Archive for the ‘Reflection’ Category

Rainer Bremer in Memoriam

March 6th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

At the end of January we received the sad news that our ITB and VETNET colleague Rainer Bremer had passed away after a difficult phase with severe illnesses. Three days ago he would have celebrated his 65th birthday, but now he is gone. It has taken some time to get my thoughts together on this fact. After all, I have known Rainer since 1993 when I was still working as a junior researcher in Finland and building contacts with ITB (Institut Technik & Bildung, University of Bremen). Shortly afterwards I changed to Cedefop (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training) and in that contexts worked together with several EU-funded projects – and Rainer was involved in some of them. Then, from 2005 I have been working in ITB and Rainer has been one of veterans of ITB who continued all these years with national, European and international projects.

Below I try to bring together some memories of Rainer from different phases of our research careers. In particular I would like to focus on our encounters in project work and in the many ECER events (European Conference on Educational Research) in which Rainer was prominently present from the early years on.

Modellversuch Schwarze Pumpe and other similar pilot projects

I learned to know Rainer shortly after he had started in ITB and in the accompanying research team of the pilot project Schwarze Pumpe (wissenschaftliche Begleitung der Modellversuch Schwarze Pumpe). This pilot project focused on promoting dually oriented qualifications – acquisition of regular vocational qualification and university entrance qualification (Fachhochschulreife) – without extension of education and training time. Rainer was responsible for accompanying the school part of the pilot, Hans-Dieter Höpfner for the workplace part, and Gerald Heidegger for the management of the accompanying research altogether.

During my first years at Cedefop I had the pleasure to attend some of the interim events of this pilot. In particular I was impressed by the integrated projects that some teams of vocational school teachers and in-company trainers had planned together – involving apprentices from different trades. And I was pleased with the way that the accompanying researchers brought these pedagogic achievements forward. In particular this was the case with nation-wide conference of similar German pilot projects, coordinated by MV Schwarze Pumpe. It struck me that Rainer (from West-Germany) and Hans-Dieter (from East-Germany) could bring together pilot projects that highlighted best practice from West and East (relatively shortly after the German unification).

European projects on parity of esteem and dually oriented qualifications

In the first phase of the EU action programme for vocational education – Leonardo da Vinci – the themes ‘parity of esteem between general and vocational education’ and ‘integrated qualifications’ were high on the priority lists. Therefore, it was no wonder that the MV Schwarze Pumpe was represented in two Leonardo projects:

  • The project “Post-16 strategies” compared different systemic/institutional strategies for promoting attractiveness of vocational education and training (VET) and reducing the status gaps between VET and general education. The project came up with a mapping result that identifies four main strategies from institutional unification (intergerated upper secondary education) to enhancement of VET within existing institutional frameworks.
  • The project “Intequal” provided insights into different curricular models or schemes that promoted integration of general/academic and vocational learning. This project sought to give insights into the possibilities to integrate the parallel learning cultures at the level of practical pedagogic solutions.

During their work the two projects developed close cooperation with each other – and ITB (with MV Schwarze Pumpe as its exemplary case) was prominently present in this cooperation. Rainer and Gerald rotated with each in the meetings and were involved in the bilateral study visits of ‘Post-16 strategies’ (that involved practitioners from Germany and Norway to mutual visits on each others’ pilot venues). Also, I remember the discussions in which Rainer explained to other partners the meaning of the concept ‘Beruflichkeit’ (and the kind of vocational professionalism to which it refers in German education, training and working cultures). Somehow, all other colleagues had failed to go that deep into cultural core concepts. At the end of the day the concluding event of the MV Schwarze Pumpe incorporated also a Cedefop-hosted European seminar in which the European partners could familiarise themselves with the results of the German pilot project.

The classical ITB pilot projects (Modellversuche) GoLo, GAB and GaPa

Partly parallel to the above mentioned projects, partly after them ITB experienced a period of outstanding pilot projects (Modellversuche – MV) in the context of or parallel to national innovation programs:

  • The first one in the series was MV GoLo in the Wilhelmshaven region. It tried to turn the declining tendency in providing apprentice training by encouraging the companies and vocational schools to launch workplace learning partnerships. However, alongside the organisational innovations that made such cooperation attractive, the project supported joint domain-specific workshops to promote quality of vocational curricula and mutual adjustment. In this context the workshops highlighted the role of characteristic working and learning tasks (Lern- und Arbeitsaufgaben). Rainer was not personally involved in the GoLo project but he was keenly involved in the further develoment work with the concept ‘working and learning tasks’.
  • The second one in the series was MV GAB that was implemented at different production sites of Volkswagenwerk. It had the task to develop a new integrative framework for occupational core qualifications and competences for the automotive industries. Rainer was in charge of the accompanying research team and took further steps in developing the concept of Expert-Worker-Workshops (Ex-Wo-Wos) and the curricular embedding of working and learning tasks.
  • The third one, the regional MV GaPa in Nordrhein-Westfalen can be seen as a transfer-project that was built upon the regional networking approach of GoLo and on the pedagogic work in the GAB project. Rainer was in charge of the first phase of the project before moving to other tasks.

