Archive for the ‘research’ Category

Wrapping up the ECER 2019 experience – Part Five: Debates on VET research (past, present, future)

September 9th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

With this blog post I conclude a series of posts on the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER 2019) that took place earlier last week in Hamburg, Germany. The first post focused on the Opening session of the VETNET network (including background information on VETNET and other networks). The second post focused on the sessions that discussed the ongoing TACCLE projects (in which I and my colleagues are working). The third post focused on presentations that have an immediate relevance for the TACCLE project. The fourth post gave an account on recent developments in the VETNET network. With this final post I give insights into debates on VET research at different phase of the development of the VET research community.

The earliest phase: From ‘who is who’ to ‘networking the networks’

In the earliest phase of the VETNET network (when the setting up of the organisational structures was moving slowly) we were in the process of finding ourselves. It appeared that we represented different academic backgrounds, institutional affiliations and research interests. Some of us were from discipline-based institutes carrying out individual research in national contexts. Some of us came from interdisciplinary and policy-linked institutes with complex research & development projects. Some of us were already at that time working primarily in European projects with comparative and/or collaborative research designs. This gave rise to different views on, what kind of research activities and results should be presented in the conferences. One of the issues was, whether we should accept only completed research projects presented final results or whether we should give room for ongoing research projects to present their way s to common approaches. Luckily enough we found a working consensus that provided a basis for mutual respect and learning from each other.

Concerning the European cooperation projects we (who were working in them or with them) tried to develop sessions that promote learning from each other. Firstly we had symposia that promoted dialogue between parallel projects with closely matching themes. In the next phase we had ‘meeting point’ events for networks and journals. At a later date we tried to work with ‘growth of knowledge’ symposia that re-examined completed projects and platform-oriented symposia that tried to develop knowledge sharing platforms for specific project areas. This all belonged to the phase of ‘networking the networks’. Looking back, these activities were niche initiatives within the research community, supported by digital tools that were in their infancy and in a very early evolutionary phase of European cooperation.

The transitional phase: From critique on European Qualification Framework (EQF) to search for new themes

In the subsequent phase the inner life in the VETNET network had got settled and the VETNET board was working as a collective team. The diversity of VET research was kept in mind with a set of descriptors (key themes) that were used to organise the conference sessions. However, at this phase role of European cooperation was changing. Instead of discussing their own innovation agendas they were becoming more dependent on European policies  and moving to new funding priorities. This brought into picture projects on making the European Qualification Framework (EQF), the European system of Credit Transfer in VET (ECVET), European models for e-Learning, evaluation frameworks for European projects and specific projects for ‘target groups’. Here I do not want argue that such themes couldn’t be innovative. Yet, the search for common grounds was taking place within policy-based priority areas.

However, during this period the community developed a culture of critical reflection on the policy concepts with which it was working. In several ECER conferences there were symposia in which we had critical discussions on the eclectic nature of the above frameworks. Also, we had analyses on the limited ‘unifying’ impact of qualification frameworks on VET cultures in countries that have similar frameworks. This prepared the grounds for moving to themes that look at new drivers of innovation and on the role of VET in contributing to change agendas.

The newest phase: Coming together to shape a European VET research agenda

Concerning the development towards the newest phase we need to note the achievements that I have mentioned in my previous blog post – the launch of the new journal IJRVET, the emergence of the new international conferences and the progress with book publications. Parallel to this the VETNET network initiated a global network under the umbrella of World Educational Research Association (WERA) with focus on internationalisation in VET research. This has broadened the range of participation and intensified the  international exchanges beyond Europe.  This has also contributed to a stronger conceptual orientation in European and international VET research. This can be seen in particular in a more differentiated and critical look at transfer of policies, VET arrangements and innovation concepts between different countries and global regions.

In this respect there has been an ongoing discussion on European VET research agenda in several ECER conferences. At ECER 2019 the discussion was guided by the challenge to promote integration of knowledge in VET research. On a more pragmatic level this discussion focused on a planning tool for VETNET sessions – how to bring different level (macro-, meso- and miro-level) in a common thematic area into dialogue with each other. Here we noted some progress in the sessions of this conference. Secondly, this challenge was discussed from the perspective, how to present ourselves and our messages to policy-makers and other stakeholders. Thirdly, this was discussed from the perspective of reviewing knowledge development in VET research in review articles.

