck, Espoo and Tallinn. With the jointly implemented evaluation studies in May, August and September we could conclude that the trainers in different trades had found somewhat different ways to use Learning Toolbox – and that the apprentices in their respective trades responded positively to their approaches.

Parallel to the these final activities the Learning Layers partners have prepared their contributions to the final deliverable – a comperehensive reporting website, currently called as ‘the Layers Web’. The main contributions of the construction pilot include the following:

  • Impact Cards: C-01 on specific pilot with AchSo video annotation tool in Bau-ABC; C-05 on pilot activities in Verden; C-11 on the use of Learning Toolbox in Bau-ABC, C-12 on Training schemes in Bau-ABC.
  • Learning Scenarios: S-02 on use of Learning Toolbox at a construction site (Verden); S-09 on Learning Toolbox as support for Handlungsorientiertes Lernen in Bau-ABC; S-10 on changing and sustaining practices in the pilot sectors.
  • Methodology documents: M-10 on accompanying research and participative design; M-11 on Training interventions as capacity-building.

These final documents and many other working documents have been made available as draft versions on the following ResearchGate project spaces:

The follow-up prospects

The signals from pilots in Bau-ABC have been positive and they have been picked up. Following the example, the application partner organisations in Verden have made their steps in using Learning Toolbox in construction work and in promoting the tool to other actors in construction sector. Based on these pioneering cases, the ITB team has recently organised bilateral talks with interested companies. Some spin-off projects have already been started with other construction sector partners before the Learning Toolbox was fully available (to be integrated to their working concepts). At the moment the ITB team is involved in talks to prepare proposals with new knowledge on the usability of Learning Toolbox in the projects.

I think this is enough of the Learning Layers project – of our experiences, achievements and follow-up prospects. To me it is important to not that this has been an exceptional project with richly documented activities and sustainable results to take further by follow-up activities. And for this reason it is important to continue the ‘harvesting’ of results while preparing further follow-up initiatives. It has been and it it is worthwhile.

More blogs to come …

Once more Learning Layers – Part Four: Drawing conclusions across the pilots in construction and healthcare

December 3rd, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

With this series of posts I am completing one of the final tasks in our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project – analysing the work in the two sectoral pilots – construction and healthcare – from a comparative perspective. At the end of the work we need to consider, what we have learned from parallel pilots and what conclusions we can draw on the basis of comparative analyses. In this respect I am have presented extracts from a joint draft document on which I am working with my colleagues Tamsin Treasure-Jones and Graham Attwell. With these posts I try to ‘blog into maturity’ the preliminary thoughts we have put into discussion. In the previous posts I presented some starting points and insights into the processes as well as reflections on the parallel pilots. In the final post I outline conclusions across the pilots. (Here, as in all posts, the input on healthcare pilot is provided by Tamsin Treasure-Jones.)

Whilst it has been relatively easy for us to present the stories of the two pilots (even in a comparative setting), it is difficult to draw conclusions across the pilots – and to keep the complex picture of the contexts in one’s mind. Therefore, we are very cautious about presenting cross-cutting conclusions. Below, after several iterations I present our joint conclusions:

Concluding reflections – across the sectoral pilots

Altogether, it is difficult to formulate conclusions that could link together either success factors of the two different sectoral pilots. The circumstances were very different and the processes as well. However, some of the challenging experiences can be formulated as ‘paradoxes of co-design work’:

  1. Co-design processes that start with a focus on very specific needs of particular user groups are not always able to pursue their work consequently to an end. Iterations and eventual revisions are natural elements of such processes. Radical shifts of emphasis during the process may lead to more flexible or better solutions but equally they can also cause a loss of momentum.
  2. Processes that have created a ‘milieu’ of participative events and exchanges between the developers and users may be influential as facilitators of multimedia learning and upgrading of user-skills. Yet, positive experiences in the preparatory work do not necessarily guarantee successful deployment of tools in actual practice. Here it is necessary to look at the context in which the introduction of the tools takes place. There are limits to what a project can achieve when working in a complex and changing environment.

Concerning the changing of practices, takeup of the tools and transferring ownership of innovation, the experiences of both sectoral pilots emphasise the importance of critical transitions, such as:

  • Radical changes in the initial design idea should be supported in responsive co-design work. Yet such changes need to be made with care, since they can introduce problems (loss of motivation, dropping good ideas too early, losing the link to the original well-understood context) as well as leading to improvements.
  • Moving from the work with the initial group (involved in the co-design) to work with a similar group that had not been engaged in the co-design work. In such situations the new users may be less motivated to work with tools that are under preparation; they have not developed the same personal investment and feelings of ownership as the co-design group
  • Transferring the innovation from the initial pilot context to new ones with different user groups. If the tools can be easily customised for new contexts, engagement of users may be easier with new groups of users who first encounter the tools when mature.

In this respect, sustainable deployment of tools like the ones of the Learning Layers project require the readiness of both individuals, organisations and networks to complete the transition to use them. The introduction of the tools that were piloted has not been merely a replacement of older tools with newer ones. The pilots with collaborative tools have required changes in routines, knowledge processes and patterns of sharing information. If only some of the users are ready to complete the transition to new tools, then there is a risk that the tools are not used at all. If the tools can be used individually, for limited user groups and for collaborative processes (as the Learning Toolbox), then the transition can proceed from smaller pilot groups to wider use more easily.

