Archive for the ‘Knowledge development’ Category

Ten years blogging – five years active blogging

November 12th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

Today (11.11.2017)  I noticed by chance that I had started my career as a Pontydysgu blogger exactly ten years ago. The start was not great and there were periods of hibernation. Although I renamed my blog I didn’t quite get the swing immediately. But then, about exactly five years ago (16.11.2012) I started blogging on the Learning Layers (LL) project – and became a regular blogger. Now, almost one year after completing LL project I have kept myself busy with reporting on the follow-up activities. And indeed – during these active years – I have also learned to write on other topics alongside the work-related blogs. These anniversaries call for a brief reflection on my ideas during the earlier phases and during the active project-related blogging and in the follow-up phase.

I-Europe – The difficult beginning

I first named my blog as “I-Europe”. This needs an explanation. In the ECER conference in 2003 in Hamburg there was a special session of the VETNET network under the heading “Open meeting”. Alan Brown had initiated it to discuss different options for European cooperation (independently of EU-funding). He was at that time working part time as a programme director for a national research programme and had the opportunity create networking among similar research councils. Alan presented a preliminary framework “Learning in Knowledge Society (LinKS)”. I came up with a parallel initiative “I-Europe” – to promote knowledge development on international, innovative, integrative and inclusive developments in European vocational education and training cultures. Obviously, I didn’t have institutional backing or resources for supporting any practical measures based on such framework (I had just recently ceased to work as Cedefop project manager). However, my initiative had some positive feedback, but there was very little that we could have done.

Four years later I thought that I could start a new round of discussions. I had got settled to ITB in Bremen and started working on transnational projects that included fieldwork. At that time the European policy processes were geared to the framework processes – the Bologna process promoting the European Higher Education Area and the Copenhagen process pushing forward the European Qualification Framework (EQF). A working group in ITB had prepared a critical discussion paper on the EQF. I wanted to take the discussion further – to positive ideas on thematic knowledge development at the European level. But once again I had to observe that I was floating high up – and couldn’t get my ideas properly grounded.

Working & Learning – a new start (but shaky)

After some time and some self-critical reflections I decided to try a new start with a renamed blog. “Working & Learning” seemed to me an appropriate title because it referred to my research context and to the way I wanted get my blogging grounded. I was hoping that I could rely strongly on the projects of that time – Consultation seminars (on teachers and trainers in VET) and the network ‘Trainers in Europe”. However, the blogs for the Consultation seminars had to published exclusively on the project website, whilst the Trainers in Europe network allowed publishing on multiple websites. That already caused a split in the project landscape and made it difficult to reflect on the work in parallel activities. Two further projects of that time – the Politics project and Coop-PBL in VET – required content creation on the respective project websites. At that time I didn’t see any added value in posting on multiple websites. Therefore, I ended up with another period of hibernation with my blog.

Working & Learning gets a new swing with the Learning Layers project

The start of our major EU-funded research & development project Learning Layers (LL) changed the situation radically. We (ITB) had joined in the consortium at the late phase of preparations and we had the responsibility to coordinate the work with application partners in the Construction pilot in Germany. So, we had to work ourselves in and position ourselves as a research partner with genuine research contribution. And the project schedules pushed us into a rapid start (the initial interviews, the Application Partner Days, the preparation of the User Stories, the Helsinki Design Conference …). All this brought me back to blogging – and I got accustomed of regular blogging.

In the beginning this was just quick documentation on activities and events. But gradually there was more in it – reflection on lessons learned in the fieldwork, discussion on working issues, reorientation in the co-design work, introduction of training activities … In addition to this we redefined some aspects of the work as ‘development projects’, had a consortium-wide “Theory Camp” and prepared sustainability plans. The ‘hot’ phases of the work started when the idea of Learning Tool started to take shape, when the multimedia training was expanded to the “Theme Room” campaign and when the Learning Toolbox was piloted in the field. Furthermore, much of the discussion on the final reporting was supported by numerous blogs posts. At the end of the day, the annual logbooks of LL-related blogs were rather massive documents.

Working & Learning continues with follow-up activities of the Learning Layers project

When the Learning Layers project had reached the stage of final review and completed the final-final reporting duties, this could have been the end of the story – both for the project and for the project-related blogging. But it was not the case. Instead, the main actors in the Construction pilot – ITB, the application partners and the developers of the Learning Toolbox were keen to move on to follow-up activities. Although it was not easy to find appropriate ways to continue the development work and to find suitable funding opportunities, several smaller follow-up initiatives emerged. In this way the work with Learning Toolbox was linked to shaping of new ecosystems for coordinating work processes and/or supporting integrative training and learning arrangements. Moreover, the challenge to support the multimedia training for trainers and instructors has become actual time and again. All this makes me confident that there is work to be done in the follow-up activities.

– – –

I guess this is enough as a quick review and reflection on lessons learned. I may not have achieved a record number of blog posts during the ten years (and definitely not during the first five years). But that doesn’t matter to me. I have gone through quite a learning journey and found my way of blogging during the last five years. And with that I can be happy to continue.

More blogs to come …

Remembering David Raffe and his life-work – a special issue of Journal of Education and Work

November 2nd, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

In February 2015 we received the sad news that professor David Raffe, a prominent educational sociologist and key actor in European vocational education and training (VET) research had passed away. At that time I wrote a blog in which I remembered his contribution to European projects and to the VETNET network of the European Educational Research Association (EERA). Shortly afterwards David’s closest colleagues contacted my with the idea to prepare a special issue of a journal to highlight David’s work and the legacy he has left.

