Archive for the ‘research’ Category

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 …

My journey with Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB) – Part Four: From the TTplus project to Consultation seminars (2007 – 2010)

December 10th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous posts I started to write a serious of blogs with the heading “My journey with Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB)”. These blogs are intended to support the work (or follow-up) of the ITB “Klausurtagung” that will take place on Friday 9. December 2016.  The inspiration to write personal blogs that deal with the history of ITB comes from the Klausurtagung 2015. With this series I try to compensate my absence due to health issues and to pass a message, wah has happened at different times and with different themes. In the first post I tried to cover my first encounters –  my study visit in 1989 and participation in the Hochschultage Berufliche Bildung 1990 conference. In the second post I gave insights into the Modellversuch Schwarze Pumpe and to related European cooperation projects 1995 – 1999. In the third post I discussed the Europrof project, the Unesco International TVET meeting in Hangzhou 2004 and its follow-up. In the fourth post I will discuss the development of our work from the TTplus project to the European Consultation seminars on VET teachers and trainers in the years 2007 – 2010.

Remarks on the earlier history of the theme “Teachers and trainers in VET” at European level

My first encounter with the theme “Teachers and trainers in VET” at European level took place, when I was working in Cedefop (European Centre for the Drevelopment of Vocational Training) as a national seconded expert sent by the Finnish government. Cedefop was being relocated from Berlin to Thessaloniki, Greece and I had just got a new contract with which I would start as a temporary official of the EU in Thessaloniki. At that time the Cedefop project manager who was in charge of the newly started project “Teachers and trainers in VET” asked me to take over this project since she was leaving Cedefop and moving to Eurostat. For her this was a project to be completed when the national reports for all countries are completed.

When I had joined the project, I realised that there was a strong community-building process going on and that it should not be dropped. Yet, I had already got my activities in VET research cooperation started (accompaniment of European projects, joint synergy seminars with top projects, participation in European policy dialogue events with the projects) and I couldn’t concentrate sufficiently on the practitioner network. After a lengthy transition period another Cedefop project manager took over this project and managed the official launch of the TTnet network in 1998 (based on the preparatory work in the years 1995-1997).

From that point on the TTnet seemed to be the natural address to collect European studies and expertise on the theme ‘teachers and trainers’ However, there were two major limitations in the way that the network had been constituted. Firstly, following the Cedefop tradition, the network was built upon national contact points that coordinated the activities and eventually invited further actors. This was a somewhat exclusive mode of participation. Secondly, it was left to each country, whether the contact point is hosted by institutions for vocational teacher education or major training organisations (with ‘training the trainers’ activities) or national VET authorities. As a consequence, the national contact points covered the field from the perspective of their own priorities.

When the European Commission in the years 2005-2006 was looking for ways to analyse more closely the role of VET teachers and trainers as a target group for European policies, these measures were not crried out via TTnet but via new priorities in the Leonardo da Vinci programme and via specific tenders (which also were open for the TTnet members as well). From the thematic pointof view, special emphasis was given on measures that focused on in-company trainers or on trainers in specialised training organisations (beyond the initial VET). This was the background for the many parallel activities on the theme ‘teachers and trainers’ that were carried out by ITB in the years 2006 -2010: The Eurotrainer I survey, the TTplus project, the Consultation seminars and the Eurotrainer II network. Below I will focus on the TTplus project and the Consultation seminars in which I had a major role.

The TTplus project – approaches and initiatives

The TTplus project was set up with the ambitious heading ‘Framework for continuing professional development of trainers’ and building upon the experiences of the Euroframe project (see my previous post). The project took into account from the beginning the fact that the patterns for employing trainers (for workplace-based learning) and the respective arrangements for ‘training of trainers’ vary to a great extent. Therefore, The empirical work was based on three case studies to be carried ou in the particpating countries – then to be followed by policy analyses, reflections on the role of European Qualification Framework (EQF) and recommendations.

Concerning the policies and/or societal boundary conditions for engaging trainers and organising ‘training for trainers’ the case studies and policy analyses provided the following kind of group picture:

  • In Germany the exisiting framework for training of trainers (AEVO) had been teamporarily suspended (in order to encourage the companies to take more apprentices. The companies that were studied were interested in supporting training of trainers – and used AEVO as a basis. Yet, they saw AEVO as minimum and were looking for more.
  • In Portugal the partners studied private training providers who organised employment schemes commissioned by the employment services. The trainers’ aptitude certificate (CAP) required as minimum standard tended to reduce the pedadgogic room for manoeuvre to traditional frontal teaching.
  • In Greece the companies studied were not subject to follow any government policies regarding in-company training – this was up to company-specific decisions. Likewise, it was up to the companies to engage trainers and to consider the competences of trainers from their perspectives. From the analyst’s point of view there was a case for a government intervention to to introduce minimum level training obligations and minimum standards for trainers.
  • In Wales the companies contacted had outsourced most of their training activities and these were catered for by freelance-trainers who had developed their career as allrounders (from the content point) and as training technique specialists. Whilst they were in the position to outline frameworks for professional development (but were sceptical whether such frameworks should be applied to freelance trainers).

As these examples already indicate, the European landscape of training at workplace and ‘training of trainers’ was getting more colourful and it was not self-evident, how to promote European policies in an effective way. The approach of the project made it possible to get insights into the training contexts (companies, training providers, training arrangements) and to collect working issues. This all served as good preparation for the forhcoming European activities.

Analyses on the role of the European Qualification Framework(s) (EQF)

in the light of the above it was apparent that the ‘European dimension’ of the project TTplus was not to set common European standards for trainers – neither was there a case to declare a common recommendation for continuing professional development. Instead, the project provided an overview of the challenges and eventual steps forward in different countries (taking into account the organisational, institutional and policy contexts).

In this respect the analysis on the role of  the problems in applying European Qualification Frameworks (EQFs) to the field ‘teachers and trainers in VET’. Whilst in several countries, VET teachers were educated in universities or higher education institutions, this was not  the universal rule across Europe. In this respect the EQF for Higher Education (the Bologna process) provided the general framework. Yet, considering the career models of VET teachers, there was a tension between study programs for full-time students vs. professionals in the middle of career shift.

For the same reasons the European Qualification Framework for VET (or lifelong learning) did not provide an orientative framework for career progression – neither within the context of workplace training nor regarding career shift from training activities fro teacher duties. In this respect the German country report made transparent the initial discussion on such career models (and how to support them with different national frameworks). However, the discussion was at early stage and ITB got at that time linked with the developmental initiatives (after the TTplus project).

