Archive for the ‘research’ Category

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 … 

Catching up with Learning Layers fieldwork – Part One: Looking back at developments in 2016

August 31st, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

This year my summer break was longer than I had planned due to health issues. Now I am back at work and trying to catch up with the fieldwork of our ongoing EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. In particular I have to catch up with the recent fieldwork of the Construction pilot with the deployment of Learning Toolbox (LTB) in work-based learning and at construction sites. Before going into the most recent developments (I will deal with them in the next posts) I will firstly summarise where we ended up with the introduction of the LTB in our field activities earlier this year.

Introduction of Learning Toolbox (LTB) in the training of the pioneering trades of Bau-ABC

In the middle of February 2016 we (the ITB team of Learning Layers) had a field visit to the construction sector training centre Bau-ABC to prepare the introduction of the Learning Toolbox (LTB) in some pioneering trades. These discussions are reported in the following blog entry:

Possible use of Learning Toolbox in Bau-ABC training – three exemplary cases

In the middle of March 2016 we had the joint kick-off event to start the active use of LTB in the pioneering trades (well-builders and carpenters). In addition to the ITB team we had the LTB developers and the evaluators from the Universities of Innsbruck and Tallinn. The activities of the event are reported in the following blog entry:

Start of Learning Toolbox pilots in Bau-ABC – Part One: The Kick-off event 14.3.2016

In the beginning of April 2014 we (the ITB and Pontydysgu teams) had another working visit to Bau-ABC to collect feedback on the functioning and actual use of the LTB. Our findings have been documented in the following blog entry:

Start of Learning Toolbox pilots in Bau-ABC – Part Two: Feedback during a working visit to Bau-ABC

Altogether we could observe that the use of LTB had become part of the ordinary training and learning practices of Bau-ABC trainers and construction sector apprentices.

Spreading the use of LTB into other trades/ learning contexts

Another series of field visits in Bau-ABC took place at the end of May and in the beginning of June.

At the end of May 2016 we had a three days’ working visit in Bau-ABC with colleagues from Aalto University, University of Innsbruck and Pontydysgu. The colleagues from Aalto were introducing the video annotation tool AchSo and the Social Augmented Reality tool SOAR. Alongside these session we had also evaluation workshops moderated by colleagues from Innsbruck. The feedback on the use of LTB has been documented in the following blog entry:

Piloting with AchSo and getting feedback on Learning Toolbox – Part Two: Apprentices’ views on using the Learning Toolbox

In the beginning of June 2016 we made some progress with introducing LTB to further trades and learning contexts.

Firstly I had a short session with two colleagues to prepare the introduction of LTB in the joint learning area ‘health and safety’ and in a trans-national mobility scheme that brings apprentices from Spain to German companies.

Secondly I worked with a Bau-ABC trainer to introduce the use of LTB in a new trade (pipeline builders) involving a group of well-builders getting trained in this trade (and already familiar with LTB). This session is reported in the following blog entry:

Learning Toolbox in Action – New project for Brunnenbauer apprentices in Rohrleitungsbau

Thirdly I had a special working session with a group of Spanish apprentices and project coordinator Melanie Campbell from Bau-ABC to explore the uses of LTB in supporting the newcomers from Spain during their apprentice training in Germany. This session is reported in the following blog entry:

Getting Learning Toolbox to Action – preparing stacks with and for Spanish apprentices

Publication of the online guide to Learning Toolbox (LTB)

In the middle of June 2016 we were happy to observe that the LTB developers had published a comprehensive online guide to Learning Toolbox (see I provided a brief introduction to the guide in the following blog entry:

Learning Toolbox (LTB) Online Guide published!
– – –

I guess this is enough of the activities in the spring and early summer months of 2016. In my next blogs I will report on the most recent activities (based on the information I have got from my LL colleagues).

More blogs to come …

The woes of Brexit

August 17th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

erasmusI have greatly enjoyed reading Pekka Kamareinen’s series of posts on this website on the history of VETNET – the Vocational Education and Training network allied to the European educational Research Association. Vocational education and Training is not a mainstream research area – indeed one of the long running discussions is whether it should be viewed as a discipline in itself or an area for trans disciplinary or inter disciplinary research.