I guess we managed to complete our  work in a good way. I think we got the mainlessons pulled together.

More blogs to come …

 

Once more Learning Layers – Part Three: Reflections on parallel pilots in construction and healthcare

December 3rd, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In this series of posts I am working with one of the final tasks in our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project – analysing the work in the two sectoral pilots – construction and healthcare – from a comparative perspective. At the end of the work it is necessary to consider, what we have learned from parallel pilots and what conclusions we can draw on the basis of comparative analyses. In this respect I am presenting extracts from a joint draft document on which I am working with my colleagues Tamsin Treasure-Jones and Graham Attwell. With these posts I try to ‘blog into maturity’ the preliminary thoughts we have put into discussion. In the previous posts I presented some starting points and insights into the processes. In this post I present our reflections on the parallel pilots – to be continued in the final post with conclusions across the pilots. (Here, as in all posts, the input on healthcare pilot is provided by Tamsin Treasure-Jones.)

Reflections on different factors influencing project work in the pilot sectors

In the light of the above presented process characteristics and findings it is appropriate to reflect the lessons from the two pilot sectors with their respectively different processes of project work. Below we summarise the lessons of the two sectoral pilots concerning

  • factors that facilitated successful project work and take-up of innovation,
  • factors that caused hindrances and required efforts to overcome them,
  • factors that enabled transfer from initial pilot contexts and supported wider engagement of users.

Lessons from the construction pilot

  1. In the primary pilot context – training centre Bau-ABC – it was possible create a multi-channelled research & development dialogue, in which different activities supported each other. Work process analyses, analyses of critical bottlenecks in training, pedagogic reflections on the use of tools – all this contributed to the shaping of the Learning Toolbox. Furthermore, in the trades that have been involved in the pilots, the apprentices have taken the Learning Toolbox as an adequate support for their own learning processes.
  1. During the pilot activities the following hindrances and restrictive factors were experienced and partly overcome: a) The initial design idea (comprehensive digitisation of training materials) was too specific to the primary pilot organisation and too complex in technical terms. This was overcome with the concept of Learning Toolbox and with its open and flexible framework. b) At a later phase the gaps of multimedia competences in the pilot organisation were seen as a risk for successful tool deployment across the organisation. This was partly resolved by introducing the Theme Room training scheme as a ‘whole organisation’ engagement.
  1. The transfer of innovation from the initial pilot context (training centre) to further pilot contexts – to construction companies and to other organisations in construction sector has been enhanced by the following factors: a) A specific impact case was presented by a construction site manager who demonstrated the usability of Learning Toolbox as means to share information in real time (and for reporting from the construction site). cb In promotion events both the training-related examples and the case of construction site management have enabled the company representatives to express their own interests on using Learning Toolbox.

Lessons from the healthcare pilot

  1. Factors that appear to have supported adoption of the tools and transformation of practice include working with organisations whose key remit/focus is training/education. This occurred with our work with both PCTC and AMEE. Both organisations had the interest and knowledge to see how they could use the tools within their practice and to use their own resources to support this. Another approach that has led to change in healthcare has been the involvement of a commercial/development company (PinBell) who already have a related product (Intradoc247) in the market.
  2. Factors that appear to have hindered adoption of the tools and transformation of practice include the workload pressures within the healthcare SMEs. Learning Layers was working within the UK healthcare sector at a time of constant change and national reorganisation. Staff feeling under pressure have little time to devote to R&D projects which do not have a clear service delivery output. The co-design activity did lead to some healthcare professionals feeling ownership of the tools.  However, this engagement and adoption did not appear to transfer fully when the tools were taken beyond the co-design teams and into their networks for the pilots.
  3. Factors that have facilitated transfer beyond the initial contexts in healthcare include the use of the tools by healthcare professionals in real work settings and their own presentation and championing of the tools to others. Based on their understanding of the tools (developed through their engagement in the co-design work), healthcare professionals were able to present the tools to their healthcare networks and engage those networks in the pilots. However, this approach only succeeded in getting the wider networks involved in the pilots, it did not yet lead to the wider networks adopting the tools or making long-term changes in practice.  

I think this is enough of our reflections on the two parallel pilots. We already start to see different constellations of facilitating and challenging factors coming up. In the next post I conclude this series with our reflections across the pilots.

More blogs to come …

Learning Layers goes ResearchGate – Construction Pilot and Theory Camp follow-up

November 16th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

Quite some time my blogs have focused on producing contributions to the final deliverable of our (still) ongoing EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. Now these contributions are taking shape and are being edited as part of a group picture of the results of the whole project. This gives me rise to work with the question: How can we make sure that we take full benefit of the legacy of our project? One part of the answer is to edit a good final deliverable (that will happen). Another part is to make sure that the working documents and reflection documents produced at different stages of the project are not getting lost but are being ‘harvested’ as well. With both aspects in my mind I have recently worked to build up the Learning Layers presence on ResearchGate. I have created two project spaces – one for “Learning Layers Construction Pilot” and the other for “Learning Layers Theory Camp follow-up”.

