Archive for the ‘Pedagogy’ Category

Are we lost in online space?

February 14th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

Last November I was invited to give a presentation at a conference “Are we lost in online space?” organised by in Belgrade.

As the report on the conference web site says, the conference brought together 48 participants, most from east Europe, and 6 experts in the field of online learning. Participants had the opportunity to learn, experience and discuss about digital pedagogy, personal learning environment, online counseling for youth at risk, the possibility to educate youth workers in the online context, the ability of young people to use online tools when they are used for educational purposes, using games with young people, the potentials of using the virtual reality packages in youth work.

The web site also has video of all the presentations. I particularly liked the presentation on How to approach young people at risk to use the opportunities of online counseling by Anni Marquard, from the Centre for Digital Youth Care, Denmark and on Using games & gaming culture for educational purposes by Uroš Antić from Serbia)

It was a lively conference with a wide range of different experiences and views and some great participatory workshops and activities. It was apparent that at least from the countries represented in the conference, technology is a relatively new field in youth work, but also that many youth workers are ready to engage with young people through technology. However, tools and platforms such as Moodle seemed really not to support the pedagogy of youth work, nor to engage with young people. Youth work is more about informal learning – and ed-tech has tended to focus on formal learning.

There was a quick straw poll at the end of the conference on whether or not we were (still’ lost in online space. Participants were divided – some lost, some not and some not sure!

Revisiting the Learning Layers experience “2.0” – Reworking the research papers of 2017

February 9th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last April (2017) I prepared for myself a ToDo list to prepare three conference papers with which I would revisit the experience of our EU-funded Learning Layers project (2012 – 2016) with emphasis on the achievements of the Construction pilot. I had the plan to participate in three conferences and I expected that I could prepare respectively three research papers that would examine from a conceptual point three important aspects of our project work

  • the methodological issues on accompanying research (comparing our work with that of predecessors);
  • the pedagogic foundations of our work (relating our starting points to current developments at policy level and in parallel pilots);
  • the relevance of our work vis-à-vis industrial and organisational innovations (comparing our innovation agenda with its prior and emerging innovation concepts).

In October 2017 I wrote a blog in which I mentioned that intervening factors had slowed down my work. However, I was pleased to inform that I had managed to complete my ToDo list and produce three working papers to cover the themes that I had planned. Yet, after a short while I had to admit it to myself that I had celebrated my achievements too early. Indeed, I had covered the themes but the quality of the papers was uneven. In all papers I could see gaps that I had to cover. I had brought into picture essential elements of each ‘story’ but not all of the stories were woven together with a coherent argumentation. So, I understood that I have to rework all the papers from this perspective.  Now I have revisited the Learning Layers experience once again and completed the necessary reworking of these papers.

What do the (reworked) papers tell about our research in Learning Layers and on the growth of knowledge via our project?

Below I try to present the main contents of the newly reworked papers and highlight to red thread of the ‘story’ that is to followed through different sections. Here I want to draw attention on the conceptual and methodological foundations of our work in the Learning Layers as well as to the reflection on the predecessor concepts in the light of our work. Moreover, I will discuss some newer developments in innovation policies and innovation research as challenges for our approach.

Paper 1: Accompanying research between knowledge development and support for innovations in the field – Revisiting earlier innovation programmes as predecessors of the Learning Layers project

The first paper starts with the explanation, why the research team from our institute ITB declared itself as an  accompanying research (Begleitforschung) team in the Learning Layers’ Construction pilot. As a conceptual and methodological background for this approach the paper reconstructs the development of accompanying research in two parallel threads of innovation programmes in Germany:

  • Innovation programmes for social shaping of work, technology and organisations (Humanisierung der Arbeit, Arbeit und Technik);
  • Pilot projects and innovation programmes in the field of vocational education and training (Modellversuche, BLK-Programm “Neue Lernkonzepte in der dualen Berufsausbildung”).

Throughout these explorations the paper draws attention to different positions, whether the researchers should take a co-shaping role in innovation processes – and on shifts of emphasis in the course of time. Finally, the paper draws attention to specific positions that argue for more intensive and shaping-oriented involvement in terms of ‘action research’, smart innovation analyses and/or dialogical knowledge development. In the concluding reflections the paper compares the position of ITB researchers with the latter approaches.