Yet although Vocational Education and Training receives far less attention than research in schools and in higher education it is important. Arguably the rapid changes in the nature and organisation of the workforce and the introduction of new technologies make workforce skills and competence more important for the future. With very different systems and cultures of VET in different European countries, one key has been the ability to learn from how things are done differently elsewhere. Brexit threatens the ability of UK based researchers to be able to participate in this research in the future. True, anyone can participate in VETNET and attend the annual European Conference on Educational Research regardless of living in an EU country or not. But the stark reality is that many researchers depend on European project funding to be able to attend.

Although the English government has announced continuing support for organisations participating in the FP 7 Research programme, there has been no corresponding announcement of the Erasmus Plus programme, which is perhaps more important for VET.

Of course Brexit proponents had argued that withdrawal from the EU will release more national funding for research in the UK.But I fear that given all the challenges that the UK faces in organising withdrawal, educational research will be low on priority lists, and VET research probably even lower.  This bodes ill for the ability of researchers to particpate in the much needed debate on how the UK’s somewhat chaotic and underfunded VET systems can be transformed to meet the twin challenges of the changing nature of work and new technologies.

My journey with the VETNET network – Epilogue: The (rocky) road to ECER 16 in Dublin

August 16th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my five latest posts I have written a series of blogs on my journey with ECER conferences and the VETNET network. In these posts I have discussed the development of the network from its earliest origins in the beginning of 1990s up to present date. These blogs are my contribution to the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) 2016 and to the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the founding of VETNET – the European Vocational Education and Training Research Network.  Unfortunately I have to stay out of ECER because of health issues, but these posts may serve as building blocks for the collective memory. In this epilogue I shift the emphasis from the past to the preparation of the forthcoming conference with some final remarks.

From ECER 2005 (Dublin) to ECER 2016 (Dublin) – Ten/eleven years after

My first remark is related to the preparation of the VETNET Opening colloquium. Interestingly enough, the VETNET  organisers have invited once again James Wickham as a keynote speaker (he had this ro le also in ECER 2005). To me this was a very good choice. In 2005 made interesting comparisons between ‘the European dream’ and ‘the American mirage’ as leading ideas for European training and labour market policies. Now he has chosen the heading “Always the first cut – vocational education and training in the Irish crisis”. It would be interesting to see, what kind of links he might make between his earlier analyses and those on the present crisis.

Communities, networking and web tools

My second remark is related to the way in which we discussed in ECER 2005 on the role of research communities (in regional initiatives) and on the support provided by social networking and web tools. At that time we were dependent on very early stage of web technologies and related possibilities for social networking. At that stage the interaction between researchers, tool developers and practitioners was far more complicated (and the chances for participative design were far more limited). Now, our experiences with the Learning Layers project (and with the online tools of the VETNET network and the IJRVET journal) open new horizons.

Visibility of VET research

Finally I would like to make a point on the visibility of VET research – both within the EERA community and at a more general level. In both respects the VETNET network was in 2005 still in the process of making its case. The subsequent years of stabilisation, consolidation and new initiatives have clearly given more visibility to VETNET and European VET research in the context of ECER and the EERA community. And in particular the launch of the journal IJRVET and its success have brought the public visibility of European and international VET research to a new level.

– – –

I guess this is enough food for thought for those who are on the (rocky) road to ECER 2016 in Dublin. It is a pity that I cannot join them. But I will keep in touch and then catch up with the news. I am looking forward to that.

More blogs to come …



My journey with the VETNET network – Part Five: The years of new initiatives

August 16th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my latest posts I have been writing a series of blogs on my journey with ECER conferences and the VETNET network. These blogs serve as my contribution to the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) 2016 when we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of VETNET – the European Vocational Education and Training Research Network.  This year I have to stay outof ECER because of health issues.  In the previousposts I have covered the earliest years from 1992 on, the founding  phase until  2001, the stabilisation phase between 2003 and 2007 and the consolidation phase between 2007 and 2011. In this final post I will have a look at the latest phase up to present date.

ECER 2012 in Cadiz: The role of VET in overcoming the economic crisis

Whatever we might have been able to plan in advance for ECER 2012 in Cadiz, real life pushed genuine challenges to public discussion. The fact that the host country Spain was heavily hit by the economic crisis and youth unemployment gave us a clear clue, what to discuss in the conference. Therefore, in the VETNET Opening colloquium we raised the question on the role of VET in overcoming such a crisis. Fernando analysed recent developments in and current debates on Spanish VET system. He drew attention to potentials that had not been used (cooperation between VET and working life) and demands for changes that have not been thoroughly thought through (transfer of German model of dual system to Spain).  Marg Malloch presented a picture of parallel developments and political pressures on privatisation of VET in Australia. Michael Gessler analysed, how the German dual system works regarding the transition from school to working life and examined, how a complex web of additional options and measures – the system of transition schemes – has emerged and stabilised as a self-sustaining system.