Now, after some time has passed since that communication, our work has been completed and the results have been published as

 Journal of Education and Work, 2017 VOL . 30, NO . 7

The special issue provides insights into David’s fields of work and into his contributions to the research communities as well as to dialogue between researchers and policy makers. And the very special way in which David engaged himself in these activities is reflected in the headings of the articles, such as the following:

Bridging divides – social science, educational policy and the improvement of education and training systems: an appreciation the contribution of David Raffe (1950–2015) by Cathy Howieson, Ken Spours and Michael Young

To know ourselves? Research, data and policy-making in the Scottish education system by Cathy Howieson and Linda Croxford

English exceptionalism re-visited: divergent skill strategies across England and Scotland by Ewart Keep

What does it mean to conduct research into qualifications frameworks? by Stephanie Allais

This was not a complete table of contents but a sample of articles with headings that remind me of David’s way to tackle issues and problems very deeply – not accepting simple interpretations and seemingly obvious solutions.

My contribution to this special issue had the following title

Learning from Europe and for Europe with David Raffe – insights into early years of European cooperation in vocational education and training research

I hope that this heading speaks for the content and for the memories of David as a fellow colleague and a fellow European in the exercise of learning from each other and contributing to knowledge development at the European level.

I am pleased to see that this piece of work is now available and that we have managed to give insights into David as a person, into his work and into the legacy he has left.

More blogs to come …

Revisiting the Learning Layers experience – “ToDo List” for conferences finally completed

October 19th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

At the end of April this year I had left behind all the work after the final review of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. We had completed the work for the review and the additional tasks that were required to clarify the picture. At that time I was looking forward to revisit the project experience and wrote myself a “ToDo List” – outlining a set of working papers that I wanted to complete as soon as possible. This is what I wrote as my opening statement:

“Now, we have a chance to revisit the project experience and draw conceptual and methodological conclusions of our work in the Construction pilot. And I have booked myself in to three conferences to have a closer look at our achievements and how review them from a conceptual point of view.”

Little did I know at that time, what kind of intervening factors may cause delays to such plans. Instead of working three papers ready by the middle of August I had to take a break and give thoughts on something bigger than my work. Yet, having taken the time I needed, I am happy to announce that I have completed the ToDo List of late April. Today I have uploaded the last one of the designed three Working Papers on my account on ResearchGate. And in order to put the three Working Papers into a group picture, I published the following update:

“During the year 2017 I have written three parallel working papers that are the pillars for my re-examination of our work in the Learning Layers project and its Construction pilot. Together they provide insights into our methodological orientation and to two central theoretical themes in the context of a participative research & development project:

 

1) Accompanying research (“Begleitforschung”) between knowledge development and support for innovations in the field-Revisiting earlier developments and the experience in Learning Layers:
2) Begleitforschung in the context of digital transformation in vocational education and training (VET): Linking work process knowledge to ‘Industry 4.0’:
3) Begleitforschung as mediator between action-oriented learning and digital change: on the role of accompanying research in earlier pilot projects and the Learning Layers Construction pilot:
Altogether these papers give a picture of our approach and of our learning journey with co-design, collaborative learning and support for piloting with digital tools in the construction sector. These working papers will be developed further and linked to discussion on sustainability and transferability of the innovations with which we worked.”
– – –
I think this is enough of this effort at the moment. As I have indicated above. I need to do some work with the three papers to make the mutual relations more transparent and to fill some gaps. And I need to tackle the issue of sustainability and transferability of innovations – just as it emerged in the follow-up phase after the end of the project. But let us take one step at a time amd next steps afterwards.
More blogs to come …

Working further with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) – Part Two: LTB-based ePosters become success stories in European conferences

October 11th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I gave a progress report on our work with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) in the follow-up activities of our EU-funded Learning Layers project and its Construction pilot (2012 -2016). With this post I want to give visibility for the successful implementation of LTB as a tool for creating ePosters for large (European and international) conferences. This work has been led by the coordinator of the Learning Layers’ healthcare pilot, Tamsin Treasure-Jones and by the key developer of LTB, Raymond Elferink. Together with their support team they have pioneered with the use of LTB-based ePosters in the AMEE 2017 conference in Helsinki. I am pleased to publish their report on my blog. Many thanks to Tamsin, Ray and their team! From this point on I am using their text (slightly edited) and their pictures & links:

“Learning Toolbox – a transformative ePoster solution: AMEE 2017 as an example

Learning Toolbox as an ePoster solution is a spin-off initiative that emerged from the EU- funded Learning Layers research & development project. AMEE 2017 has been the pioneering ePoster client. AMEE is the very large (approx. 3,800 delegates) annual international conference of the Association of Medical Education (AMEE).

Overview of Learning Toolbox as the ePoster solution at AMEE 2017

These two short videos (which were created for the conference participants) provide an overview of the how the ePosters worked at AMEE.

ePoster_Video2 ePoster_Video2

https://youtu.be/6KUFHBhZGVs                https://youtu.be/QKQ5R1mZzlw

In total we supported 80 ePosters (this included 3 which we created with the authors during the conference itself, as they had lost their paper posters in transit!). You can explore and interact with all the ePosters on our AMEE 2017 ePosters Showcase page https://my.ltb.io/#/showcase/amee:

ePoster_Showcases

What is novel about Learning Toolbox?

Underlying our approach are several educational aims to transform the way in which posters (and existing ePoster solutions) are used in conferences:

Novelty-in-ePoster
Moving beyond PDFs

We wanted to move beyond a vision of ePosters as just an onscreen version of a paper poster (most ePoster solutions are effectively online PDFs with minimal interactivity). Learning Toolbox allows people to include a wide range of multimedia and interactive material in their ePoster including videos, surveys, presentations, web links and even apps.

