Archive for the ‘networking’ Category

My journey with the VETNET network – Epilogue: The (rocky) road to ECER 16 in Dublin

August 16th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my five latest posts I have written a series of blogs on my journey with ECER conferences and the VETNET network. In these posts I have discussed the development of the network from its earliest origins in the beginning of 1990s up to present date. These blogs are my contribution to the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) 2016 and to the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the founding of VETNET – the European Vocational Education and Training Research Network.  Unfortunately I have to stay out of ECER because of health issues, but these posts may serve as building blocks for the collective memory. In this epilogue I shift the emphasis from the past to the preparation of the forthcoming conference with some final remarks.

From ECER 2005 (Dublin) to ECER 2016 (Dublin) – Ten/eleven years after

My first remark is related to the preparation of the VETNET Opening colloquium. Interestingly enough, the VETNET  organisers have invited once again James Wickham as a keynote speaker (he had this ro le also in ECER 2005). To me this was a very good choice. In 2005 made interesting comparisons between ‘the European dream’ and ‘the American mirage’ as leading ideas for European training and labour market policies. Now he has chosen the heading “Always the first cut – vocational education and training in the Irish crisis”. It would be interesting to see, what kind of links he might make between his earlier analyses and those on the present crisis.

Communities, networking and web tools

My second remark is related to the way in which we discussed in ECER 2005 on the role of research communities (in regional initiatives) and on the support provided by social networking and web tools. At that time we were dependent on very early stage of web technologies and related possibilities for social networking. At that stage the interaction between researchers, tool developers and practitioners was far more complicated (and the chances for participative design were far more limited). Now, our experiences with the Learning Layers project (and with the online tools of the VETNET network and the IJRVET journal) open new horizons.

Visibility of VET research

Finally I would like to make a point on the visibility of VET research – both within the EERA community and at a more general level. In both respects the VETNET network was in 2005 still in the process of making its case. The subsequent years of stabilisation, consolidation and new initiatives have clearly given more visibility to VETNET and European VET research in the context of ECER and the EERA community. And in particular the launch of the journal IJRVET and its success have brought the public visibility of European and international VET research to a new level.

– – –

I guess this is enough food for thought for those who are on the (rocky) road to ECER 2016 in Dublin. It is a pity that I cannot join them. But I will keep in touch and then catch up with the news. I am looking forward to that.

More blogs to come …

 

 

My journey with the VETNET network – Part Five: The years of new initiatives

August 16th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my latest posts I have been writing 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 when 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.  In the previousposts I have covered the earliest years from 1992 on, the founding  phase until  2001, the stabilisation phase between 2003 and 2007 and the consolidation phase between 2007 and 2011. In this final post I will have a look at the latest phase up to present date.

ECER 2012 in Cadiz: The role of VET in overcoming the economic crisis

Whatever we might have been able to plan in advance for ECER 2012 in Cadiz, real life pushed genuine challenges to public discussion. The fact that the host country Spain was heavily hit by the economic crisis and youth unemployment gave us a clear clue, what to discuss in the conference. Therefore, in the VETNET Opening colloquium we raised the question on the role of VET in overcoming such a crisis. Fernando analysed recent developments in and current debates on Spanish VET system. He drew attention to potentials that had not been used (cooperation between VET and working life) and demands for changes that have not been thoroughly thought through (transfer of German model of dual system to Spain).  Marg Malloch presented a picture of parallel developments and political pressures on privatisation of VET in Australia. Michael Gessler analysed, how the German dual system works regarding the transition from school to working life and examined, how a complex web of additional options and measures – the system of transition schemes – has emerged and stabilised as a self-sustaining system.

In addition to this opening event we had several contributions on the role of VET in supporting transitions and in supporting workplace learning. In particular the Dutch contributions on VET schools as organisers of/ partners in practice-based learning (Aimee Hoeve, Hester Smulders, Jeroen Onstenk) addressed these issues. I gave an overview on the development of the themes ‘workplace learning’, ‘cooperation between learning venues’ and ‘work process knowledge’ in European projects since 1995 to present date. Ludger Deitmer discussed the role of apprentice training as a basis for innovations in organisations (with reference to analyses using the QEK-tool).

For the VETNET community the Cadiz experience was a strong impulse for getting more intensively engaged with the crisis and paying attention to specific support measures (e.g. bilateral programs between Germany and Spain or Greece).

ECER 2013 in Istanbul: VET between academic drift and enhancement of work-related learning

Concerning ECER 2013 in Istanbul, the advent of the conference was characterised by massive protest movements and partly these demonstrations continued during ECER. However, these protests were not related to economic problems or youth unemployment. Thus, the Opening colloquium of VETNET focused on the position of VET in Turkey – between academic drift and lowly esteemed occupational work. The VETNET organisers discussed this theme with two Turkish professors – Oguz Baburoglu (as expert on the development of Turkish Higher Education institutions) and Özlem Ünlühisarcikli (as expert on Turkish VET development). We couldn’t draw clear conclusions but we learned a lot.

In the sessions our ITB project team presented the first contributions from our ongoing Learning Layers project – at a theoretical level revisiting the studies on ‘work process knowledge’ and ‘informal learning’, at empirical level discussions on the design ideas for mobile learning in construction sector and analyses on user stories (based on interview material). In another session our Dutch colleagues (Loek Nieuwenhuis, Aimee Hoeve, Ilya Zitter) presented a set of interactive innovation projects in which research teams were supporting practice-based learning in VET and (vocational) higher education. A specific symposium of our former ITB-colleagues from three universities discussed validation of informal and non-formal learning in Germany and at European level. Finally, Martin Mulder presented newest results of his project to map the European group picture of VET research in the light of articles in refereed journals.