In addition to this opening event we had several contributions on the role of VET in supporting transitions and in supporting workplace learning. In particular the Dutch contributions on VET schools as organisers of/ partners in practice-based learning (Aimee Hoeve, Hester Smulders, Jeroen Onstenk) addressed these issues. I gave an overview on the development of the themes ‘workplace learning’, ‘cooperation between learning venues’ and ‘work process knowledge’ in European projects since 1995 to present date. Ludger Deitmer discussed the role of apprentice training as a basis for innovations in organisations (with reference to analyses using the QEK-tool).

For the VETNET community the Cadiz experience was a strong impulse for getting more intensively engaged with the crisis and paying attention to specific support measures (e.g. bilateral programs between Germany and Spain or Greece).

ECER 2013 in Istanbul: VET between academic drift and enhancement of work-related learning

Concerning ECER 2013 in Istanbul, the advent of the conference was characterised by massive protest movements and partly these demonstrations continued during ECER. However, these protests were not related to economic problems or youth unemployment. Thus, the Opening colloquium of VETNET focused on the position of VET in Turkey – between academic drift and lowly esteemed occupational work. The VETNET organisers discussed this theme with two Turkish professors – Oguz Baburoglu (as expert on the development of Turkish Higher Education institutions) and Özlem Ünlühisarcikli (as expert on Turkish VET development). We couldn’t draw clear conclusions but we learned a lot.

In the sessions our ITB project team presented the first contributions from our ongoing Learning Layers project – at a theoretical level revisiting the studies on ‘work process knowledge’ and ‘informal learning’, at empirical level discussions on the design ideas for mobile learning in construction sector and analyses on user stories (based on interview material). In another session our Dutch colleagues (Loek Nieuwenhuis, Aimee Hoeve, Ilya Zitter) presented a set of interactive innovation projects in which research teams were supporting practice-based learning in VET and (vocational) higher education. A specific symposium of our former ITB-colleagues from three universities discussed validation of informal and non-formal learning in Germany and at European level. Finally, Martin Mulder presented newest results of his project to map the European group picture of VET research in the light of articles in refereed journals.

For VETNET network this would have been normally the year to elect the Convenor and the board. However, since the change of Convenor(s) had already taken place in the previous year and since the colleagues were available for a new term, the board members were re-elected. However, as a new challenge we took note of the fact that the global umbrella organisation WERA (World Educational Research Association) had published a call for proposals for WERA International Research Networks (IRNs). We concluded that VETNET (with its international partners outside Europe) is in a good position to set up such a global network for the field of VET. Therefore, such a proposal was prepared shortly after the Istanbul conference and it was approved by WERA in the beginning of the year 2014.

ECER 2014 in Porto: Past, present and future of VET research

The ECER 2014 in Porto celebrated the 2oth anniversary of the founding of the EERA (European Educational Research Association) with the theme “Past, present and future of educational research”. In this spirit we agreed to discuss past, present and future challenges in VET research in the VETNET Opening colloquium in Porto. Marg Malloch chaired, whilst I presented reflections on the development of European research on learning in the context of work (past), Eduardo Figuiera discussed  the current stand of Portuguese VET research (present) and Karen Evans outlined some challenges for (future) VET research.

In the sessions I was mainly engaged with the contributions of the Learning Layers project. Our main contribution was the symposium “Construction 2.0” in which we discussed the development of our accompanying research approach (in the context of participative design processes) and the matching of mobile learning with the development of vocational learning in intermediate training centres. Our second session was a joint workshop with the Dutch team from HAN University (Loek Nieuwenhuis and Aimee Hoeve) in which we compared two Dutch and two German cases as examples of interactive innovation research in the field of VET.

