Archive for the ‘research’ Category

And the Award goes to … Learning Layers!

November 10th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

The third European Vocational Skills Week (EVSW) took place this week in Vienna (Wien). The event has been launched by the European Commission to draw attention to the importance of vocational education and training (VET) for education, economy and society. Our European VETNET network has also played a role in drawing attention to the contribution of VET research to the development of VET. However, due to several intervening factors I have not been able to attend to these events. Yet, this time I was somewhat more engaged in the preparation and followed more keenly the news from Vienna.

The competition for European VET Excellence Awards 2018

As usual, during the EVSW, there was also this year the competition for European VET Excellence Awards for different kinds of contributions to the development of VET. In the category “European VET Research Excellence” the jury had nominated two European research projects for the final competition:

  • The Learning Layers (LL) project that carried out a complex Europe-wide R&D project for studying the use of digital tools, web resources and mobile technologies to support learning in the context of work. The project engaged application partners in healthcare sector (UK) and construction sector (Germany) in co-design, pilot testing and actual use of new tools. In the competition the project was represented by the scientific coordinator Tobias Ley from Tallinn University.
  • The Modelling Vocational Excellence (MoVE) project is a transnational project that has studied World Skills competitions at the national, European and wider international contexts. The aim of the project is to draw conclusions from competition processes for the development of everyday life practice in the field of VET. This project was represented by the scientific coordinator Petri Nokelainen from Tampere University.

After the nomination the finalists were presented on a special website for public voting that took place during the last weeks before the event and during the first two days. On the evening before the closing ceremony the finalists in different catergories had the opportunity to give short pitches to make their case. Then, in the closing ceremony the nominees of each category were invited and the winner was declared. Concerning the award for VET Research Excellence I was pleased to see a video recording and to hear the words: “The award goes to … Learning Layers”. As fair competitors Petri and Tobias congratulated each other. And then Commissioner Marianne Thyssen handed the award to Tobias Ley.

Learning Layers Awarded 2018-11-09Learning Layers Awarded 2018Tobias with the award

Celebrating the award winner Learning Layers

Firstly, let us do justice to both finalists – the two international projects and the teams involved – and for the fair competition. This was a good way to present European and international VET research at such an event.

Then, coming to our Learning Layers project: Why are we so happy that we got the award fror European research in the field of VET (vocational education and training)? Here I am speaking in particular for the partners of the Construction pilot – research partners, technical partners and application partners from the construction sector. I would like to raise the following arguments for us as award winners:

  1. A substantial part of Learning Layers pilot activities were carried out in the context of apprentice training for construction sector in North Germany. In this context the project was developing a digital toolset “Learning Toolbox” to support work process-oriented learning. Now, in the initial pilot context – the training centre Bau-ABC – the Learning Toolbox will be introduced to the training of all occupations.
  2. The co-design and tools deployment processes were carried out as participative Research & Development dialogue. In this dialogue practitioners, technical partners were developing tools that promote a culture of self-organised learning in different craft trades.
  3. The project organised training of trainers in such a way that they could act as promoters of innovation and adjust the use of tools to match their pedagogic priorities (self-organised search of knowledge within a wide set of resources vs. gradual extension of resources that are available for learner). The ‘theme room’ approach is being used in the further promotion of the tools by other trainers.
  4. After the end of the Learning Layers project there have been several follow-up initiatives to spread the use of Learning Toolbox to support practice-based learning in Vocational and Higher Education (e.g. in Estonia and Spain). These pilots have involved also other sectors (e.g. education/training in healthcare and media occupations).
  5. A major spin-off arising from the Learning Layers is the use of Learning Toolbox as support for ePosters in conferences. This was started in the conferences for medical and dental education (AMEE, ADEE) and in the conference for technology-enhanced learning (ECTEL). Most recently the ePosters were piloted in the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) in the network for research in vocational education and training (VETNET).