For VETNET network this would have been normally the year to elect the Convenor and the board. However, since the change of Convenor(s) had already taken place in the previous year and since the colleagues were available for a new term, the board members were re-elected. However, as a new challenge we took note of the fact that the global umbrella organisation WERA (World Educational Research Association) had published a call for proposals for WERA International Research Networks (IRNs). We concluded that VETNET (with its international partners outside Europe) is in a good position to set up such a global network for the field of VET. Therefore, such a proposal was prepared shortly after the Istanbul conference and it was approved by WERA in the beginning of the year 2014.

ECER 2014 in Porto: Past, present and future of VET research

The ECER 2014 in Porto celebrated the 2oth anniversary of the founding of the EERA (European Educational Research Association) with the theme “Past, present and future of educational research”. In this spirit we agreed to discuss past, present and future challenges in VET research in the VETNET Opening colloquium in Porto. Marg Malloch chaired, whilst I presented reflections on the development of European research on learning in the context of work (past), Eduardo Figuiera discussed  the current stand of Portuguese VET research (present) and Karen Evans outlined some challenges for (future) VET research.

In the sessions I was mainly engaged with the contributions of the Learning Layers project. Our main contribution was the symposium “Construction 2.0” in which we discussed the development of our accompanying research approach (in the context of participative design processes) and the matching of mobile learning with the development of vocational learning in intermediate training centres. Our second session was a joint workshop with the Dutch team from HAN University (Loek Nieuwenhuis and Aimee Hoeve) in which we compared two Dutch and two German cases as examples of interactive innovation research in the field of VET.

Concerning the VETNET network and the wider international community there were two clear highlights:

  1.  In the VETNET General Assembly we launched the new online journal “International Journal for Research in Vocational Education and Training (IJRVET)” and published its first issue. After a lengthy pre-history the final phase of preparations led to a broad mobilisation of VETNET network and international partners as support network and the practical arrangements were agreed quickly and smoothly between ECER 2013 and 2014.
  2. On the last conference day the newly founded WERA IRN “Internationalisation of VET research (IRN-VET)” has its Forum session to present its action plan and to discuss some selected themes for future cooperation (International VET research review, Developments in governance of VET, Internationalisation in VET teacher education and doctoral studies). Via this Forum a wider range of network members became engaged in cooperation at global level.

Bremen Conference 2015 “Crossing boundaries in VET”

In this context it is worthwhile to mention shortly that the next major event of VETNET and IRN-VET took place already before the ECER 2015, since the ITB-hosted conference “Crossing boungaries in VET” was organised one week before ECER. With this pre-conference the networks provided a wider opportunity for European and international participants to debate and exchange views on themes that are presented very shortly in ordinary conferences. The keynote speakers were mainly VETNET board members, whilst a major part of the IRN-VET board members were active as presenters or co-authors. Given the good dialogue-oriented atmosphere, several participants expressed the interest to continue with such conference and the University of Rostock expressed its interest to host the next one in 2017.

ECER 2015 in Budapest: Transitions in societies and VET research

When ECER 2015 was about to start in Budapest, the world news were overwhelmed with reports on waves of refugees heading north via the “Balkan route” and the Budapest railway station being one of main stops during these journeys. This gave rise for the EERA council and secretariat to appeal to the participants to show solidarity and distance themselves from xenophobic attitudes. Given that the theme of the conference was “Education and transitions” there was a close similarity to the beginning of the societal transitions in Central and East European countries in the year 1989.

In this spirit the VETNET Opening colloquium had invited as the keynote speaker professor Andras Benedek, former education minister and director general of the national institute for VET. He presented a thorough examination on the developments during the post-communist era and on the developments in VET and Higher Education, including the issue of academisation of vocational teacher education. This picture was later on complemented in the paper presentation of Magdolna Benke on the short history of the National Institute for Vocational Education (NIVE) and on later research on building partnerships to promote VET.

In the sessions I could observe an excellent symposium on VET developments in the Nordic countries (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland) and critical discussion, whether there is a common ‘Nordic model’ to be promoted elsewhere. In other sessions I observed several cases of interactive research (once again by the colleagues of HAN University, Loek Nieuwenhuis and Aimee Hoeve) and by a Danish research team evaluating innovations in VET schools. Our ITB team organised a symposium in which we put into discussion transition of earlier project generation to a newer one in two project threads:

  1. The Kompetenzwerkstatt projects for developing vocational curricula and supporting tools for teachers and learners  and
  2. The Learning Layers project and its transition from developing digital media, web tools and mobile technologies in initial vocational training (of apprentices) to a successor project that develops similar solutions to support continuing training (of advanced craftsmen and site managers in construction sector).

In the VETNET General Assembly we were happy to reap the harvest of the successful pre-conference in Bremen and of the VETNET program in Budapest. We could note a highly successful development of the IJRVET since ECER 2014 and we could look forward in an optimistic spirit with all our initiatives. In this context I was pleased to experience that I was nominated by the board as an Honorary Member of the VETNET Network.

