Archive for the ‘teaching and learning’ Category

The TACCLE4-CPD project is making further progress – Part One: Giving new emphasis on the development of CPD

November 26th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last week our EU-funded project TACCLE4-CPD had its third transnational project meeting in Pontypridd, Wales. I have reported on this project in my earlier blogs (December 2017 and June 2018). We are developing frameworks and support for continuing professional development (CPD) of teachers and trainers in promoting their digital competences. As I have told earlier, this project is based on the work of three earlier TACCLE projects that provided direct support for teachers in integrating digital competences to their teaching. This project has the task to develop frameworks, concepts and support resources for CPD measures in different educational sectors (general education, adult education and vocational education and training (VET)). And as I have mentioned elsewhere, the success of all TACCLE projects has been based on the founding work and intellectual leadership of Jenny Hughes. In this respect our meeting was located to Pontypridd to meet Jenny at her home grounds and to make contacts with her local counterparts. Sadly, we lost Jenny shortly before the meeting. In the new situation we had to make a new situation assessment plan our work without counting on Jenny’s active support. Below I try to summarise some key points in our general discussion on the main Intellectual Outputs of the project. In my next blog I will discuss my contributions to the project and how they are related to this discussion.

What does ‘developing CPD’ mean for the project?

To be sure, we had discussed already in the first meetings the aims of our project and the background from where the project idea arises. Yet, at this meeting we had a special need to revisit these discussions. And here we were partly guided by Jenny’s legacy. In an earlier video interview she had told of the time lag between the proposal for the TACCLE1 project (for supporting the development of e-learning content for classroom teaching) and the actual start of the project. During that period the introduction of Web 2.o tools had taken off massively and the project had to catch up with this development. According to jenny, this was managed and the project integrated introduction to Web 2.0 tools into its original idea.

In our project meeting we found ourselves facing a similar challenge. Initially the TACCLE4-CPD project had been planned to scale up the work of the TACCLE courses and related local and regional teacher training activities. Whilst some sections of the proposal were referring to policies, strategies and management choices, other parts were very close to planning specific training activities and support materials for classroom teachers. However, the key idea was to proceed one level up in making transparent the policy choices for shaping training programmes, providing organisational learning opportunities and for linking them to progression models. And as we now saw, it several international organisations were active in mapping this landscape, developing new frameworks and in promoting pilot activities. These newer developments provided us a challenge in keeping up with the discussion and linking our work to it. Below, the implications for two Intellectual Outputs are discussed in this respect.

Implications for our work with Policy Analyses, Route Maps, Frameworks etc.

Concerning policy analyses we were aware of the problem faced by many European projects when they had provided national reports presenting the education and training policies of their countries. Although the aim of these reports had been to inform each other and to faclitate mutual learning, they often highlighted systemic differences and strengthened cultural barriers. From this point of view it was important to get insights into new patterns of sharing policy concepts and adapting policies that had been trialled in other countries (as Graham Attwell reported on the work of Unesco with a group of East-African countries. Also, for our common understanding of ‘policy learning’ it was important to share information on the European DigCompEdu framework that promotes new kinds of developments across different systemic frameworks.

In the light of the above we could give a new emphasis on the work with an integratibe mindmap that Koen de Pryck had started. Instead of separating different countries, we were able to create an overview on policies for promoting digital competences at different levels:

  • international policies (impulses and support),
  • policies for different (general) educational sectors – primary, lower & upper secondary education, (higher education) and adult education (as educational policies promoting lifelong learning)
  • policies for VET (as an insitutional interface between education/training and working life) and to
  • specific policies for promoting competences of teachers and trainers (with emphasis on digital competences).

In this context the specific ‘Routemap’ and ‘EMM-framework’ concepts that we had discussed earlier, could be seen as part of a wider group picture and could be linked to other elements. Thus, we could see the seemingly separate tasks as mutually complementing elements within an integrative framework. Also, we could see that the Mindmap could guide different users to find their levels of activity, perceive the dependencies and chances as well as address questions and outline options.

Implications for our work with Open Educational Resources

In a similar way we revisited the question, how to create collections of Open Educational Resources for TACCLE4-CPD. In the earlier TACCLE projects it was clear that the OER collections should equip teachers with teaching materials and pedagogic advice for their work. To some extent this emphasis was present in the proposal. However, as a consequence of the newer developments at different policy levels – and due to newer approaches to ‘policy learning’ – there is a demand for OER collections that cover different levels and address strategic dependencies and/or opportunities for pioneering. From this perspective we concluded that the work with the Mindmap is also the core structure for shaping a collection of OER (with sufficient amount of commentary).

I think I have grasped above the crucial steps in revisiting the proposal and reworking our way further. Based on these new perspectives we could see, how many elements of our work were growing together. Also, this discussion helped us to see, how to link input and influences from earlier or parallel projects to our work. In that sense I could see more clearly the importance of the work with the Learning Layers project and its follow-up measures. I will discuss this in my next post.