Concerning the project work and conference sessions, this spirit has been present among others in sessions that focus on proactive preparation to new funding frameworks for innovation programmes. Also, this spirit has characterised sessions that discuss the role of researchers as catalysts of sustainable innovations and quality-awareness in larger R&D programmes. Finally, this spirit has become manifest in sessions on grassroot projects in which researchers study community-building processes that aim to improve pedagogic quality of VET.

I guess this is enough of the debates on VET research in the VETNET network. As I see it, we have come a long way forward from the very early phases of the community development. Thinking of the current phase, we are rather well prepared for future challenges. For me, as someone who has been involved from the beginning, this is very rewarding. Now that my time with ECER and active VETNET involvement is coming to an end, I can look forward to the future with an optimistic feeling. However, I have not finished my work yet and I have to put an effort to finish properly.

More blogs to come …

Wrapping up the ECER 2019 experience – Part Four: Developments in the VETNET network

September 8th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my recent blogs I have been wrapping up my experiences on the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER 2019) that took place earlier this week in Hamburg, Germany. The first post focused on the Opening session of the VETNET network (including background information on VETNET and other networks). The second post focused on the sessions that discussed the ongoing TACCLE projects (in which I and my colleagues are working). The third post focused on presentations that have an immdeiate relevance for the TACCLE project. In this fourth post I try to give insights into recent developments in the VETNET network.

Organisational consolidation of the VETNET network

As I have already mentioned in my first post, the ECER conferences are organised by the European Educational Research Association (EERA). EERA was founded in 1994 as the European umbrella organisation of national associations for educational research. Whilst the representatives of the national associations are in charge of the management, the development of the conference programs is the matter of networks. EERA has currently 32 thematic networks (and the Emerging Researchers Group) that each prepare and run a network program in the annual ECER conference.

The VETNET network is one of the oldest and largest networks and it has from the very beginning had an identity of its own kind. It has brought together researchers who focus on vocational education and training (VET) and who may have somewhat different academic backgrounds. However, there has been a strong commitment to develop a European research community that is open for interested colleagues outside Europe. In this respect VETNET started to shape organisational structures and develop common procedures at an early stage. By the year 2000 it got an elected network board that was working on the basis of jointly approved regulations. Parallel to this the network consolidated the pattern of double-blind peer reviews of conference proposals. By 2004 it got its first pilot website to present the conference program and the contributions.

During the years of growth the issue of membership had been kept open. The liberal interpretation was that all who participated in the VETNET program were also invited to participate in the VETNET assembly as members. By the time that the VETNET activities beyond the ECER conference started to get more standing (see below) this was too ambiguous. Therefore a task force led by Johanna Lasonen – together with the link convenors Barbara Stalder and Christof Nägele – prepared new regulations. These were then matched with the guidelines that EERA prepared and presented at the VETNET assembly. Based on the new regulations, a new VETNET board will be elected in ECER 2020.

International Journal for Research in Vocational Education and Training (IJRVET) and the Vetnetsite

From the year 2000 on VETNET has had the intention to set up a journal for European and international VET research. At that time a working group was negotiating with a commercial publisher. After a period of latency (due to organisational rearrangements on the publishers’ side) the first initiative led to creation of a journal without VETNET involvement. Few years later the idea was brought back to discussion – now with the intention to set up Open Access journal using an appropriate platform. By ECER 2013 the concept was prepared to maturity and by ECER 2014 the first issue was published. Here it is worthwhile to note that the journal was launched as an international journal (and it reached a wider international support). During the years after, the journal has been published on regular basis, its status has been acknowledged and it is being used as the organ of VETNET. A special step forward was taken when the articles of the years 2017 and 2018 were made available as the respective IJRVET Yearbooks.

Parallel to this, the earlier pilot websites for publicising the VETNET conference program and sharing the presentations have been replaced by the current Vetnetsite.