Paper 2: Research as mediator between vocational learning, work process knowledge and conceptual innovation – on the role of research in the modernisation of vocational education and training (VET)

The second paper starts with recapitulating how the ITB researchers entered a participative co-design process with an open agenda and then supported the design idea – digitisation of training and learning processes in VET – with conceptual inputs. In the following sections the paper presents different conceptual reflections and insights into policy debates – to be followed by exemplary pilot projects that respond to the challenges raised in the debates. The relations between these sections can be characterised as follows:

  • The contribution of Rauner (shaping-oriented VET) provides an interim synthesis of different concepts and themes that are essential for VET development. The empirical studies of Böhle (experiential knowledge) and Koch (mastery of complete work process) highlight the importance of their key concepts for advanced automation and future-oriented staff development.
  • The contribution of Baethge et al. presents a negative scenario on renewability of VET and vocational learning culture during the transition to ‘knowledge society’. The contribution of Pfeiffer presents a critique of Baethge’s interpretation on ‘experiential knowledge’ and gives insights in complementary relations between academic and experiential knowledge in innovative organisations. The contribution of Spöttl deepens the analysis with his examination on to parallel educational genotypes (Bildungstypen) and on the relevance of hybrid types for the emerging innovation agenda ‘Industry 4.0’.
  • In the light of the above-mentioned conceptual inputs and the debates on the sustainability of VET the selected pilot projects (and the example of Learning Layers) demonstrate, how shaping-oriented VET can be based on participative processes of practitioners. The exemplary cases demonstrated, how pilot projects have mobilised the participants in creating their own innovation agendas and implementation plans – and shaping the digital tools and web resources they need for themselves. Even, if these may have been modest starts, they have provided a basis for peer learning and peer tutoring – as social dynamics for innovation transfer.
Paper 3: Accompanying research as bridge-builder between digitisation and social shaping in workplace learning – Linking ‘work process knowledge’ and ‘smart innovations’ to ‘Industry 4.0’

The third paper examines the innovation agenda of the Learning Layers’ Construction pilot vis-à-vis industrial and organisational innovation research that takes into account the role of VET. In this context the following milestones and transitions are discussed:

  • The starting point is the re-examination of the legacy of the European Work Process Knowledge network of the late 1990s. The paper gives a brief overview on the studies, the debates and the conclusions on the importance of VET.
  • The next milestone is the re-examination of the German project “Smarte Innovation” that was completed in 2012. This project developed a more intensively participative approach to analyses of product life cycles and innovation potentials at different stations. The project also presented critical analyses of communication gaps, lack of understanding on innovation potentials in ‘remote’ stations and on the dysfunctional role of externally imposed process standards. Concerning the role of VET, the project drew attention to an emerging model for continuing vocational training (CVT) that outlined a new career progression model.
  • The following milestone is the analysis of successive innovation programmes and the shift of emphasis from ‘remedial interventions’ (that compensate the negative consequences of mainstream innovations) to ‘enabling innovations’ (that seek to facilitate the development of ‘learning organisations’ into innovation leaders). As a contrast to the above-mentioned ones, the emerging innovation agenda ‘Industry 4.0’ shifts the emphasis to advanced automation, complex networking and new digitised production and service chains.
  • The final milestone is the examination of the current discussion of social and educational scientists on the role of human actors in the context of ‘Industry 4.0’. Here, a number of researchers have brought together different conceptual and empirical studies that emphasise the potential of skilled workers and on the possibility to shape learning opportunities when developing new production or service concepts. Parallel to this, some researchers explore the possibilities to develop off-the-job learning opportunities as means to enhance workplace learning alongside the new production concepts.

– – –

I think this is enough of the contents papers and of the ‘stories’ that weave them together. As I see it, the Learning Layers’ Construction pilot may not have been at the forefront of industrial and organisational innovations or in the introduction of digital agendas to the field of VET. Yet, it has been clearly part of the big picture on all accounts and it has done its part to stimulate essential innovations in the field of VET. However, this leads us to another question: What can we say about transfer of innovations in the light of the Learning Layers project and its follow-up activities? To me, this is a subject to further studies to be reported later.

More blogs to come …

 

 

One year from the Learning Layers’ final review – Part Three: New information on the follow-up activities in Bau-ABC

January 22nd, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my two previous blogs I have been developing a series of  posts that reflects on the Final Review of our EU-funded Learning Layers project (one year ago) and on the achievements of the follow-up activities. My first post focused on the review event and on the blogs with which I have documented the event and the follow during the year 2017. In my second post I summarised the current phase of the follow-up projects – in particular on further uses of the Learning Toolbox (the main result of Learning Layers’ Construction pilot). This reporting was based on a series of working meetings and conversations that we had last week with different partners. In the second post I discussed follow-up projects and initiatives with several partners involved. In addition, I brought forward the use of Learning Toolbox as support for conference presentations and posters (see the showcases) also in our field. In this third and concluding poster I will focus on the use of Learning Toolbox (LTB) in the training activities and related initiatives of the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup. (As I have reported in my blogs in the years 2012-2017, Bau-ABC was the major application partner in the Learning Layers’ Construction pilot and the central venue for developing and testing the Learning Toolbox.) My report below is based on the information that Bau-ABC trainers shared with us in the working meeting last week.

Use of Learning Toolbox in the regular apprentice training activities

In the context of the Learning Layers project the LTB was developed to be used in the context of apprentices’ projects (normally of one week’s duration) during their stay in the training centre Bau-ABC. At that time the LTB was introduced and tested in a few training occupations (and the results were discussed in evaluation workshops and in interviews with the trainers). Now we were interested to find out, how the Learning Toolbox is being used after the project period.