More blogs to come …

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 …

Why we need technology for training teachers

October 5th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

I have been doing some research on the training of teachers, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. The figures make sober reading. A report ‘Digital Learning: Reforming Teacher Education to Promote Access, Equity and Quality in Sub-Saharan Africa’ by Bob Moon and Charmaine Villet points to the scale of the issue:

UNESCO’s Institute of Statistics (UNESCO, 2015b) has estimated that, globally, 25.8 million extra teachers will need to be recruited by 2030 to meet EFA targets (to put that in context, this is equivalent to the population of Ghana).

Of these, 3.2 million would be filling new posts and 22.6 million would be replacing teachers retiring or leaving the profession. There were 59 million children out of school in 2015. To have them all in school would require the recruitment of 2.7 million teachers if pupil-teacher ratios are not to exceed 40:1.According to the Institute’s forecasts, without such recruitment, 33 countries will not have enough teachers to achieve universal primary education (UPE) by 2030.

Sub-Saharan Africa faces the biggest challenge. of any major world region in this respect. For every 100 children beginning school in 2015, there will be 142 in 2030. And the figure is projected to continue growing at this rate through the middle years of the century. Of the 3.2 million posts to be filled worldwide, Sub-Saharan Africa will need 2.2 million to deal with this growth and, at a conservative estimate, 3.9 million teachers will be required to replace those leaving the profession.

Pretty clearly there is little chance of meeting these targets through scaling up traditional teacher training institutions, nor even through school based teacher training. That is why there is increasing interest in using technology – Open and Distance Learning, MOOCs, video and multi media, Open Educational Resources – in Sub-Saharan Africa. This development is often being led through different aid programmes run by UNESCO, the Commonwealth of Learning, USAid and other organisations. Early evaluations seem promising – although the real challenge will be in scaling up, mainstreaming and sustaining development projects. But researchers and developers working on initial and continuing teacher education in Europe and other richer countries could do well to look at what is happening in Africa.

 

Autonomy and the importance of teachers

October 1st, 2018 by Graham Attwell

The technology industry spends millions trying to disrupt education. And one of their fantasies is that machines can replace teachers. I don’t think they can or should. On International Teachers day it seems appropriate to point again to the importance of well trained and supported teachers having teh autonomy to shape and support learning.

And by chance I found on Twitter today this excellent bog post, writing just about the need for autonomy.

@HeyMissSmith says:

I have watched with incredulity as the idea of scripted lessons and highly controlled curriculum content has grown. The idea that knowledge can be packaged nicely and given to teachers. That you can in some way control knowledge. That it is prepackaged food a teacher microwaves for her class (as per instructions). Not so. Knowledge when it meets a class of thirty individuals plus a (hopefully) excited teacher becomes something else; it becomes an ocean of possibilities. It becomes the universe, past, present and future. A skilled and enthusiastic teacher will take knowledge, and their class reactions to it and will shape the conversations. Steer children through the endless sparks and dead-ends they create with it. They will cover much ground, but what that ground is is not apparent until the class is in front of them.

What am I saying? That we have to trust teachers with knowledge.

Digitalisation in / of Vocational Education and Training

August 20th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

Last November I facilitated a workshop at the European Skills Week event on research in vocational education and training. The workshop was entitled digitalisation in /of vocational education and training. There were some five of us in the workshop and we had about two hours to answer a series of questions based on the following framework.

vet research framework

Despite the too short time, I think what we came up with is a good starting point and the discussion will continue in a round table session at the European Conference on Educational Research in Bolzano, Italy in September.

Research Desiderata & Questions

The following central research questions and / or desiderata in this field were identified:

  • How do processes of digital transitions and transformations impact on VET and what are the mediation processes and artefacts involved?
  • Digital technologies are changing the nature and organisation of work, and the skills and competences required. This is happening simultaneously at a sectoral level and a global level. The new skills and competences are mediated in interactions between different actors but also between actors and objects. These processes of mediation to a large extent shape the practices of using digital technologies.
  • In a critical appraisal of digitalisation in VET, what are the different possibilities for the future: What is and more importantly what could be?
  • There is a tendency to take technologies and replicate past paradigms – hence for instance the idea of a ‘digital classroom’. Yet digital technologies open new possibilities for vocational education and training. To understand what ‘could be’ requires a critique of existing practices in VET and of the early adoption of technologies for teaching and learning.
  • How do digital technologies and transformations affect the creation and meaning of work at a sectoral and global level?
  • As technologies such as robotics and artificial intelligence are fast being adopted in different sectors and occupations, the future form of work and work organisation is being questioned. Alongside the digital transformations impacting in many sectors, sections of capitalism have advocated digital disruption based on new business models. The use of technology in this way raises Issues of social justice and values. What should be the role of VET in providing the skills and competences to shape the meaning and values of future work and innovation?

Explanation & Justification

Analytical Level

Macro Level

The changing nature of work due to the emergence of new technologies can potentially be shaped. To an extent how technology impacts on work is dependent on values. Equally digital transformations can build on existing skills and competences and older forms of knowledge. To understand these processes requires research at a sector level.

Technological unemployment should not be viewed as simply an issue requiring upskilling, but as questioning forms and organisation of work within society. Life skills are equally important in developing resilience for future employment.