– – –

I think this is enough of the most recent phase of the development of the VETNET network – charactersed by new initiatives and their successful implementation. In my next post (the Epilogue) I will have a look at the preparation of the ECER 2016.

More posts to come …

 

My journey with the VETNET network – Part Four: The years of consolidation

August 16th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my latest posts I have been writing 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 when 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.  In the previousposts I have covered the earliest years from 1992 on, the founding  phase until  2001 and the stabilisation phase between 2003 and 2007. In this post I will have a look at the consolidation phase between 2007 and 2011.

ECER 2007 in Ghent: Ten years of VETNET activities in European VET research

In ECER 2007 we celebrated the tenth anniversary of VETNET activities in ECER. Firstly, the keynote of Ides Nicaise focused on the theme “Participation in lifelong learning in the EU-15”. Then, in VETNET Forum we discussed the development of VETNET. I opened the discussion with a powerpoint presentation “The VETNET Chronicle”. Then we had contributions from the convenors, communicators, networkers and newest members from Central and East Europe. After the event we celebrated the launch of the newly published book Vocational Education in international context: philosophical and historical dimensions edited by Linda Clarke and Christopher Winch.

In the sessions we had further contributions on the European Qualification Framework, on European policies concerning teachers and trainers and on quality assurance in VET. One of the special experiences was the round table on eLearning in which most of the contributors had cancelled their participation shortly before – but the interested participants made improvised presentations to fill the gap. Also, in this conference we had a joint session with the Teacher Education network.

ECER 2008 in Göteborg: Looking for innovation research approaches in VET 

The ECER 2008 in Göteborg continued on a similar track as the previous one. The VETNET Opening colloquium was based on the keynote of Per-Erik Ellström on the theme “Knowledge Cceation through interactive research: a partnership approach”. Bernd Hofmaier commented this from the perspective of research on working life. The VETNET Forum was organised as a platform for VET-related journals and their exchanges with the VETNET community.

In the sessions I could once again observe a major emphasis on teachers and trainers in VET,  the impact of European Qualification Framework, governance issues and recognition of prior (vocational or work-related learning). We also had sessions on policy transfer between EU member states and a receiving partner states as well as discussions on occupational core profiles.

ECER 2009 in Wien: Critical reflection on European Qualification Frameworks

ECER 2009 in Wien followed partly the patterns of the previos conferences but had some new features as well. The role of the  Opening colloquium and the VETNET Forum was given to the symposia that examined the role of European (and National) Qualification Frameworks in the European VET policies. The speakers  – Lorenz Lassnigg, Jordi Planas, Michael Young and David Raffe – discussed the internal policy processes, expectations on harmonisation and the practical applicability of such frameworks. In many respects the speakers came up with critical comments with striking examples (e.g. the difficulty to agree on mutually coherent frameworks between England & Wales, Scotland, North Ireland and the Republic of Ireland).

In the sessions we had also some sessions dedicated to VET policies but also new themes, such as practice-based learning as an interface between vocational and higher education. Also, some sessions brought into discussion studies based on activity theory and developmental work research.

Concerning VETNET community and the conference culture, there were some new developments. Firstly, Pontydysgu (Graham Attwell) introduced a new social networking website for VETNET (based on the Mixxt platform). Secondly, the Pontydysgu team managed the video recording of the EERA keynotes and in addition produced several video interviews with VETNET participants and key actors of EERA. Finally, the VETNET General Assembly re-elected Ludger Deitmer as the Convenor and a new board (partly re-elected, partly renewed) for the coming years.

ECER 2010 in Helsinki: Intercultural dimensions of VET and VET research

The ECER 2010 in Helsinki took place already in August and this caused problems to some participants. The invited keynote speaker for the VETNET Opening colloquium, Johanna Lasonen, was in the middle of a transfer to University of South Florida and couldn’t attend in person. As a consequence, she presented an outline of her speech as a video recording and then Marianne Teräs continued live. The theme – The role of VET in promoting integration of migrants and intercultural understanding – was also taken in a specific symposium and in one of the central EERA events.

In other sessions some of the themes of the last year  (e.g. that of practice-based learning) were continued whilst some newer themes were introduced, such as entrepreneurial education and the role of VET in promoting renewable energy.

Also in this conference the Pontydysgu team was actively involved in producing livestreams and video recordings – but now with emphasis on the central EERA events.

ECER 2011 in Berlin: VETNET in transition

The ECER 2011 in Berlin was a conference that brought into picture many transitions in the way VETNET has worked. Firstly, the traditional Opening Colloquium and VETNET Forum were replaced with an active workshop in which all participants worked in three groups (led by three facilitators) to provide a groip picture of their priority themes or key challenges for the conference. In the sessions I could see a strong presence of the new Swedish VET-related doctoral program supported by a consortium of several universities. The participants provided insights into their cooperation with their Scandinavian and Australian counterparts and they highlighted their involvement in European cooperation projects. In other sessions we had discussions on practice-based learning and on governance of continuing training. Also, the key issue of last year – the role of VET in integration  of migrants and in intercultural understanding – was present.

In this conference the Pontydysgu team was working with live radio and podcasts. Thus, several VETNET participants could announce their forthcoming sessions and/or give interviews after their sessions. Furthermore, in an experimental session Eileen Lübcke gave a presentation on the draufhaber,tv project with video demonstrations as essential part of her contribution.