Lothar Schoka, trainer for the occupations in well-building and borehole building (Brunnenbau, Spezialtiefbau) informed us on the use LTB in his area. It appeared that the use of LTB had become everyday practice in their projects. The information is available in the trade-specific stack, the apprentices get quickly used to working with the toolset and they can combine the work with their mobile devices and work in the computer class. Thus, the use of LTB is a sustainable outcome of the Learning Layers project.

Use of Learning Toolbox for the transversal theme ‘health and safety’

Another arena for working with the LTB has been the transversal theme ‘health and safety’ (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz). In Spring 2017 a working group of Bau-ABC trainers started to discuss the possibility to use digital tools to support training and learning in this field. At that time I had a chance to accompany and support the start of the working group. After the summer holidays the working group continued with regular meetings and concentrated on using the LTB. Now, trainer Thomas Weerts (the shop steward for health and safety in Bau-ABC) reported on the current phase of the work. The trainers involved in the work had agreed on common content structures for ‘health and safety’ to be covered in their trade-specific stacks for LTB. Thomas himself is developing the ‘mother stack’ for the theme ‘health and safety’ that guides the users to groups of trades and to specific trades. (This ‘mother stack’ will also provide a template for the trades that are still developing their own stacks.)

Use of Learning Toolbox in the project “Workcamp GreenHouse”

A further arena for using the LTB was presented by the trainer Markus Pape (responsible for training carpenters). He is currently working in a nation-wide project “workcamp GreenHouse” that has been launched by several training centres in the construction sector. The project is building exhibition areas and items to demonstrate ecological/sustainable solutions in building houses (with emphasis on energy-efficiency, ecological isolation materials etc.). Altogether, the project is shaping a wide range of modules to introduce these principles in the training for construction sector. In the meeting he presented an overview on the modules and explained, what modules would be suitable for piloting with the LTB. For this purpose he invited the LTB developers to prepare a proposal to be introduced to the project consortium.

Use of Learning Toolbox to support language learning alongside apprentice training

A further arena for working with the LTB is the support for language learning for non-native speakers alongside apprentice training. During the Learning Layers project this area was already explored in a workshop with several Spanish apprentices who were having their training in Bau-ABC. In the meantime a separate working group in Bau-ABC had been developing this idea further. Melanie Campbell (as a coordinator of the related Mobipro-EU project) presented a plan for shaping the LTB stacks that support general orientation (blue tiles), trade-specific vocabulary (green tiles) and communication skills (red tiles). We discussed this plan together with her, the trainers and a supporting language teacher. The developers of Learning Toolbox came up with proposals, how to introduce elements of gamification and motivational support for learners.

– – –

I guess this is enough for an overview. To me this was an important update since I am trying to link cooperation with these initiatives to my participation in our new EU-funded project (TACCLE4 – CPD). In this project we are supporting the training of teachers and trainers in using digital tools and in shaping digital contents for learners. As I see it, the LTB can play a major role in promoting these activities in the field of vocational education and training (VET). But, to be sure, I need to explore this prospect deeper and have more meetings with Bau-ABC trainers.

More blogs to come …

 

 

 

One year from the Learning Layers’ final review – Part Two: Working further with the follow-up projects

January 21st, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my latest blog I started a series of blog posts that reflects on the final review of the EU-funded Learning Layers project (exactly one year ago) and on our progress with follow-up initiatives. The first post looked back at the review event and at the blogs that I had written on the event and on the follow-up activities. At the least it gave a picture of a ‘milky way’ of posts reporting on meetings with different partners – either within ongoing projects or as preparation of new initiatives.

Last week we (the ITB team) had a series of meetings with the developers of the Learning Toolbox and with interested partners in the construction sector in North Germany. In the following I will give a brief summary on the ongoing projects and emerging initiatives that build upon our work with the Learning Toolbox in the Learning Layers project. (For more information on the Learning Toolbox see the website.)

The DigiProB project – Learning Toolbox supports continuing vocational training (CVT) of Bau-ABC

As has been reported in my blogs of the year 2017, the German-funded project DigiProB has started already during the last months of the Learning Layers project. The aim of the project is to develop and introduce digital tools that support training and learning in the continuing vocational training (CVT) schemes in the construction sector. In particular the project focuses on the CVT programmes that upgrade skilled workers to foremen (Vorarbeiter), to specialised construction site managers (Werkpolier) and general construction site managers (Geprüfte Polier). The project had a twofold aim:

  • to support the integration of training contents into integrated projects and
  • to provide the participants digital tools that support their self-organised learning between course periods.