Here it is worthwhile to note that the wording ‘outstanding’ does not necessarily mean that all these pilots were success stories – or that successful practice in the pilot contexts would have been easily transferable to other contexts. Yet, they represented a phase of intensive concept development work that had an impact on many successor activities. Moreover, I need to add that Rainer had also other research interests at that time. He was developing cooperation between ITB and our friends in Oldenburg on school-to work transition. And I still remember that he had a project on integration of disadvantaged learners in VET in the area of Braunschweig.

European cooperation with projects focusing on trans-national production of Airbus and Volkswagen

After the above mentioned pilot projects Rainer worked with a new generation of pilot projects that focused on the trans-national production process of Airbus and the role of vocational education and training. Firstly there was a conceptual study EVABCOM (a conceptually and methodologically oriented forerunner project cooperation between ITB, the French CEREQ and the University of Stirling). Then two trans-national projects – AEROnet and Aero-VET brought into picture trans-national partnerships that covered the countries in which Airbus had production (Germany, France, Spain, UK). The point of interest was the contradiction between the fact that Airbus had a mutually coordinated production process BUT the VET cultures in the participating countries remained different. As I have understood it, the consortium focused in the first project on analysing the working and learning tasks of apprentices in different countries. In the second project the consortium explored the usability of European credit transfer framework (ECVET) across the countries. (Here I am not going into details of the projects or into the results – I just want to give a picture of different milestones during Rainer’s career as a European VET researcher.)

Parallel to the start of the Airbus-project Rainer had also worked with the VW Group sites in Czech Republic and Slovakia (producing Skoda) – introducing Expert-Worker-Workshops to the new sites of the VW Group. So, Rainer was working on several international fronts. And alongside his project-related cooperation he was keen on developing the bilateral relations between ITB and CEREQ (the French national centre for research on VET and labour market).

Rainer, ECER and the VETNET community

As has been indicated above, Rainer was involved in several transnational projects and consortia. Therefore, it was natural that he was also prominently present in the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER). In particular I remember his project-related contributions to ECER 2004 in Crete (the VW-Group pilots and the development of Expert-Worker-Workshops) and the subsequent AEROnet and Aero-VET related symposia in the ECER conferences after Crete.

But Rainer was also engaged as a keynote speaker and/or as a keynote panelist in the opening colloquia of the VETNET network at some ECER conferences. In particular in 2004 (in Crete) Rainer was the keynote speaker to start discussion on the question: “Should the field of VET have an international PISA study of its own kind?” There, Rainer defended the ITB position that there should be an alternative to PISA that pays attention to vocational learning and to vocational progression routes. The other panelist, Jenny Hughes from Pontydysgu presented a fundamental critique of the methodology used in PISA studies and of the PISA apparatus itself. Unfortunately the two positions couldn’t be matched with each other in the discussion – although they both represented an alternative approach vis-à-vis the official PISA. But the debate – moderated by the VETNET program chair Nikitas Patiniotis – was intensive and inspiring.

In ECER 2006, in Geneva, Rainer was also involved in the VETNET opening colloquium. This time the VETNET program chair Barbara Stalder had invited the grand old man of Swiss VET research, professor Rolf Dubs to present a keynote lecture on recent developments in Swiss VET policies and research. And as discussants, responding to the keynote speech, Barbara had engaged Annie Boudér from CEREQ and Rainer Bremer from ITB. Without going into details of that session it is worthwhile to note that ITB (in general) and Rainer (in particular) were interested in learning more of the Swiss VET culture in which apprentice training was valued much higher than in several other European countries. Also, Rainer was keen to learn more about the French concept ‘Baccalaureate professionelle’ which was considered asa successful model in opening a vocational progression route after the initial VET.

Rainer, the uneasy intellectual and independent thinker

I guess that I have already covered the main milestones of Rainer’s career as a European VET researcher (at least the ones of which I have personal memories). However, the picture would be incomplete if I wouldn’t characterise Rainer as a special personality – more than just a colleague among others. Firstly, Rainer was an academic scholar with a manifold background in philosophy, social theory and educational sciences. Secondly, Rainer had seriously worked himself in into the field of research in VET and working life – and he valued this context greatly. Thirdly, he was a critical thinker through and through – or as the Germans express it: “mit Ecken und Kanten”. So, Rainer was always looking for deep insights – something solid to build upon. And he was never satisfied with halfway thought platitudes that had not gone through critical examination. Also, he was very clear about his priorities – and on what he didn’t include to them. Yet, he had always his intellectual curiosity and his intellectual humour with him – as fellow travellers. And many colleagues remember his manifold cultural interests – literature and poetry, music from classic to pop and jazz, photography – and not to forget: driving fast with his favourite Citroen car.

Finally, I have chosen a piece of music which could be related to his memory: George Dalaras singing the melody of Mikis Theodorakis “Old streets” in the open-air concert on Athens Acropolis to celebrate the 70th birthday of the composer. (Please note that I am not responsible for eventual advertisements popping up with the link.)

We miss Rainer but we will remember, what he stood for.