The points above make it clear that the Learning Layers project was not merely a theory-driven or a tool-driven project. Instead, the project took a high risk in launching open-ended co-design processes and was very much dependent on the cooperation with practitioners in the pilot sectors. Moreover, the tools that were developed in the project – notably the Learning Toolbox – reached the stage of viable products. But in order to bring them further as tools for regular use, additional efforts were needed by the tool developers, practitioners and supporting researchers. These efforts have pointed out to be successful and it was fortunate that reports on recent success were communicated in the event. Thus, the award was a recognition of all the work that contributed to our success. Now we can celebrate, next week we have to take further steps in our work.

More blogs to come …

Reflections on #ECER2018 – Part Five: Developments in the VETNET network

September 14th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my four previous posts I have shaped a series of blogs on the European Conference of Educational Research (ECER 2018) that took place last week in Bolzano/Bozen. In the first post I reported on the pilot with  ePosters powered by the digital toolset Learning Toolbox (LTB). In the second post I gave an overview on my own contributions – on the research background of the LTB and on ‘transfer of innovation’ issues in recent and earlier innovation projects. In the third post I reported on the Opening Session of our VETNET network (European Vocational Education and Training Research Network) and on some contributions of our Italian colleagues. In the  fourth post I give insights into some of the VETNET sessions that I had attended as a participant.With this fifth – and concluding – post I will focus on the VETNET network and its general assembly.

Successful preparation – successful participation

The convenors of the VETNET network – Christof Nägele and Barbara Stalder – had a pleasant duty to report on the preparation of the VETNET program and how it was put into practice. Once again we had clearly over 100 proposals and despite some withdrawals we remained among the biggest EERA networks. For the convenors the high number provided a challenge – not to end up with four parallel sessions in the same time slot. They managed it – although packing sometimes four presentations into one session. But this seemed to work fine. Also, when distributing the session chair duties, they took a new approach – in each session the last presenter was appointed as the chair. In this way the chairing duties were distributed more widely – not only to the board members. And in this way also the last presenters got their fair share of the time. Finally, the organisation of the VETNET dinner – with a record participation – was praised widely.

ECER VETNET Proceedings 2018

One of the remarkable achievements of the convenors was that they managed to produce proper proceedings – as an online version and as a book that is printed on demand:

Nägele, C., & Stalder, B. E. (Eds.) (2018). Trends in vocational education and training research. Proceedings of the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER), Vocational Education and Training Network (VETNET).https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.1319718

The VETNET pilot with ePosters

This year VETNET had a specific pilot activity with ePosters powered by the Learning Toolbox (LTB). Together with Christof Nägele I initiated firstly an EERA event for presenting this approach and then an EERA-funded Network project that enabled us to organise an interactive poster session with six authors who had prepared their ePosters (see my first post of this series). In the VETNET assembly I was pleased to report that this pilot activity had been a successful one. The sessions had good numbers of participants, the technology worked well and the mini-poster wall enabled further discussions after the sessions. And the EERA showcase and the instruction page are available for further use.

IJRVET – our journal is getting stronger

Michael Gessler, the editor-in-chief of the IJRVET (International Journal for Research in Vocational Education and Training) reported on the development of journal, Now that the IJRVET  has already reached its fifth volume, we can be happy that it has taken its place as a major journal in our field. during the last year we were happy that Cinterfor – the ILO unit for promoting training in Central and South America – started supporting the IJRVET.  Also, we were pleased to have the journal articles as the IJRVET Yearbook – printed on demand.

Crossing Boundaries in VET – the Spring 2019 Conference in Valencia

Last year we reached an agreement on scheduling two other conferences so that they are not clashing with each other or with the ECER. According to this agreement the “Crossing Boundaries …” conference and the Stockholm International VET Conference will be organised every two years. Thus, the next “Crossing Boundaries …” conference will be organised in May 2019 in Valencia (and the next Stockholm conference in May 2020). The call for papers for the Valencia conference was closed already at the end of May this year. On behalf of the organisers Fernando Marhuenda gave an interim report on the preparation. They were happy about the good number of proposals. Yet, as a consequence, the selection process had taken more time. However, the results will be communicated by the end of September. Here also the organisers are preparing the proceedings to be distributed before/at the event.

The European Skills Week

From the year 2016 on the VETNET network has been supporting the European Commission in organising research-related events in the context of the European Skills Week. In addition to a research work there has been a competition to award distinguished European researchers and successful European projects. This tradition will be continued and the information on the forthcoming event in Vienna will be published soon.