In the VETNET General Assembly we experienced special moments. Firstly (in accordance with the new EERA policies) we nominated Martin Mulder (as the founder of VETNET) and Sabine Manning (long-time board member, editor of the VETNET proceedings as well as the L&W Newsletter) as the first VETNET Honorary Members. Shortly afterwards we accepted the request of Ludger Deitmer to be replaced as the Convenor of VETNET. As his successors we elected Michael Gessler (Link Convenor) and Marg Malloch (Deputy Convenor). With these changes we envisaged a period with new initiatives and new responsibilities to be managed by this tandem leadership.

– – –

I guess this is enough of this phase of consolidation. In the next post I will look at the most recent years and at the new initiatives that were brought into picture.

More blogs to come …

My journey with the VETNET network – Part Three: The years of stabilisation

August 15th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my latest posts I have 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.  In the first posts I have covered the earliest years – the pre-history of the network from 1992 on and the founding and grounding phase until the year 2000. In this third post I will have a look at the subsequent stabilisation phase up to the year 2007.

Gap years 2001 and 2002

In my previous post I had reported on the election of the new convenor and new board. Unfortunately I could not witness that closely their work because I had to stay away from ECER 2001 in Lille and ECER 2002 in Lisbon due to intervening factors. In 2001 I had to move inside Thessaloniki and in 2002 I had to move out from Thessaloniki. My temporary contract as a project manager in Cedefop had come to an end. I was resettling in Finland whilst Cedefop took a new course in its engagement with researchers and their communities.

In the meantime the VETNET board led by Toni Griffiths had developed its own style of working – including interim meetings of the Board between ECER conferences and engaging all board members in the peer review of proposals. Also, during this period the first attempt was made to set up a VETNET-affiliated journal for VET research. Furthermore, in ECER 2002 VETNET hosted a visit of a representative of European Commission, DG Research who informed the community on the preconditions for participating in the new 6th Framework Programme for Research (FP6) of the European Union.

After ECER 2002 there was also a discussion, whether the VETNET network should change its name – with less emphasis on VET and more emphasis on career development and learning at work. At the end of an open debate the board agreed to keep the name and anchoring to the field of VET.

ECER 2003 in Hamburg: Looking for new forms of European cooperation

In ECER 2003 in Hamburg I made a come-back to ECER, now without my Cedefop functions (nor any new organisational affiliation) and trying to position myself anew in the community. At that time the board of Toni Griffiths was coming to an end with its work and the planning for major projects for the FP6 was heading to its final phase. In this context the VETNET Opening colloquium was organised as a panel to discuss challenges for European VET research. In his contribution the Commission representative outlined the frameworks for FP6, Alan Brown explored the possibilities to develop cooperation across national educational research programmes, Felix Rauner discussed conceptual and societal challenges for VET research, whilst I discussed the prospects of cohesion vs. particularisation in VET research.

In the sessions could witness a slight transition from themes that focused on VET policies, qualifications and curricular issues towards non-formal learning, working life and project evaluation as well as eLearning. A special highlight was the study on the role of social partners in EU member states and Central/East European countries by Magdolna Benke. Whilst this all was anchored in VET, there was a search for new ‘niche areas’ and  interfaces with neighbouring research areas.

In this context Toni Griffiths ended her period as the Convenor and a new VETNET Board was elected with Ludger Deitmer (the VETNET program chair of the Hamburg conference) as the new Convenor.

ECER 2004 in Rhethymnon, Crete: Debates on VET-PISA, eLearning and learning at workplace

The ECER 2004 was organised at the Rhethymnon campus of the University of Crete (as a replacement for the initially chosen venue  elsewhere in Europe).This time I participated as a visiting researcher affiliated to the Vocational Teacher Education College of the Jyväskylä Polytechnic. (Parallel to this I had been acknowledged as a Visiting Fellow of ITB.)

In the light of the public debates on OECD PISA-studies the VETNET board had decided to dedicate the VETNET Opening colloquium for the question whether the field of VET should have a PISA of its own. The panelists, Nikitas Patiniotis, Rainer Bremer and Jenny Hughes took somewhat different perspectives. They all distanced themselves from the approach with which the PISA studies have been carried out and of the apparatus that has been created. However, the didn’t have a common conclusion on possible alternative approach and its eventual benefits.

In the sessions I could observe a strong presence of evaluation research (project evaluation, evaluation of eLearning), revisiting studies on work process knowledge and organisational learning as well as themes in the border zone between continuing training and informal learning. At the end of the program there was a special session on the role of action research in the field of VET.

In the VETNET General Assembly we could note a good level opf participation in the conference. As a major initiative we discussed the new proposal to set up a VET-related journal in collaboration with a publishing house (that had sent a representative to Crete). The VETNET board had set a working group that presented an interim report which was well received by the participants.

Interim developments

After the conference the VETNET network was involved as a co-organiser (with the Unesco-Unevoc centre) in a special workshop on VET research and vocational teacher education in October 2004 in Hamburg. This workshop served as a preparatory event for a global Unesco international meeting on TVET teacher education in Hangzhou, China. As the results of the Hangzhou meeting were reported to the VETNET board there was some discussion, how to arrange the cooperation of the network with such affiliated initiatives or network. At the end of the day the working consensus of Frankfurt 1997 was restated.

ECER 2005 in Dublin: Debates on the European gospel for training and learning

In ECER 2005 I participated as a new staff member of ITB who had recently started working in Bremen. Thus, I had also joined the ITB team to support VETNET activities.