Farewell Rainer, we will carry on …

 

Final Review of Learning Layers – Part Four: Questions, Challenges and Concluding Reflections

February 1st, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my three previous posts I have been writing a series of posts on the concluding event of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project – the Final Review. In the first post I explained how we came to the idea to organise the event primarily at the Norddeutsches Zentrum für Nachhaltiges Bauen ((NZNB) – North-German Centre for Ecological Construction Work in Verden, near Bremen). In the second post I focused on the contributions of the Construction Pilot – on our topics and how we presented our message (with poster wall, exploitation tables and presentation session). In the third post I focused on the comparisons between the Construction pilot and Healthcare pilot that I and Tamsin Treasure-Jones presented as tandem-presenters. In this fourth and concluding post I will discuss the overall picture of the meeting in the light of questions from the review panel, challenges posed for us regarding the finalisation of our work and further reflections to be presented in this context.

1) Questions on the contributions of the sectoral pilots and technical support activities

I start with the questions posed for Construction pilot team. As I see it, we were able to present a coherent story of participative co-design process, training activities and pilot testing that led to actual use of Learning Toolbox in the training of Bau-ABC Rostrup. Also, we could show that our partners in the ecological construction work are developing their own applications. The questions from the review panel were mostly posed to the practitioners – the Bau-ABC trainers Markus Pape and Stefan Wiedenstried. Markus and Stefan could inform of cases in which their trainers’ blogs and the Learning Toolbox were real support for the learning of apprentices. Concerning the conceptual interpretation of the pedagogic accents of trainers we had clarify a terminological confusion due to translation. (The metaphor ‘Learning toolbox as “well”‘ gave a different connotation as ‘source’ – two alternative translations for ‘Brunnen’.) Altogether, we could make the case that the use of pedagogy that promoted holistic view on the occupational tasks of the trade and empowerment of self-organised learners. Concerning the contribution of Bau-ABC and Netzwerk Nachhaltiges Bauen we got questions on the role of infrastructure, on the readiness of partner companies to work with internet and on the commitment to work with the tools. We could refer to several topics and to initiatives with which the organisations are already working.

Concerning the Healthcare pilot, the reviewers were keen to know more, what kinds of difficulties the pilot groups (with their respective tools) experienced, what kind of learning effects could be documented and how the integration of one of the tools (Living Documents) into widely used commercial software (Intradoc) is taking place. Also, the review panel was interested, how the transfer of Learning Toolbox from Construction pilot to healthcare education and to conferences is taking place.

Concerning the contributions of technical partners, the review panel was mainly interested to know. to what extent the overall infrastructure (WP 6) and the Social Semantic Server (WP5) were used by the pilots. Here, some examples could be mentioned that demonstrated that the tools were used in a common working environment. As regards the Learning Toolbox, Raymond Elfereink made the point that it was developed as a minimum viable product for active use. Therefore, the further steps of integration can be reached only at a later date.

2) Challenges for critical self-reflection on the process and results

On top of the specific questions on particular parts of the project the review panel had more overarching questions on the overall results of the project consortium. The way we had presented our results with an integrative website and supporting reports seemed to leave gaps of interpretation and unanswered questions. The reviewers wanted to get a deeper understanding on the reasons, what were the limits to our success (although the project made a serious effort) and what lessons should be learned for project work (on our side) and for terms of funding (at the level of funding policies). Here – without trying to give a complete answer – I would address the following points in the light of the Construction pilot:

a) Developing new software for, with and by the users: For the sake of argument some of the reviewers raised the question, whether it was realistic to introduce co-design and software development processes within the process? Could the project had worked on the basis of existing software solutions (by shaping IKEA-like package solutions)? Here all our experiences from the fieldwork speak for a user-oriented and user-engaging co-design process.  Commitment to such process and the engagement of users was crucial to the success with Learning Toolbox. During different phases of the process there was sufficient user engagement  to make sure that the toolset to became appropriate for the users.

b) Big software house or SME as the software development partner: Originally the Construction pilot was supposed to be supported by a big software house. However, after changes in the staff involved in the project, the software house was not willing to allocate developers that would engage themselves in the project. Instead they were insisting on using their ready-made products or getting specifications for piecemeal coding work (to be handed over to outsourced programmers). This was not compatible with the process dynamics with application partners. When the software house left the project, it was replaced by a an SME that was prepared to take a participative role in the co-design process. However, this change happened only after major administrative delays. Yet, only due to this change the Construction pilot got a flexible and integrative toolset that can be used in different contexts.

c) Was the time frame (in)sufficient for such of project or was the approach of the project (un)realistic for the time frame: To me these questions cannot be answered independently of the two above discussed points. As I see it, the given time frame would have enabled the Construction pilot team develop the Learning Toolbox to far more advanced stage. However, a considerable part of working time passed without effective technical support.  And after the change the Construction pilot had go through a ‘catching up’ period. In the meantime other partners involved in the process had been developing their ideas and requests. Yet, in the remaining time the Learning Toolbox could at best be developed into a viable product only by the beginning of the last year.