Celebrating the new VETNET Network Honorary Member Johanna Lasonen

Last year the VETNET general assembly had nominated Johanna Lasonen for VETNET Honorary Membership. In April this year the EERA Council confirmed her status and published this on the EERA website. Now the VETNET network was in the position to celebrate her. In his laudatio speech Michael Gessler paid attention to the long career of Johanna as an active member – starting from the founding process and including over 20 years service as a reviewer. Moreover, Michael listed all the new things that Johanna brought into the conference culture of VETNET when she was the first ‘local’ program chair in 1999 – the VETNET opening session with keynote speakers, the VETNET proceedings (published by the conference), the VETNET dinner (sponsored by Lahti Polytechnic) and the VETNET study visits to vocational schools and enterprises. Also, Michael referred to Johanna’s role in supporting the IJRVET in many ways. And finally, Michael gave insights into Johanna’s long career in the International Vocational Education and Training Association (IVETA) as the European Vice-President, as the President Elect, as the President and as the Immediate Past President. These duties required sometimes bold actions and firm leadership, as the examples tha Michael mentioned made us aware.

Awarding-JL-1Awarding-JL-3

Johanna thanked the network and the EERA Council for the honour and paid tribute to other team players as board members and convenors with whom she had worked. With this celebration we were happy to take the course to the next ECER 2019 that will be hosted by Hamburg.

I think this is enough of the VETNET meeting and of the reporting on ECER 2018 altogether. This major conference was a good experience and now it is time to continue with the daily work.

More blogs to come …

Reflections on #ECER2018 – Part Four: Insights into different VETNET sessions

September 14th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous posts I have shaped a series of blogs on the European Conference of Educational Research (ECER 2018) that took place last week in Bolzano/Bozen. In the first post I reported on the pilot with  ePosters powered by the digital toolset Learning Toolbox (LTB). In the second post I gave an overview on my own contributions – on the research background of the LTB and on ‘transfer of innovation’ issues in recent and earlier innovation projects. In the third post I reported on the Opening Session of our VETNET network (European Vocational Education and Training Research Network) and on some contributions of our Italian colleagues. This fourth post will give insights into some of the VETNET sessions that I attended. Here it is worthwhile to note that I don’t try to cover the whole VETNET program nor the sessions that I attended. Instead I try to draw attention to some specific presentations.

Continuing vocational training, progression to managerial positions and digital tools for learning

My colleagues Werner Müller and Ludger Deitmer presented the newest phase of the German project DigiProB. This project focuses on a Continuing Vocational Training (CVT) model that outlines a purely vocational progression route to higher qualifications. As we reported in ECER 2015, this training model has been renewed in such a way that it is not only based on subject-specific courses but – also – integrated with complex working and learning tasks and by an integrative project report.

The training model for General Foremen

The training model for General Foremen

Now, in the present phase of the project, the colleagues could report on the shaping of the software ecology that had been developed to support the training and learning processes.

The software ecology to support the training

The software ecology supporting training and learning

Ten years European Qualification Framework (EQF) – A success story?

In another session Sandra Bohlinger took as her starting point the ten year anniversary of the European Qualification Framework (EQF). In her presentation she had a number of quotes that presented the ‘promises’ at the beginning phase and the others that celebrated the ten years as ‘success story’. However, looking closer to the development during these years she presented a more differentiated picture. Surely, the number of countries that have adopted the framework is larger than the number of EU Member States. And for countries that experienced a transformation from planned economy to market economy the framework appeared as an appropriate support instrument. However, the key message coming through from the evaluation studies that have been carried out recently is that no there has not been such an impact at the European level as had been expected. This, as we discussed in the session, is quite an impact itself when thinking of European policies.

To me this was another input in the continuing story of debates on the EQF at ECER and in VETNET sessions. All these years our collegues have made critical remarks on the internal contradictions in such frameworks and their limited potential  in promoting transparency between different VET cultures. However, in this session we raised a new issue – what has happened to ‘earlier’ themes in European cooperation that had been sidelined during the years of making EQF and its national and sectoral counterparts. As I see it, these exercises were ‘translating’ national frameworks to a common ‘esperanto’ terminology and sidelined the tradition of ‘learning from each other’. (I hope that  Sandra will publish her text soon so that we can continue this discussion.)