The consultation seminars – overall approach and insights into the workshops

In the light of the above it is interesting to note the opportunities provided by the Europe-wide Consultation seminars “VET teachers and trainers” in 2oo8 – 2009. This was a European Commission initiative to pull together knowledge and different stakeholders’ views via series of ‘regional’ workshops that cover all Members States, EEA partners and candidate countries. ITB won the tender with a consortium based on the Eurotrainer projects. The task was originally to organise six regional workshops to cover different European regions and to draw conclusions from hitherto implemented policies and intiatives for common European initiatives. The expectations were rather high regarding conclusions that could support incorporation of VET teachers and trainers into EQFs or under specific EU-level ‘communications’ (from the Commission to the European Parliament).

The workshops were designed as higly participative, interactive and collaborative events with quick shifts between differen kinds of sessions as the following:

  • Statements on the wall: Collection of statements on the roles, tasks and development prospects of trainers –  collected and grouped on the wall under respective headings – reflections on different positions and groupings.
  • Witness sessions: Quick presentations on recent innovations/initiatives/pilots that the participants bring from their home countries – what were the strengths/weeknesses, what made them sustainable/fragile.
  • Mapping European policies/initiatives: Participants were asked to fill in ‘problem’ cards, ‘method/measure’ cards and ‘policy’ cards to outline proposals. The groups collected and grouped the results.
  • Priority ranking: Participants were asked to indicate European ‘priorities’ that had been high and should be kept high vs. had been high but should be lowered vs. had been low and should be topped up vs. had been low and should be kept low.

These were some examples of the activities that were managed in the workshops. Altogether they gave the participants a good feeling that their views were respected, their contributions were taken on boards and the the groups worked together. Indeed, as ‘regional’ and trans-national workshops for knowledge sharing and dialogue the events served very well. However, the problem was in brining the European policy level into discussion and developing the feedback processes in such a way that European policy-makers could draw conclusions for their work.

– – –

I think this is enough of the projects and activities of this period. They were rich learning experiences but showed major difficulties in working towards a European synthesis – and at the same time shaping recommendations for development activities in particular VET contexts. This challenge will be explored in the forthcoming blogs.

More blogs to come … 




My journey with Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB) – Part Three: From the Europrof project to the Hangzhou conference and follow-up (1996 – 2006)

December 9th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous posts I started to write a serious of blogs with the heading “My journey with Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB)”. These blogs are intended to support the work (or follow-up) of the ITB “Klausurtagung” that will take place on Friday 9. December 2016.  The inspiration to write personal blogs that deal with the history of ITB comes from the Klausurtagung 2015. With this series I try to compensate my absence due to health issues and to pass a message, wah has happened at different times and with different themes. In the first post I tried to cover my first encounters –  my study visit in 1989 and participation in the Hochschultage Berufliche Bildung 1990 conference. In the second post I gave insights into the Modellversuch Schwarze Pumpe and to related European cooperation projects 1995 – 1999. In this post I will discuss the Europrof and the further work with its core ideas towards the Unesco International TVET meeting in Hangzhou 2004 and its follow-up.

The Europrof project 1996-1998: Training of new VET professionals

In my first post of this series I referred to my talks on the regional pilot project of ITB on the theme “Qualifizierung der Berufspädagogen für alle Lerorten”.  Whilst that one was a small-scale pilot, it expressed the idea to overcome the divisions between vocational education and training (VET) professionals – vocational subject teachers, in-company trainers and training managers – with an integrative concept. This idea was taken further by the ITB initiative to launch a European cooperation project that seeks to cross the accustomed boundaries and outline a new European framework.

In this spirit the Europrof project launched a new debate on the education of VET professionals. The main aim was to to overcome the cultural barriers between expertise in VET (teaching-learning processes) and in HRD (workplace-based learning and continuing professional development). At the same time the project tried to support debates on the renewal of vocational teacher education and on the strengthening of European research culture in the field of VET.

Regarding the contribution of the Europrof project to Europe-wide knowledge development it is worthwhile to note that the project brought together participants that had different views and orientations on the theme “education of new VET professionals”. In this respect the project managed to organise a Europe-wide “invisible college” in terms of a cross-cultural learning community. However, after the development of the “cornerstones” (and after the incorporation of the research themes of the affiliated experts) the project started to experience difficulties in working towards a common core structure for curriculum development that would take the debate further from the ‘cornerstones’ and from the attached research themes. Therefore, the Europrof project completed its work with a gallery of country studies and of supporting research themes.

The project history of Europrof was characterised by an attempt to avoid the transition of the partners into advocates of their national educational models (and of related VET cultures). Therefore, the Europrof project tried to reduce the amount of comparative analyses and to push the partners towards collaborative research & development work. However, after certain interim workshops the project was no longer able to promote a common change agenda, since the national partners could not show indications of changes in their national contexts. Instead, the project was concluded with reports on supporting research themes.

The Euroframe project 1999-2000: Partition of the follow-up agenda

The multiplier-effect project Euroframe tried to avoid pursuing an over-ambitious agenda by dividing its work into two parallel strands of work (taking into account different priorities in the participating countries).  The two strands referred to different educational concepts and target groups (and corresponding models of European cooperation):

  • The more ‘academic’ strand developed as proposal for a European inter-university institute with a mission to promote VET-related research and research-based expertise in educationa and training of VET professional.
  • a set of case studies on research & development activities that could link the work of such an institute to pilot projects and regional initiatives with a broader social context.

However, the two strands became independent of each other and the underlying conceptual approaches started to grow apart from each other instead of working towards a cohesive framework.

As a consequence of the differentiation of the project dynamics, the case studies were not in the position to give a clear illustration how the common framework (and the related inter-university institute) could support the developmental activities (that were linking the issue ‘continuing professional development’ to broader social and regional contexts). Thus, the project histories revealed the need for bridging concepts and methodologies that could link such strands to each other on the basis of ‘coherent diversity’ and ‘mutual enrichment.

The new start with the UNESCO-UNEVOC centre – the Hamburg workshop (September 2004)

Whilst the follow-up at the European level fell for some time to latency, ITB had in the meantime created contacts with the newly established UNESCO-UNEVOC centre (now based in Bonn). This cooperation had already led to joint publication projects – a new book series on international reference publications on TVET development and TVET research (in the UNESCO terminology the overarching concept is ‘technical and vocational education and training’ – TVET). In this context the issue of developing an international agenda for supporting TVET teacher education and for promoting TVET research. Also, at that time ITB was also involved in a major European consortium that provided an interim assessment on European VET policies after the EU-summit in Lisbon 2000  – prepared to the meeting of Education miniters in Maastricht 2004 (Leney, T. et al. 2004: Achieving the Lisbon goal: The contribution of VET. Final report to the European Commission. Brussels.). In this report the contribution of ITB (Philipp Grollmann) was the analysis of European developments in vocational teacher education and training of VET professionals.