In the year 2017 major progress was achieved with a working group of part-time trainers (lecturers) responsible of different subject areas. A development website was launched to shape a set of integrated projects and for uploading relevant content. In addition, a working agreement was reached, how to integrate this development website to the course management system of Bau-ABC and how to make the digital content available for the learners. In this arrangement it was agreed that the Learning Toolbox will be used as the learners’ tool (and interface with the learning content). In the meeting last week several points were discussed on the finalisation of the software architecture to be used in the pilot activities in the coming weeks.

The ‘Social competences’ initiative – bringing the Learning Toolbox to construction companies

Another follow-up initiative that was started after the final review was the company-specific pilot with the construction company H. This company is a medium-sized enterprise that has specialised in pipeline-building and installations (water and electricity).  The company has several regional offices and its construction teams are working in a wide area in North Germany. The starting point of the cooperation was a feasibility study that was prepared by the developers of the Learning Toolbox (with support from the ITB team). This study made recommendations for the improvement of the system solutions and the software architecture of the company – to improve the sharing of information between the offices and the construction teams. Already in this context the Learning Toolbox played a role. As a spin-off from this study, the partners prepared also a project initiative to use Learning Toolbox as means to improve the communication and knowledge sharing between apprentices and in-company trainers. The pre-proposal had been accepted by the funding body and the partners were invited to submit a detailed proposal for a project that is due to start in Spring 2018. This proposal was discussed last week in the meeting between the partners involved in the project.

From ‘BIM-Table’ to ‘BIM-Koffer’ – preparing hardware solutions for mobile construction teams

One of the pain points for promoting the use of digital tools in construction work was the lack of appropriate hardware that is robust enough and well-protected from bad weather conditions, but at the same time provides access to relevant apps and software. On larger construction sites the companies have tried to introduce ‘BIM-Kiosks’ or ‘BIM-tables’, mainly to support the work of construction site managers and/or supervising engineers. This idea was picked by several Learning Layers partners (including CIMNE, ITB and some craft trade companies) but with the emphasis on similar needs of SMEs, smaller construction sites and mobile teams of construction companies. The construction sector partners have strongly underlined the need for a ‘mobile office hardware set’ (BIM-Koffer) that could provide a WLAN for the construction site and link to internet from remote locations. Whilst the design of such a hardware solution hasn’t fallen into the scope of funding programmes, a pilot team has come up with a plan to prepare a prototype that can be used in small-scale pilots and eventually in funded projects. In this initiative both the access to BIM software and to Learning Toolbox play a role.

Bringing Learning Toolbox into conferences – also in the field of vocational education and training (VET)

One of the delightful news of the year 2017 was the broad-based and successful use of Learning Toolbox as a conference tool to create ePosters (and mini-posters for poster-walls) in the AMEE 2017 conference. This pioneering exercise has been well documented by the introductory videos and by the showcases on the Learning Toolbox site. Based on this success story, another way of using Learning Toolbox with ‘hybrid posters’ was tested in the EC-TEL 2017 conference.

Now, when preparing the 2018 conferences, the ITB team has initiated contacts between the Learning Toolbox developers and organisers of conferences in the field of educational research (or research in vocational education and training (VET)). Even if we may not be able to make major steps forward this year, we are in a good position to start preparations for similar pilots as in the above mentioned conferences

– – –

I guess this is enough updating on the projects and project-like initiatives that involve several partners. On top of this we learned a lot of further work with the Learning Toolbox within the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup. But that is already a topic for a further blog post.

More blogs to come …

 

 

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

October 19th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

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

 

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

Industry 4.0 and identity transformation

September 19th, 2017 by Graham Attwell

I gave this presentation last week at a panel discussion on Industry 4.0 at the Bundeswehr AusBildungs Kongress in Hamburg. Firstly – for those of you who do not live in Germany where the term is verywhere, what is Industry 4.0. According to Wikipedia:

“Industry 4.0 is a name for the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies. It includes cyber-physical systems, the Internet of things, cloud computing and cognitive computing.

Industry 4.0 creates what has been called a “smart factory”. Within the modular structured smart factories, cyber-physical systems monitor physical processes, create a virtual copy of the physical world and make decentralized decisions. Over the Internet of Things, cyber-physical systems communicate and cooperate with each other and with humans in real time, and via the Internet of Services, both internal and cross-organizational services are offered and used by participants of the value chain.”

In other words – pretty much everything going on in technology today. But the particularly German take on it is how such developments will effect manufacturing and services and what it implies for education and training.

I was a bit concerned with how the presentation would work -given that it is based on research and development in the Public Employment Services. But it seemed to work extremely well.  It is not so much the threat to jobs coming from new technologies and AI, but the impact this is having on the organisation of work and the skills and competences required in the workplace. Professional identity, is a key factor in developing resilience in a world characterised by uncertainty. It empowers individuals, and determines motivation and openness to new developments – and overcomes obstructionism and frustration often associated with change processes. Identity transformation describes the processes through which people can change their professional identity to deal with new work demands. Even more it describes how individuals and groups of people can themselves use their competence and skills to shape the processes and results of introducing new technologies.

