Archive for the ‘network’ Category

My journey with the VETNET network – Part Two: The founding years

August 15th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my latest post I started a series of blogs on my journey with ECER conferences and the VETNET network. These blogs serve as my contribution to the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) 2016 we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of VETNET – the European Vocational Education and Training Research Network.  This year I have to stay outof ECER because of health issues. Therefore I send my congratulations with my blogs. In the first post I covered the earliest years – the pre-history of the network. In this post I will have a look at the founding phase after the official launch in ECER 1996 in Sevilla.

ECER 1997 in Frankfurt am Main: VETNET in action – working consensus on the nature of VET research

Whilst the official launch of VETNET took place during ECER 1996 in Sevilla, a VETNET conference strand became reality in ECER 1997 in Frankfurt. At this time VET-related research was clearly organised in one space and in several parallel sessions next to each other. Also, several EU-funded projects came together to exchange knowledge on their common themes (e.g. the projects on post-16 education strategies and dually oriented qualifications). One of the highlights was the symposium on “Core structures of vocational education and training (VET) research”. In the discussions we took note that we have three main approaches to research in the field of VET:

  1. Discipline-based approaches to research on VET (Forschung über Berufsbildung) that perceive VET as a special area of interest;
  2. Interdisciplinary VET research (Berufsbildungsforschung) that crosses the boundaries of traditional disciplines and promotes integrative know-how on VET development (Berufsbildungsentwicklung);
  3. Transdisciplinary research in pedagogics of VET (Berufspädagogik) that promotes integrative research to support (domain-specific and transversal) pedagocic development of VET.

The common conclusion – the VETNET working consensus of Frankfurt 1997 – was that all these approaches complement each other and that we need to give space for all of them in the future VETNET conference programs.

In ECER 1997 the VETNET assembly was already taking the role of organising the network. The fact that the initially appointed board had not become active was noted. Therefore, an acting executive board consisting of co-opted members was set up. The members brought together experience from European projects and other European networks (Johanna Lasonen, Sabine Manning, David Raffe) as well as from AERA (Curtis Finch, Johanna Lasonen). In this way the network got founded and grounded to become the umbrella network of European VET researchers.

ECER 1998 in Ljubljana: Networking the networks within VETNET

In ECER 1998 in Ljubljana the VETNET strand had already got stabilised and the community was able to initiate new kinds of sessions. The VETNET strand was opened by a colloquium on Transnationality in VET research (involving multiple perspectives on transnational exhanges, comparisons and knowledge enrichment). Also, the program included a session for dialogue between projects in different EU programs (Europrof project meets Work Process Knowledge network) and a special session Meeting point for networks in VET rersearch.

ECER 1999 in Lahti: VETNET program chair in action

Whilst the VETNET strand in the two previous conferences had been shaped by the EERA secretariat, the VETNET network had agreed to appoint a ‘local’ VETNET program chair for the ECER 1999 to organised in Lahti, Finland. Johanna Lasonen took this task as the pioneer in this role. In the conference we had then a VETNET opening colloquium with invited speakers (Yrjö Engeström, Michael Young) and a special guest (Director of VET department, Armoguum Parsuramen from Unesco). In addition there were ‘study visits’ to vocational schools and companies to discuss VET in practice and there was a VETNET reception sponsored by Lahti Polytechnic. Moreover, this time the VETNET program was organised in collaboration with the Academy of HRD, European chapter and the proceedings of the program (full papers) were made available already by the conference. From the content point of view the program included new features, such as sessions for revisiting and re-examining the results of completed European projects or for presenting new web resources for promoting knowledge development across such projects (the Cedefop Research Arena initiative).

From the organisational point of view it is worthwhile to note that the General Assembly of VETNET network agreed on a procedure to elect a new VETNET board in the next conference.

ECER 2000 in Edinburgh: New VETNET board elected

In ECER 2000 in Edinburgh the VETNET program continued on a similar track as the previous ones. This time some of the sessions took up the discussions in previous ones and continued the debates. In this way the symposium on Key qualifications/ Key competences provided an opening that was picked up in some later sessions (e.g. on transitions and re-entry to working life as well as on curriculum development in polytechnics). Also, there was an update on the work with some key themes of the Cedefop Research Arena (the shaping of new interactive web resources).

From the perspective of the community development the highlight was the election of the new VETNET board. Already in Lahti we had come to the conclusion that the co-opted executive board that had worked since ECER 1997 was coming to the end of its term. Also, Martin Mulder who had served as the founding convenor had agreed to step down. In Edinburgh we elected Toni Griffiths from University College London (the coordinator of the EU FP4-funded project “Work experience as an educational challenge for the 21st century”) as the new convenor and a new board to support the work in the next phase.