The main international initiative – promoted by Felix Rauner from ITB and director Rupert MacLean from UNESCO-UNEVOC centre – was taken further with Chinese counterparts and supported with a preparatory conference in China (Spring 2004). In Europe a similar preparatory event was organised in collaboration with the European research network VETNET as an international workshop of the GTW-Herbstkonferenz in Hamburg 2004. This workshop discussed firstly policy-analyses with reference to Lisbon summit and to the above mentioned Maastricht-study. Then it explored the situation of TVET teacher education and current initiatives in the participating countries (including Germany, Norway, Finland, Hungary and Greece). In this way the Hamburg workshop prepared the grounds for the forthcoming international event and for European follow-up activities.

The UNESCO International TVET meeting in Hangzhou (November 2004)

This UNESCO International TVET meeting in Hangzhou had the theme “Innovation and excellence in TVET teacher education”. It was organised jointly by the Chinese UNESCO-commission, the UNESCO-UNEVOC centre and the Asian UNESCO-offices. The participants represented all major global regions. In particular it is worthwhile to note that Asian and European countries were widely represented.

The main thrust of the conference was to analyse current needs for TVET-related expertise, to prepare a common curricular framework for Master-level programmes, to reflect upon the progression strategies related to short-cycle models and to outline a common approach for promoting professionalisation and quality awareness. In the light of these tasks, the shaping of the common curricular framework became the crucial task. In this respect the working document on the curricular framework was presented for general acceptance and put forward as the “Hangzhou framework”.

Concerning the initial starting points of the discussion it is worthwhile to note the following points:

  • The document took professional areas of specialisation (”vocational disciplines”) as core structures for pedagogic and professional knowledge development in the field of TVET. Thus, the document distanced itself from approaches that would consider general educational sciences or subject-disciplines as the leading disciplines within the development of TVET.
  • The document had used a very limited number of exemplary vocational fields of specialisation (’vocational disciplines’) to make the general picture transparent. In this respect the document did not contain a comprehensive catalogue of possible fields of specialisation.
  • The document did not discuss in detail the role of transversal and connective pedagogic aspects as a support for the kind of learning and knowledge development that is based on professional areas of specialisation (‘vocational disciplines’). However, in this context it is worthwhile to note that such integrative know-how is of vital importance for bringing the field-specific vocational disciplines under a common framework.

The working group took the approach based on professional areas of specialisation (’vocational disciplines’) as its common starting point. Thus, the discussion tried to find the best composition of such professional areas to make the framework comprehensive and transparent. In this respect the group tried to identify professional areas (or clusters of areas) that can be considered as mutually supporting in the education of TVET professionals and as a basis for the scientific development of ’vocational disciplines’. In this context it became apparent that it is not possible to include several professional areas into an international framework because some areas appear in different clusters in different global regions.

Concluding remarks

The event in Hangzhou was the peak point but at the same time the turning point. It was easy to agree on a common declaration but far more difficult to organise a follow-up and to proceed to implementation. There were two ‘regional’ follow-up conferences in Asia (Tiensin 2005 and Colombo 2006) and one in Europe (Oslo/Lilleström 2006) but no major steps could be taken forward as joint actions. At best a follow-up agenda could be outlined in the ITB-led Asia-Link project TT-TVET project 2006 – 2009, but also in the project the agendas for promoting TVET teacher education moved from common core principles to pragmatic steps forward in each participating country.

In this context it is worthwhile to note that my role changed considerably at different phases of this process history. During the work of Europrof and Euroframe projects I was employed as a project manager of Cedefop (European Centre for Development of Vocational Training) and accompanied the work of these projects. During the Hamburg workshop and the international Hangzhou meeting I was employed by Jyväskylä Polytechnic, but I was already acknowldged as Visiting Fellow (Gastwissenschaftler) of ITB. In the follow-up phase (from Summer 2005 on) I had started working as a project-based researcher in ITB.

– – –

I think this is enough of the development of this theme from the Europrof project to the Hangzhou framework. Whilst the follow-up in the European context died out rather soon, it provided a basis for other  activities regarding professional development of VET teachers and trainers in Europe.

More blogs to come …


My journey with Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB) – Part Two: From MV Schwarze Pumpe to European projects 1995 – 1999

December 9th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous post I started to write a serious of blogs with the heading “My journey with Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB)”. These blogs are intended to support the work (or follow-up) of the ITB “Klausurtagung” that will take place on Friday 9. December 2016.  The inspiration to write personal blogs that deal with the history of ITB comes from the Klausurtagung 2015, when we had a presentation by Klaus Ruth on some highlights of the history of ITB. With this series I try to compensate my absence due to health issues and to pass a message, wah has happened at different times and with different themes. In the first post I tried to cover my first encounters –  my study visit in 1989 and participation in the Hochschultage Berufliche Bildung 1990 conference. In this second post I will give insights into the Modellversuch Schwarze Pumpe – the pilot project with which ITB worked in European cooperation projects 1995 – 1999.

‘Gleichwertigkeit’ and ‘Doppelqualifikation’ as emerging themes

As I indicated already in my previous post, at the end of 1980s and in the beginning of 1990s Finland was preparing structural reforms in the educational system. The mergers and upgradings in higher vocational education – the creation of the Finnish Fachhochschulen was less controversial and was implemented quickly. However, the corollary issue – how to keep a balance between ‘academic’ and ‘vocational’ learning pathways in the upper secondary eduvcation, was more problematic. Traditionally Finland had followed in its educational policies the Swedish reforms that emphasised comprehensivisation and unification of educational institutions and getting rid of separate ‘academic’ and ‘vocational’ tracks. However, in the above mentioned debates the Finns were distancing themselves from what they felt ‘academisation’ of vocational learning and were looking for alternative models. From this perspective, alternative models of curricular cooperation between ‘academic’ and ‘vocational’ learning were explores – as means to improve the attractiveness of vocational education- were discussed. And during these debated Gerald Heidegger from ITB was invited as visiting expert to contribute to such debates. Later on, when the Finnish upper secondary experiments (with curricular cooperation between Gymnasium and Vocational schools) was launched, Günter Kutscha from the University of Duisburg was invited to the international evaluation team (with his expertise on the Kollegschule implementation).

‘Modellversuch Schwarze Pumpe’ takes off

In the light of the above it is worthwhile to note that the German educational policies in the 1990s were looking for new ways to enhance vocational learning and vocational progression routes. To a major extent this was motivated by efforts to re-integrate some of the educational models of DDR into the sytemic frameworks of BRD. From this perspective the ‘new’ Federal states launched several pilot projects (Modellversuche) to incorporate curricula with dually valid qualifications (Doppelqualifikationen). Whilst these ‘pilots’ were mainly based on existing established (and mostly successful) practice of the late DDR, there was a need to accommodate such programs under the dual system of vocational education and training (VET) and to clarify the progression models. In this context the pilots were setting new accents.