Bridging between the physical and virtual worlds

We wanted to give the ePosters both a physical and virtual presence at the conference, and to allow easy bridging between these worlds. Existing ePoster platforms often only offer the ePosters online, so that they are easily overlooked in busy conferences. We used the mini-poster wall to actually give the ePosters a high profile (but small footprint) presence in the conference and a very easy way to move from the mini-poster to the ePosters.

ePoster_cubicle

Direct engagement & interaction between people

We wanted to support people engaging with the ePoster work and the ePoster authors (with traditional posters & ePosters this interaction with the author is only really possible during a very short timetabled presentation session). So Learning Toolbox also allows people to have discussions that are attached to the ePoster (viewable by all who interact with that ePoster) and the ePoster author can also send out messages to the ePoster. These exchanges can happen before, during & after the conference. Our educational aim is for this extra interactivity to help people to find and develop groups who have a shared interest in their research topic. This can be a particular issue at large conferences such as AMEE.

Bring your own device – ePosters in your pocket

We wanted to help people to feel very connected to the ePosters, to have them in their hands, in their pocket. You can also easily share an ePoster from one phone to another, allowing people to pass on the ePosters that interest them. Many traditional ePoster solutions rely heavily on expensive hardware (large screens or touchscreens). Learning Toolbox instead uses people’s own devices, supporting a more personalised experience.

Life beyond the conference

We wanted people to be able to take home the ePoster, to actually have them as a long-term learning resource that could be used by the ePoster author and those who had an interest in their topic. Learning Toolbox allows conference attendees to favourite and easily take home ePosters with them on their phone and it allows the ePoster author to add to and update their ePoster following the discussions at the conference”

– – –

This was the report of our pioneering team in AMEE 2017. If you want to have more information on the way the participants prepared themselves for the conference and how the ePosters were used, I would recommend you to follow the tweets of Tamsin Treasure-Jones @tamsinttj. And if you want to get more information, how to use ePosters in your conferences, contact Raymond Elferink and his team support [at] stack [dot] services

As I have heard it from Gilbert Peffer, who was also involved in that exercise, also other conferences and support organisations are interested to use ePosters. We hope that also our conference organisers in the field of Vocational Education and Training (VET) research will follow their example in due time.

More blogs to come …

Working further with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) – Part One: Notes on meetings with application partners

October 11th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

This week I have had a chance to participate in some working meetings that have discussed further work with the “Learning Toolbox – LTB”. As readers of this blog have learned during the last few years, the LTB was the main result of the Construction pilot of our EU-funded project “Learning Layers LL” (2012 – 2016). In the project researchers, technical partners and application partners in North Germany were involved in the co-design of the LTB and in the pilot testing of this integrative toolset in apprentice training and in the coordination of construction work. LTB was built as an integrative toolset that linked together mobile apps, resource tiles and communication tiles. As such it has facilitated project-based learning of construction sector apprentices in the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup. In a similar way it has facilitated the cooperation and coordination work of construction site manager in a special project of ecological construction work in Verden. (These achievements of the LL project and the transition to follow-up activities have been discussed in my blogs in 2016 and in the first half of 2017).

In Spring 2017 I witnessed several working meetings in which my colleagues from Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB) and developers of LTB were discussing follow-up activities of the LL Construction pilot – with emphasis on new contexts for using the LTB.  Now – after a lengthy break – I had the chance to observe some further steps and progress to new milestones in these follow-up activities. In May I wrote more detailed blogs on these earlier meetings and on the initiatives that were taking shape. This time it is enough to make brief notes on the progress and on new milestones to be reached in the near future.

Verden: Looking at integrative hardware and software solutions to support process optimisation an construction site

In our previous meeting with the LL application partner Thomas Isselhard we had discussed several initiatives to promote the use of LTB via his networks for ecological construction work. This time my ITB-colleague Werner Müller and our LL-partner Gilbert Peffer (CIMNE) took further steps in their talks in Verden towards shaping one central initiative. The aim is to bring together hardware development (“BIM-Koffer”), software development (BIM, construction sector applications and network connectivity) and uses of LTB at construction sites. With this initiative the colleagues want to tackle several key issues that prevent effective uses of mobile technologies at construction sites. I am looking forward to hearing more of the further steps.

Firma H: Shaping integrative software ecologies to optimise company-specific knowledge processes and workplace learning

The next meeting (which I could also attend) was an interim assessment of the feasibility study and the workshop process that my colleagues had carried out with the company H (see my blog of last May). Now my colleagues had finalised their  feasibilty study and provided a draft report on the workshop with the company staff (of last June). Now the discussion focused on starting a short-term pilot with the solutions that were proposed in the reports: to start a transition to a more integrative software ecology – including new online communication arrangements between the offices and the worksite troops (with the help of LTB). The meeting made progress in setting the schedules, defining the pilot sites and the modes of participation (project team, supporting training arrangements). I am looking forward to hear more when the project activities in the field will start early next year.

Bau-ABC Rostrup: Continuing the work with Learning Toolbox and linking it to new software ecology

Our final meeting was at Bau-ABC Rostrup, our central application partner in the co-design and pilot testing of the LTB. With Bau-ABC we have had several follow-up activities/initiatives on which we now had a catch-up meeting.

In spring I had worked with a group of full-time trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) to develop coherent patterns for training in the cross-cutting area ‘health and safety’ (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz) until the holiday break. (I have blogged on this activity in April and May 2017.) Unfortunately I had to extend my stay in Finland for personal reasons and then I got other duties. Now I was pleased to learn that a similar pattern of parallel thematic groups had been established and that there was an internal support team. Moreover, it was inspiring that these groups were also working with the LTB and its use in initial vocational training.