– – –

I guess this is enough of the founding (and grounding) phase of the network. In the next post I will have a look at the years of stabilisation of VETNET.

More blogs to come …

 

My journey with the VETNET network – Part One: The early years

August 14th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

Normally I have participated in August or September in the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) – the annual conference of the European Educational Research Association (EERA). This year I have to stay out because of health issues. This is bitter, because in ECER 2016 we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of VETNET – the  European Vocational Education and Training Research Network. In order to contribute to the celebrations I have decided to write a series of blogs on my journey with ECER and VETNET – starting from the year 1992 and ending with the present date. Please note that this is not meant to be an ‘official history’ document of the network – these are my reflections on my individual experiences as a network member from the very beginning.

ECER 1992 in Enschede: Pilot ECER before founding of the EERA

In 1992 the University of Twente had the responsibility to organise the annual Dutch conference on educational research conference (Onderwijsresearchdag). However, the organisers decided to open the conference for wider European participation and to arrange it as an English-speaking event. This was the start of the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER). The strand ‘Vocational and Professional Education’ (with keynotes by David Raffe and Frank Achtenhagen) was one of most popular ones – the VETNET community started to get together. I participated as a young researcher from peripheral Finland – not yet a member of the European Union – with a comparative analysis of vocational education and training (VET) reforms in six European countries (Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands).

During the preparation of the pilot ECER the Dutch organisers tried to prepare the grounds for setting up a European umbrella organisation for educational researchers – based on the model of the American Educational Research Association (AERA). However, at that point the time was not ripe for the decision – some more time was needed.

IRNETD 1994 in Milano: Pilot VETNET event before founding of the network

In the next years the VET research group of the University of Twente started cooperation with the American-based Academy of Human Resource Development (AHRD) to explore an alternative option for internationalisation of research in VET and HRD. This led to the initiative to create an umbrella network IRNETD (International Research Network on Education, Training and Development) and to organise the launching conference in Milano in June 1994 (hosted by Associazione Italiana Formatori – AIF).  (I participated this time only as an observer because I had just started in Cedefop, see below.)

Regarding European networking in VET research, the conference itself was clearly a step forward from Enschede 1992. But the designed follow-up by launching a major network was given up due to practical difficulties. Yet, the experience with this conference paved the way for the VETNET community to come up.

Interim developments in 1994 – 1996

In the meantime the idea of setting up a joint European organisation for educational researchers had been accepted and the European Educational Research Association (EERA) was founded in 1994 as the umbrella organisation for national associations in this field. The first ECER under the auspices of EERA was organised in 1995 by the University of Bath co-located with the national conference of the British association BERA. (I couldn’t participate because I was just moving with Cedefop from Berlin to Thessaloniki, see below.)

By the second ECER conference the EERA council had adopted a policy to set up thematic networks to manage respective sections of the ECER. At that time Martin Mulder – a key actor in the above mentioned conferences and the representative of the Dutch national association in the EERA council) took the initiative to set up an EERA network for VET researchers. He contacted member associations to get nominations for a founding board and submitted a proposal that was accepted by the EERA council.

I myself had started in June 1994 (two weeks before the ITNETD conference as a national seconded expert at Cedefop (the European centre for the development of vocational training). Therefore I was not in the position to prepare a paper – yet I could report on the emerging community development in VET research. In 1995 I got a job a project manager job in Cedefop (as temporary official of the European Union – with tasks related to European research cooperation in VET). Due to the fact that Cedefop was being relocated from Berlin to Thessaloniki, Greece, I couldn’t participate in ECER 1995. (The conference took place just when the move was implemented.)

ECER 1996 in Sevilla: The start of VETNET under the auspices of EERA

Whilst the EERA council had already adopted the policy to set up thematic networks, they were not yet established by the time that ECER 1996 took place in Sevilla. Therefore, there was no clear thematic strand for VET research. Instead, most of the contributions of VET researchers were placed in parallel sessions in the morning sessions – which left the afternoons open as ‘creative spaces’ for improvised workshops. I participated with a Cedefop-initiated symposium on accompanying research and as a discussant in a symposium of the Europrof project. Thus, already at this conference we could witness the entry of trans-national projects  and their symposia or workshops into ECER.

A clear highlight for VET researchers was the General Assembly to launch the VETNET network. Martin Mulder invited the participants to announce the official start of VETNET as the Network 2 of EERA. Most of the participants in VET-related sessions attended and welcomed the initiative that was considered as a major step forward. From now on we could see that the community was taking shape and that we had a common framework under the auspices of EERA.