Use of technologies in learning – Encounters between high and low technologies

Another interesting session was composed as a symposium that brought together different perspectives to using technologies as support for vocational learning.  Marianne Teräs introduced the symposium and presented the palette of presentations and as contributions to ‘use of technologies’ or challenges with technologies in the context of vocational learning. Two of the presentations focused on simulations in the healthcare sector whilst the third one discussed the relations between ‘high’ and ‘low’ technology in a developing country.

Vibe Aarkrog presented her action research project in which she studied learning simulation-based arrangements within nursing education. She gave us insights into her research design and into the discussion on ‘high fidelity’ simulations vs. ‘low fidelity’ simulations. Then she drew attention to different scenarios (framing the learning situations) and to possible interventions of teachers. At the end she raised several useful questions on the role of simulations as support for learning.

Vibe's questions on simulation-based learning

Vibe’s questions on simulation-based learning

Paula Poikela presented her research on the development of simulation-based learning in nursing education. In this context she gave us insights into the earlier models of computer-based simulations, to the emergence of web resources, mobile devices and wearable technologies. She also drew attention to different waves of simulation in healthcare sector, starting from arrangements for medical doctors and then shifting to specific simulations for nurses and to arrangements that involve different healthcare professionals. She concluded her presentation with a trialogical approach to examining meaningful learning based on simulations.

The approach to study meaningful learning based on simulations

The approach to study meaningful learning based on simulations

In the final presentation of the symposium Lazaro Moreno opened a different perspective to using technologies to support learning. He told of a new project in which he studies the training for automotive occupations in Cuba. He gave us a picture of a huge gap in resources and equipment by comparing a) companies that bring brand new cars and maintenance software to serve the tourists and b) vocational schools that train their pupils to repair the oldtimers that are used by local people (and have at best very old computers). With this contrast he drew attention to the principles of polytechnic education – training creativity and problem-solving skills.

Screen Shot 2018-09-14 at 10.48.53

The symposium was characterised by a lively discussion in which the colleagues added further aspects to the theme ‘supporting menaingful learning’.  Also, the participants emphasised the difference between technology at work and technology for learning. These may not necessarily go hand in hand – and this may provides chances for meaningful educational interventions.

I guess this is enough of the VETNET sessions. Although this report is far from a comprenehsive coverage, it nevertheless shows the richness in content. In my final post of this series I will focus on the VETNET network and its general assembly.

More blogs to come …

 

Vocational Education and Training Research in the UK

August 31st, 2018 by Graham Attwell

Next week I am going to the European Conference on Education Research (ECER) taking place in Bolzano in Italy. I am talking in three sessions, one about changing identities in work, one on research around the use of technology in vocational education and training and the third on Vocational Education and Training research and innovation agendas in Europe.

The latter is an initiative by Monica Moso from the Bankia Foundation in Spain and is organised as a round table with researchers from Spain, UK, Germany and Switzerland.

I am reporting on the UK in response to three questions Monica has asked:

  • Question 1: What is the characterisation of the country’s existing VET R&D?
  • Question 2: What are the major contemporary challenges to the country’s existing VET R&D?
  • Question 3: Is there a national policy or strategy for VET R&D? If not, an informal agenda? How is it?

In order to answer the questions Monica asked us to select and prioritise the main research areas in VET in each country. For the UK I prioritised the following areas:

  1. Economic development and VET
  2. Changing Labour market
  3. Apprenticeships/ internships/ workplace learning
  4. VET policy, organization and management
  5. The Salience of work
  6. Qualification research
  7. Careers
  8. VET teacher education and teacher behaviour
  9. Vocationalisation of higher education
  10. VET and Society

I noted that researchers in VET are drawn from a wide number fo different subject areas and attached to different university departments including:

  • Anthropology
  • Educational studies
  • Educational sociology
  • The study of higher education policy
  • Sociology
  • Psychology
  • Industrial relations/human resource management/personnel management
  • Economics
  • Labour economics
  • Geography
  • History
  • Politics and policy studies
  • Gender studies
  • Ethnic relations
  • Continuing education
  • Hotels, catering and leisure studies
  • Management studies
  • Engineering and manufacturing systems.