Parallel to this my colleagues have been working in the German-funded DigiProB project that introduces digital media to Continuing Vocational Training of construction sector professionals. In the project meetings and workshops that I followed in Spring I could see that this project shaped a new software ecology to match with each other a traditional course management database, an innovative platform for integrative project development and a workable mobile toolset for course participants. I will not go into the technicalities. The important thing in our catch up-meeting was that we could address the latest issues on the role of LTB as the participants interface for accessing course information and for planning their participation.

– – –

I think that this is enough for a quick update on these follow-up activities of the Learning Layers’ Construction pilot. My main point here is to demonstrate that our work with LTB is being continued with several application partners and on several fronts. Although the work with LTB may not have scaled up that quickly as expected, we are making progress in getting the work grounded. In my next post I will give another kind of progress report on work with the Learning Toolbox.

More blogs to come …

Wrapping up the ECER 2017 experience – Part Six: Developments in the VETNET community

August 31st, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my five previous posts  I have shaped a series of blogs reporting on the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER 2017) that took place last week in Copenhagen. The first post outlined an agenda of themes to be covered. The second post provided insights into my own presentation. The third post discussed the themes ‘qualification frameworks’ and ‘credit transfer’. The fourth post discussed reforms in vocational teacher education and issues related to practicum studies of teacher candidates. The fifth post reported on a special research workshop that discussed ‘multi-methodological strategies in research on vocational education and training (VET). In this concluding post I will report of common events of the European Vocational Education and Training Research Network (VETNET) and on developments in the VETNET community. I will start with the common events in Copenhagen and then move to issues on the VETNET community and its activities.

The VETNET Opening Colloquium in Copenhagen

For many years the program of the VETNET network at ECER has been started with an Opening Colloquium or Keynote speech with discussants. In most cases this opening session has made visible VET research and current issues in VET development in the host country. This time the VETNET coordinators – Barbara E. Stalder and Christof Nägele – and their ‘local’ counterparts – Vibe Aarkrog and Christian Helms Jörgensen – had provided a two-course menu with desserts. Firstly, Vibe Aarkrog (from Copenhagen) gave insights into the host country with her presentation “A Danish perspective on VET: current challenges and recent changes”. Then Christian Helms Jörgensen (from Roskilde) broadened the discussion into the group of Nordic countries with his presentation “What can be learned from the Nordic VET-systems?”. Both presentations opened interesting insights into successive reforms and their main effects and (unexpected) consequences – and into modifications or counter-steering measures following each other. These input speeches were followed by comments of Lorenz Lassnigg (from Austria) and Stephanie Allais (from South Africa). Here I do not try to go into details. I am looking forward to the publication of the presentations on the Vetnetsite.

The VETNET General Assembly 2017

This year the VETNET Board had several interim activities and achievements to report. Here some main points on the reports of Christof Nägele, Michael Gessler and Lazaro Moreno:

  • The International Journal for Research in Vocational Education and Training (IJRVET) had gained more attention and had been indexed by further databases in different global regions. As we remember, the founding process was kicked off at ECER 2013 in Istanbul and the official launch took place in ECER 2014 in Porto. Now the journal has clearly reached a consolidated phase. (The latest issue came out just after the conference.)
  • The WERA network “Internationalisation of Research in Vocational Education and Training (IRNVET) – the global counterpart of the VETNET network had completed its working period in January 2017. As we remember, this wider international research network (under the auspices of the World Educational Research Association) had been initiated also at ECER 2013 in Istanbul and launched at ECER 2014 in Porto. This network had provided wider international support for the development of the IJRVET and international VET conferences and explored the basis for common thematic initiatives. The successor network (also called IRNVET) will continue the work in the years 2017 -2019.
  • The International VET Conferences (in Stockholm and in Bremen 2015/Rostock 2017) organised by host universities with the support of VETNET and IRNVET have also created their own traditions. During the ECER 2017 the host universities had reached a working agreement that both conferences will work on a biennial schedule and as Spring conferences. In Spring 2018 Stockholm University will organise its cruise conference as usual but the next one in 2020. In Spring 2019 the University of Valencia will host the next “Crossing boundaries in VET” conference to be followed by the next one in 2021. In this way the two conferences will work as mutually coordinated ‘neighbours’.
  • The VETNET contribution to European Skills Week is a new form of cooperation between the European Commission and the VETNET network. The cooperation emerged as a spin-off from the Bremen International VET conference in 2015 and took shape as a Research Workshop in the European Skills Week in Brussels in 2016. Now the VETNET network is preparing a new research workshop for the European Skills Week 2017. In this context the VETNET network has the possibility to award European VET researchers or research projects for special merits. This activity is led by Barbara E. Stalder.
  • The cooperation of VETNET with Emerging Researcher’ Network of EERA had been successfully continued with a specific workshop led by Christof Nägele, Michael Gessler and Lazaro Moreno.

Based on the impressive activity report the General Assembly was happy to carry out the election of a new VETNET Board (see more on this in a short while on the Vetnetsite.

Nomination of a new Honorary Member of the VETNET network

A special moment in the meeting was when the VETNET board proposed to nominate Prof. Dr. Johanna Lasonen from the University of South Florida (Tampa, Florida) and the University of Jyväskylä (Finland) as a new Honorary Member of the VETNET. This nomination will be forwarded to the Council of the European Educational Research Association (EERA). Below we see Johanna and Ludger Deitmer who presented the laudatio for Johanna on behalf of the VETNET Board.