3) Questions on transfer processes and scaling up innovations

During the Review meeting the reviewers posed questions concerning the processes of adaptation, transfer and ‘scaling up’ of innovations? We were challenged to reflect in a self-critical ways what we had achieved and what not. Also, we were challenged to work harder with the lessons learned.  Here the reviewers were keen to understand, how the analysis of our experiences could help to develop future projects and funding criteria. Therefore, the issue was NOT,  what we should have known better already in the beginning phase. To me the important push was to reflect on the factors that have had influence on the transfer processes and on the aim to scale up innovations. Here, from the perspective of Construction pilot I raise the following points:

a) Getting out of the primary pilot contexts: In Construction sector the primary pilot context was an intermediate training centre and its training projects at their premises and outdoor areas. In this context we reached clear results that demonstrated the usability of the Learning Toolbox and positive impact on the learning of apprentices. Yet, based on this experience (alone) we could not see much takeup in enterprises. On the contrary, the interested companies were looking for a more overarching approach to use Learning Toolbox to coordinate their work plans, logistics and mutual adjustment of different trades’ work processes (+ related informal learning). Such processes do not happen as ‘transfer’ of prior practices but need intensive customisation. At present there are several negotiations going on with companies who want to start their own mini-pilots with Learning Toolbox.

b) The role of multiplier-organisations in the ‘scaling up’ of innovations: In Construction sector the best known showcases for using Learning Toolbox refer to training activities in Bau-ABC and to coordination of a construction site in Verden. In both types ‘champions’ of application partner organisations play a central role. However, getting beyond such cases (and the company initiatives mentioned above) requires further motivational assets for the craft trade companies to get interested. In this respect the NNB (Network for ecological construction work) has drawn attention to the competition Grüne Hausnummer (and its marketing value). Likewise, Bau-ABC is in a good position to promote awareness of health and safety (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz) at workplace and with user-friendly tools and web resources. Both these examples show that we are proceeding via narrower ‘exploitation corridors’ rather than stepping on broad avenues during our exploitation journeys – but as I see it, there are no alternative ways forward.

– – –

I think this is enough for the moment. We have got some homework from the reviewers and we want to complete our working and learning process in this project properly. As we see it, we were promoting genuinely innovative processes that developed tools worth using. And our application partners got their hands on the tools and confirmed that they were worth using. This gives us a basis to look forward.

More blogs to come …

Political Economy of the 21st Century – Food for thought over the holidays and for the new year

December 19th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

I have already completed my duties with in my daily work, left Bremen behind for a holiday period and landed happily to my domestic Finland. Normally, when I am entering the holiday mood, I give my blog a rest and take some time off as a blogger. Likewise, I have tended to leave behind the habit to send Christmas cards (and switched to e-cards). Now, I am doing something different: I am sending via my blog season’s greetings – food for thought worth keeping over the holiday period and catching up with in the beginning of the year 2017.

All my years as an expatriate in Germany I have learned to appreciat the German radio channel Deutschlandfunk and its Sunday morning program “Essays und Diskurs”.  And during the last few weeks they have had a very special series of these with the heading ‘Political economy of the 21st century – on the actuality of Marx and “Das Kapital”‘. I know that such a heading can provoke different reactions and assumptions, what these programs might be about. To me it was inspiring to listen to some of them – contemporary researches discussing present date problems and issues of social theory – working these issues through with reflective reading on Karl Marx. They were looking at ways to set our current problems into interpretative frameworks and exploring the heritage of Marx with focused reading of “Das Kapital”.

I guess this is enough of introduction, I will give links to the six programs of this series below. And yes, the authors had written their contributions in German and presented them in German. But since my links are to the written contributions, they might be accessible to others than German-speakers as well.  For those, who want to listen to the audios, the pages give links to them as well. So, here we have these special contributions with brief introductions (in German):

RE: Das Kapital (1/6) Aktuelle Brisanz der Marxschen Kategorie

“Vor 150 Jahren erschien eines der Hauptwerke von dem deutschen Philosophen, Ökonom und Gesellschaftstheoretiker Karl Marx – “Das Kapital”. Im ersten Teil einer Deutschlandfunk-Sendereihe erläutert der Publizist Mathias Greffrath wie die Marxsche Kategorie des Mehrwerts heute noch politische Brisanz entfalten kann.” Von Mathias Greffrath

RE: Das Kapital (2/6) Das Verhältnis von Kapitalismus und Gewalt

“Im zweiten Teil der Deutschlandfunk-Sendereihe über die aktuelle Brauchbarkeit von “Das Kapital”: ein Essay des Soziologen Wolfgang Streeck über die “ursprüngliche Akkumulation” und die Gewalt im Kapitalismus.”  Von Wolfgang Streeck

Michael Quante, Professor für Philosophie, beschäftigt sich für den dritten Teil der Sendereihe “Das Kapital” mit dem ökonomischen Hauptwerk von Karl Marx. Er geht dabei auf die Suche nach den Spuren der Entfremdung im Kapitalismus, welche auch heute spürbar sind.  Von Michael Quante

RE: Das Kapital (4/6) Der Niedergang des Kapitalismus

Marx hielt den Sieg des Proletariats für unvermeidlich. Doch wie lange wird es dem Kapitalismus noch gelingen, seinen Niedergang zu verhindern? Mit dieser Frage befasst sich der Wirtschaftsjournalist Paul Mason im vierten Teil der Sendereihe “Das Kapital”. Von Paul Mason