The VETNET Opening colloquium was dedicated to the keynote speech of James Wickham and his question “How European are Europe’s Work and Learning Policies?” In this context he outlined the global challenges to what he called “The European Social Model” and discussed the tensions between “the American mirage” and “the European dream”.  Another joint VETNET event was dedicated to the transnational study for the Maastricht meeting of Educational ministers in 2004 “Attainment of Lisbon goals: The contribution of VET“. The consortium members Tom Leney and Anneke Westerhuis emphasised the study as an opportunity for European research community to specify the criteria for policy analysis. At the same time they drew attention to the challenges to base policy evaluation on appropriate data. As a discussant Felix Rauner drew attention to the discrepancy between leading policy issues and more VET-specific challenges that seem to be left into margins in the current policy processes.

In the sessions I was involved in round tables and workshops that discussed VET researchers’ contribution to regional development initiatives and the role of web tools, research forums and virtual communities in such initiatives. Whilst the contributions were interesting, it appeared to me that we were experiencing a kind of rupture period between the working issues and the web technologies available.

Concerning the VETNET community, we had already launched a new website at the advent of ECER 2004. Now,  just before the ECER 2005 the website was equipped with the VETNET conference blog, which I started to use for real-time reporting.

ECER 2006 in Geneve: In the margins of European educational cooperation

ECER 2006 was organised in Geneve, Switzerland. For the VETNET community this was a problematic choice because a considerable number of VET researchers was participating on the basis of EU-funding (for which a conference in a non-member state was not eligible). After several positive discussions with Commission officials and appeals on behalf of EERA president the Commission position remained strict. Luckily enough the VETNET program chair Barbara Stalder managed to negotiate a funding arrangement from Swiss funds to support cooperation with EU programmes.

The VETNET Opening colloquium was dedicated to the keynote of Rolf Dubs who analysed the developments in Swiss VET systems in the light of the neighbouring VET cultures of Germany, Austria and France. He emphasised the interfaces and the developments towards a ‘trial system’. The other joint event – the VETNET Forum – analysed the preparation of the European Qualification Framework (EQF) in a policy process that was steered by the European Commission. Jörg Markowitsch provided a closer look at the most recent phase of the preparatory process. Georg Spöttl drew attention to different – and often mutually contradicting expectations that have been raised during the preparation of the current draft.

In the sessions (some of them based on European projects) I could observe an emphasis on working life issues, such as Development of knowledge management tools for SMEs (KMplus), Workplace learning partnerships (WLP), Development of national training markets (CVTS2-rev), Transition from R&D to RED (individual paper, Wageningen University) and Designing learning culture for innovation in companies (individual paper, University of St. Gallen).

Concerning the VETNET community development, the General Assembly re-elected Ludger Deitmer as the Convenor and elected a new board with some continuity and some renewal. Altogether, the progress was positive although the initiative to set up a VETNET journal appeared to to have been taken into other hands.

– – –

I think this is an appropriate point to draw the demarcation line between the stabilisation phase and the next phase of consolidation. In the next post I will start with the celebration of the 10 years anniversary of VETNET presence in ECER.

More blogs to come … 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

Learning Layers in dialogue with DigiProB project – Part Two: Interviews with guest trainers/lecturers in continuing vocational training

May 12th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous blog I started a series on the new phase of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. Currently, in the Construction pilot we have been able to start closer cooperation  with a spin-off project. The German-funded DigiProB has started its work and the training centre Bau-ABC and the research institute ITB have a central role to play. The DigiProB project focuses on the training of  certified construction site managers (Geprüfte Polier) – see more on this training and on the background of the project in my previous post. In this post I will have a look at the initial interviews and what we may learn from the dialogue with gust trainers/lecturers who are engaged in this training programme.

The reform of the training concept and tensions in the implementation

As I indicated in the previous post, the new training of the certified construction site managers had introduced a new examination model that put an emphasis on integrative tasks and on a concluding project report. In the conceptual preparation for the project proposal we had emphasised the following tensions:

  1. The new training regulation was introduced with short introduction events that familiarised the trainers on the new guidelines. However, these events did not provide an in-depth training for guest trainers/lecturers  to adjust themselves to new requirements.
  2. The guest trainers/lecturers are engaged as subject specialists and are responsible for specific blocks in the presence training. They do not have an overarching responsibility on the supervision of integrated learning tasks and project work.
  3. There has been no clear model for developing online support, arranging peer tutoring and promoting peer learning among the participants.

Now that the DigiProB project was started, the initial interviews provided an opportunity to test, whether the above outlined picture was correct and what new features could be learned from the guest trainers/lecturers involved in the programme.