– – –

I think this is enough of the early years. After the pilot initiatives there was a clear course forward to develop the common umbrella network VETNET within EERA and ECER. In the next post I will report on the shaping of VETNET during the founding years.

More blogs to come

 

 

Revisiting Kostelec 4: The way(s) forward from the “Crossing boundaries …” conference

October 24th, 2010 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my recent blog postings (Revisiting Kostelec 1-3 ) I have given an account on the recent international conference with the theme “Crossing Boundaries: The multiple roles of trainers and teachers in vocational education and training”. With this posting it is time to shift the emphasis from the memories and to consider the way(s) forward.

In this context it is essential to note that the organiser of the conference – the network “Trainers in Europe” – is coming to the end of its EU-funded working period. As things stand now, it is apparent that the follow-up phase will be characterised by distributed successor activities (for which the platform can serve as a home base).

For the further discussion on the frollow-up activities I have made the following observations on parallel working agendas that were present in the conference and merit to be considered:

1. The professionalisation of trainers (and parity of esteem between trainers and teachers in VET)

This agenda is stimulated by debates on academic drift and on vocational progression routes. It is overshadowed by the Bologna process and the degree structures. Yet, it can also bring into discussion the value of work-related learning opportunities. In the conference this agenda was represented by the presentation of Alrun Schleiff and Simone Wanken on ‘learning tandems’ and ‘cross-mentoring’. In the preparation phase some other proposals were adressing this context.  After the conference it is worthwhile to explore, what is happening with such initiatives at the national and European level.

2. Trans-national mobility (and comparability of qualifications) of trainers across EU

This agenda is stimulated by policies to promote mobility of trainers (in a similar way as mobility of teachers) across Europe. However, the hitherto perceived diversity of training contexts and professional profiles has made it difficult to promote such initiatives effectively and to get the target groups inspired. Yet, in the light of internationalisation of production and services this is a real challenge. In the conference this agenda was represented by the presentation of Sandie Gay on skills verification and identification of common core areas.

3. Promotion of specific (pedagogic, ICT-related and sectoral) competences of trainers

This agenda covers a wide range of initiatives that are linked to specific aspects of trainers’ competences (pedagogic, multimedial, sectoral) and are looking for ways to address these aspects in a European context. As a contrast to the above mentioned ones, these initiatives do not necessarily raise questions on teh formal qualification frameworks or on recognition issues as their starting points.  In the conference this agenda was represented by the presenations on the development/utilisation of e-learning and of self-assessment approaches.

4. Promotion of process innovations in training contexts and rethinking the role of training functions

This agenda focuses on the limits of hitherto developed models for in-company training or training in external centres. The main thrust of the agenda is to link the efforts of different parties (workplace trainers/mentors, internal experts, external service providers, intermediate agencies) to real-time innovation agendas and to working with cutting-edge knowledge. In this context the focal point is not in achieving certain formal standards (or using specific know-how) but in bringing different elements into an ongoing innovation process. In the conference this perspective was addressed most explicitly by the presentation of Johannes Koch.

The above presented list of parallel working agendas is probably not exhaustive and there are several overlaps of interest and approaches. However, in my view these agendas can be seen as mutually complementing developments that (at least currentlky) have their own dynamics.

In my view this observation strengthens the final proposal of Europe-wide consultation process on a new type of Innovation Forum that puts the interests of trainers into the centre (instead of highlighting national or European policy frameworks). To me, the conference at Kostelec refreshed the menories of the best consultation seminars and their dialogue-oriented spirit. I think that it is good to build on this heritage.

Looking forward to further discussion!

Pekka

Revisiting Kostelec 3: The working climate in the “Crossing boundaries …” conference

October 24th, 2010 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my two previous blog postings – Revisiting Kostelec 1 and 2 – I have presented my general impression of the conference and then an overview of the thematic sessions that I attended. However, this alone is not enough to give an idea, what made the conference such a positive experience – what brought into being the spirit of Kostelec. Here, I try to give some additional aspects that come up when I refresh my memories.

1) Working and learning together

Already from the first paper sessions I noticed that this conference has the spirit of working and learning together. Surely, the tandem presentation on ‘learning tandems’ was a good start. However, the further sessions continued with the same pattern. Instead of having had a succession of rushed monologues, we had a possibility to go into discussions and to build bridges between the current presentation and the previous ones.