JL_Nominated_VETNET-Honorary-Member

Here a brief extract of the proposal submitted to EERA:

“Prof. Dr. Johanna Lasonen has contributed to the founding process of VETNET with her expertise on AERA Special Interest Groups. As a founding member of VETNET she has worked in the VETNET Board on several occasions and as a reviewer of the VETNET proposals since ECER 1997. She was the first ‘local’ VETNET programme chair for ECER 1999 in Lahti to set the standards for the VETNET Opening Colloquium, for VETNET Proceedings, VETNET social event and for VETNET study visits to companies and vocational schools. She has also been the pioneer in involving VETNET in cross-network sessions with other EERA networks and in developing contacts between VETNET and UNESCO. During her work as a coordinator of EU-funded and nationally funded projects she has promoted actively the dissemination of the work of these projects via ECER symposia involving partners from different countries. Recently, she has supported the founding process of the International Journal for Research in Vocational Education and Training (IJRVET) – the official organ of VETNET (supported by EERA) and she is an active member of the Editorial Board of the IJRVET. Moreover, she has contributed actively to the work of the global pendant of VETNET, the IRNVET network of WERA.”

We congratulate Johanna for the nomination and look forward to the confirmation by the EERA Council.

Looking forward to ECER 2018 in Bolzano/Bozen, Italy

In the light of the reporting on the VETNET sessions in my previous posts and on the network activities in this post we can be happy with the ECER 2017 and the VETNET program. Many thanks in particular to the VETNET coordinators Christof Nägele and Barbara Stalder, who put a great effort in getting everything working smoothly. Also, we can look forward to the next ECER that will take place in September 2018 in Bolzano (Bozen), Italy. The stand of the local organising committee in the exhibition area provided us helpful information and delicious apples from the region. Moreover, in Copenhagen we got acquainted with new participants from Italy and Spain who were developing ‘college research’ and continuing professional development in the field of VET. We are looking forward to new productive cooperation partnerships (also in the context of preparing the ECER 2018). Let us see, what we can achieve by that time.

More blogs to come …

 

Wrapping up the ECER 2017 experience – Part Five: Discussions on multi-methodological approaches in VET research

August 31st, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my four previous posts  I have been shaping a series of blogs reporting on the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER 2017) that took place last week in Copenhagen. The first post outlined an agenda of themes to be covered. The second post provided insights into my own presentation. The third post discussed the themes ‘qualification frameworks’ and ‘credit transfer’. The fourth post discussed reforms in vocational teacher education and issues related to practicum studies of teacher candidates. In this fifth post I will report on a special research workshop that discussed ‘multi-methodological strategies and theory-diverse approaches’ as an effort to overcome theoretical and methodological diving lines. Below I will give a brief overview on the invited presentations and them add my comments (that I also delivered as a participant’s reaction in the session).

Invited contributions on ‘multi-methodological strategies’ and ‘theory-diverse approaches’

The idea to discuss possible ways to develop ‘multi-methodological’ approaches and to overcome theoretical and methodological dividing lines has been coming up some time. In the Stockholm International VET Conference Lazaro Moreno gave a presentation in which he paved the way for such workshops in the forthcoming conferences. To me, this session was the first step to implement the plan. The invited speakers presented their ideas on such ‘boundary-crossing’ approaches or potentials in their research contexts:

  • Petri Nokelainen from Finland started with a example from a quantitative study, in which the first phase of analyses was based on configuration frequency analyses. In the next phase the analyses moved into ‘data mining’ (with the help of a special software based on algorithms). Here Petri demonstrated an example of crossing a methodological boundary that was also overshadowed by cultural barriers.
  • Haege Nore from Norway presented an exemplary research context in which the theme was in the phase of making methodological choices. The study – commissioned by the Norwegian educational authorities – was focusing on the final examinations of apprentices. Here, Haege outlined a gallery of research perspectives that could be relevant for studying this theme. Then she indicated the policy-related priorities of the educational authorities. Yet, there was room for discussion on, what kind of complementary views could be taken on board in the methodological concept to avoid a too narrow approach.
  • Michael Gessler from ITB presented three exemplary studies as examples of perspective transformation, in which the role of theoretical starting points and methodologies is to be reflected in the light of the societal relevance of the studies. In an international conference the most striking questions were related to the transferability of the German dual system to foreign countries and to cooperation between learning venues (Lernortkooperation) in a North-German region. In the study on the transferability Michael and his project theme distanced themselves from the academic debate, whether transfer across different VET systems and cultures is possible. Instead, they focused on an empirical and historical question, how cultural transfer or transformation has been possible and what manifestations can be found. In the study on Lernortkooperation he shifted the question from attitudes to cooperation into identifying actual manifestations of cooperation (and on the level of intensity).
  • Christof Nägele from Switzerland discussed the prospects of developing longitudinal studies and experimental/intervention studies. In the first context he drew attention to the potentials of configuration frequency analyses and of multi-cohort sequence designs. In the second context he discussed the need of multiple reflection opportunities in experimental/intervention studies (and the necessity to have a proper control group). Finally, he discussed the issue of theory as a ‘Procrustes bed’ or as a tool for interpretation when studying transitions during learning careers.
  • Lazaro Moreno and his colleagues from Sweden had started to study the role of practical learning in the obligatory school as a foundation for choices whether to opt for a vocational learning pathway. In this respect the team had explored the history of the paradigmatic woodworking subject ‘slöjd’ (anglicized as ‘slojd’). Here, the interest was not only on the curricular history but to get informed of the teaching-learning processes as lived practice.
  • Finally, based on various individual contributions, Christof Nägele, Barbara E. Stalder and Michael Gessler had started to outline a common European VET Research Agenda (taking into account the role that the VETNET network is playing at the European Skills Week organised by the European Commission. (We need to discuss this interesting initiative at a later date.)