RE: Das Kapital (5/6) Sahra Wagenknecht über das Ende des Kapitalismus

Linken-Politikerin Sahra Wagenknecht beleuchtet die historische Tendenz des Kapitalismus. Für die bekennende Marxistin ist spätestens heute die Zeit gekommen, sich vom Kapitalismus abzuwenden. Für den fünften Teil der Sendereihe hat sie sich erneut über das Monumentalwerk “Das Kapital” gebeugt.  Von Sahra Wagenknecht

RE: Das Kapital (6/6) Kooperation als Quelle des Reichtums

Der Journalist und politische Schriftsteller Robert Misik erklärte das Finanzsystem in seinem letzten Buch zum “Kaputtalismus”. Er plädiert für eine “Miteinander-Ökonomie”. Im letzten Teil der Sendereihe “RE: Das Kapital” beschäftigt er sich ausgehend von Marx mit der Kooperation als Erfolgskonzept.  Von Robert Misik

 – – –

I think this is enough for the moment. I haven’t had a chance to listen to them all  – so, I will also take my ‘lunch bags’ as food for thought over the holiday period and to the new year 2017.

More blogs to come …

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

November 16th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– – –

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

More blogs to come …

 

Workplace Learning Analytics for Facilitation in European Public Employment Services

April 29th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

This week I have been at the pre-conference workshops for the Learning analytics conference in Edinburgh. This is my presentation at the workshop on Workplace Learning Analytics. And below is the abstract of my paper together with a link to download the full paper, if you should wish. In the next few days,  I will write up a reflection on the workshops, plus some new ideas that emerged from talking with participants.
Abstract

The paper is based on early research and practices in developing workplace Learning Analytics for the EU funded EmployID project, focused on identity transformation and continuing professional development in Public Employment Services (PES) in Europe. Workplace learning is mostly informal with little agreement of proxies for learning, driven by demands of work tasks or intrinsic interests of the learner, by self-directed exploration and social exchange that is tightly connected to processes and the places of work. Rather than focusing on formal learning, LA in PES needs to be based on individual and collective social practices and informal learning and facilitation processes rather than formal education. Furthermore, there are considerable concerns and restraints over the use of data in PES including data privacy and issues including power relations and hierarchies.

Following a consultation process about what innovations PES would like to pilot and what best meets their needs, PES defined priorities for competence advancement around the ‘resourceful learner’, self-reflection and self-efficacy as core competences for their professional identity transformation. The paper describes an approach based on Social Learning Analytics linked to the activities of the EmployID project in developing social learning including advanced coaching, reflection, networking and learning support services. SLA focuses on how learners build knowledge together in their cultural and social settings. In the context of online social learning, it takes into account both formal and informal educational environments, including networks and communities. The final section of the paper reports on work in progress to build a series of tools to embed SLA within communities and practices in PES organisations.

Download the paper (PDF)

Reflections on Communities of Practice

March 17th, 2016 by Graham Attwell


Chahira Nouira sent me an email asking if I could make a short podcast around Communities of Practice. ” I am writing,” she said “because I thought you might have 15 min of your precious time to help me compile an audio playlist where you are the stars! For a year, I have been involved in a project funded by the EU and one of its products is a Community of Practice for Lifelong Learning: DISCUSS. My idea is to get insights from you on CoPs based on how your experience and stories”.

I have been involved – and still am – in a number of projects seeking to support the emergence of communities of practice – defined as groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly – with varying success. In the podcast I try to explain why I think some have worked an others less so.

In early days, in the late 1990s, we mainly saw the idea of Communities of Practice as an analytic tool to understand how informal learning develops in Communities of practice and how knowledge is exchanged. In a later stage we moved on to try to develop or foster Communities of Practice, using IST to support the emergence of dispersed communities.

All to often we thought we could form communities ourselves, not totally understanding the emergent nature and the ownership of CoPs. Too often also, we have conflated organisations with communities. Probably more importantly, whilst we have fused on communities, we have failed to properly understand the nature of the practices which bind together those communities. According to Wenger, a community of practice defines itself along three dimensions

  • What it is about – its joint enterprise as understood and continually renegotiated by its members.
  • How it functions ‐ mutual engagement that bind members together into a social entity.
  • What capability it has produced – the shared repertoire of communal resources (routines, sensibilities, artefacts, vocabulary, styles, etc.) that members have developed over time. (Wenger, 1998)

In seeking to support facilitation a vital prerequisite is understanding the nature of the social practices within the workplace, both through observable patterns of individual practice and through developing an overall pattern language. This includes the use of objects. Objects are necessary components of many practices – just as indispensable as bodily and mental activities. (Reckwitz, 2002). Carrying out a practice very often means using particular things in a certain way. Electronic media itself is an object which can mold social practices and enable and limit certain bodily and mental activities, certain knowledge and understanding as elements of practices (Kittler, 1985; Gumbrecht, 1988).  One approach to choosing ways to develop particular objects is to focus on what Onstenk (1997) defines as core problems: the problems and dilemmas that are central to the practice of an occupation that have significance both for individual and organisational performance.