In this context the ‘Modellversuch Schwarze Pumpe’ played a special role. Firstly, this was due to the industrial partner and the technologies involved- the energy plant LauBAG was relying on the regional brown coal resources. and related energy production. From the ecological point of view this couldn’t be characterised as sustainable, neither was the company at that time profitable. However, it was the major energy provider for a wide region and a major employer in the regional labour market. Yet, in the light of the inevitable exit from brown coal, the company had to find a balance between measures to keep skilled workforce for current production and preparing them for alternative occupational prospects after the brown coal era. Secondly, the educational concept of the pilot project was to introduce vocational curricula that provided dually valid qualification (craftsman certicate and access to higher education – Berufsqualifikation mit Fachhochschulreife) in integrated learning arrangements.  Thirdly, as a special accent of ITB (as responsible for accompanying research) and due to the aptitude of local teachers and trainers, there was a special possibilty to develop integrative working and learning arrangements in which social shaping and self-organised project work played a major role. (I personally could experience this last mentioned aspect in the conferences hosted by MV Schwarze Pumpe in 1995 and in 1997 8n which the apprentices (Azubis) demonstrated their projects). So, in 1994 the combined Modellversuch started with Gerald Heidegger in charge of the accompanying research team in which Rainer Bremer was responsible for accompanying the school pilot and Hans-Dieter Höpfner on the pilot in the in-company training.

Project Post-16 strategies and follow-up

In the light of the above it is understandable that the ITB approach in emphasising the Gestaltung (social shaping) idea and enhancement of vocational learning attracted European attention – in particular, when the MV Schwarze Pumpe provided a pilot ground to be studied. This possibility was picked by the Finnish-led project initiative “Finding new Strategies for Post-16 Edutacation (Acronym: Post-16 strategies). This initiative was inspired by the Finnish upper secondary pilot and its international review and the preparation of the project supported by the Finnish educational authorities. The project was approved as one with the strongest resources in the Leonardo da Vinci programme, strand ‘surveys and analyses’.

The project, coordinated by Johanna Lasonen (University of Jyväskylä)  focused on the policy issue, how to promote parity of esteem between ‘academic’ and ‘vocational’ learning (Gleichwertigkeit allgemeiner und beruflicher Bildung). At an early phase the project identified four kinds of strategies:

  • Unification (Unified frameworks for  upper secondary education – in the project covered by Scotland and  Sweden)
  • Mutual enrichment (Curricular cooperation between general and vocational education – covered  by Finland and Norway)
  • Linkages (Introducation of parallel ‘Bacalaureat’ diplomas for bringing general and vocational education to same level –  covered by France and England (at the level of initiative))
  • Vocational enhancement (Upgrading of vocational curricula via internal development and enrichment – in the project covered by Germany and Austria. German contribution was provided by ITB on the basis of MV Schwarze Pumpe.).

Having identified these main types the project avoided the trap to enter a ‘system competition’ between them – to ‘mainstream the winner’. Instead the project worked in small groups to learn more of the boundary conditions, pattern variances and relative strenghts/weaknesses of the types. Furthermore, the project promoted dialogue between the groups in order to find points for learning from each other. Finally, the project organised short mutual study visits of practitioners between differently positioned countries. Altogether, the project created an interesting European group picture.

Unfortunately the immediate follow-up project Spes-Net didn’t have similar resources to keep the initial partners involved when new partners were brought in to carry out similar analyses and to position themselves vis-à-vis the above mentioned  strategy types. Nevertheless, some level of dialogue could be maintained and some movements in the strategies observed.

Project Intequal and follow-up

In addition to the above mentioned project Post-16 strategies, ITB and MV Schwarze Pumpe were involved also in another European project funded by the programme Leonardo da Vinci, surveys and analyses. The project ‘Integrated qualifications’ (Acronym: Intequal) was initiated by the German comparative VET researcher Sabine Manning (Research Forum WiFo). She had already in the early 1990s studied the newer German pilot projects on ‘Doppelqualifikation’ from the perspective of international comparisons. At the European level she had worked in a pioneering European project on ‘Modularisation’ in the field of VET. In this respect her project focused on the meso- and micro-systemic implementation of vocational curricula or schemes providing dually oriented qualifications.

The countries and the schemes involved were the following ones:

  • Germany – ITB and MV Schwarze Pumpe as well as ISB München and a similar pilot project from Bayern,
  • Sweden – HLS (latterly Stockholm University) and the integrated upper secondary education,
  • Norway – SYH (latterly HIAK, latterly HIOA) and the integrated aupperr secondary/transition to apprenticeship,
  • the Netherlands – SCO-KohnstammInstituut and the MBO (middenbare beroepsonderwijs) scheme,
  • England – University of Warwick and the GNVQ (general national vocational qualification) scheme,
  • France – CEREQ and the schemes of Baccalaureat professionelle,
  • Austria  – IBW and the WiFi Academies schemes in vocational adult education (supported by chambers of commerce).

The Intequal project avoided debates at the systemic level and focused on the level of curriculum implementation, learning arrangements, assessment and learning careers. In this way the project gathered insights into the shaping of the curricula and on the feedback data that informed on the acceptance of the schemes. At the end of the initial project itsv work was continued by a multiplier-effect project ‘Duoqual’, but – in a similar way as with ‘Spes-Net’, the funding could only support the work of new partner countries but not effectively the dialogue with initial partners. Nevertheless, the mapping of curricula and schemes (promoting dually oriented qualifications) could be continued across Europe.

– – –

I think this is enough of the MV Schwarze Pumpe and of the European projects in which it was involved as the German case. Here, it is worthwhile to mention that I was involved in these activities with a new role. From 1994 on I worked as a project manager at Cedefop (European Centre for Development of Vocational Training) and was accompanying European projects – and promoting cooperation, synergy and mutual exchanges across them. The two above mentioned projects developed most intensive cooperation and were strongly present in European events (e.g. ECER conferences and EU-presidency conferences of that time. Such networking and promotion of research cooperation was also practiced with other themes and projects.

More blogs to come …

My journey with Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB) – Part One: The magic years 1989-1990

December 8th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

This week (on Friday) our institute will have a special event “Klausurtag” to reflect on the development of our patterns of work. This event is supported by a particular pilot activity inspired by the Learning Layers (LL) project. Our LL team has created together with the developers of the Learning Toolbox a specific stack “Klausurtag” to share information and to work with specific issues raised in the last year’s event or to take further issues that are discussed this year. As I cannot participate due to health issues, I have chosen a special program for me. Last year it became apparent that our young colleagues are interested to know more about the history of our institute – and not only of the facts that are written down in history documents but more about the lived practice in research – in projects, networks and communities. As an oldtimer with a special relation with our institute – Institut Technik & Bildung (shortly ITB) – I have decided to write a serious of blogs with the heading “My journey with Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB)”.  In this first post I try to cover my first encounters during the years 1989 and 1990 – which in many respect were ‘magic years’ for Germany and for me.