Reflections on prior discussions of the VETNET network on core concepts/approaches in European VET research

To me this session was of particular interest, since I could see it as a sequel to similar symposia in the early years of VETNET. In ECER 1997 in Frankfurt I had initiated a symposium to discuss core concepts and discipline structures in European VET-related research. In the symposium we had my introductory presentation and inputs from Gerald Heidegger (then ITB, Bremen) and Michael Young (Institute of Education, London). Without going into details I can summarise the common conclusion. We agreed on the interpretation that we have three somewhat different interpretations on European research in the field of VET:

  • VET as multidisciplinary area of research: According to this interpretation VET is primarily a common area of research that can be approached from different research disciplines. Thus, the field of VET does not necessarily provide a basis for specialised disciplines but can be seen as a research area for shared interests and exchanges.
  • VET research as a field for specialised interdisciplinary studies: According to this interpretation the specialisation on VET tends to generate interdisciplinary approaches to cover complex challenges in the development of VET (policies, systems, institutions and practices). Based on such development there are specialised institutes with interdisciplinary agendas for VET research (and with commitment to support VET development).
  • Pedagogics of VET as a set of  research disciplines with transdisciplinary characteristics: According to this interpretation the professionalisation of teachers and trainers in VET requires a set of research disciplines to support the pedagogic, organisational end societal development of VET. The shaping of such research disciplines is linked to the university curricula for VET professionals and related doctoral studies.

This rough generalisation provided the basis for co-habitation, mutual exchanges and co-development of the VETNET network during its early years. Also, in the same ECER conference in Frankfurt we had a triple symposium with the heading “Towards a European VET research agenda”. This was based on contributions from different thematic groups of the Forum network (“Forum for interdisciplinary research on vocational education, training and learning”). However, these contributions could at best be seen as a gallery of themes brought together by an emerging network within the VETNET community.

Looking back at that phase of the development of a European VET research community and comparing the earlier discussions (of 1997) with the ones in the current workshop (2017) I can see that the VETNET community has clearly reached a level of maturity. In the current situation there is no tendency towards particularisation or fragmentation (whether on theoretical or methodological grounds). Instead, the workshop was inspired by common interests to promote theoretical and methodological enrichment of VET research – with an emphasis on enhancing its societal relevance. Of course, the workshop was based on rather brief inputs that outlined the respective approaches. Nevertheless, they opened prospects for further steps in learning from each other.

– – –

I guess this is enough of this workshop in Copenhagen (2017) and of the reflections on its early predecessor in Frankfurt (1997). Surely this kind of discussion will be continued in the future conferences. Now, concerning the reporting on the ECER 2017, I will conclude this series with reflections on the joint VETNET activities and on the VETNET community.

More blogs to come …

 

 

 

Wrapping up the ECER 2017 experience – Part Four: Discussions on vocational teacher education

August 29th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my three previous blogs I have started a series of posts reporting on the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER 2017) that took place last week in Copenhagen. The first post outlined a working agenda with themes to be covered. The second post provided insights into my own presentation. The third post discussed the themes ‘qualification frameworks’ and ‘credit transfer’. With this fourth post I try to give an overview on presentations that discussed reforms in vocational teacher education or issues related to practicum studies of teacher candidates. Here I am facing a multitude of presentations and sessions and I cannot even try to give comprehensive characterisations of them. Instead, I try to list the presentations below as thematic blocks and make some remarks on each block – with the hope that I get access to published 2017 Copenhagen presentations on the Vetnetsite and/or to full papers. At the end I will give links to our (ITB) projects of earlier years that can be read as background materials for the newer contributions.

Vocational teacher education in the light of recent reforms – Danish and Irish experiences

In this block I would like to discuss the two studies presented in the same session:

Vocational Teacher Education and Vocational Didactics – authored and presented by Henriette Duch from Denmark and

The Students’ Experience Of FE Teacher Education Qualification (TEQ) Programmes: A Study of FE Teachers Professional Development And Evolving Identity In Ireland: North and South – authored by Anne Graham Cagney, Carol Yelverton- Halpin, Ned Cohen and presented by Anne.

Both presentations gave a picture of reforms that were allegedly aiming to support pedagogic autonomy of vocational schools or to upgrade the level of vocational teacher education. In both cases the presenters brought into picture boundary conditions and side-effects that overshadowed the implementation.

Finding the ‘e’ in VET and the ‘researchers’ and ‘pedagogists’ in VET teachers

In this block I would discuss one single presentation with multiple messages:

What’s In A Name – VET Teachers Acting Upon The Meaning Of The ‘E’ In VET authored and presented by Lewis Hughes.

In this presentation Lewis gave us insights into a conversation approach to motivate and support VET practitioners to include research as part of their professional practice With the help of a framework (adapted from the Activity Theory group around Yrjö Engeström) Lewis is integrating researching related matters with these teachers perceiving themselves as educators and, accordingly, finding an interest in reflection that takes the shape of research. Moreover, when making this experience as a collective, the teachers are able to position themselves as doing ‘research’ as a means of continuing professional development and adding to vocational currency. Associated with this, Lewis referred to the Australian recent initiative of establishing the VET Practitioner Research Network (VPRN) – his Founding Partner involvement in this is adding to informing his research as his research is also informing his contribution to configuring and activity of the VPRN.

I assume that I have picked a key message from Lewis’ presentation (among other important points). To me it was important that I manage to bring into contact with Lewis a group of Italian VET teachers who represented the institute Cometa Formazione and had established their Cometa Research program based on similar ideas.

The development of VET teacher pedagogy through practice

In the third block I would like to discuss the  presentations of the final session of the VETNET program at ECER 2017:

Development of practicum pedagogy to enhance VET teacher learning – authored by Ingela Andersson, Ingrid Berglund, Ingrid Henning Loeb, Viveca Lindberg and presented by Ingrid from Göteborg.