If understanding the nature of social practices and patterns is a necessary step to developing facilitation services, it is not in itself sufficient. Further understanding is needed of how learning, particularly informal learning, takes place in the workplace and how knowledge is shared and developed. Michael Eraut (2000) points put that “much uncodified cultural knowledge is acquired informally through participation in social activities; and much is often so ‘taken for granted’ that people are unaware of its influence on their behaviour. This phenomenon is much broader in scope than the implicit learning normally associated with the concept of socialisation. In addition to the cultural practices and discourses of different professions and their specialities, one has to consider the cultural knowledge that permeates the beliefs and behaviours of their co-workers, their clients and the general public.”

Eraut attempts to codify different elements of practice:

  • Assessing clients and/or situations (sometimes briefly, sometimes involving a long process of investigation) and continuing to monitor them;
  • Deciding what, if any, action to take, both immediately and over a longer period (either individually or as a leader or member of a team);
  • Pursuing an agreed course of action, modifying, consulting and reassessing as and when necessary;
  • Metacognitive monitoring of oneself, people needing attention and the general progress of the case, problem, project or situation.

He also draws attention to the importance of what he calls mediating objects and points out that while some artifacts are used mainly during learning processes, most artifacts used for working are also used for learning. Such artefacts play an important role in structuring work and sharing information and in mediating group learning about clients or projects in progress.

In general, when seeking to support online communities, we have developed web sites and web based tools which are separate form the work process. Possibly, we should be looking instead at how we can use artifacts from work processes to support learning and knowledge exchange.

First cycle of Multimedia Training in Theme Rooms – Part 4: Interim reflections of participants

December 6th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my three previous posts on the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project I have written a series of reports on the Multimedia Training of the training centre Bau-ABC with the concept “Theme Rooms”. The concept was initiated by the training staff of Bau-ABC.  In my first blog I reported on the preparations by the LL teams of Bau-ABC, ITB and Pontydysgu) . The second post focused on the work with the theme ‘Social media’. The third post focused on the theme ‘Preparing  Digital Learning Materials’. The final fourth part gives a report on the joint interim assessment event of the participants in Bau-ABC Rostrup (with video connection with the group in ABZ Mellendorf).

Here it is worthwhile to mention that this interim assessment was clearly an event of the Bau-ABC trainers to assess whether the November workshops had provided the kind of learning experience that they had outlined with the initial ‘Theme Room’ concept.  In this respect there was a clear difference to the earlier Multimedia Training initiated by the LL project partners – to support the advanced trainers as testers and multipliers of LL tools. Now the groups involved all training staff and the aim was to get all participants into a learning process that enables them to use digital media, web resources and mobile technologies as means to support vocational training and workplace learning. Here some main points on the discussion:

a) The learning experiences in the groups

On behalf of the organisers Melanie Campbell opened the event, gave an overview of the concept of Theme Rooms and on the adaptation for November workshops and on the goal-settings. Then she invited participants from different groups to give feedback. The participating Bau-ABC started with comments on their special learning experiences and with positive feedback on the learning climate in the groups.  Here, it was worthwhile to note that several positive comments came from participants who clearly indicated themselves as less advanced learners. Director Emke Emken (in the role of a participant and learner) emphasised the importance that everyone had a chance to participate as a peer learner and to learn more in one’s own pace (Lernruhe). In this respect there was no pressure to pretend to know more and to show more than one was able. Also, in the group process we could encounter technical difficulties and other hurdles without getting frustrated.

b) Feedback on practical arrangements

Concerning the practicalities, we had several comments. Firstly,the timing of the sessions on Friday afternoon was not considered quite ideal  for such learning new things.  Yet, we could agree that the groups had always overcome the fatigue and got inspired during the sessions. We got a clear signal that it was worthwhile to have two workshops for the same theme and a to maintain continuity across the themes. In a similar way the trainers appreciated the continuation with the same tutors from one theme to another and in the same groups. Concerning the use of Google Drive folder we got a clear message that the participants could not use it for preparation (lack of time) but found it very useful as archive of the materials and documents on learning results. A great praise was given for the Estonian intern student Jaanika Hirv (TLU) who had worked two months in Bau-ABC during the preparation and implementation of the Theme Room program. She kept the trainers well informed of the schedules and visited the trainers at their training areas to collect feedback and to provide  assistance to those who had not been present in all workshop sessions.

c) Organisational implications

Several comments discussed organisational consequences for Bau-ABC. Director Emken referred to the need for Bau-ABC to position itself as users of digital media, web tools and mobile technologies in training. In this respect Emken emphasised that Bau-ABC is in the position of learner and has to make progress but it is clearly moving on step by step. Here, Emken reminded that Bau-ABC needs to keep its industrial counterparts with it on the journey. From this perspective it was clear to him and to the participants that there is a commitment to continue with the Theme Room program and to make the best of it. In this context Emken encouraged the participants to consider the new tools and media as their own personal ‘White Folder’ or ‘Toolbox’ and what they could best start using in the coming times. This, to us served as a preparatory phase for the phase to introduce the Learning Toolbox in the training.