My study visit in October-November 1989: Five weeks travelling around Germany

My contacts with ITB started in 1989 when I had got grants from the DAAD and my university to carry out a five weeks’ study visit program involving German research institutes in the fields on vocational education and training (VET), industrial sociology and industrial relations. This study visit was part of my effort to prepare the grounds for similar approaches in the newly created Work Research Centre of the University of Tampere. In this respect I tried to collect impressions from several neighbouring research approaches and inform myself of similarities, differences and synergies. During this trip ITB in Bremen was my first station and remained as my major cooperation partner. Yet, I found that at that time there were several evaluative measures going on in which many of my counterparts were involved. From that point of view the visit was well timed. However, the most impressive experience during the trip was the possibility to follow from close distance the erosion of the DDR-regime – which culminated in the opening of Berlin wall three days after I had returned to Finland.

Talks in ITB and on ITB projects: Berufspädagogen, Berufsbilder 2000, CAPIRN, Landesprogramm AuT

In ITB my two-day visit was hosted by Gerald Heidegger. With him we discussed firstly the general picture of the relatively new institute – its commitment to vocational teacher education and to interdisciplinary research in VET and the importance of the guiding principle ‘Gestaltung’ (social shaping of work, technology, work organisations and vocational learning). On the more specific talks on different projects of that time I can recall the following impressions:

  • Pilot project “Qualifizierung der Berufspädagogen für alle Lernorte” (discussions with Peter Gerds and Helmuth Passe-Tietjen): This project was a smaller local pilot the sought find flexible solutions that enable career shifts between teacher/trainer/training manager positions. I do not remember the details of the approach and of the boundary conditions under which it worked. Nevertheless, the programmatic to address all learning venues with an integrative approach made an impression.
  • Scenario project “Berufsbilder 2000” (discussions with Gerald Heidegger): This project explored the prospects for skilled workers (Facharbeiter) in the context of computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM) – an early predecessor debate of the current one on ‘Industry 4.0’. The project explored several branch-specific technologies and drafted different policy scenarios for the use of semi-skilled vs. skilled workforce. Here the specific point was to highlight the policy choices and the ole of social shaping (at the organisational level and as the contribution of skilled workers).
  • Industry culture project CAPIRN (discussions with Klaus Ruth): This project and the subsequent network initiative focused on different policy choices in designing CNC-tools – whether they are designed for lowly skilled workforce (little prospects for social shaping and users’ own programming) vs, skilled workforce (more options for social shaping and users own input). The first comparative studies had already ben carried out and the network was expanding to new countries.
  • Landesprogramm Arbeit  und Technik (discussions with Ludger Deitmer): As I had interpreted it, Germany was in a transition from one generation of socio-technic innovation prohrams (with focus on ‘Humanisation of Work’ (Humanisierung der Arbeit – HdA) to a new focus on social shaping of ‘Work and Technology’ (Arbeit und Technik – AuT). In this transition Bremen was playing a pioneering role and had appointed an expert commission to outline a regional innovation program. Ludger, who had been supporting the expert commission gave a report on the shaping of the forthcoming program and the way it is expected to implemented.

Discussions on cross-cutting themes and on overarching expert hearings and evaluation studies

Already in the themes discussed in ITB I could see a set of cross-cutting themes coming up whilst some other themes came up in further institutes. Likewise, in several institutes I was informed of overarching expert hearings and evaluation studies to which my counterparts were contributing. Without going into details (and recapitulating particular talks) I try to give a group picture of such talks and different positions or contributions:

  • Kollegschule NRW (KS), Doppelqualifizierende Bildungsgänge Hessen (talks with Kalrheinz Fingerle, Gerald Heidegger, Arnulf Bojanowski, Antonius Lipsmeier): At that time Finland was discussing reforms in educational structures. The integrated framework fo upper secondary education – as piloted in the Kollegschule in Nordrhein-Westphalen wasone of the interesting models. I got a lot of materials and reflections why such reform concepts fell between mainstream institutions and how the curriculum innovations with ‘integrated’ qualifications tended to lack the ‘grounding’ in occupational work. Therefore, Gerald emphasised the importance of such pilots that are based on apprentice training (instead of other vocational paths).
  • Bundestag Enquete-Kommission “Zukunft der Arbeit”: (talks with Gerald Heidegger, Burkart Lutz): The above mentioned scenario project “Berufsbilder 2000” was one of the projects invited to the expert commission of the German parliament to explore the future of skilled work in Germany. It appeared that the industrial sociologists saw the risk of polarisation as the likely option, whilst VET researchers emphasised the role of social shaping of work, technology and work organisations.
  • DFG-Denkschrift “Berufsbildungsforschung” (talks with Burkart Lutz, Laszlo Alex, Wolfgang Lempert): The German Research Council had set up an expert commission to examine the status and resources of research in VET – in the universities and in non-university institutes. The general picture was that the more policy-related research was concentrated in bigger public R&D institutions (BIBB, IAB) and in university affiliated institutes (MPI Berlin, SOFI, ISF) whilst the research in pedgaogics of VET (Breufspädagogik) was fragmented. Here, the former mentioned instititutes were recommending cooperation to create centres of excellence based on inter-university cooperation, whilst the university representatives wer expecting ‘natural growth’ of some top institutes.
  • Modellversuchsforschung (talks with Heiz Holz, Dieter Weissker, Peter Dehnbostel, Brigitte Wolff, Gerhard Zimmer): In BIBB I had discussions on the current stand of pilot projects (Modellversuche) and related accompanying research (Begleitforschung). The coordination unit was supporting thematic clusters (Modellversuchsreihen) of pilot projects in order to promote synergy and learning from each other.
  • HdA- & AuT-Begleitforschung (talks with Gerhard Bosch, Rainer Lichte, Else Fricke, Eva Kuda, Norbert Altmann, Ingrid Drexel, Christoph Köhler, Frieder Naschold): In the institutes that were affiliated to trade unions and/or specialised in industrial reations and labour process research I had several talks on the experiences of the eatrlier HdA-program and the related accompanying research (with which the researchers had note always been in good terms with the social partners). Now I couls see that in the successful cases the researchers were moving from observational into co-shaping approaches (e.g. regarding the introduction of apprentice training models alongside automation). In this way resewarch teams were supporting workers’ participation and social shaping of work processes.

I guess this is enough of  my impressions on the discussions. At the same time when I was approaching Berlin, my last station, the old regime of DDR came to dead end and had to give up. After a rupture period the political process took the course to unification.

Hochschultage Berufliche Bildung 1st to 3rd of October 1990 in Magdeburg

Almost one year after I had another opportunity to visit Germany by participating in the conference “Hochschultage Berufliche Bildung” 1990 in Magdeburg. This conference was initiated by the founders of ITB in the 1980s (before the ITB was founded) and it served as a joint forum of researchers in VET and active practitioners with interest in research. In addition to plenary sessions the conference had several regular domain-specific sessions (Fachtagung) and another set of thematic workshops (which may vary from one year to another). The conference of the 1990 was originally given for Stuttgart but it was relocated to Magdeburg – as a sign to build good neighbourhood relations between the Federal Republic of Germany (BRD) and the German Democratic Republic (DDR) which was in transition. However, shortly after this decision had been made, it appeared that the two German states will be unified during the conference dates. Thus, the conference was started in Magdeburg, DDR and finished in Magdeburg, BRD. And the announced main theme ‘Key qualifications’ was overshadowed by questions, challenges and anxieties regarding the rapid unification.