Conferences, interim conferences and proceedings

Alongside the founding of ht IJRVET the VETNET network has made progress with interim conferences and with publishing the conference proceedings. At an earlier stage, during the preparation for ECER 1999 the VETNET program chair Johanna Lasonen managed to get the conference papers in time and published a hard copy proceedings publication by the conference. In the subsequent conferences this was not achieved. An interim solution was the collection of papers and/or powerpoint presentations to the VETNET website or to a separate proceedings page provided by Sabine Manning on her Wifogate website. During the recent years the link convenors Christof Nägele and Barbara Stalder have introduced the process of preparing and editing the annual proceedings by the conference.

Parallel to this development the VETNET network has got a settlement with two regular ‘interim conferences’. Stockholm University has had quite some time a tradition of annual cruise conference in May. Another conference tradition emerged when the University of Bremen (2015) and the University of Rostock (2017) organised international VET research conferences shortly before ECER with the theme “Crossing boundaries in VET research”. In 2017 an agreement was reached to organise these conferences every two year in May. Thus, in May 2018 we had the Stockholm conference, whilst in May 2019 we had the “Crossing boundaries” conference in Valencia. And the most important is that the proceedings of these conferences have been prepared by the conference. With the Stockholm conferences the production of book publications has taken place after the conferences.

Higher standing of VETNET network as a European expert network

Alongside these developments the VETNET has gained a higher standing as a European expert network in the field of VET. In particular this has become manifest in the cooperation of the European Commission and in the role that VETNET has got in preparing the European Skills Week. Since 2015 VETNET has been invited to organise a research-related workshop. Also, VETNET has had the task to prepare the nomination for European VET research award in the context of European Skills Week. Taken as such, these have been small steps, but they have also paved the way for proactive discussions on the future European funding programs. In this respect the VETNET board has organised in the recent years round table discussions on European VET research agenda to raise awareness and to strengthen the profile of our research community.

I think this is enough of the developments in the VETNET network. In my final post I will reflect the debates on European VET research that we have had at different phases of the community development.

More blogs to come …

Wrapping up the ECER 2019 experience – Part One: The opening session of the VETNET network

September 7th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

Once again, the annual European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) – organised by the European Educational Research Association (EERA) – has taken place. This time the venue was the University of Hamburg. The advantage for us working at the University of Bremen was that we didn’t have to travel far away. The counter side of the coin was that we were expected to commute between Bremen and Hamburg on daily basis. That cut us off from most of the social events and informal encounters in the evenings. Nevertheless, there was quite a lot to experience and to share with colleagues from all over Europe and beyond Europe. With this series of blog posts I try to cover different sessions in the program of the VETNET network – the research network for the field of vocational education and training (VET) and give some insights into developments in the network. In this first post start with the opening session of the VETNET program. Firstly I need to give some insights into the role of the networks of EERA in organising the conference and of the specific traditions of VETNET.

EERA and ECER as the common umbrella – VETNET as a community with its own identity

When the EERA was founded and started organising the ECER conferences on regular basis, the common umbrella was created in two ways. The EERA was shaped as the umbrella organisation of national associations for educational research. For the shaping of the conferences EERA invited the member associations to propose thematic networks that would then be in charge of organising their section in the conference programs. The network for research in vocational education and training (VET) – from the beginning on known as VETNET – was accepted as the Network 2 of EERA. The number of networks grew rapidly and they developed their own patterns to run peer reviews, to organise social events and to disseminate the research in their area of specialisation.

As a contrast to this general picture, the VETNET network has been from the very beginning more than just one of the EERA networks and a small club for organising part of the ECER program. Already in the founding phase there was a sense of building a community of VET researchers under the EERA umbrella. Yet, we were aware that we had somewhat different discipline-based backgrounds and in some countries the institutional commitment to VET was a basis of special disciplinary structures. Therefore, we have also paid attention to openness and mutual learning across the network.

In this spirit the VETNET network has developed a tradition of common Opening sessions – starting from ECER 1999 in Lahti, Finland (initiated by the VETNET program chair Johanna Lasonen). These opening sessions have mostly been keynote speeches by prominent researchers from the host country – with comments by invited discussants. Sometimes they have been panel discussions on critical research issues or on future research agendas. In ECER 2007 the Opening session celebrated the 10 years’ milestone of VETNET as an active network (as organiser of its own program). In ECER 2018 in Bolzano/Bozen the opening session got insights into VET development in the host region from different stakeholder perspectives (and from representatives of different lingual communities).