RG project space for “Learning Layers Construction Pilot” – what for?

The decision to set up a project space for Learning Layers – and in particular for the Construction Pilot – grew out of the need to create commentary spaces that point to the Learning Layers materials that I am uploading to ResearchGate anyway. Firstly I used that space as means to provide some samples of information – news updates on series of blogs and lists of articles – as ‘starters’ to get familiarised with our project. Now that our final contributions are taking shape, this project space provides an opportunity for ‘sneak preview’. Moreover, since some of the draft documents will be edited shorter, I have uploaded the original draft versions (ODV) in full length.

As of today we find the following final documents of the Construction Pilot as ODVs on ResearchGate:

  • Use of Learning Toolbox (LTB) by Bau-ABC Trainers and Apprentices (Impact Card C-11, Construction pilot, Germany)
  • Multimedia Training for and with Bau-ABC trainers (Impact Card C-12, Construction pilot, Germany)
  • Learning Toolbox (LTB) as Support for Action-Oriented Learning in the Apprentice Training of Bau-ABC – Instances of Change (Learning Scenario S-09, Construction Pilot, Germany)
  • Learning Toolbox as Support for Organisational Learning and Cooperation at a Construction Site in Verden – Instances of change (Learning Scenario S-02, Construction Pilot, Germany) Motivation and Theoretical Contribution
  • Accompanying Research and Participative Design in the Pilot activities in the Training Centre Bau-ABC (Methodology Document M-10, Construction Pilot, Germany)
  • Training interventions as capacity-building for digital transformation in the Training Centre Bau-ABC (Methodology Document M-11, Construction pilot, Germany)

As the project is coming to an end, this space will also provide insights into follow-up activities.

RG project space for “Learning Layers Theory Camp follow-up” – what for?

The second project space was created quite recently to ‘harvest’ the contributions to the Learning Layers Theory Camp (March 2014) that were prepared by the ITB team. Whilst there was some kind of follow-up at the consortium level with some meta-themes, the contributions provided by us were not discussed widely. Yet, we had put some effort to cover some theoretical, methodological and research-strategic issues. Now, in the final analyses and in the the transition to follow-up activities, it is useful to revisit some of these themes and our theoretical contributions from the earlier phase of the project. Currently we have following main documents allocated to this project space:

  • WP1/ Work Process Knowledge: Introduction to the reviewing of the legacy of the EU-funded Work Process Knowledge network (FP4 – TSER)
  • WP2/ Work Process Knowledge: Revisiting the Theme ‘Work Process Knowledge’ and its implications for vocational education and training – The position the WPK network
  • Commentary 1 on theoretical foundations of the Work Process Knowledge network (based on the synthesis article of M. Fischer and N. Boreham 2004) – 2014
  • Commentary 2 on empirical studies of Work Process Knowledge network – based on the interim synthesis article of M. Fischer and N. Boreham
  • WP Accompanying Research: Reviewing the role of Accompanying Research, Interactive Research and Action research as support for participative design processes
  • Commentary note 1: Activity Theory – Foundations, conceptual evolution, implications for a developmental research strategy – 2015
  • Commentary note 2: Activity Theory – Intervention research cases, Change Laboratory processes and research findings – 2015

As the project is coming to an end we will also rework with these materials as well when we are preparing (secondary) analyses of the empirical findings and reflection papers on our fieldwork.

– – –

I think this is enough of the Learning Layers presence on ResearchGate – as far as the project spaces “Construction Pilot” and the “Theory Camp follow-up” are concerned. Both will have a life beyond the funding period of the current Learning Layers project.

More blogs to come …

 

‘Methods’ or process innovations in Learning Layers research – Part One: Reflections on accompanying research

November 15th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

During the last few weeks we have been preparing our contributions to the final deliverable of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. And obviously, my recent blogs have included a lot of ‘loud thinking’ on these contributions. Due to the fact that we have had a complex innovation process in the Construction pilot to report, I may have been repeating some issues when discussing in different posts our various deliverables (Impact Cards, Learning Scenarios and Research Methodology documents). Also, I have noticed that with several iterations in writing I have got the message clearer. Thus, I have been able to highlight the characteristics of the innovation processes and the way different parties worked together to make them happen.

In the final phase I have been working with the question, how to present our research work as a contribution to the innovation process (that we have gone through with our application partners):

  • Can we claim that we have applied a ‘method’ that triggered an innovation process into movement and guided it into good results? Can we present this ‘method’ as the legacy of our project?
  • Or – is our project experience to be interpreted as a more complex process innovation in which we played a part – as active contributors, moderators and conceptual interpreters, but yet as part of a common story? Shall we present such a story of research & development dialogue as our legacy?

Below I will present the answers that I have given to these questions in our document “Accompanying Research and Participative Design in the Construction Pilot in Germany“.  I hope that the extracts from the longer report text give a clear idea, what our answer is and why.