Concerning the VETNET network and the wider international community there were two clear highlights:

  1.  In the VETNET General Assembly we launched the new online journal “International Journal for Research in Vocational Education and Training (IJRVET)” and published its first issue. After a lengthy pre-history the final phase of preparations led to a broad mobilisation of VETNET network and international partners as support network and the practical arrangements were agreed quickly and smoothly between ECER 2013 and 2014.
  2. On the last conference day the newly founded WERA IRN “Internationalisation of VET research (IRN-VET)” has its Forum session to present its action plan and to discuss some selected themes for future cooperation (International VET research review, Developments in governance of VET, Internationalisation in VET teacher education and doctoral studies). Via this Forum a wider range of network members became engaged in cooperation at global level.

Bremen Conference 2015 “Crossing boundaries in VET”

In this context it is worthwhile to mention shortly that the next major event of VETNET and IRN-VET took place already before the ECER 2015, since the ITB-hosted conference “Crossing boungaries in VET” was organised one week before ECER. With this pre-conference the networks provided a wider opportunity for European and international participants to debate and exchange views on themes that are presented very shortly in ordinary conferences. The keynote speakers were mainly VETNET board members, whilst a major part of the IRN-VET board members were active as presenters or co-authors. Given the good dialogue-oriented atmosphere, several participants expressed the interest to continue with such conference and the University of Rostock expressed its interest to host the next one in 2017.

ECER 2015 in Budapest: Transitions in societies and VET research

When ECER 2015 was about to start in Budapest, the world news were overwhelmed with reports on waves of refugees heading north via the “Balkan route” and the Budapest railway station being one of main stops during these journeys. This gave rise for the EERA council and secretariat to appeal to the participants to show solidarity and distance themselves from xenophobic attitudes. Given that the theme of the conference was “Education and transitions” there was a close similarity to the beginning of the societal transitions in Central and East European countries in the year 1989.

In this spirit the VETNET Opening colloquium had invited as the keynote speaker professor Andras Benedek, former education minister and director general of the national institute for VET. He presented a thorough examination on the developments during the post-communist era and on the developments in VET and Higher Education, including the issue of academisation of vocational teacher education. This picture was later on complemented in the paper presentation of Magdolna Benke on the short history of the National Institute for Vocational Education (NIVE) and on later research on building partnerships to promote VET.

In the sessions I could observe an excellent symposium on VET developments in the Nordic countries (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland) and critical discussion, whether there is a common ‘Nordic model’ to be promoted elsewhere. In other sessions I observed several cases of interactive research (once again by the colleagues of HAN University, Loek Nieuwenhuis and Aimee Hoeve) and by a Danish research team evaluating innovations in VET schools. Our ITB team organised a symposium in which we put into discussion transition of earlier project generation to a newer one in two project threads:

  1. The Kompetenzwerkstatt projects for developing vocational curricula and supporting tools for teachers and learners  and
  2. The Learning Layers project and its transition from developing digital media, web tools and mobile technologies in initial vocational training (of apprentices) to a successor project that develops similar solutions to support continuing training (of advanced craftsmen and site managers in construction sector).

In the VETNET General Assembly we were happy to reap the harvest of the successful pre-conference in Bremen and of the VETNET program in Budapest. We could note a highly successful development of the IJRVET since ECER 2014 and we could look forward in an optimistic spirit with all our initiatives. In this context I was pleased to experience that I was nominated by the board as an Honorary Member of the VETNET Network.

– – –

I think this is enough of the most recent phase of the development of the VETNET network – charactersed by new initiatives and their successful implementation. In my next post (the Epilogue) I will have a look at the preparation of the ECER 2016.

More posts to come …


My journey with the VETNET network – Part Four: The years of consolidation

August 16th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my latest posts I have been writing a series of blogs on my journey with ECER conferences and the VETNET network. These blogs serve as my contribution to the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) 2016 when we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of VETNET – the European Vocational Education and Training Research Network.  This year I have to stay outof ECER because of health issues.  In the previousposts I have covered the earliest years from 1992 on, the founding  phase until  2001 and the stabilisation phase between 2003 and 2007. In this post I will have a look at the consolidation phase between 2007 and 2011.

ECER 2007 in Ghent: Ten years of VETNET activities in European VET research

In ECER 2007 we celebrated the tenth anniversary of VETNET activities in ECER. Firstly, the keynote of Ides Nicaise focused on the theme “Participation in lifelong learning in the EU-15”. Then, in VETNET Forum we discussed the development of VETNET. I opened the discussion with a powerpoint presentation “The VETNET Chronicle”. Then we had contributions from the convenors, communicators, networkers and newest members from Central and East Europe. After the event we celebrated the launch of the newly published book Vocational Education in international context: philosophical and historical dimensions edited by Linda Clarke and Christopher Winch.