Messages picked from the initial interviews

Currently I am not actively involved in the initial activities of the DigiProB project. At best I have been nearby when my ITB colleagues have carried out interviews. Therefore, I leave it to my colleagues to report on the activities and on the findings in greater detail and in time. Yet, already at this stage it is possible to pick as ‘first impressions’ some messages that come through and have been reflected by my colleagues. Although these are only preliminary signals, not thoroughly analysed findings, it is worthwhile to pay attention to them:

  • Rapid implementation of the new model: It seems to me that both the training providers (such as Bau-ABC) and guest trainers/lecturers that they use for the training have had very little time to adjust their pedagogic approaches. The training providers arrange short introductory events but then the individual trainers/lecturers have draw the conclusions on their own.
  • Willingness of trainers/lecturers to work with an integrative pedagogic approach: Although the guest trainers/lecturers have been engaged as subject specialists, they seem to have an interest in getting their special know-how put into practice. Therefore, they are individually looking for ways to link ‘theoretical’ elements into practical tasks and exercises. Moreover, there seems to be interest in sharing experiences and examples of good pedagogic solutions.
  • Interest of trainers/lecturers in using digital media and web tools: It appears that (at least some) guest trainers/lecturers show interest in using digital media and web tools to support their teaching and training. In this respect the Learning Toolbox (whenever demonstrated) has been greeted as a promising framework and the interviewees are willing to learn more of it.
  • Interest of learners to share knowledge and experiences: According to the guest trainers/lecturers interviewed so far, the participants (learners) are interested in sharing knowledge and experiences during the course periods and during the periods for self-organised learning. In particular from this perspective they considered the Learning Toolbox as a promising toolset to support individual and collaborative learning processes.

– – –

I leave these first impressions and ‘messages picked from discussions’ here and let my colleagues work with further interviews and the group pictures that we get as a result. Altogether, I believe that the DigiProB project is well-timed and that the trainers/lecturers as well as the learners will be interested to work with the project. However, the project will also pose new challenges for the tool developers and to the project partners who introduce the tools.

More blogs to come …

 

 

Bremen talks on young refugees’ access to training and labour market – Part Two: The Bavarian model project and the discussion in the event

February 14th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

As already mentioned in my previous  blog, these two posts are not focusing on our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. Instead I have taken up a major issue that we are discussing in the Bremen region: Measures to support the reception and integration of refugees.  In my previous post I started reporting on a public event “Perspektive Beruf: Junge Geflüchtete erfolgreich zum Berufsabschluss führen“. This event brought into picture fresh information and assembled several stakeholders from different organisations to joint discussion. In the first post I gave some background information on the event and present insights into a study on young refugees’ perspectives in Bremen. In this second post I will give insights into a model project in Bavaria (that was presented in the event) and highlight some key points of the stakeholders’ discussion.

1. Insights into the model project in Bavaria

The first part of the event was based on a Bremen-focused study that provided information on young refugees and their chances to get access to training and labour market in the Bremen region. The study had raised some issues that need further attention from policy makers and stakeholders who are engaged with support measures. The second part of the event was based on a guest input from the Federal state of Bavaria (Bayern).

This input was given by Manfred Bäuml who represented a foundation that supports educational projects in Bavaria (Stiftung Bildungspakt Bayern). He firstly gave insights into the innovation concept ‘vocational integration classes’ (Berufsintegrationsklassen) and how they have been embedded into the regulative frameworks. This concept is based on a 2-year long full-time school-based vocational education scheme that includes intensive language learning, vocational orientation, vocational subject-learning (including language support), internships in companies and opportunity to obtain/ refresh general school certificates). A key feature of this model is the collaboration between language teacher, subject teacher and social pedagogic advisor. (The key point in this model is that it is meant to provide entry to the regular vocational education and training provisions, not to replace them with a short variant.)

In his presentation Bäuml also made transparent the rapidly growing numbers of young refugees and the quick response in setting up such vocational integration classes all over the Federal state of Bavaria. This gave rise for setting up a state-wide model project to support the quality development in such classes and to enhance their acceptance. For this purpose the Federal state of Bavaria and the Foundation have set up the state-wide model project that involves 21 model schools (public vocational schools in all sub-regions) and several support organisations. The project works with organisational development, staff development and curriculum redesign. As special challenges Bäuml mentioned the following ones:

  • Functioning language learning – linking everyday life language learning and domain-specific vocabulary to each other;
  • Integration – bringing learners of integration classes and ordinary vocational classes into cooperation with each other;
  • Transition from school to occupational work – intensifying career guidance and counselling to facilitate personal commitment to the occupation in concern.

As Bäuml told, the project had only started at the end of 2015 and it was only in the process of building up its network and support activities. Yet, the work was making progress all over Bavaria.

2. Key issues taken up in the stakeholders’ discussion 

The event was not planned just to present the study and the model project but to stimulate discussion on necessary policy measures and ways to support different support initiatives. Therefore, the organisers had set up two rounds of discussions – after each presentation. Here, for the sake of simplicity, I try to pick up some key messages from both rounds without going deeply into details:

  • The representatives of vocational schools and and continuing training provisions – Herbert Grönegreß and Sandra von Atens – emphasised the necessity, not to challenge the refugees overly, to adjust the education/training provisions to what they can achieve and to provide well-timed support and constant support networks. Also, they emphasised the need to adjust the ‘offerings’ to refugees to their possibilities and to be prepared for providing second chances.
  • The company representative Michael Heyer told of the initiative of their company to select a group of refugees to be taken on internship and to prepare them for the opportunity to start a regular apprentice training. This initiative was launched in close collaboration and with support from public authorities. Concerning language support, the company arranged for them extra courses. Concerning integration, the company was surprised to see, how supportive and cooperative their ordinary apprentices were vis-à-vis the newcomers.
  • The Educational senator (minister) of the City state Claudia Bodegan put as into the picture of the scales of the problems. Concerning the reception of unaccompanied young people, the German cities had agreed on balanced quotas of reception (der Königstein Schlüssel). However, in 2015, Bremen had received five times as much young unaccompanied refugees – and, given the flow of refugees, it would have been inappropriate to push them elsewhere. Also, since Bremen is struggling with budgetary deficits, it doesn’t have such resources in the regular budgets as the richer Federal states. Furthermore, Bremen has had to make a difficult choice, whether to prioritise perfect diagnostic (at the expense of longer waiting times) or effective integration (at the expense of providing less favourable education and training opportunities). Here, the choice has been on avoiding  long waiting times in idlewild.
  • The representative  of the Chamber of Commerce, Karlheinz Heidemeyer, drew attention to the prompt responses of the member companies to their call for initiatives. in this way, and due to good cooperation with the local/regional authorities, the company-specific initiatives could be brought into action without unnecessary delays. In the same way he praised the good cooperation between different stakeholders in overcoming the formal hurdles and addressing the needs for Federal level policy adjustment.
  • The representative of the voluntary organisation Fluchtraum, professor Marc Thielen (also from ITB), shifted the perspective from the quantitative situation assessment, training opportunities and language courses to the individual situations of refugees. The organisation Fluchtraum that he represents, provides legal advice, guardians and mentors for unaccompanied young refugees. With insights into their life histories, learning histories and refugee histories, he emphasised the needs to get solid and trustworthy support persons and support structures for the refugees. He also addressed the need to avoid giving the refugees challenges that they cannot meet (e.g. in terms of starting regular vocational training before being properly prepared).
  • The representative of the host organisation Arbeitnehmerkammer, Regine Geraedts, drew attention to the readiness of different stakeholders in Bremen to tackle the problems as promptly as they could. Also, they had shown readiness to create new forms of cooperation for unbureacratic treatment of the problems of young refugees. Furthermore, they had shown readiness to take own initiatives at the same time as they had addressed needs to revise federal regulations. And, given the seemingly uncoordinated actions of voluntary organisations, they had been able develop flexible forms of coordination and to develop common discussion on policy development.

I guess this is enough of this event. I know that there were lots of details that I couldn’t grasp with this report. Nevertheless, I got a picture of a dynamic regional langscape of developing policies, services and support activities for young refugees. In addition, I could see a role for possible European cooperation measures (of which I discussed with some participants) in the coming times.

More blogs to come …

Start of year 2016 with Learning Layers – Part 4: Working with the LL exploitation model

January 22nd, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my three previous blogs I wrote a series of reports on the ‘start of the year 2016′ meetings in with our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. In the first post I reported on the meetings of the ‘local’ LL teams of ITB, Pont, and Bau-ABC (in Bremen and Rostrup). In the third post summarised a video conference that discussed a set of themes for our next consortium meeting in Innsbruck (2.2.-5.2.2016). In this fourth post I report on the video conference of the ITB team with our LL colleagues Gilbert Peffer and Raymond Elferink on the Exploitation model for the LL project.

In my previous blog I had already given the following characterisation of the work of Gilbert and Raymond with this model:

“… Gilbert Peffer and Raymond Elferink have organised bilateral or trilateral conversations with LL partners to create a comprehensive model of exploitation activities.  The aim is to compress the pictures given by different exploitation stories and to create more transparency between different initiatives. In this way different partners can find their roles and possibilities in a joint group picture. And with the help of this model the partners can trace the changes from current project partnership to future partnerships (in follow-up projects) or future business relations (in commercial exploitation activities).”

Below I have copied the current draft of the Exploitation model:

Exploitation Model.v2.2

In our discussion in the video conference and after it we started a process of sensemaking, how to fit our exploitation initiatives into this landscape and how to grasp the zones of possible activities that we had not yet thought of. Here I try to interpret different areas of the exploitation model from this perspective:

a) The (peripheral) support area

Two fields in the model can be characterised as a (peripheral) support area for emerging follow-up activities with different intensity of support measures:

a1) “The Learning Layers Association” can be seen as a light-weight form to continue the cooperation across project consortium as an interest group that promotes the tools and ideas of the LL project in new contexts. For this purpose the interest group cam organise joint search conferences or workshops with new potential application partners. (Here the contacts of the LL partners at OEB with the UNHCR might serve as a clue for looking partners for such search conferences.)

a2) “The Learning Layers Cooperative” can be seen as a more committed service alliance – grouping of LL partners that are ready to support new initiatives with technical advice and facilitation in project creation. (Such cooperation has already been practiced between different partners to give shape for spin-off projects.)

b) The Research & Development area

The importance of this area is obvious, since we need to continue with R&D projects to develop the products and services of the LL project to more mature stage. Here we need to have a more differentiated look at the R&D agendas to pursue. Without going into details of specific initiatives it is worth taking into consideration the following type of R&D activities:

b1) Comprehensive follow-up projects (Horizon 2020 etc) that focus on further development of integrative toolsets for/with specific application partners – engaging different kinds of expertise from the LL project but linking it to new contexts.

b2) Specific R&D projects (e.g. within cluster initiatives) that link the further development of LL tools and similar toolsets to technical innovation programs.

Here the model emphasises that the R&D area needs to involve the application partners and the commercial partners as well (in order to take the products and services further).

c) The commercial exploitation area

We have already become aware of the fact that software development in research context may have different working patterns/perspectives than software development as customer service. This is reflected in the ‘commercial exploitation area’ by differentiating between three kinds of organisational entities:

c1) New enterprises (social/commercial) that dedicate themselves on further development of LL tools, software and services as their core business.

c2) Existing partners (private/public organisations) that continue working on the basis of their business models or institutional frameworks.