The starting point: relatively open user-initiated co-design process searching for solutions

“This document presents a picture of the collaboration of researchers, technical partners and application partners in the construction pilot of the Learning Layers as a multi-channeled research & development  (R&D) dialogue with an emphasis on the following points:

  • The co-design activities started as a relatively open search for solutions to match the user-initiated design idea (digitisation of learning contents and reporting processes).
  • Research partners were engaged as accompanying researchers with co-shaping roles to support application partners in a complex iterative process, during which the initial design idea was transformed into shaping of Learning Toolbox as an integrative toolset.
  • The R&D dialogue was maintained with several parallel activities – joint work process analyses, shared training events, co-design workshops and joint outreach activities. In this way the process could overcome periods of rupture and uncertainty.
  • The research interventions consisted of empirical studies and conceptual inputs that gave insights into vocational learning and learning in organisational contexts as contexts in which the Learning Toolbox promoted digital transformation.”

Reflections on the process: Multi-channeled R&D dialogue with many interventions and iterations

“In the light of the above it is apparent that the work of accompanying researchers was not a process that would have guided by one single ‘method’ or pre-defined methodology. Neither was it a case of classical action research. As has been indicated earlier, the ITB team built upon earlier experiences with accompanying research in innovation programmes but adapted its approach to a more open co-design process. Also, it is worthwhile to note that the co-design process was not primarily about social shaping of work and (production) technology or about pedagogic development of vocational education and training. The project was based on interventions to introduce digital media and web resources via mobile devices to (informal) learning at workplaces.

From this perspective it is important to understand that the co-design activities in the Construction pilot were not primarily a tool-centred and design-driven process. Instead, in the early phase the accompanying research partners and application partners were supported by technical partners with intermediate role (but not that of software developers). Under these circumstances it was important to generate a multi-channelled R&D dialogue that included work process analyses, co-design sessions and shared learning activities. In this context the partners could agree on a radical transformation of the design idea, which meant a shift from digitisation of learning content to shaping a flexible digital toolset for accessing and sharing learning resources.”

The experiences of researchers and practitioners – working towards, with and for the innovation (‘Learning Toolbox in practice’)

“In this – essentially transformative – process of R&D dialogue, in which all partners involved have to face new challenges, the role of ITB researchers can be characterised as agile accompanying research. By learning together with application partners, how to work as change agents, ITB participated in the process, documented the process and supported the continuity of the process. In the final phase the peer tutoring by accompanying researchers was crucial for spreading the use of Learning Toolbox among application partners.

For the application partners – in particular for trainers in Bau-ABC – participation in such R&D dialogue has provided a chance for becoming in real terms co-owners of innovations. In the shaping of the Learning Toolbox this has not been merely a matter of receiving the end product that was the originally expected outcome. In this co-design process the trainers have firstly reshaped their own informal learning processes in the context of the training interventions of the project. After the successful piloting with the Learning Toolbox they have the chance to continue as innovation leaders in their own trades and as multipliers of innovation in their wider networks.”

– – –

I guess this is enough of the position and contribution of research in the process we have gone through. However, the picture would be incomplete if I wouldn’t discuss the role of training interventions as a part of this R&D dialogue experience. Only by looking at both key elements of our process history we can really understand the legacy of our project. I will deal with this in my next post.

More blogs to come …

Presenting Learning Layers training experience – the Theme Room moodle application

November 12th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my recent blog I reported on a fresh web publication – the Learning Toolbox Chronicle – that is available on the website of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. The articles published one by one on the project website and its section for the Construction pilot have been rearranged as a collection that consists of three volumes.

In a similar way I have prepared a new web document on the two training programs that we have organised as a part of our project activities: the early Multimedia training (2013-2014) and  Theme Room training (2015) in the training centre Bau-ABC. I have prepared a comprehensive overview on the programs, their implementation and on the training materials used as the Moodle application “Theme Room Training 2015”. Below I present firstly an overview on this moodle application and then some reflections on the role of this training experience in the final phase of the project activities.

Insights into the “Theme Room Training 2015” Moodle

This Moodle application provides an overview of the “Theme Room” training concept and its implementation as a part of the Learning Layers (LL) project and its Construction pilot in Germany in 2015.

The first section of this Moodle application give an overview on the role of training activities in the Construction pilot and on the evolution of training concepts.

The second section gives a brief overview on the Multimedia training scheme that was implemented by the project in Bau-ABC in 2013-2014.

The third and fourth sections describe the development of the Theme Room training concept and its adaptation for the pilot implementation in 2015.

The fifth and sixth sections give insights into the work with the two main themes selected for this implementation cycle – ‘Use of Social Media in Training’ and ‘Preparation of Digital Learning Contents for Training’.

The seventh and eighth sections give insights into two further themes – “Intellectual property rights (IPR)” and “Using Learning Toolbox (LTB) as Support for Training”. For practical reasons the theme IPR was implemented only as transversal theme that was covered with short ‘guest inputs’ in the thematic workshops. The LTB was postponed for a later occasion.

The ninth section summarises the discussions in the self-evaluation workshop that took place in Bau-ABC in December 2015 after the implementation of the first cycle of Theme Room workshops.

The tenth section reflects the Theme Room training experience in the light of the later progress with the Learning Toolbox pilots and outlines some prospects for follow-up activities.