The first half of the presentation looks at the research behind identity transformation, the second half at different activities and intervention we have undertaken in the Employ-ID project to support identity transformation for staff in Public Employment services in Europe.

Conversational learning and evidence based education

September 12th, 2017 by Graham Attwell

I have missed out on this autumn’s conference circuit. I just DJg4lLdXUAAiqw8don’t have the money to pay for fees and travel (let alone beer) in attending these events. I am not sure that I actually miss the conferences themselves, but I do miss meeting friends and catching up with what is going on.

And of course, it is increasingly possible to at least dip in to conferences online these days. What with mobile phones and twitter you can almost watch the slides progressing in real time. This morning I noticed one presentation seemed to be getting a lot of my twitter feed. It was Mike Sharples speaking at the ALTALC tagged conference – it took me some time to suss out the ALC stood for the Active Learning Conference taking place at Anglia Ruskin University.

A couple of slides interested me.The slide above is based on the Open University FutureLearn platform. This sums up perfectly how we have used the platform in the EmployID project for running (sadly not open) courses on the Future of Work for employees from the UK Department for Works and Pensions (the UK Public Employment Service. The evaluation showed the courses to be a great success (more on this tomorrow). But I am not so convinced to what degree the FutureLearn platform helped our pedagogic approach – at best I would say it hindered us less than other MOOC platforms we have used.DJg2tuIXcAA5A_X

The second slide also rings true – at least to my experience in using technology for professional development. It is not always easy to link online professional development to practice. But I am ever more sure this is critical to effective learning. Learning spaced over time is an interesting idea in an age of quick bite learning. Of course it depends learning over how much time. Ideally the learning should evolve in line with the practice – but that is not easy to achieve.

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

August 29th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The development of VET teacher pedagogy through practice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and regarding ECER conferences

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

– – –

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

More blogs to come …

Working further with the Learning Toolbox – Overview on current activities in construction sector

June 16th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

After the final review of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project (see my blogs from January and February) I have tried to report on the follow-up activities in North Germany and with our partners in construction sector. In my blogs in March, April and May I have reported on ongoing projects or new initiatives in which the use of Learning Toolbox (LTB) has played an important role. As these blogs have been based on particular meetings or workshops, the picture may have remained somewhat fragmentary. However, this week we have had a series of meetings with different counterparts. This has made it possible to create a group picture of ongoing activities.

Below I will report on the discussions in the three first meetings of this week in which I was present. Here it is worthwhile to note that none of these meetings was focusing only on specific uses of LTB as a dedicated tool for certain uses. Instead, all these meetings were discussing more comprehensive ecosystems of knowledge processes and software solutions (Ökosysteme für Wissensvermittlung und Software-Lösungen). In this context our counterparts were looking for different roles for LTB – as a part of an integrative software ecosystem – in promoting learning, training and workin in construction sector.

1. Bau-ABC Rostrup: New uses for LTB in continuing vocational training (CVT) and projects

In the meeting in Bau-ABC we discussed the prospects of developing an integrative software ecosystem to address course management issues, continuing quality assurance and integration of innovative pedagogic designs to regular training provisions. Here the meeting of Bau-ABC training managers, software developers (including LTB developers) and ITB researchers was partly building on the progress in the project DigiProB (see my previous post). Partly it was building on parallel planning of software solutions for course management and quality assurance. The key point was in the shaping of a software ecology that is linked to traditional data management solutions and receives the ‘mature’ results from development platforms. This would be the case with the DigiProB platform that is being used by lecturers in continuing vocational training (CVT) to create integrated project-based learning designs for CVT participants). In such a software ecology the LTB would serve as the participants interface for accessing digital contents and communication channels in such projects.

Alongside the case of the DigiProB project we discussed parallel possibilities to work further with the Bau-ABC trainers’ group that has been developing more systematic approach to the theme ‘Health and Safety’ (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz). In a similar way we discussed the possibilities to use LTB to support context-specific language learning of the Spanish apprentices (in the Mobipro-EU project) and key issues preparing them for their workplace-based training at construction sites. For these themes the Bau-ABC participants and the LTB developers presented recently created or modified LTB stacks as means to support learning in these contexts.