Here the model suggests that if new entreprises emerge, preferential ‘giving back’ partnership relations  should be agreed in the founding processes. (Also, new enterprises need advisory boards.)

c3) Third party organisations (SMEs, training providers, service providers, cluster organisations) need to be involved with appropriate partnership agreements.

Altogether, the model was shaped with an idea of an “Entrepreneurial symbiosis’. I am looking forward to our next phase of working with this model in our project consortium meeting in Innsbruck.

More blogs to come …

Looking back at three years of Learning Layers – Part Two: Role of research in construction pilot

October 25th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I drew attention to the fact that the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project is preparing  for the review of the Year 3.  This has given rise to consider the development of the project and our activities as an evolution of the context and development of the actors and activities working in the context. In the first post I discussed the challenges of the early phase and the responses of the project. In the second post I will discuss the role of accompanying research in the construction pilot. I will also make some remarks on the role of research dialogue within the project and across the boundaries of the current LL project.

1. Interaction between theoretical work and co-design activities in construction pilot (Year 2 and Year 3)

In the beginning of the Year 2 the Learning Layers project agreed to organise a “Theory Camp” activity with lengthy preparatory phase, and intensive symposium during the Y2 Integration Meeting in Aachen and a follow-up phase. This activity brought into picture the specific interactive relations between theoretical work and co-design activities in the construction pilot.

A considerable part of the contributions to the Theory Camp articles represented different aspects of learning, knowledge development etc. or different accents on design processes. These were to be applied to the fields of application via design processes that focus on specific problems and respective tools. As a contrast, the research partners in construction sector build upon the experience of participative innovation programs that have emphasised the social shaping of work, technology and work organisations from the perspective of whole work processes and holistic occupational qualifications, see Landesprogramm Arbeit und Technik, Bremen (Deitmer 2004); BLK-Programm Neue Lernkonzepte in der Dualen Berufsausbildung (Deitmer et. al. 2004). In this respect the research partners in construction pilot drew attention to themes ‘acquisition of work process knowledge’ (see also Fischer et al. 2004) and ‘vocational learning’ in their contributions.

In the follow-up phase the research partners worked with the themes ‘reviewing accompanying research’ (ECER 2014) and ‘reviewing activity theory’ (Bremen conference 2015). With this theoretical and methodological work the research partners reviewed the theoretical insights and discussed experiences with developmental research approaches, such as the ‘change laboratory processes’ and ‘expansive learning cycles’ (based on the work of Yrjö Engeström and affiliated project teams).

As a consequence, the research partners were in the position to work in the complex and manifold process of designing and developing Learning Toolbox with sufficient openness. This was needed to give time for capacity building and growing readiness for co-development (on all sides of the process). This was also crucial for making the toolsets appropriate to support (holistic) vocational learning and enhancing (holistic) work process knowledge. This has required manifold feedback loops and intensive reporting from field workshops. In this way the research partners in construction pilot have supported process dynamics that have enabled the application partners to become themselves the drivers of the piloting with Learning Toolbox in their own trades (Bau-ABC trainers) or in their specific contexts and activities to promote ecological construction work (Agentur and the affiliated network NNB).

2. The role of research dialogue – internal and external

In the light of the above it is worthwhile to emphasise that the construction pilot has not been developed in isolation. Instead, research dialogue activities – both internal (with  LL partners) and external (with other counterparts) have played an important role in the development of the project. The internal research dialogue activities have been shaped by working groups that focused on transversal themes – such as ‘contextual knowledge’, ‘trust’ – that were equally relevant to both pilot sectors. This work has been covered by other colleagues with their contributions to the reports. In this context I wish to draw attention to two threads of external research dialogue:

a) Exhanges on Activity Theory and Developmental Work Research

As I have mentioned above, this thread was taken up by the ITB team as a follow-up of the Theory Camp and pursued further in a workshop of the Bremen International VET conference (see the report in my recent post). Here it is worthwhile to note that we gathered experiences on the use of Change Laboratory methodology in intervention projects and of theory of Expansive Learning as an interpretative framework in comparative projects. Also, we engaged ourselves in critical re-examination of some concepts used in Activity Theory (such as Vygotsky’s concept of ‘mediation’ and concepts like ‘contradiction’ and ‘transformative practice’). These discussions will be continued as the LL project proceeds deeper to the exploitation of results.

b) Exchanges of parallel approaches to intervention research

Already in ECER 2014 (in Porto) the ITB team had started a cooperation with researchers from HAN University of Applied Sciences with focus on intervention research (see the report in my earlier blog). This was followed up in the Bremen conference and in ECER 2015 (in Budapest). In the Budapest session the colleagues from HAN presented a new project that focuses on practice-based learning in HE programs with strong vocational elements. In this context they worked further with process models and with ‘stealthy intervention’ strategies. In a similar way a Danish project from the National Centre for Vocational Education presented a ‘Vocational Education Lab’ approach for promoting innovations and networking across vocational schools. (See the report in my recent post.) Also these exchanges will be continued when the LL project proceeds with the exploitation activities.

– – –

I think this is enough for the moment. We are now looking forward to next steps with our fieldwork and our exploitation activities.

More blogs to come …

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