In addition to the documentation in the introductory boxes this Moodle application provides a comprehensive archive of concept documents, training materials, documents of learning achievements and commentaries on implementation.

Reflections on the role of the Theme Room training experience at the end of the project

Shortly after the pilot implementation of the Theme Room program we had to shift the emphasis to the introduction of Learning Toolbox (LTB) into apprentice training and to co-development of LTB-applications by Bau-ABC trainers. Following the example of Bau-ABC trainers, also other application partners of Learning Layers started with their small-scale pilots in the context of construction work.

Reports on these pilots have shown that the use of LTB has increased the opportunities to empower the learners and to strengthen the culture of project-oriented and self-organised learningin Bau-ABC. Equally, the functionality of the LTB has opened new prospects for supporting creative learning in the context of Health and Safety or trade-specific DIN norms. Yet, with such areas LTB alone is not enough. Therefore, the LTB development is looking at the potentials of LTB integrated with a learning platform (such as Moodle).

In the light of the above it appears that the use of the Learning Toolbox (as an integrative toolset) can play a stronger integrative role also in such multimedia training that was provided in the Theme Room training in Bau-ABC. Equally, when the use of LTB is spreading to new pilot fields, it is appropriate to make use of similar collaborative learning arrangements as in the Theme Room workshops. From this perspective it is appropriate to revisit the Theme Room experience and to consider, how such training can be developed and adapted for new contexts and challenges.

– – –

I think this is enough of this new document on our training experience. In the coming days I have to work (once more) with the final deliverables of the project. But we are reaching the point when we have presented the results and realise, what all we have learned in this project – and on what legacy we can build.

More blogs to come …

Productivity and vocational education and training

October 25th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

apprenticesInterest in Vocational Education and Training (VET) seems to go in cycles. Its always around but some times it is much more to the forefront than others as a debate over policy and practice. Given the pervasively high levels of youth unemployment, at least in south Europe, and the growing fears over future jobs, it is perhaps not surprising that the debate around VET is once more in the ascendancy. And the debates over how VET is structured, the relation of VET to higher education, the development of new curricula, the uses of technology for learning, the fostering of informal learning, relations between companies and VET schools, the provision of high quality careers counselling and guidance, training the trainers – I could go on – are always welcome.

Whilst in some countries like the UK deregulation seems to have created many jobs, most of these are low paid and insecure.

Higher productivity requires innovation and innovation is in turn dependent on the skills and knowledge of the workforce. But in a time of deregulation there is little incentive for employers to invest in workforce training.

There are signs that some companies are beginning to realise they have a problem. There has been a notable interest from a number of large companies in supporting new apprenticeship programmes and not just in the German speaking countries. In Spain the recently launched Alliance for FP Dual is making slow but steady progress in persuading companies to support the FP Dual alternance or apprenticeship programme. There remain many obstacles, not least the continuing austerity programme, political instability and the perilous financial position of many small and medium enterprises. I will talk more about some of these issues in forthcoming articles on this web site, coming out of the findings of a  small research project in Valencia sponsored by the International Network on Innovative Apprenticeship (INAP).

But to be successful initiatives like the Spanish FP Dual and the wider EU backed Alliance for Apprenticeships have to be linked to wider programmes to promote innovation. Without some degree of labour market regulation this is going to be hard to achieve.

Learning Layers in Leeds – Part Two: Giving a picture on construction pilot and Learning Toolbox

September 28th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last week our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project had its last joint project consortium meeting (before the final review meeting) in Leeds, hosted by the local partners.  We focused on harvesting the most recent results and coordinating the final preparatory processes for the final reporting. In the first post I will give a brief overview on the meeting on the whole. In this second post I will focus on the picture that I/we gave on the construction sector pilot in the preparation sessions and in the Elevator pitch session.

Insights into the preparation sessions (focus on impact and cases, scenarios and research approaches)

In the preparation sessions we rotated between three topic tables (of five altogether) to prepare the marketing pitches for which we had been signed (or to listen to others’ contributions and to give feedback). My choice was to give pitches on the impact cases, ‘learning scenarios’ (or instances of change) and on research approaches. In the first topic table it was useful to share ideas between construction pilot (use of Learning Toolbox at construction site) and healthcare pilot (use of Learning Toolbox in a conference environment). As a spin-off I promised to communicate the idea of using LTB in the forthcoming European conferences on vocational education and training in 2017 (ECER 2017, ‘Crossing boundaries 2017’). I also picked the idea of using LTB in conferences as a manifestation of ‘work process knowledge’ of researchers. In the topic table of ‘learning scenarios’ we discussed the criteria, what is to be presented as ‘impact cases’ and what qualifies as ‘scenarios’ or ‘instances of change’ in terms of conceptual interpretation. In the topic table of ‘research approaches’ we also had a similar discussion regarding the presentation of research methodologies and research findings.