2.  Agentur für Nachhaltiges Bauen in Verden: New software ecosystems for construction work

In the meeting at the agency for ecological construction work (Agentur) ITB researchers and LTB developers discussed with Thomas Isselhard on the new working perspectives from their point of view (Verden-based organisations and networks focusing on ecological construction work). As we remember, the LTB-use case in which Thomas demonstrated, how he can use the LTB as means to coordinate the work process at a construction site was well received in the workshop for construction companies in September 2016. Now, based on that basic stack we were looking at newer software solutions and mobile apps that can enhance the usability of LTB by craft trade companies. In this discussion a major role was given for construction process-oriented digital tools (Datenlogger) and for possibilities to develop Building Information Modelling (BIM) solutions from the the perspective of craft trades working together. In this context Gilbert Peffer presented the work of CIMNE with portable BIMtables and BIM screens as means to support knowledge sharing during construction processes. In this discussion we could link to a similar session in our previous meeting with Bau-ABC in which we had had a presentation on BIMtable and on a digital tool package (GreenHouse Koffer) for ecological construction work of carpenters. In our discussion in Verden the key point was that the integration of tools and software should support both construction processes and further maintenance. Therefore, the tools and software solutions should take into account planners, craftsmen and clients as the users. Here it is not possible to go into details but this meeting took further steps in planning of new projects with LTB as a key element in such software ecosystem.

3. Company H.: Rethinking the software ecosystem and promoting the competences of the staff

In the third meeting ITB researchers and LTB developers were discussing with representatives of the company H. In one of my previous blogs I have given a rather detailed picture of a workshop in which we discussed the preliminary findings of a mapping tour that the colleagues had done by visiting different sites of that company. Now in this meeting the colleagues presented a draft report on work flows, support systems, eventual gaps and risk zones and their recommendations. We had a rather detailed discussion – both in terms of situation assessment and possible improvements.

Here it is not relevant to give a detailed picture of the discussion. However, at a more general level it is worthwhile to note that the company representatives were looking at a holistic ecosystem for steering work processes, supporting real-time interaction and reporting as well as enhancing knowledge sharing within the company. From the organisational and pedagogic point it was interesting that the company was interested in the potentials of LTB, both from the perspective of process optimisation as well as enhancing the learning processes of apprentices. Moreover, the company was interested in supporting free spaces for exchanges among the apprentices and for organising events to take up their ideas, concerns and wishes. However, with all these interests the company was looking for improvements that could be implemented with the agreement of the staff and with a perspective to integrate different staff members to common processes.

– – –

I guess this is enough of these meetings. For me this series of discussions was inspiring as I could observe clear steps forward on several fronts. Moreover, this experience gave me a new perspective to ‘digital transformation’. As I now see it, such transformations are not just matters of pushing new technologies upon users (or to substitute a great number of users). Neither can such transformations be characterised as equipping of users with magic tools that radically enhance their powers. Instead, the innovative tools – in order to contribute to digital transformations – have to fit into emerging ecosystems of knowledge processes, steering, sharing and reporting as well as co-design processes in which developers become aware of such requirements. In all these meetings I saw signs of such processes. I am looking forward to observe the next steps.

More blogs to come …

An action research approach to studying apprenticeship in Spain

June 14th, 2017 by Graham Attwell

helmet-1636348_1920This is a new paper, written by Graham Attwell and Ana Garcia about the new apprenticeship system in Spain. The research was sponsored by the International Network on Innovative Apprenticeship (INAP) and the paper will be presented at the “Crossing Boundaries in VET: Social Dimension and Participation” conference in rostaock in August. We will provide a downlaodable version of the paper once we have overcome our fight with Word templates.

Abstract: This paper, explores the outcomes of a short action research project, undertaken in Valencia Spain in 2016, into the introduction of the new apprenticeship qualification, FP Dual. The hypothesis underpinning the work was that the development of apprenticeship programmes in Spain needs to build on existing cultural and organisational norms and requires an in-depth understanding of critical factors in the perception of apprenticeship by different actors. The research was undertaken through a series of over 30 in depth interviews with different actors. The paper explains the background and methodology, before outlining the major issues that emerged from the research. The conclusion suggests the need to address cultural and educational issues that the introduction of a Dual System system raises, including the relations between companies and education institutions, the prestige of vocational qualifications, the training of teachers and trainers and issues of pedagogy and curriculum.

Keywords: Action research, Semi structured interview, Apprenticeship, Policy, Spain

1         Introduction

The Spanish economy is still struggling from the impact of the ‘crisis’, with persistently high levels of youth unemployment and low skills levels. Unemployment is especially high for those leaving school early with no qualifications and for recent graduates (Esenciales Fundación BBVA, 2016).

A series of reports have suggested that moving beyond the school based, initial vocational training system to adopt a dual system based, apprenticeship model offers benefits to the economy, to companies and to individuals (Wolter and Mühlemann, 2015).

However, other research points to the difficulties in transferring models developed in one culture – such as the German Dual apprenticeship system – to other cultures such as Spain (Pilz, 2016). These include the weakness of trade unions at a company level, educational polarisation between vocational and higher education, resistance at company level, resistance by families and young people, variation in co-ordination between actors from region to region, complex interactions between national and regional levels, the government, social partners and employment organisations and, of course, the ongoing economic crisis (Cedefop, (2015).

The Spanish government has established an experimental apprenticeship framework, FP Dual, with pilots running in parallel to existing VET schemes (Refer Net Spain, 2014). The implementation of the programmes varies greatly in different Autonomous Communities, based on different cultures, different economies and different organisational and governance forms.