In more specific comments the participants raised issues for internal discussions of Bau-ABC (e.g. how to make the best use of blogs and how to position regarding their openness vs. password protection). We (the co-tutors from ITB) raised some points of consideration regarding the equipment and software (to ensure the learning results and access to appropriate tools). Also, we had discussion on measures to keep the learning process continued (with some sessions of tutoing in one room in Bau-ABC and one room in Mellendorf on topics chosen by interested participants). We took note that January and February are the high seasons of Continuing Vocational Training (CVT) schemes. Yet, it appeared that there seemed to be a readiness to start a new cycle of workshops at the end of February and in March.

With all these positive comments and expressions of commitment to work further we were pleased to conclude the event looking forward to good continuation after the holiday break. We took also several points for further consideration concerning the next cycle of workshops. Altogether, the Theme Room program had made its case and provides a good basis for the next steps. We were already able to convey this message to the Year 3 Review meeting of the LL project one week before and now we could confirm it.

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 …

Learning Layers has given new emphasis on Development Projects

March 22nd, 2014 by Pekka Kamarainen

The last event of the Learning Layers (LL) project  in the year 2013 of which I blogged was the Y1 Review meeting in Barcelona. One of the measures with which we have responded to the feedback of reviewers has been the shift of emphasis from overarching Design Ideas to more specific Development Projects. This shift of emphasis was already discussed during the Y1 Review meeting, but it really took off during the preparation of the LL consortium meeting in Innsbruck (that took place in February).

What has this shift of emphasis meant to us:

Firstly, it has provided us an opportunity consider, to what extent the co-design processes are going on with an overarching agenda (of the original Design Teams set up in March 2013) or whether they have moved to more differentiated processes.

Secondly, it has provided us an opportunity to give shape for sub-initiatives or complementary initiatives that may play a role in different contexts.

Thirdly, it has provided us an opportunity to reconsider, in what ways we share experiences and knowledge on co-design activities.

Here it is not necessary to give a comprehensive account on call changes or to go into very specific details. Yet, I can give some examples of the changes that have occurred with reference to the above mentioned reorientations:

1) In the Design Team “Sharing Turbine” the original idea was the digitisation of the White Folder (learning and working resource of the apprentices in Bau ABC). In the current phase the work has differentiated to several parallel Development Project:

1a) The Development Project “Learning Toolbox” is developing a toolbox of mobile apps and resources that supports the work with the White Folder (and paves the way for digitisation of documents and reports).

1b) The Development Project “Multimedia/ Web 2.0  Training “ is giving shape for the training activities that have been piloted with the staff of Bau ABC (and are to be supported by online learning).

1c) The Development Project “Baubildung.net” is developing a platform for professional networking platform for construction sector. This platform will also provide the basis for online learning in the context of the above mentioned training activities.

2) The Development Project “Reflect app” (that was initially developed with support of an affiliated students’ project) is being developed further by the LL project. The audio-based app that helps the users to record their learning experiences and learning gains (and convert them into documents) will be piloted both in healthcare and in construction sector.

3) The flashmeetings of Design Teams have to some extent given way for more comprehensive design forums of the two sectors healthcare and construction sector.

As we are talking of recent changes in dynamic processes, it is not yet the time to conclude, to what extent the Development Projects have shaped the daily work of the LL project. Yet, we can already see that the picture of the LL project is getting more networked and more colourful.

More posts to come …

 

 

 

 

REFLECT: Community-Driven Scaffolding for Voice-enabled Reflection on the Go

August 16th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

Together with my colleagues, Christine Kunzmann, Andreas P. Schmidt, Graham Attwell1, Elizabeth Chan2, Marius Heinemann-Grüder, Jenny Hughes, Wenlin Lan2, Andreas Vratny and Andreas Heberle, we have produced a short paper for the forthcoming ARTEL workshop on Awareness and Reflection in Technology-Enhanced Learning at the ECTEL conference.

The paper explains the thinking behind the Reflect App which we hope to launch as a Beta next week.

Abstract

REFLECT is a mobile app that promotes a regular reflective routine. It is voice-based so that it can be used, e.g., while driving a car or in similar situations. The reflection session is scaffolded through decks of questions that can be configured by the other and shared with others, who in turn can reuse the questions.

Introduction

Reflective learning is seen as one of the key activity for workplace learning that is most neglected because of time pressure in everyday business. This particularly ap- plies to General Practitioners (GPs) who are on a tight schedule between slots for consultation and home visits. From the need to make learning activities traceable for re-certification, there is, however, an interest from doctors to reflect on learning experiences and to follow-up on learning opportunities arising from everyday practice. Key approach is to create reflection opportunities by utilizing time slots like when driving in the car from/to a home visit, or commuting.

Concept

The key idea behind REFLECT is that reflection support is based on voice interactions, which allows for hands-free operation. Users can record their reflection sessions, and the system transcribes it and sends it to them via e-mail for further processing, e.g., for including in a personal note-taking or task management tool, or a personal portfolio for future reference.