The practice of feedback in practicum periods in VET – case of Swedish-speaking Finland – authored and presented by Birgit Schaffar-Kronqvist from Turku/Åbo.

Developing novice VET teachers’ pedagogy: A work-based learning curriculum framework – authored and presented by Susanne Francisco from Australia.

Here the two first presentations by Ingrid and Birgit discussed the shaping of vocational teacher education programs by universities in Sweden and in (Swedish-speaking) Finland. These programs are delivered by universities (or by universities of applied sciences) independently of the Bachelor-Master structures. The volume of the program is in Finland 60 ECTS points and in Sweden 90 ECTS points. Both programs can be studied as full-time students or as part-time students. The learning arrangements are appropriate for teacher candidates who are already working as teachers without formal qualification, and for people with vocational backgrounds without teaching experience. The schedules (with on-the-job learning and presence sessions) are attractive for adult learners who want to shift to teacher occupation. However, in both cases the presenters reported on tensions regarding the role of practicum (practice-based learning period) and challenges, how to implement these periods in a such a way that the VET teacher candidates have new learning experiences.

In this context Susanne Francisco brought into discussion theoretical insights (with reference to Stephen Kemmis from Australia, who also attended the session) and selected examples from the practice. She also presented some exemplary ‘learning journeys’ that demonstrated, how teacher candidates’ learning processes in practicum can be kept at ‘ordinary’ level or enhanced or driven into dead ends. Altogether, we had an interesting discussion

Revisiting ‘Vocational teachers and trainers’ and ‘Practice-based learning’ as prior European project themes

I am aware that I have only scratched the topics above and not really entered them. That is why I have presented them as thematic blocks that I want to revisit in due time. In this context I also want to revisit the materials of some earlier European projects in which I was involved in one way or another, such as:

  • The Europrof project and its follow-up activities (Training of new VET professionals; 1996 – 2001)
  • The UNIP network for developing an international framework for TVET teacher education (2004 – 2006)
  • The TTplus project in Europe (focus on trainers) and TT-TVET project in Europe and Asia (2006 – 2009)
  • VET teachers and trainers – Consultation seminars in six European regions (2008 – 2009)
  • The Euronet-PBL project (Practice-based learning in engineering, business management and VET teacher education (2008-2010)

I have collected the materials on ResearchGate to the following two Project spaces:

Workplace Learning/ Practice-Based Learning – Legacy of European projects 2005 – 2012

Teachers & Trainers in Vocational Education &Training – Legacy of European projects 1995 -2010

and regarding ECER conferences

My VETNET Journey – Archives of my contributions to ECER conferences and VETNET network (1992 – 2016)

– – –

I think I have made enough notes and taken plenty of homework for the time to come. In my next post I will report on a very interesting workshop at ECER 2017.

More blogs to come …

Wrapping up the ECER 2017 experience – Part Three: Discussions on common qualification frameworks and credit transfer systems

August 29th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my two previous blogs I have started a series to report on my experiences at the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER 2017) that took place last week in Copenhagen. With my first post I presented a thematic overview (and working agenda) on reports to come. In the second post I gave insights to my own presentation on the role of “Begleitforschung” (Accompanying research) in the Learning Layers project. With this third post I will make remarks on sessions that discussed national/international qualification frameworks and trans-national credit transfer systems. Here I do not try to cover entire sessions (which may have had several themes under a ‘common’ umbrella). Instead, I try to make transparent some red threads that I could follow across similar sessions and presentations.

The rocky road to qualification frameworks … and looking how they work

Before I start my reporting on the contributions to this theme in ECER 2017, I prefer to share some memories of ECER conferences about ten years ago. In ECER 2015 one of the highlights was the contribution of a large consortium of researchers discussing a policy study – the “Maastricht study” on the attainment of the goals of the Lisbon study. This discussion was informative, analytical and critical as well. It raised several themes to be followed. Yet, there was no direct follow-up. Instead, in the next conferences until 2009 major emphasis was given on the making and functioning (?) of the European Qualification Framework (EQF). This discussion was polarised between fundamental critique and interim reports from the EQF-processes. The tensions in these debates were put into concept with the metaphor “The Holy Trinity” referring to three functions that the EQF tries to fulfill without achieving any of them.

In the light of the above presented experiences it was interesting to see, how the discussion on qualification frameworks was brought back – now from a wider international perspective. Stephanie Allais from South Africa had worked in an international study that had analysed the making of national or trans-national qualification frameworks in different global regions. She had been involved in an earlier study and now there was a follow-up phase. Here I cannot go into details of her presentation. My impression was that in many cases making of the framework was characterised by writing existing structures and educational practices into the given format – instead of rethinking and reshaping them. In this respect the frameworks hardly fulfilled the function of policy development or transfer of innovation. Therefore, it was appropriate to discuss, whether the introduction of such frameworks has been mostly useful or useless but harmless or downright counterproductive regarding the development of educational practices.

In another session Stephanie presented a picture on the development of VET in three African countries – South Africa, Ethiopia and Ghana – with an emphasis to highlight the current developments at the level of educational practices. Furthermore, in her presentation Christiane Eberhardt discussed the differences between the German approach to recognition of prior learning v.s. the Australian approach to allow ‘skilled migration’ as precondition for visa.

To package circles into squares with credit transfer instruments … and how to do it in a smart way

Another session, managed by Sandra Bohlinger and her project team, brought into picture the work with credit transfer instruments. The presentations and the underlying two projects focused on healthcare sector – as a particularly interesting field from the perspective of European/international mobility. This was highlighted by the project team and in addition by the European policy expert Torsten Dunkel who reported on recent policy developments.