In the sessions we had further contributions on the European Qualification Framework, on European policies concerning teachers and trainers and on quality assurance in VET. One of the special experiences was the round table on eLearning in which most of the contributors had cancelled their participation shortly before – but the interested participants made improvised presentations to fill the gap. Also, in this conference we had a joint session with the Teacher Education network.

ECER 2008 in Göteborg: Looking for innovation research approaches in VET 

The ECER 2008 in Göteborg continued on a similar track as the previous one. The VETNET Opening colloquium was based on the keynote of Per-Erik Ellström on the theme “Knowledge Cceation through interactive research: a partnership approach”. Bernd Hofmaier commented this from the perspective of research on working life. The VETNET Forum was organised as a platform for VET-related journals and their exchanges with the VETNET community.

In the sessions I could once again observe a major emphasis on teachers and trainers in VET,  the impact of European Qualification Framework, governance issues and recognition of prior (vocational or work-related learning). We also had sessions on policy transfer between EU member states and a receiving partner states as well as discussions on occupational core profiles.

ECER 2009 in Wien: Critical reflection on European Qualification Frameworks

ECER 2009 in Wien followed partly the patterns of the previos conferences but had some new features as well. The role of the  Opening colloquium and the VETNET Forum was given to the symposia that examined the role of European (and National) Qualification Frameworks in the European VET policies. The speakers  – Lorenz Lassnigg, Jordi Planas, Michael Young and David Raffe – discussed the internal policy processes, expectations on harmonisation and the practical applicability of such frameworks. In many respects the speakers came up with critical comments with striking examples (e.g. the difficulty to agree on mutually coherent frameworks between England & Wales, Scotland, North Ireland and the Republic of Ireland).

In the sessions we had also some sessions dedicated to VET policies but also new themes, such as practice-based learning as an interface between vocational and higher education. Also, some sessions brought into discussion studies based on activity theory and developmental work research.

Concerning VETNET community and the conference culture, there were some new developments. Firstly, Pontydysgu (Graham Attwell) introduced a new social networking website for VETNET (based on the Mixxt platform). Secondly, the Pontydysgu team managed the video recording of the EERA keynotes and in addition produced several video interviews with VETNET participants and key actors of EERA. Finally, the VETNET General Assembly re-elected Ludger Deitmer as the Convenor and a new board (partly re-elected, partly renewed) for the coming years.

ECER 2010 in Helsinki: Intercultural dimensions of VET and VET research

The ECER 2010 in Helsinki took place already in August and this caused problems to some participants. The invited keynote speaker for the VETNET Opening colloquium, Johanna Lasonen, was in the middle of a transfer to University of South Florida and couldn’t attend in person. As a consequence, she presented an outline of her speech as a video recording and then Marianne Teräs continued live. The theme – The role of VET in promoting integration of migrants and intercultural understanding – was also taken in a specific symposium and in one of the central EERA events.

In other sessions some of the themes of the last year  (e.g. that of practice-based learning) were continued whilst some newer themes were introduced, such as entrepreneurial education and the role of VET in promoting renewable energy.

Also in this conference the Pontydysgu team was actively involved in producing livestreams and video recordings – but now with emphasis on the central EERA events.

ECER 2011 in Berlin: VETNET in transition

The ECER 2011 in Berlin was a conference that brought into picture many transitions in the way VETNET has worked. Firstly, the traditional Opening Colloquium and VETNET Forum were replaced with an active workshop in which all participants worked in three groups (led by three facilitators) to provide a groip picture of their priority themes or key challenges for the conference. In the sessions I could see a strong presence of the new Swedish VET-related doctoral program supported by a consortium of several universities. The participants provided insights into their cooperation with their Scandinavian and Australian counterparts and they highlighted their involvement in European cooperation projects. In other sessions we had discussions on practice-based learning and on governance of continuing training. Also, the key issue of last year – the role of VET in integration  of migrants and in intercultural understanding – was present.

In this conference the Pontydysgu team was working with live radio and podcasts. Thus, several VETNET participants could announce their forthcoming sessions and/or give interviews after their sessions. Furthermore, in an experimental session Eileen Lübcke gave a presentation on the draufhaber,tv project with video demonstrations as essential part of her contribution.