Clara Bassols and Guillem Salvans (2016) say that the Spanish FP Dual system is underdeveloped and needs to be refined and improved to ensure that it is genuinely capable of providing young people with the necessary professional skills and thus employability. Comparing developments in Spain with the German Dual apprenticeship training system, they say that while the two Dual VET systems will never be the same, comparison with Germany reveals that the Spanish system lacks some of the defining strengths of the German system. That the Spanish Dual VET system is so new is viewed as “an opportunity to make changes before it becomes too entrenched.”

Our hypothesis is that the development of apprenticeship programmes in Spain needs to build on existing cultural and organisational norms. This requires an in-depth understanding of critical factors in the perception of apprenticeship by different actors and how these affect the development and implementation of apprenticeship programmes.

The ‘Understanding cultural barriers and opportunities for developing new apprenticeship programmes’ project, sponsored by INEP, has undertaken a four-month research study based in Valencia, to explore the cultural and organisational norms and the barriers and opportunities these afford to introducing apprenticeship. In this paper, we explain the methodology behind the research and the main findings.

2 Research Methodology

A key aim for the project was understanding the introduction of an education innovation – apprenticeship – within a local setting and with a wide range of different actors.

The project adopted an action research approach. Our aim was to develop an understanding of the underlying causes of issues relating to the introduction of educational practice in order, in the longer term, to arrive at consensus by different social partners on how practice can be improved. Our focus has been on qualitative research with different actors who may have an important voice in this area, the organisation of apprenticeship, the role of different organisations and the cultural factors affecting the provision and reform of vocational education and training in the Valencia Community and in Spain.

Elden (1983) has introduced the notion of ‘local theory’. To understand the challenges of each specific workplace, he said, as well as how to attack them, there is a need to understand this specific workplace. In a similar way, we would suggest the need to understand the specific ideas and activities and ‘theories’ of different actors involved at a local level in apprenticeship. Here theory might be understood as the specific pedagogic and learning approach of apprenticeship in bringing together vocational training within schools with alternance periods spent within companies. One objective for our research was how such theory is linked to practice in introducing and supporting such programmes.

In the first stage of the project, we identified the major actors involved in the development and introduction of the apprenticeship programmes in Valencia. These included:

  1. Vocational Training Schools (directors, teachers, tutors)
  2. Policy Makers (regional government and political parties and organisations)
  3. Students and trainees
  4. Parents and carers
  5. Companies especially Small and Medium Enterprises.

The project adopted the idea of purposive sampling for selecting respondents for interviews (Patton, 1990). Interviews were conducted face-to-face using semi structured questionnaires. Overall, thirty interviews were conducted, recorded and transcribed.

3. Findings

In line with our approach to the project, we present here detailed findings from te different actors involved in developing apprenticeship at a local city level.

The role of companies in the FP Dual

Given the central nature of companies to the FP Dual system, it is not surprising that the relationship between companies and vocational schools, as well as the local administration was a major issue raised by all the different social partners. Although most company representatives interviewed were positive about the FP Dual and vocational schools welcomed the partnership with companies, it is proving time consuming to develop a culture and processes to support a dual system and the number of apprenticeship programmes and the number enrolled in Valencia remains limited. There are particular difficulties involving SMEs, who are reluctant to contribute to the cost of apprenticeship and lack skilled trainers.

The role of the school centres

Despite the support of some large and important companies, the adoption of FP Dual is being driven by the School Centres. In such a situation, it is possible that the large integrated centres are in a better position to lead such development, although this is not to downplay the contribution and effort of the smaller centres. School leadership is a critical factor, as is the commitment and contribution of teachers in the vocational schools. Directors and teachers receive no remuneration to working with companies to develop new programmes.

Administration and Contracts

The bureaucracy associated with the establishment of new apprenticeship programmes, both for the schools and for the companies, is troubling.

Some Autonomous Communities have legislation on contracts and remuneration for apprentices with differing rulings. In Valencia, it depends on the individual programmes negotiated between the company and the vocational schools. Quite obviously, this is problematic in that some apprentices are being paid for their work at the company while others are not. Furthermore, some apprentices, who are not receiving remuneration from the company, may be incurring some considerable expenses for travel.

Curriculum Design

At present, the FP Dual programmes last two years in contrast to the normal three-year length of apprenticeships in the German Dual system. There is concern that a some subjects, the curriculum is too heavy for such a time and there is a need for rebalancing drawn between what is learnt through the school and through in-company training.

Sector organisations

One key factor in implementing the FP Dual, is the strength and support of sector organisations which varies between different sectors. The initial programmes are being implemented where there is good communication and support between sectors, vocational schools and industries.