The big picture of unification – and the instant implementation of the legislation of BRD in the ‘new Federal states’ dominated the plenary sessions. They were expected to make a rapid transition from the school-based and company-affiliated vocational education system into the dual system of apprenticeship. This was a major organisational, administrative and educational challenge. At the some of the educational solutions of DDR that were valued by West-German educationalists, were given up. These issues were discussed openly and the participants from West tried to to show very cleatrly their solidarity to their Eastern colleagues who were implementing changes with very tight schedules.

From the specific sessions I remember that I followed firstly the discussions in the Fachtagung “Metalltechnik” chaired by Prof. Hoppe from ITB. Then I moved to Fachtagung “Wirtschaft und Verwaltung” in which I followed the presentations of Dr. Benteler on the Modellversuch at Klöckner Stahl (rotating clerk-apprentices through different production units of the steelworks to give them an organisational overview) and of Dr.Rischmüller on Modellversuch WoKI on the training of clerk-apprentices at VW in Wolfsburg.

The highlight for me was the possibility join in the International workshop initiated by Cedefop (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training) and to give a presentation on Scandinavian reforms in VET. In the relatively heterogeneous program of the workshop (with rather conversational presentations) my comparative view attracted attention and I got an invitation to the Soviet-European exchange seminar in Moscow (organised by the Soviet Academy of Educational Sciences and Cedefop).

– – –

I think this is enough of these ‘magic years’. I think I have made it clear, why I use this expression – both regarding the political processes and my individual experiences. I had started the journey to familiarise meself with the German VET and working life research. Very soon I was received as a contributor from Scandinavia to enter the European arenas of exchanges and cooperation in VET research. In the next phase on this career path I continued my cooperation with ITB.

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 …


Learning Layers in Leeds – Part Two: Giving a picture on construction pilot and Learning Toolbox

September 28th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last week our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project had its last joint project consortium meeting (before the final review meeting) in Leeds, hosted by the local partners.  We focused on harvesting the most recent results and coordinating the final preparatory processes for the final reporting. In the first post I will give a brief overview on the meeting on the whole. In this second post I will focus on the picture that I/we gave on the construction sector pilot in the preparation sessions and in the Elevator pitch session.

Insights into the preparation sessions (focus on impact and cases, scenarios and research approaches)

In the preparation sessions we rotated between three topic tables (of five altogether) to prepare the marketing pitches for which we had been signed (or to listen to others’ contributions and to give feedback). My choice was to give pitches on the impact cases, ‘learning scenarios’ (or instances of change) and on research approaches. In the first topic table it was useful to share ideas between construction pilot (use of Learning Toolbox at construction site) and healthcare pilot (use of Learning Toolbox in a conference environment). As a spin-off I promised to communicate the idea of using LTB in the forthcoming European conferences on vocational education and training in 2017 (ECER 2017, ‘Crossing boundaries 2017’). I also picked the idea of using LTB in conferences as a manifestation of ‘work process knowledge’ of researchers. In the topic table of ‘learning scenarios’ we discussed the criteria, what is to be presented as ‘impact cases’ and what qualifies as ‘scenarios’ or ‘instances of change’ in terms of conceptual interpretation. In the topic table of ‘research approaches’ we also had a similar discussion regarding the presentation of research methodologies and research findings.

Presenting the construction pilot in the ‘Elevator pitch’ session (‘impact cases’, ‘work process knowledge’ and ‘accompanying research’)

The ‘Elevator pitch’ session followed the pattern of marketing events that are typical in educational technology and software development communities. Each presenter had a 20 seconds slot to announce the topic and attract the interest of audience. Then the presenter had a 3 minutes slot to present the case and to convey the message. After each presentation three persons gave feedback (including one of the two ‘critical friends’ that were invited by the organisers). Below I focus on my/our presentations on the construction pilot of the LL project.

a) The impact cases: Use of Learning Toolbox in training (the pitch of Melanie Campbell) and at a construction site (my pitch)

In her pitch Melanie Campbell presented the training centre Bau-ABC as an application partner of the project and gave insights into the impact of the project from their perspective. Her key message was that Bau-ABC had engaged itself as a ‘learning organisation’ in different phases of the project work and used the opportunity to enhance the digital literacy and multimedia competences of its staff. On the basis of successful deployment of the Learning Toolbox Bau-ABC is looking forward to a more prominent role in promoting this know-how in its initial training (for apprentices), continuing training (for construction professionals) and training partnerships (with suppliers and client companies). She emphasised the new strategic interpretation of ‘Internet as the fourth learning venue’ (“Internet als vierter Lernort”) – alongside the company employing the apprentice (Ausbildungsbetrieb), the intermediate training centre (überbetriebliche Ausbildunsstätte) and the vocational school (Berufsschule) – and the contribution of the Learning Layers project in conveying this message.

In my first pitch I presented (with the help of a short video demonstration) the impact case of using Learning Toolbox (LTB) in the management of a construction site. I used the video on Thomas Isselhard’s recent presentation (see my recent blog) as an exemplary case to show, what kind of problems can be overcome with LTB, how the traditional way of managing the processes can be supported by LTB and how different parties can be engaged as users of LTB – to achieve real-time knowledge sharing and communication. Here I positioned myself as the interpreter and let the practitioner explain the benefits, see below:

b) The ‘learning scenario’: Learning Toolbox as means to make ‘work process knowledge’ transparent in lived practice

In my second pitch  – for ‘learning scenarios’ (or instances of change) – I focused on the concept ‘work process knowledge’ and how the use of Learning Toolbox (LTB) can make this concept more transparent. I looked back at the original European projects of the Work Process Knowledge network (funded by EU, 4th Framework programme of research) between 1998 and 2001. In the original studies the network analysed informal and cross-organisational learning processes as preconditions for innovation. They came up with the concept of ‘work process knowledge’ (as shared foundation of knowledge, experience and trust) based on which the organisations can successfully implement major changes. The network had collected several interesting cases in which interactive informal learning in organisations – and workers’ participation in shaping the technical and organisational changes. Yet, with their plans to develop follow-up projects they got narrowed down to more particular approaches on ‘organisational learning’ and to local and sectoral tools or instruments to promote such learning. With reference to the ‘impact cases’ on LTB I argued that the introduction of the integrative toolset has helped managers, skilled workers, trainers and apprentices to get a common overview on work processes and a shared understanding on matching activities and contributions.

c) The research approach: Transformation of ‘accompanying research’ within participative design and tool deployment processes

In my third pitch – with  focus on research approaches – I invited the audience to a journey to revisit the development of the accompanying research approach of ITB during the construction pilot of the Learning Layers project. Firstly I mentioned two earlier models of accompanying research (Begleitforschung) of which ITB has rich experiences:

  • Accompaniment of a regional ‘Work and Technology’ programme and its projects in 1990-1997: Focus on the attainment of policy goals regarding social shaping of work, technology, organisations and regional cooperation.
  • Accompaniment of nation-wide educational innovation programme ‘New learning concepts in dual vocational education and training’ 1997-2003: Focus on the attainment of self-declared innovation goals regarding introduction of new pedagogic and curricular settings, new occupational profiles and new instructional designs.