Here I need to remind us, how the theme ‘credit transfer’ was discussed in VETNET about ten years ago. Whilst the making of qualification frameworks was perceived as a push towards atomisation and fragmentation of holistic VET cultures, the role of credit transfer was perceived in a different light. Obviously, also in that exercise the risk of atomisation was there. But yet, the pioneer projects with the model VQTS tried to substantiate the credit transfer process by analysing work tasks and the development from novice to expert. Here the slogan was ‘putting Dreyfus to work’ (with reference to the well-known work of Dreyfus & Dreyfus).

In the light of this background it was interesting to see, how the newer projects had positioned themselves and what kind of tools (including both pedagogic and digital tools) they were developing. Here I will not try to present the contributions of individual presenters. Instead, it is worthwhile to mention that it took us some time to get an appropriate picture on the (limited) ambitions of the project. There was a risk to interpret their work as preparation for atomistic curricula – instead of tools for light-weight credit transfer procedures. And here, it was easy to get a false impression that the tools would be intended for costly and time-consuming (and commercialised) recognition processes. From this perspective the project team gave us the necessary clarification and we could focus on their real achievements.

– – –

I guess this is enough of these themes. The presentations of ECER 2017 will be published on the Vetnetsite, see the section 2017 Copenhagen Presentations. Background information on the discussion on these themes in the previous ECER conferences is available in my blog articles on the Vetnetsite (see

My journey with the VETNET network – Insights into the evolution of European vocational education and training research: The years of stabilisation of the VETNET community 2001 – 2006 (Part 3)

and

My journey with the VETNET network – Insights into the evolution of European vocational education and training research: The years of consolidation 2007 – 2011 (Part 4).

In my next post I will focus on studies and presentations that discuss vocational teacher education.

More blogs to come …

Wrapping up the ECER 2017 experience – Part Two: My reflections on Accompanying Research in the Learning Layers project

August 28th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous blog I started a series of posts to wrap up my experiences in the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER 2017) that took place last week in Copenhagen. I presented a thematic overview and a working agenda to explore different aspects that came up in the sessions I attended. With this post I give insights into my own presentation.

Background, work plan and modification of the plan

This year all my conference presentations focus on revisiting and reconceptualising our experience with the Learning Layers project and its Construction pilot. In particular I want to highlight the particular role of our “Begleitforschung” (Accompanying research) approach in the complex projects. Initially I had planned to write three parallel research papers and to present them in three successive conferences (see my post of April “Revisiting the Learning Layers experience – A “ToDo List” for forthcoming conferences“). I could partly implement it by preparing the first paper for the Stockholm International VET Conference in May – with emphasis on Accompanying research as promoter of action-oriented learning (Handlungsorientiertes Lernen). Then, I could prepare a second paper that I intended to present in the Rostock International VET Conference one week before the ECER. In this paper the main emphasis was given on revisiting the theme ‘work process knowledge’ and linking it to newer innovation agendas – in particular to “Industry 4.0”. However, then – due to intervening factors – I neither had the chance to present this paper in Rostock nor to prepare a third paper for ECER. Thus, I had to postpone my work with the methodological development of Accompanying research in the Learning Layers project (compared with prior approaches in pilot projects and innovation programmes).

Looking back at Learning Layers project – and forward to the follow-up

As has been the case with some other presentations, I had to give some background information, how the Learning Layers project was shaped and how the two sectoral pilots (in Healthcare and Construction) worked. Then I had to give insights into the change in the design idea – from digitising learning resources to shaping of the Learning Toolbox (LTB) and to different iterations. Finally, I had to to draw attention to the complementary relations between co-design workshops, multimedia training and pilot testing with digital tools. Mostly, these activities were carried out in the training centre Bau-ABC of the North-German construction industries and trades. Here, the key achievement was the introduction of the LTB as a digital toolset to support (trade-specific) training and learning in Bau-ABC.

But I also managed to give insights into the follow-up activities that promote company-specific applications of the LTB (as contributions to overarching management of work-related knowledge processes) and similar uses of LTB in continuing vocational training (as support for integrative curriculum development and learning approaches). In addition, one follow-up process is shaping integrative approaches to ‘health and safety’  in construction sector. All these processes are taking further steps to reach real work contexts and users in work organisations.

Revisiting the theme ‘work process knowledge’ and analysing old and new innovation agendas

In the light of the above it was worthwhile recapitulating, what we had learned from studying the legacy of the “Work process knowledge network” of the years 1997 -2004. In particular it was important to compare the views on the role of VET and informal learning in promoting the acquisition of work process knowledge. Furthermore, it was important to take on board the recent analyses on three generations of innovation programmes in working life (‘Humanisation of work’, ‘Learning organisations’ and ‘Industry 4.0’). With the emerging innovation agenda ‘Industry 4.0’ I explored the recent analyses of German sociologists and educationalists on the general frontiers in the debates (techno-centric v.s. socio-technical approaches) and efforts to develop spaces and facilities for learning within work processes or to shape complementary learning spaces.

– – –

I think this is enough for a brief introduction. The long version of my paper is available on ResearchGate (see ‘Begleitforschung’ as contributor to digitisation in vocational education and training (VET) for construction sector – Linking ‘work process knowledge’ to ‘Industry 4.0’. The short version will be published in the proceedings of the Rostock conference (see the forthcoming conference proceedings). And my PowerPoint presentation will be published on the website of the VETNET network (see the Vetnetsite/2017 Copenhagen Presentations).

Concerning the feedback that I got, I note that the issue ‘scientific status of accompanying research’ has been discussed recently when the research work of the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB) in Germany has been evaluated. Indeed, I need to continue my work with this theme and inform myself the points made in this evaluation.

In my next posts I will discuss some key themes that were discussed in several sessions.

More blogs to come …

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