In the VETNET General Assembly we experienced special moments. Firstly (in accordance with the new EERA policies) we nominated Martin Mulder (as the founder of VETNET) and Sabine Manning (long-time board member, editor of the VETNET proceedings as well as the L&W Newsletter) as the first VETNET Honorary Members. Shortly afterwards we accepted the request of Ludger Deitmer to be replaced as the Convenor of VETNET. As his successors we elected Michael Gessler (Link Convenor) and Marg Malloch (Deputy Convenor). With these changes we envisaged a period with new initiatives and new responsibilities to be managed by this tandem leadership.

– – –

I guess this is enough of this phase of consolidation. In the next post I will look at the most recent years and at the new initiatives that were brought into picture.

More blogs to come …

My journey with the VETNET network – Part Three: The years of stabilisation

August 15th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my latest posts I have started a series of blogs on my journey with ECER conferences and the VETNET network. These blogs serve as my contribution to the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) 2016 we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of VETNET – the European Vocational Education and Training Research Network.  This year I have to stay outof ECER because of health issues.  In the first posts I have covered the earliest years – the pre-history of the network from 1992 on and the founding and grounding phase until the year 2000. In this third post I will have a look at the subsequent stabilisation phase up to the year 2007.

Gap years 2001 and 2002

In my previous post I had reported on the election of the new convenor and new board. Unfortunately I could not witness that closely their work because I had to stay away from ECER 2001 in Lille and ECER 2002 in Lisbon due to intervening factors. In 2001 I had to move inside Thessaloniki and in 2002 I had to move out from Thessaloniki. My temporary contract as a project manager in Cedefop had come to an end. I was resettling in Finland whilst Cedefop took a new course in its engagement with researchers and their communities.

In the meantime the VETNET board led by Toni Griffiths had developed its own style of working – including interim meetings of the Board between ECER conferences and engaging all board members in the peer review of proposals. Also, during this period the first attempt was made to set up a VETNET-affiliated journal for VET research. Furthermore, in ECER 2002 VETNET hosted a visit of a representative of European Commission, DG Research who informed the community on the preconditions for participating in the new 6th Framework Programme for Research (FP6) of the European Union.

After ECER 2002 there was also a discussion, whether the VETNET network should change its name – with less emphasis on VET and more emphasis on career development and learning at work. At the end of an open debate the board agreed to keep the name and anchoring to the field of VET.

ECER 2003 in Hamburg: Looking for new forms of European cooperation

In ECER 2003 in Hamburg I made a come-back to ECER, now without my Cedefop functions (nor any new organisational affiliation) and trying to position myself anew in the community. At that time the board of Toni Griffiths was coming to an end with its work and the planning for major projects for the FP6 was heading to its final phase. In this context the VETNET Opening colloquium was organised as a panel to discuss challenges for European VET research. In his contribution the Commission representative outlined the frameworks for FP6, Alan Brown explored the possibilities to develop cooperation across national educational research programmes, Felix Rauner discussed conceptual and societal challenges for VET research, whilst I discussed the prospects of cohesion vs. particularisation in VET research.

In the sessions could witness a slight transition from themes that focused on VET policies, qualifications and curricular issues towards non-formal learning, working life and project evaluation as well as eLearning. A special highlight was the study on the role of social partners in EU member states and Central/East European countries by Magdolna Benke. Whilst this all was anchored in VET, there was a search for new ‘niche areas’ and  interfaces with neighbouring research areas.

In this context Toni Griffiths ended her period as the Convenor and a new VETNET Board was elected with Ludger Deitmer (the VETNET program chair of the Hamburg conference) as the new Convenor.

ECER 2004 in Rhethymnon, Crete: Debates on VET-PISA, eLearning and learning at workplace

The ECER 2004 was organised at the Rhethymnon campus of the University of Crete (as a replacement for the initially chosen venue  elsewhere in Europe).This time I participated as a visiting researcher affiliated to the Vocational Teacher Education College of the Jyväskylä Polytechnic. (Parallel to this I had been acknowledged as a Visiting Fellow of ITB.)

In the light of the public debates on OECD PISA-studies the VETNET board had decided to dedicate the VETNET Opening colloquium for the question whether the field of VET should have a PISA of its own. The panelists, Nikitas Patiniotis, Rainer Bremer and Jenny Hughes took somewhat different perspectives. They all distanced themselves from the approach with which the PISA studies have been carried out and of the apparatus that has been created. However, the didn’t have a common conclusion on possible alternative approach and its eventual benefits.