The VETNET Opening session at ECER 2019 – insights into apprentice training at Airbus sites in Germany

At the VETNET Opening session 2019 the invited speaker was Matthias Havekost, head of vocational training of Airbus commercial in Germany. He had been an active practitioner counterpart of several VET research projects of our institute (ITB, University of Bremen) and familiar with our research approach. From this perspective it was appropriate to invite him to discuss directly with the participants on the role of apprentice training and other training activities at Airbus sites in Germany.

We got a lot of information on the development of apprentice training in the course of years – regarding the demographic factors (aging workforce), technological changes (balancing between manual work and robotics) and educational changes (developing vocational pathways to higher qualifications). In between we had glimpses to the actual contexts of working and learning on site – provided by videos that were prepared by apprentices and students in so-called dual studies (that are based on a combination of apprentice training and higher education).

An interesting part of the presentation of Havekost was the example of a particular workplace learning arrangement at an early phase of apprentice training. Instead of explaining the task and launching the group work with the task that trainer took considerable time for a ‘teaming up’ phase. At this phase all apprentices were invited to discuss their views on their occupation, their understanding on their tasks and on the requirements. These views were shared in the group and contrastive views were discussed to the point that mutual understanding was reached. In the beginning some of the participants were annoyed by such delay instead of going straight to the task. Yet, it appeared that the group had developed a culture of collaboration and it finished the tasks in shorter time and with better quality than earlier groups. Also, teachers of vocational schools and representatives of production units noticed the change in the performance.

Another interesting aspect alongside the above-mentioned cultural change was the career development of trainers. For Havekost it was important that the in-company trainers are experienced in the production and keep up to date. Therefore, the trainers should be trainers only a certain number of years and not for too long time. This kind of rotation has been successfully implemented and those trainers who went back to other business in the company entered real interesting and adequate jobs (e.g. production, quality, manufacturing engineering).

In the light of the above we had a rich and lively discussion that gave food for thought for different sessions in the VETNET program. Also, we had some discussion on the training culture on other Airbus sites and on the role of VET systems in the respective countries. These issues were also taken up later.

I guess this is enough of the VETNET Opening session. In the following posts I will first report on the sessions that were closely related to my ongoing project, then cover some other themes and finally get back to developments in the VETNET network.

More blogs to come …

Learning, education outcomes and socioeconomic class

August 30th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

We have long known that educational outcomes are heavily influenced by social class. But little has been done to try to understand how social class affects learning. In that respect the article by Lien Pham on ‘How socioeconomic background makes a difference in education outcomes‘ is very welcome.

Pham notes that although “PISA publishes its PISA context assessment framework to supplement its regular international PISA testing of reading, maths and science”, ” these are just snapshots rather than an analysis of the impact of students’ background characteristics on their participation in these processes, or whether the educational system, schooling processes and classroom practices may favour certain groups over others” and “they do not help to shed light on how and why some students perform better than others.”

Pham says “In order to truly understand what is happening with inequality I believe we have to recognise the implicit social relationships and social structures in the schooling processes that position students in different vantage points.”

Pham goes on to look at what PISA says about students’ family backgrounds, student ethnicity and polices to improve educational inequality, adding his own comments and analysis. His overall conclusion is that reducing inequality neds more than just access to economic resources

We need to deeply understand students’ “real” opportunities within our systems of education. I believe we need to look more closely at what students can reasonably do (or not do) with those resources given their backgrounds and situations.

Resources are important, but just because a school has a wide variety of resources doesn’t mean all of its students will benefit from those equally.

I am arguing that policy attention to improve educational inequality should place student agency and diversity at the forefront, rather than focussing on resources with the assumption that all students will be able to access them in similar ways with similar outcomes.

You can read more in his paper: Capital and capabilities in education: Re-examining Australia’s 2015 PISA performance and context assessment framework

 

 

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 …
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