Flexibility and collaboration

The flexibility for the Autonomous Communities to implement apprenticeship schemes allows programmes to be adapted and planned according to the needs of local economies and societies. This may be a problem in terms of transferability of different courses and in transparency of what apprenticeship programmes stand for. There is an important balance to be achieved between the design of programmes to cater for the needs of individual companies and more standardised curricula which meet the needs of students in their education.

Careers guidance and the role of parents

There is only limited public awareness of the FP Dual and the aims and the organisation of apprenticeship. This issue is particularly salient given the high prestige placed on academic courses in Spain and particularly university programmes within the wider Spanish society. The weakness of education and guidance networks and services within Valencia is a major issue if young people, and especially higher achieving young people are to be recruited on FP Dual programmes and if companies and SMEs are to understand the value of apprenticeship.

Initial training and Professional development

There is a lack of a dedicated and well organised and resourced programme of professional development for vocational teachers and for trainers in companies, which is seen as a pre-condition for the future success of apprenticeship in Valencia. Initial training for vocational school teachers is overly focused on the subject with too little attention to pedagogic approaches to teaching and learning.

Sharing resources and good practices

The vocational schools appear to have well developed unofficial networks. But more formal networks are needed which could generalise discourses over strategies and approaches to apprenticeship and provide a forum for knowledge development and exchange.

There is a general concern that vocational education lack prestige, but more importantly the vocational centres often lack sufficient resources to not only maintain present programmes but to develop apprenticeship. This is linked to their understanding of the need for recognised quality in teaching and learning if apprenticeship is to succeed. Many teachers said they lack resources and there is poor access to technology.

International collaboration

European projects and programmes, including the development of new curricula and qualifications, new pedagogic approaches, the use of new technologies and the exchange of students and teachers are extremely valuable for vocational schools to develop and exchange knowledge and experience about apprenticeship.

Regional and city wide collaboration

Vocational schools appear to be approaching companies individually. There could be gains through developing more formal and extended networks between schools and companies, either on a regional or a sector basis. To an extent this role is being undertaken at a national basis by the Alliance for Apprenticeship. The establishment of the Alliance at the level of the Autonomous Communities could be an important step in promoting the FP Dual.

FP Dual and the local economy

Many of those interviewed saw apprenticeship as a way of proving the skills which the local economy would need in the future, particularly in view of the potential flexibility in designing new programmes together with employers. However, they also recognised the challenges in developing such a responsive system.

Evaluation

The new apprenticeship programmes are experimental, and many of the issues arising are not unique to Spain. Indeed, many of these issues have been raised in research into the long established German Dual System. However, the lack of qualitative evaluation of the FP Dual programmes, especially scientifically undertaken and published case studies, is a barrier to understanding what is working, what is not and how to improve the quality of the programmes.

4. Conclusions

The findings from this research are focused on the context of educational change and introducing apprenticeship in one community, Valencia in Spain. This raises the question of how generalizable they are to other regions and other countries. We would suggest the findings show the limitation in attempting to transfer models of vocational education and training from one country to another. Inevitably, FP Dual reflects the governmental, cultural, pedagogic and curricula history and practices of Valencia, as well as the particular context of the ongoing economic crisis. That does not mean that developing an apprenticeship system in Valencia is either undesirable or impossible. But it does mean going beyond lauding the strengths of dual system approaches to education and training and whilst recognising that a Dual system in Spain will always be different to Germany, addressing some of the cultural and educational issues that such a system raises. These include the relations between companies and education institutions, the prestige of vocational qualifications, the training of teachers and trainers and issues of pedagogy and curriculum. Announcing a new systemic innovation alone is not enough: unless these key issues can be addressed apprenticeship will not succeed in Valencia or in Spain.

References

Bassols, C. and Salvans, G.  (2016). High Quality Vocational training in Spain: the Alliance for Dual Vocational training, Bertelsmann Foundation, Madrid

Cedefop (2015). Governance and financing of apprenticeship, Cedefop, Thessaloniki

Elden, M. (1983). Democratization and participative research in developing local theory. Journal of Occupational Behaviour, 4(1), 21–34.

Esenciales Fundación BBVA (2016). La formación ha avanzado durante la crisis, peroel abandono escolar, los desajustes en competencias y el paro limitan el aprovechamiento del esfuerzo educativo, Ivie N.º 03/2016

Patton, M. (1990) Qualitative evaluation and research methods. (pp. 169-186), Sage Publications, Beverly Hills, CA

Pilz, M. (2016). Training Patterns of German Companies in India, China, Japan and the USA:What Really Works?, International Journal for Research in Vocational Education and Training (IJRVET), Vol. 3, Issue 2, August 2016, pp. 66-87

Refer Net Spain (2014) Apprenticeship-type schemes and structured work-based learning programmes: Spain, CEDEFOP

Wolter, C. and Mühlemann, S. (2015) Apprenticeship training in Spain – a cost effective model for firms?, Bertelsmann Stiftung, Guetersloh

 

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