Presenting the construction pilot in the ‘Elevator pitch’ session (‘impact cases’, ‘work process knowledge’ and ‘accompanying research’)

The ‘Elevator pitch’ session followed the pattern of marketing events that are typical in educational technology and software development communities. Each presenter had a 20 seconds slot to announce the topic and attract the interest of audience. Then the presenter had a 3 minutes slot to present the case and to convey the message. After each presentation three persons gave feedback (including one of the two ‘critical friends’ that were invited by the organisers). Below I focus on my/our presentations on the construction pilot of the LL project.

a) The impact cases: Use of Learning Toolbox in training (the pitch of Melanie Campbell) and at a construction site (my pitch)

In her pitch Melanie Campbell presented the training centre Bau-ABC as an application partner of the project and gave insights into the impact of the project from their perspective. Her key message was that Bau-ABC had engaged itself as a ‘learning organisation’ in different phases of the project work and used the opportunity to enhance the digital literacy and multimedia competences of its staff. On the basis of successful deployment of the Learning Toolbox Bau-ABC is looking forward to a more prominent role in promoting this know-how in its initial training (for apprentices), continuing training (for construction professionals) and training partnerships (with suppliers and client companies). She emphasised the new strategic interpretation of ‘Internet as the fourth learning venue’ (“Internet als vierter Lernort”) – alongside the company employing the apprentice (Ausbildungsbetrieb), the intermediate training centre (überbetriebliche Ausbildunsstätte) and the vocational school (Berufsschule) – and the contribution of the Learning Layers project in conveying this message.

In my first pitch I presented (with the help of a short video demonstration) the impact case of using Learning Toolbox (LTB) in the management of a construction site. I used the video on Thomas Isselhard’s recent presentation (see my recent blog) as an exemplary case to show, what kind of problems can be overcome with LTB, how the traditional way of managing the processes can be supported by LTB and how different parties can be engaged as users of LTB – to achieve real-time knowledge sharing and communication. Here I positioned myself as the interpreter and let the practitioner explain the benefits, see below:

b) The ‘learning scenario’: Learning Toolbox as means to make ‘work process knowledge’ transparent in lived practice

In my second pitch  – for ‘learning scenarios’ (or instances of change) – I focused on the concept ‘work process knowledge’ and how the use of Learning Toolbox (LTB) can make this concept more transparent. I looked back at the original European projects of the Work Process Knowledge network (funded by EU, 4th Framework programme of research) between 1998 and 2001. In the original studies the network analysed informal and cross-organisational learning processes as preconditions for innovation. They came up with the concept of ‘work process knowledge’ (as shared foundation of knowledge, experience and trust) based on which the organisations can successfully implement major changes. The network had collected several interesting cases in which interactive informal learning in organisations – and workers’ participation in shaping the technical and organisational changes. Yet, with their plans to develop follow-up projects they got narrowed down to more particular approaches on ‘organisational learning’ and to local and sectoral tools or instruments to promote such learning. With reference to the ‘impact cases’ on LTB I argued that the introduction of the integrative toolset has helped managers, skilled workers, trainers and apprentices to get a common overview on work processes and a shared understanding on matching activities and contributions.

c) The research approach: Transformation of ‘accompanying research’ within participative design and tool deployment processes

In my third pitch – with  focus on research approaches – I invited the audience to a journey to revisit the development of the accompanying research approach of ITB during the construction pilot of the Learning Layers project. Firstly I mentioned two earlier models of accompanying research (Begleitforschung) of which ITB has rich experiences:

  • Accompaniment of a regional ‘Work and Technology’ programme and its projects in 1990-1997: Focus on the attainment of policy goals regarding social shaping of work, technology, organisations and regional cooperation.
  • Accompaniment of nation-wide educational innovation programme ‘New learning concepts in dual vocational education and training’ 1997-2003: Focus on the attainment of self-declared innovation goals regarding introduction of new pedagogic and curricular settings, new occupational profiles and new instructional designs.

Concerning Learning Layers, I emphasised the difference, since we were working with an open and participative co-design process (with several iterative phases and adjustments), with common search for an appropriate design concept and ways to deploy the integrative toolset. During the process the accompanying researchers worked as

  • explorers (mapping workshops and initial interviews),
  • facilitators of digital literacy (the early multimedia training),
  • co-designers (in the shaping of the concept of Learning Toolbox),
  • co-tutors (the training campaign for all Bau-ABC staff),
  • facilitators of tool deployment (introduction of Learning Toolbox),
  • co-evaluators (collecting feedback and reviewing the qualitative feedback).

Concerning the interaction of accompanying researchers with practitioners we tried to position ourselves as supporting partners – helping them to become owners of the innovation. This was clearly successful with the early multimedia training and  with the launch of trainers’ blogs (see the video of August 2014 below). In a similar way the deployment of Learning Toolbox was a user-driven exercise in which Bau-ABC trainers set their own accents on promoting problem-oriented learning (with rich resources) or interest-based and expansive learning (with gradually increasing variety of resources). In a similar way the apprentices were guided by trainers to become owners of their own learning processes by self-organised use of learning resources via Learning Toolbox.

Concluding remarks and lessons for the final run

Regarding the feedback on my pitches, I was praised for the use of video to pass a user’s own voice and accents in the first pitch, I was criticized for not using such visuals in the two latter ones (I dropped the idea because the video could not be displayed that well to all). I was also praised for presenting coherent stories but criticized for giving too much emphasis on the history and leaving the connection between history and present date too thin. Finally, I was praised by making the users visible and emphasising them as ‘pioneers’, our role in ’empowering users’ and making transparent different ways of using innovative toolsets. Altogether, this feedback helped us to pull ourselves out of project-internal reporting and to focus on new audiences who don’t have the shared background knowledge.