In the sessions I could observe a strong presence of evaluation research (project evaluation, evaluation of eLearning), revisiting studies on work process knowledge and organisational learning as well as themes in the border zone between continuing training and informal learning. At the end of the program there was a special session on the role of action research in the field of VET.

In the VETNET General Assembly we could note a good level opf participation in the conference. As a major initiative we discussed the new proposal to set up a VET-related journal in collaboration with a publishing house (that had sent a representative to Crete). The VETNET board had set a working group that presented an interim report which was well received by the participants.

Interim developments

After the conference the VETNET network was involved as a co-organiser (with the Unesco-Unevoc centre) in a special workshop on VET research and vocational teacher education in October 2004 in Hamburg. This workshop served as a preparatory event for a global Unesco international meeting on TVET teacher education in Hangzhou, China. As the results of the Hangzhou meeting were reported to the VETNET board there was some discussion, how to arrange the cooperation of the network with such affiliated initiatives or network. At the end of the day the working consensus of Frankfurt 1997 was restated.

ECER 2005 in Dublin: Debates on the European gospel for training and learning

In ECER 2005 I participated as a new staff member of ITB who had recently started working in Bremen. Thus, I had also joined the ITB team to support VETNET activities.

The VETNET Opening colloquium was dedicated to the keynote speech of James Wickham and his question “How European are Europe’s Work and Learning Policies?” In this context he outlined the global challenges to what he called “The European Social Model” and discussed the tensions between “the American mirage” and “the European dream”.  Another joint VETNET event was dedicated to the transnational study for the Maastricht meeting of Educational ministers in 2004 “Attainment of Lisbon goals: The contribution of VET“. The consortium members Tom Leney and Anneke Westerhuis emphasised the study as an opportunity for European research community to specify the criteria for policy analysis. At the same time they drew attention to the challenges to base policy evaluation on appropriate data. As a discussant Felix Rauner drew attention to the discrepancy between leading policy issues and more VET-specific challenges that seem to be left into margins in the current policy processes.

In the sessions I was involved in round tables and workshops that discussed VET researchers’ contribution to regional development initiatives and the role of web tools, research forums and virtual communities in such initiatives. Whilst the contributions were interesting, it appeared to me that we were experiencing a kind of rupture period between the working issues and the web technologies available.

Concerning the VETNET community, we had already launched a new website at the advent of ECER 2004. Now,  just before the ECER 2005 the website was equipped with the VETNET conference blog, which I started to use for real-time reporting.

ECER 2006 in Geneve: In the margins of European educational cooperation

ECER 2006 was organised in Geneve, Switzerland. For the VETNET community this was a problematic choice because a considerable number of VET researchers was participating on the basis of EU-funding (for which a conference in a non-member state was not eligible). After several positive discussions with Commission officials and appeals on behalf of EERA president the Commission position remained strict. Luckily enough the VETNET program chair Barbara Stalder managed to negotiate a funding arrangement from Swiss funds to support cooperation with EU programmes.

The VETNET Opening colloquium was dedicated to the keynote of Rolf Dubs who analysed the developments in Swiss VET systems in the light of the neighbouring VET cultures of Germany, Austria and France. He emphasised the interfaces and the developments towards a ‘trial system’. The other joint event – the VETNET Forum – analysed the preparation of the European Qualification Framework (EQF) in a policy process that was steered by the European Commission. Jörg Markowitsch provided a closer look at the most recent phase of the preparatory process. Georg Spöttl drew attention to different – and often mutually contradicting expectations that have been raised during the preparation of the current draft.

In the sessions (some of them based on European projects) I could observe an emphasis on working life issues, such as Development of knowledge management tools for SMEs (KMplus), Workplace learning partnerships (WLP), Development of national training markets (CVTS2-rev), Transition from R&D to RED (individual paper, Wageningen University) and Designing learning culture for innovation in companies (individual paper, University of St. Gallen).

Concerning the VETNET community development, the General Assembly re-elected Ludger Deitmer as the Convenor and elected a new board with some continuity and some renewal. Altogether, the progress was positive although the initiative to set up a VETNET journal appeared to to have been taken into other hands.

– – –

I think this is an appropriate point to draw the demarcation line between the stabilisation phase and the next phase of consolidation. In the next post I will start with the celebration of the 10 years anniversary of VETNET presence in ECER.

More blogs to come … 







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