Monica asked us to characterise the state of VET research in our countries and to expand on the issues researchers face. This is my reply for the UK:

  • Extreme fragmentation, with research located in a multiplicity of institutional and disciplinary settings
  • Lack of stable funding / resources – funding from a very wide range of sources.
  • Lack of central research networks / infrastructure / knowledge exchange mechanism
  • Lack of reflexivity in the research / policy process, with a lack of a feedback loop between policy makers
  • Dislocation between research, policy formation and implementation
  • Ideology driven policy agendas
  • Frequent changes in policies and lack of thorough evaluation of their impact
  • Austerity and lack of funding in further education sector
  • Poor or non existent data

 

I noted there is no national policy or strategy for VET rsearch and development in the UK. However, at present the government is funding a VET research unit based at the London School of Economics (CVER)

The priorities set for the LSE unit appear to reflect government priorities, namely:

  1. Describing the Further and Vocational Education landscape in England
  2. How does vocational education affect individual prosperity, firm productivity and profitability, and economic growth?
  3. How can the quantity of ‘high quality’ vocational education provision be improved?
  4. How do the costs and benefits of vocational education influence individuals’ participation decisions

These areas reflect the informal agenda set by the government which is largely ideologically driven.

Some VET research is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council – e.g the LAKES project at the Institute of Education

There are a wide range of different sources of funding for VET research. These include:

  • Foundations and trusts
  • Government departments and agencies
  • Political parties
  • Trade Union Congress (TUC) and trade unions
  • Confederation for British Industry and industry organisations
  • Professional bodies
  • Royal Society for the Arts
  • Careers organisations
  • Industry education bodes
  • Local Economic partnerships

There is no central mechanism for deciding the knowledge needs of the VET system – nor for agreement between participants on the main problems. Whereas in some areas such as apprenticeship there is general consensus as to its importance the policy implementation is contested. Ultimately policy options are imposed by central government. At least in rhetoric, there is considerable reliance placed on the views of employers.

All in all it is a fairly depressing picture. Is there anything I have forgotten?

 

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

November 2nd, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My contribution to this special issue had the following title

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

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

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

More blogs to come …

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

October 19th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

October 11th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– – –

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

More blogs to come …

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

August 31st, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

The VETNET Opening Colloquium in Copenhagen

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

The VETNET General Assembly 2017

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

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

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

Nomination of a new Honorary Member of the VETNET network

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

JL_Nominated_VETNET-Honorary-Member

Here a brief extract of the proposal submitted to EERA:

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

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

Looking forward to ECER 2018 in Bolzano/Bozen, Italy

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

More blogs to come …

 

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

August 31st, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– – –

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

More blogs to come …

 

 

 

Wrapping up the ECER 2017 experience – Part One: Thematic overview

August 28th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I already made some remarks on the circumstances that overshadowed my participation in ECER 2017 and on my plans to report on the experience on the VETNET sessions. Yet, I think it is better that I provide a thematic overview – or a working agenda – for my forthcoming blogs. With each of the themes to be covered I have also different role positions and interests of knowledge that need to be taken into account.

For the moment I see the need to report on the following themes:

  • My own presentation on “Begleitforschung” (Accompanying research) in the context of the Learning Layers project and in the follow-up of its construction pilot;
  • Issues on European/national qualification frameworks and in studies on credit transfer – in current projects and in the VETNET sessions of the past;
  • Issues on vocational teacher education and on the role of practice-based learning (= practicum) phases – in current contexts and as topics of our previous European projects;
  • Discussions on ‘multi-methodological practices’ and perspective transformations in research on vocational education and training (VET) – in the light of current studies and earlier (implicit) agreements on European VET research (within the VETNET community);
  • Updates on recent news and developments in the VETNET community.

I guess these are the key themes that I need to cover – and at the same time revisit my own experience as a presenter, session chair or active participant in the discussion.

More blogs to come …

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