– – –

I think this is enough of this exercise. At the moment we are taking further steps in preparing the final documents, making further arrangements for the final review and working with follow-up activities.

More blogs to come …

 

Learning Layers in Leeds – Part One: Paving the way for the final run

September 27th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last week our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project had its last joint project consortium meeting (before the final review meeting) in Leeds, hosted by Leeds University, NHS and our software partner PinBellCom (latterly merged to EMIS group). This consortium meeting differed from many earlier ones because most of the work of the project has already been done. Also, quite a lot of strategic decisions concerning the final reporting had already been done. Therefore, we could concentrate on harvesting the most recent results and coordinating some preparatory processes for the final reporting. Yet, this meeting also had its salt and spices as well. In the first post I will give a brief overview on the meeting on the whole. In the second post I will focus on the picture that I/we gave on the construction sector pilot in some of the sessions.

Overview on the main sessions

After a quick situation assessment on the current phase of the project we started working in groups and in interim plenaries to be followed by group work:

  1. With the sessions on evaluation studies we had parallel groups working with the evaluation studies that had been adjusted to the progress in construction pilot and healthcare pilot. Concerning the construction pilot, our colleagues from the UIBK presented quantitative data and summarised the qualitative findings that have been discussed earlier on this blog. We had some discussions, whether we can enrich that material with some last minute interviews but that remains to be decided at the local level.
  2. Regarding the integrated deliverable (result-oriented website) we had common discussions on the structure, on the current phase of the main sections and on the technical implementation. Then we had parallel groups on the impact cards, ‘learning scenarios’ (or instances of change) and on the ‘research, development and evaluation approaches’. In the group work we focused on the situation in the sectoral pilots and on the complementary relations between impact cards (demonstrating particular impact), the scenarios or instances (in interpreting the findings in a conceptual and future-oriented way) and the research approaches (in presenting the contribution of the main research approaches represented in the project work).
  3. In a joint demonstration session Tamsin Treasure-Jones informed us, how the Learning Toolbox had been used in an adapted participative “Barcamp” session that was implemented in the AMEE (Association for Medical Education in Europe) conference in Barcelona. This example served as an inspiration and can be adapted for other research and development communities as well.
  4. In a practicing session we rotated between different topic tables to prepare ‘marketing pitches’ to convey the key messages of our tools/infrastructures/impact cases/research approaches. Each table was managed by moderator and the participants could take the role of presenter or listener. This helped us to get an overview and to concentrate on the core message of our presentations.
  5. In the Elevator pitches session we then presented the pitches (20 second pitch to qualify as presenter and a 3 minute pitch to convey the message). In this session Pablo served as real-time rapporteur and colleagues from Leeds had invited ‘critical friends’ to give feedback. This session helped us to shift us from project-internal reporting to speaking to new audiences.
  6. In the concluding session we discussed the organisation of the review meeting, the time plan for remaining activities and some final dissemination activities.

Altogether we made good progress in getting a common picture, what all we have achieved and how to present it. To be sure, we have several points to be settled in a number of working meetings during the coming weeks. But the main thing is that we set the course to achieving common results in the time that is available – and we are fully engaged to make it. In the next post I will take a closer look at the work with the construction pilot in the Leeds meeting.

More blogs to come …

 

Thoughts on “Digital divide 4.0” – Part Two: Observations on the uses of Learning Toolbox in Bau-ABC

September 16th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my latest post I started a series of reflections on the concept “Digital Divide 4.0” (see my previous post ). These reflections have been inspired by recent experiences with fieldwork for our ongoing EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project and in particular with its key product the Learning Toolbox (LTB).  In particular these thoughts have been triggered by our LTB workshops (covered in my earlier posts) and our working visit to the construction sector training centre Bau-ABC. With this blog I try to give insights into our observations on ‘digital divide 4.0’ in the beginning phase of the LL project and into the role of our project work in overcoming such divides. Here I would like to emphasist the role of participative design processes, capacity-building measures and the user-driven deployment of LTB in the training activities of Bau-ABC.

Findings on the use of digital tools and mobile apps in the early phase of the LL project

In the beginning phase of the LL project the ITB team carried out several interviews among Bau-ABC trainers and representatives of craft trade companies regarding their use of digital tools, web platforms and mobile apps. Likewise, we carried out (in collaboration with Bau-ABC) a user survey among the Bau-ABC apprentices.

Without going into details, both the interviews and the survey gave a picture of a scattered landscape of stand-alone tools, apps and platforms. The trainers and company representatives had looked at different sites but were not convinced of the quality – it was difficult to distinguish, what tools/apps were meant for professional use and what for hobbyists. The apprentices new very few of them and had hardly any experience with them.

In general, this picture corresponds with my characterisation of ‘digital divide 4.0’ (see my previous post). Both our interview partners and the apprentices responding to the survey were users of smartphones, had acquired a considerable web capability and were exploring, how to use the new tools and technologies. Yet, the trainers and company representatives experienced a kind of Tantalos-situation (see my previous post) – having a multitude of possibilities but not getting a hold of them. Likewise, the apprentices were frustrated because web tools, apps and mobile devices played no role in the training.