Concerning Learning Layers, I emphasised the difference, since we were working with an open and participative co-design process (with several iterative phases and adjustments), with common search for an appropriate design concept and ways to deploy the integrative toolset. During the process the accompanying researchers worked as

  • explorers (mapping workshops and initial interviews),
  • facilitators of digital literacy (the early multimedia training),
  • co-designers (in the shaping of the concept of Learning Toolbox),
  • co-tutors (the training campaign for all Bau-ABC staff),
  • facilitators of tool deployment (introduction of Learning Toolbox),
  • co-evaluators (collecting feedback and reviewing the qualitative feedback).

Concerning the interaction of accompanying researchers with practitioners we tried to position ourselves as supporting partners – helping them to become owners of the innovation. This was clearly successful with the early multimedia training and  with the launch of trainers’ blogs (see the video of August 2014 below). In a similar way the deployment of Learning Toolbox was a user-driven exercise in which Bau-ABC trainers set their own accents on promoting problem-oriented learning (with rich resources) or interest-based and expansive learning (with gradually increasing variety of resources). In a similar way the apprentices were guided by trainers to become owners of their own learning processes by self-organised use of learning resources via Learning Toolbox.

Concluding remarks and lessons for the final run

Regarding the feedback on my pitches, I was praised for the use of video to pass a user’s own voice and accents in the first pitch, I was criticized for not using such visuals in the two latter ones (I dropped the idea because the video could not be displayed that well to all). I was also praised for presenting coherent stories but criticized for giving too much emphasis on the history and leaving the connection between history and present date too thin. Finally, I was praised by making the users visible and emphasising them as ‘pioneers’, our role in ’empowering users’ and making transparent different ways of using innovative toolsets. Altogether, this feedback helped us to pull ourselves out of project-internal reporting and to focus on new audiences who don’t have the shared background knowledge.

– – –

I think this is enough of this exercise. At the moment we are taking further steps in preparing the final documents, making further arrangements for the final review and working with follow-up activities.

More blogs to come …


Learning Layers in Leeds – Part One: Paving the way for the final run

September 27th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last week our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project had its last joint project consortium meeting (before the final review meeting) in Leeds, hosted by Leeds University, NHS and our software partner PinBellCom (latterly merged to EMIS group). This consortium meeting differed from many earlier ones because most of the work of the project has already been done. Also, quite a lot of strategic decisions concerning the final reporting had already been done. Therefore, we could concentrate on harvesting the most recent results and coordinating some preparatory processes for the final reporting. Yet, this meeting also had its salt and spices as well. In the first post I will give a brief overview on the meeting on the whole. In the second post I will focus on the picture that I/we gave on the construction sector pilot in some of the sessions.

Overview on the main sessions

After a quick situation assessment on the current phase of the project we started working in groups and in interim plenaries to be followed by group work:

  1. With the sessions on evaluation studies we had parallel groups working with the evaluation studies that had been adjusted to the progress in construction pilot and healthcare pilot. Concerning the construction pilot, our colleagues from the UIBK presented quantitative data and summarised the qualitative findings that have been discussed earlier on this blog. We had some discussions, whether we can enrich that material with some last minute interviews but that remains to be decided at the local level.
  2. Regarding the integrated deliverable (result-oriented website) we had common discussions on the structure, on the current phase of the main sections and on the technical implementation. Then we had parallel groups on the impact cards, ‘learning scenarios’ (or instances of change) and on the ‘research, development and evaluation approaches’. In the group work we focused on the situation in the sectoral pilots and on the complementary relations between impact cards (demonstrating particular impact), the scenarios or instances (in interpreting the findings in a conceptual and future-oriented way) and the research approaches (in presenting the contribution of the main research approaches represented in the project work).
  3. In a joint demonstration session Tamsin Treasure-Jones informed us, how the Learning Toolbox had been used in an adapted participative “Barcamp” session that was implemented in the AMEE (Association for Medical Education in Europe) conference in Barcelona. This example served as an inspiration and can be adapted for other research and development communities as well.
  4. In a practicing session we rotated between different topic tables to prepare ‘marketing pitches’ to convey the key messages of our tools/infrastructures/impact cases/research approaches. Each table was managed by moderator and the participants could take the role of presenter or listener. This helped us to get an overview and to concentrate on the core message of our presentations.
  5. In the Elevator pitches session we then presented the pitches (20 second pitch to qualify as presenter and a 3 minute pitch to convey the message). In this session Pablo served as real-time rapporteur and colleagues from Leeds had invited ‘critical friends’ to give feedback. This session helped us to shift us from project-internal reporting to speaking to new audiences.
  6. In the concluding session we discussed the organisation of the review meeting, the time plan for remaining activities and some final dissemination activities.

Altogether we made good progress in getting a common picture, what all we have achieved and how to present it. To be sure, we have several points to be settled in a number of working meetings during the coming weeks. But the main thing is that we set the course to achieving common results in the time that is available – and we are fully engaged to make it. In the next post I will take a closer look at the work with the construction pilot in the Leeds meeting.

More blogs to come …


Bringing Learning Toolbox to users – Part One: Workshop with ITB researchers

September 9th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

This week we have taken further steps in the fieldwork of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project and its key product Learning Toolbox (LTB) developed in the construction sector pilot. The LTB has been shaped together with our application partners in the North-German construction industries and trad to support workplace learning and/or learning in the context of work processes. With the two workshops that we organised on Wednesday (7.9.) and Thursday (8.9.) we wanted to present the Toolbox and to bring it close to users. With researchers from our institute – Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB) – we wanted to discuss interfaces and future cooperation prospects. With representatives of craft trade companies in Bremen region we wanted to discuss specific needs and opportunities for using the Toolbox in their work – and to get feedback for further development. In this first post I focus on the workshop with ITB researchers.

Getting an up-to-date picture of Learning Toolbox and where it can be used

Many of the ITB colleagues had already participated in earlier events in which we had informed them of the LL project, on our work with the construction pilot and on the participative design processes that led to the development of the LTB. Therefor, Werner Müller (ITB) gave a very brief over view and then handed over to Gilbert Peffer (CIMNE) who represented the developers of LTB. Gilbert gave an up-to-date presentation on the key features of LTB and on its usability in different working and learning contexts  – see Gilbert’s slides here: LTB-WS_Handwerksbetriebe

As a part of his presentation Gilbert also demonstrated live the mobile application, the editor (Tilestore) and the Online Guide. Finally, he gave a sneak preview to some new functions that are being tested and will appear in the next version.