2) Creative interactive spaces

Instead of filling the programme with paper sessions and symposia, the organisers had encouraged the presenters to use more interactive sessions (e.g. speed learning cafe or interactive workshop). These were not perceived as marginal ‘entertainment’ but as valuable sessions and the participants made good use of these.

3) Smart use of poster session

The organisers had encouraged participants to prepare posters. However, on the spot some creativity was needed to organise a well-functioning poster session. The solution was that posters were lying on tables and the presenters were sitting behind the table. The audience had the opportunity to sit down and have a talk over the poster that was on the table. This proved to be a good solution. (It provided also the possibility to reschedule on paper presentation that had to be cancelled because the presenters had been directed to a wrong Kostelec.)

4) The online radio show

Pontydysgu had made preparations for an online radio show live from Kostelec.  Also this event was run in a smart and participative way. When the conference had already reached the halfway stage, the participants were ready to reflect on the event and what they had gained so far. Several ideas were also raised for further discussion.

5) The online exhibition

During the preparation the organisers had welcomed contributions to the online exhibition. Before the conference most of the posters had already been made available via this facility. Also, some videos had been made to be presented in this area. During the conference this work was continued and the participants were encoraged to submit more content to the exhibition area.

6) The concluding debate

The wrap-up session of the conference was not organised as a series of speeches that look back at the sessions. Instead, the participants were invited into a debate. The participants had to submit motions (critical statements) to be debated. By means of lottery, some participants were picked as promoters (and secondants) and others as opponents (and secondants. After each mini-debate the participants were asked to formulate their own statements and then the debate was concluded by a vote. This all added up to the picture of a genuine learning event.

I guess this is enough for this posting. In my next blog I will leave the Kostelec experience and discuss the way forward.

Watch this space!

Pekka

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

October 24th, 2010 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch this space!

Pekka

Revisiting Kostelec 1: Praise for the “Crossing Boundaries” conference of the network ‘Trainers in Europe’

October 24th, 2010 by Pekka Kamarainen

Just one week ago (14.10. -15.10.2010) the Trainers in Europe network organised a successful international conference. The theme of the  was “Crossing Boundaries: The multiple roles of trainers and teachers in vocational education and training”. My impression as a participant was that the title was appropriate and that the conference really tried to work its way to a better understanding on new challenges and on changing roles of vocational trainers.

It is worthwhile to note that the main organiser – the Trainers in Europe network has had to struggle to find its role on the crowded terrain of European cooperation. As we know. the network has been the successor of the Eurotrainer project that was doing studies and surveys on the position of trainers in Europe. At the same time the TTnet network of Cedefop has been the meeting point of national networks and the summarising arena of country sudies. Moreover, in 2008 – 2009 the European Commission (DG EAC) launched a Europe-wide but regionalisedconsultation process on the role of VET Teachers and Trainers as key actors for lifelong learning. Given all these activities (some of which have already been completed), what could be proposed as a possible way forward?

Looking back at the Kostelec experience, it is important to emphasise that this conference was not shaped as a traditional academic conference or as a conference of country representatives. Instead the conference – taking place in an old castle outside Prague – provided interactive sessions and creative spaces for knowledge sharing.  The particpants came with messages and questions that were related to the position of trainers and to future-oriented initiatives. The formats of the sessions supported active discussion and learning from each other – rather than lengthy monologues that would have tired the participants. Also, the work with online exhibition and with the online radio show have given insights into potentials that have not yet been fully exhausted.

In my subsequent postings I will try to give a picture, what was happening in the sessions (next one) and on some working agendas for follow-up activities.

Watch this space!

Pekka

Working and Learning: New posts coming

October 24th, 2010 by Pekka Kamarainen

Sadly an overworked period led to a standstill in my blogging just when I had wished to become more active on this front. Given the circumstances, I understand that Pontydysgu relocated my blog to “Speakers’ corner” (the so-called Hyde Park area of Pontydysgu blogs). In practice this area seems to have become a “sleepers’ corner” for hibernating blogs that may come up or fall into coma.

Now I think it is time to take the floor with some messages from the recently organised conference of the “Trainers in Europe” network (see the conference information on the network website

http://www.trainersineurope.org/conference-2010

I will try to give some insights into the conference (as the whole), into the sessions that I experienced and into issues that arise for follow-up activities.

Watch this space!

Pekka

Don’t blame the technology!

March 29th, 2010 by Cristina Costa
Sometimes I wonder why people want to use technology in their practice. Is it because it’s a recognised trend in their professional sphere/discipline? Is it because others are doing it? Is it because it makes them look cool and modern? …maybe it is a bit of all…? And in a way they are all plausible answers. [...]