What was the role of co-design processes and multimedia training?

In the co-design workshops with Bau-ABC trainers we were looking for ways to support their pedagogic approaches (action-oriented learning, self-organised learning) in context-specific training projects. Likewise, in the workshops with apprentices we were looking at characteristic working tasks and specific situations in which digital tools would be useful. This all was fed to the development of the Learning Toolbox.

In the Multimedia Training we (the facilitators from Pontydysgu and ITB) helped the Bau-ABC trainers to find their own approach to using digital tools and web resources – and to editing their own contents. The most important achievements of this phase were the trainers’ own WordPress  blogs with which they have made their training materials publicly available. (See Zimmererblog, Maurerblog, Tiefbaublog, Brunnenbauerblog.)

Interim assessments by Bau-ABC trainers during the project

In between the Bau-ABC trainers have contributed with their interim assessments that have given important impulses for the development of the Learning Toolbox and for reshaping of the multimedia training arrangements:

  • In August/September 2014 the Bau-ABC colleagues couldn’t participate in the LL consortium meeting in Tallin. Instead they prepared a video message that was later on edited into short videos. These outlined different contexts for using the Learning Toolbox in the training of Bau-ABC and in different work situations. In one of the videos four trainers discuss their pedagogic principles (action-oriented learning; self-organised learning) and how they see the possibilities to promote such learning via Learning Toolbox (see below).

  • In May 2015 the Bau-ABC trainers made an interim assessment on the earlier Multimedia training (2013 -2014) and on their internal follow-up (2014 -2015). They came to the conclusion that Bau-ABC needs to organise a training scheme for the whole trainer staff to bring the media competences to a common level and to work out joint approaches for using the respective tools, apps and platforms. This provided the basis for the Theme Room training campaign that was implemented in November 2015 by tutors from Bau-ABC, ITB and Pontydysgu (with on-site support by Jaanika Hirv from TLU). This campaign was a major step forward to prepare the Bau-ABC trainers to take the role of active users of the Learning Toolbox.

Reflections on the deployment of Learning Toolbox and on the feedback from the users

In February and March 2016 we started the active phase of deployment of the Learning Toolbox with some Bau-ABC trainers in their training projects. Already at that stage we could see that the trainers quickly developed their own ways to use stacks, pages and tiles to shape their training projects:

  • In the trade of well-builders (Brunnenbauer) the emphasis was given on a specific project folder that is supported by content tiles (Reference materials) and collection tiles (photos and videos). When the pilot group of well-builder apprentices moved on to training periods in other trades (metalworking, borehole building), the trainers in these trades provided similar project folders.
  • The joint project of carpenters (Zimmerer) and bricklayers (Maurer) was based on a common mother-stack that was linked to daughter stacks that presented the respective subprojects to be carried out during training periods in the respective trades. In addition, the mother stack provided links to other daughter stacks that provided collections of tools and of further learning materials.

When collecting feedback on the use of Learning Tools the LL researchers involved (mainly Markus Manhart from UIBK) could conclude that the trainers were becoming owners of the innovation and that the apprentices had adopted the use of Learning Toolbox as ‘their way’ of managing the projects. In particular the following observations were of interest:

  • From the pedagogic point of view the trainers had set somewhat different accents. Some of them put an emphasis on equipping the apprentices with comprehensive sets of reference materials and challenging them to do selective and searches for their purposes. Here one could use the metaphor of ‘well’ for the stacks as stable learning resources. Other trainers put an emphasis on curiosity- and interest-based learning and with respective opening of new pages or tiles for apprentices. Here one could use the metaphor of ‘watering cans’ for the stacks as learning resources that are adjusted to the learners’ progress. Consequently, their apprentices have developed either explorative or level-by-level progressing learning approaches.
  • From the infrastructural and organisational points of view the trainers concluded that the deployment of Learning Toolbox had been carried out as a limited pilot. Now the time had come ripe to make commitments for the whole organisation (including the infrastructure and the availability of mobile devices for all training areas). The apprentices had experienced difficulties due to limited internet access – both in the training centre and even more when they were on construction sites. Yet, they emphasised the advantages of using Learning Toolbox vis-à-vis the time when they had not had such a toolset. Also, they put a major emphasis in having the necessary tools in an integrated and contextually adjusted set. However, very few had been able to convince their employers or supervisors of the benefits of the Toolbox. Here, it apparent that the company representatives have to find their own ways to use such a toolset and to become aware of the benefits from their perspective.

Concluding remarks

I believe this is enough of our learning journey in the context of the Learning Layers project and with focus on the project activities in the construction sector training centre Bau-ABC. To me this story serves as an example, how participative design process, capacity building and user-driven tool deployment can work well in the long run. As I see it, we started in a situation that could be characterised as ‘digital divide 4.0’ and worked through processes that helped us to overcome such divides (including us as researchers and our counterparts in the training centre). However, the story shows that we need extra efforts to help the construction companies to find their ways forward. I will get back to this in my next blog.

More blogs to come …

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