Engaging ITB researchers as users of Learning Toolbox

Together with the LL team of ITB Gilbert had prepared a specific application – a stack – in the Learning Toolbox to support the preparation of an internal ITB event (“Klausurtagung“) later this year. With this stack (see the screenshots below) he showed, how the information on the forthcoming event can be delivered and the participants’ contributions can be obtained in an interactive way.

Screenshot ITB Klausurtagung 1

We became aware of the questionnaire that has been prepared and of the opportunity to contribute via using the LTB.

Screenshot ITB Klausurtagung 2

Discussion on the potential use of Learning Toolbox in further ITB projects

In the following discussion we mainly focused on possible use of the Toolbox in other (ongoing or forthcoming) ITB projects. We discussed issues on data protection, data privacy and confidentiality – who controls, who has access. We also discussed the potential to develop the Toolbox as a contributor to e-portfolios of apprentices and trainees. Several questions were raised on the role of social media (e.g. Facebook) and on good or bad examples how it is being used. In the light of our multimedia training activities with our application partners (in particular the training centre Bau-ABC) we could give insights how they are using Facebook to promote professionalism and commitment to their trades via specific FB-groups.

Altogether, many of these questions could be responded with reference to field visits and working events on which I have reported on this blog during the recent months. With some of the questions we could refer to issues that would come up with the discussions with craft trade companies in the workshop scheduled for the next day. And with some questions we took note for the developers of the Learning Toolbox. We still hav work to do in the ongoing project.

– – –

I think this is enough of the first workshop. In my next post I will report on the workshop with representatives of craft trade companies in the construction sector.

More blogs to come …


Catching up with Learning Layers fieldwork – Part Two: Fresh feedback on the use of Learning Toolbox

August 31st, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous post I started a series of blog entries to catch up with the fieldwork of our ongoing EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. Because of my sick leave I felt the need to catch up with the recent fieldwork of the Construction pilot with the deployment of Learning Toolbox (LTB) – both in work-based learning and at construction sites.  With my first post I summarised where we ended up with the introduction of the LTB in our field activities earlier this year. With this second post I provide insights into fresh feedback on the use of LTB by construction sector apprentices.

The field visit of Markus Manhart (University of Innsbruck) to Bau-ABC

In the meantime our colleague Markus Manhart from the University of Innsbruck (UIBK) was on field visit at the construction sector training centre Bau-ABC in Rostrup to collect feedback on the use of LTB by apprentices and to interview their trainers. Markus has shared his results with us and I can only do justice to his good work by making his report available via this blog post.

Markus told that he organised two Focus Group sessions (focus on LTB) with six carpenter apprentices (project Holzbau) and had two interviews with their trainers (Bruns, Pape).  In addition he had three Focus Groups with altogether 14 apprentices from another trade (Baugeräteführer) on the use of video annotation tool AchSo. Since the use of mobile devices is restricted (or not allowed at all) during their working periods in construction companies, Markus asked them to reflect on their experiences with using the tools in Bau-ABC (from the initial introduction to present date). Below I give extracts from Markus’ reports (with next to original wording but to some extent edited by me – PK):

First finding: “Guiding replaces strict instructions”:

There is some evidence for a tool-supported change of the training patterns at Bau-ABC. In the past, apprentices and trainers had a rather hierarchical perception of training activities, characterised by limited  autonomy for learners (= apprentices). Trainers told what to do and apprentices expected to get detailed instructions. Using LTB (and also AchSo) is partly contributing to a change towards more autonomous learning. The trainers tend to give apprentices more room of manoeuvre how to prepare and implement their projects. Instead of strictly instructing them, trainers tend to take the role of ‘guides’ for the apprentices. However, the increase of autonomy seems to be dependent on many factors: characteristics of learners, type of learning materials and achieved knowledge. Finally, the interpretation of the trainers on their own role will influence greatly, how such change can occur.

Second finding: “From consuming to contributing”:

In the past, learning material was provided in a one-way communication from trainers to apprentices. Thus, apprentices were more consumers of learning materials and recipients of trainers’ knowledge. Now, the new tools (provided by the LL project) support a transition towards a peer-to-peer mode of treating learning materials and knowledge resources. However, in this context it is important to note that the asymmetry cannot be completely abolished. From the perspective of trainers it is clear that some learning materials and knowledge elements cannot be freely produced or acquired by apprentices. Also, the apprentices are aware of their limits in this respect.

What can be produced and shared in terms of peer-to-peer communication are problems with the apprentices’ projects or experiences with managing such projects (e.g. time management, planning work steps). What should not be produced and shared in such terms are instructions, how to perform project tasks (e.g. methods of how wooden beams should be prepared or constructed) and information on health and safety regulations (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz).

Third finding: “Digital transformation”:

In the light of the two aspects mentioned above, apprentices and trainers have described several episodes as exemplary cases, how the LL tools contribute to changes in training and learning practices. These can be treated as indications on digital transformation in the training and learning culture of Bau-ABC. (Below I give a nutshell summary, more information can be obtained from Markus Manhart.)

Interestingly enough, in the light of these examples digital transformation does not appear as a fundamental change of training and learning pushed by the tools. Instead, it is perceived rather as meaningful changes of specific practices. Regarding meaningfulness the apprentices gave the example on their obligation to document their daily project progress and achieved results.

When working with paper- and pencil-based documentation the apprentices had several possibilities to cheat the trainers with their reports. In general, they could write down what the trainers would expect to get from them (even when this wouldn’t quite correspond with the reality). Thus, if a task has taken a whole day, they could report having completed it in three hours. Or they could omit mentioning problems they had encountered with project tasks in their reports. In practice their trainers would not always be in the position to monitor their work very thoroughly. In such cases, the marks given on their performance would not reflect the actual performance of the apprentices. This deficit in controlling would favour the ones inclined to cheat at the expense of the more honest apprentices.

When documenting the work with project tasks with videos, the apprentices provide a true picture of situations, activities and results. This makes it possible for the trainers to assess, if the task was performed adequately. Thus, they are better informed on what grounds they can give the marks. In this way the changing pattern of reporting on apprentices’ projects serves as an example, how the use of digital tools in the interaction between trainers and learners enhances the apprentices’ commitment and motivation to appropriate task completion.

– – –

I hope I have done justice to Markus’ text and conveyed the message he intended. To me his findings are important clues for our conceptual interpretation on digital transformation in workplace learning – as demonstrated in the context of the training centre Bau-ABC. In my next post I will discuss our recent efforts to promote the use of LTB in craft trade companies in the construction sector.

More blogs to come … 

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