But reflection also needs scaffolding, particularly if it is supposed to take place embedded into working processes like in between home visits. This is achieved through recording the reflection session in the form of a structured interview along a deck of questions. The app reads the question (via text-to- speech) and then records the user’s responses. Via special voice commands (e.g., “next question”), the user can skip questions.

Useful questions for reflection cannot be pre- defined by the app designer, as they are situation- dependent (reflecting on the day/last patient, reflection on a longer period of time, reflecting after a training session) and there is no general knowledge about (i) which situations are relevant, and (ii) which questions are useful for which type of user. Therefore the app is complemented by a web-based interface that allows for choosing decks of questions that have been shared by others, for rating their usefulness, and – as soon as the learning becomes more confident and experienced in reflective practice to define own new questions and to share them with others.

This results in a lightweight and community-driven approach to scaffolding reflection, which also provides the opportunity for maturing the collective knowledge how to best structure such reflection sessions.

System

The system consists of an app to be installed on a smartphone or tablet (the current version requires Android 4.1 or higher – other systems are planned), and a web-based backend. The app allows for choosing a deck of questions, reads the questions to the user and transcribes the responses of the user and reacts voice commands. Towards that end, the Google Text-to-Speech and Speech-to-Text APIs are used. While this voice recognition does not deliver 100% accuracy, first tests have shown that under realistic conditions (e.g., in a car) the system produces a sufficient of quality of the resulting transcript to be useful for the user.

The backend is based on PHP, and users the Bootstrap framework. It gives the user the possibility to configure decks of questions, share them with others, use shared questions from others and rate them.

The app will be available from the Google Play Store and from the Pontydysgu website.

Outlook

As part of the Learning Layers project, this app is planned to be evaluated with a larger number of users as part of General Practitioners’ everyday work practice. Further- more, it is planned to complement the Android app with an iOS solution to cover the different types of smartphones used by the target group.

Acknowledgements. This work is supported by the European Commission under the FP7 project LAYERS (no. 318209), http://www.learning-layers.eu.

  • Search Pontydysgu.org

    News Bites

    Learning about technology

    According to the University Technical Colleges web site, new research released of 11 to 17-year-olds, commissioned by the Baker Dearing Educational Trust, the charity which promotes and supports University Technical Colleges (UTCs), reveals that over a third (36%) have no opportunity to learn about the latest technology in the classroom and over two thirds (67%) admit that they have not had the opportunity even to discuss a new tech or app idea with a teacher.

    When asked about the tech skills they would like to learn the top five were:

    Building apps (45%)
    Creating Games (43%)
    Virtual reality (38%)
    Coding computer languages (34%)
    Artificial intelligence (28%)


    MOOC providers in 2016

    According to Class Central a quarter of the new MOOC users  in 2016 came from regional MOOC providers such as  XuetangX (China) and Miríada X (Latin America).

    They list the top five MOOC providers by registered users:

    1. Coursera – 23 million
    2. edX – 10 million
    3. XuetangX – 6 million
    4. FutureLearn – 5.3 million
    5. Udacity – 4 million

    XuetangX burst onto this list making it the only non-English MOOC platform in top five.

    In 2016, 2,600+ new courses (vs. 1800 last year) were announced, taking the total number of courses to 6,850 from over 700 universities.


    Jobs in cyber security

    In a new fact sheet the Tech Partnership reveals that UK cyber workforce has grown by 160% in the five years to 2016. 58,000 people now work in cyber security, up from 22,000 in 2011, and they command an average salary of over £57,000 a year – 15% higher than tech specialists as a whole, and up 7% on last year. Just under half of the cyber workforce is employed in the digital industries, while banking accounts for one in five, and the public sector for 12%.


    Number students outside EU falls in UK

    Times Higher Education reports the number of first-year students from outside the European Union enrolling at UK universities fell by 1 per cent from 2014-15 to 2015-16, according to data released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

    Data from the past five years show which countries are sending fewer students to study in the UK.

    Despite a large increase in the number of students enrolling from China, a cohort that has grown by 12,500 since 2011-12, enrolments by students from India fell by 13,150 over the same period.

    Other notable changes include an increase in students from Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia and a fall in students from Saudi Arabia and Nigeria.


    Other Pontydysgu Spaces

    • Pontydysgu on the Web

      pbwiki
      Our Wikispace for teaching and learning
      Sounds of the Bazaar Radio LIVE
      Join our Sounds of the Bazaar Facebook goup. Just click on the logo above.

      We will be at Online Educa Berlin 2015. See the info above. The stream URL to play in your application is Stream URL or go to our new stream webpage here SoB Stream Page.

  • Twitter

    Which is why we need alternance programmes bringing together learning in the workplace and in vocational schools twitter.com/reddyplumbing/…

    About 3 hours ago from Graham Attwell's Twitter via Twitter for Mac

  • RT @socialtheoryapp Bourdieu - « Si le monde social m'est supportable, c'est parce que je peux m'indigner »... fb.me/3dY2bhCj0

    About 4 hours ago from Cristina Costa's Twitter via TweetDeck

  • Sounds of the Bazaar AudioBoo

  • Recent Posts

  • Archives

  • Meta

  • Upcoming Events

      There are no events.
  • Categories