We need a greater understanding of how old knowledge forms are transformed into new knowledge in the digital age.

Meso Level

Institutions mediate processes of skill and competence formation related to digitalisation. What is the relation between specific digital skills required in different sectors and occupations to basic and transversal digital skills? How can skills and knowledge acquired formally or informally in the workplace be linked to education and training in VET institutions.

At the same time, digitalisation provides new possibilities for teaching and learning, for example through augmented reality. This in turn requires the adoption of new pedagogic approaches for VET. Present practices in the adoption of Learning Management Systems form socio-tech systems and may prioritise or marginalise different skills and knowledge.

Micro Level

What are the skills and knowledge required not only to deal with and shape technology in the workplace (in different occupations and sectors) but also for living in the digital age? How does technology transform the work identity of individuals and how do individuals change their own identity for dealing with the changing world of work? What are the life skills that develop the residence required by individuals to deal with digitalisation at a societal level?

Analytical Focus

Learners / Students

Understanding the processes of digital transformation is critical to developing future oriented curricula for learners and students. At the same time, emergent technologies – such as robotics and artificial technologies – call into question existing societal forms of wage labour – once more requiring new curricula for life skills.

We need to focus not only on formal initial training in VET, but on informal learning in the work process leading to identity transformations.

Object / Process

Objects and artefacts play a key role in mediating learning in VET. These artefacts are themselves becoming transformed through digital technologies.

The use of technology opens up new possibilities and contexts for learning, including directly in the workplace. It also potentially empowers processes of social learning, with learners themselves acting as facilitators for other people’s learning and for developing and sharing knowledge within social settings.

This requires research for understanding how such social learning processes can be developed, how new forms of knowledge are acquired and what role objects and artefacts play in these processes.

Trainers / Teachers

There are many examples of good practice in the use of technology for learning in VET and of teachers and trainers sharing knowledge and experiences online. However, many teachers and trainers also feel left behind by the rapid changes in technologies both within occupations and for teaching and training.

Research suggests that best practices are not being generalised because existing models of professional development for teachers and trainers do not scale to meet needs.

An understanding of the possibilities for future VET, requires an understanding by teachers and trainers of the potentials of using technology in their own practice.

Issues and challenges in the use of ICT for education

August 8th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

For a tender I wrote earlier thiss summer I was asked to comment on a series of challenges and issues related to the use of ICT in education. I think the challenges and issues were well framed. This is a draft of what I wrote.

Fast changing and developing Information and Communication Technologies offer great opportunities for education but also considerable challenges. How can educational policies and practices be developed to utilise the potentials of ICT and modernize education whilst safeguarding students, promoting inclusion and lifelong learning and ensuring equal opportunities? What are the implications for the design of educational institutions, teacher education and curriculum development? What are the ethical implications of the use of ICTs in education?

ICT in Education policy review and development

The development and implementation of policies for using ICT in education needs to be an ongoing and continuous process, incorporating monitoring and review. It also has to link policy to practice. A technology centred approach is not enough alone. More important perhaps, is a focus on developing and implementing new pedagogies for the use of ICTs. Policy processes have to incorporate not only technology companies but educational experts and practitioners.

The issue of the digital divide and the subsequent risk of digital exclusion remains a barrier to ensuring equity and equality in access to technologies. Policies have to ensure infrastructures are fit for purpose if the potential of technology to open up and extend learning is to be achieved. There are major issues as to how to scale up project driven and pilot programmes to widespread adoption and in how to negotiate access to commercial hardware and software and infrastructure for schools from vendors.

Policy has to be developed to safeguard students but at the same time encourage their creative use of ICTs. Education policies also have to address the issues of privacy, bullying and digital literacy, particularly understanding the veracity and reliability of data sources. Further issues include privacy and data ownership. Policy development needs to consider ethical concerns in using not only educational technologies but big data and social networks

Teacher competences and professional development in ICT

While early initial programmes focused on training teachers in how to use ICT, there is an increasing focus on their confidence and competence in the use of ICT for teaching and learning in the classroom. Rather than ICT being seen as a subject in itself, this new focus is on the use of technology for learning across the curriculum. Programmes of initial teacher training need to be updated to reflect these priorities. In addition, there is a need for extensive programmes of continuing professional development to ensure all teacher are confident and competent in using ICT for teaching and learning. New models of professional development are required to overcome the resource limitations of traditional course based programmes.

The ICT Competence Framework for Teachers provides a basis for developing initial and continuing teacher training programmes but requires ongoing updating to reflect changes in the way technologies are being used for learning and changing understandings of digital competence. The development and sharing of learning materials based on the Framework can help in this process.

Mobile learning and frontier technology

There are at any time a plethora of innovations and emerging developments in technology which have the potential for impacting on education, both in terms of curriculum and skills demands but also in their potential for teaching and learning. At the same time, education itself has a tendency towards a hype cycle, with prominence for particular technologies and approaches rising and fading.

Emerging innovations on the horizon at present include the use of Big Data for Learning Analytics in education and the use of Artificial Intelligence for Personalised Learning. The development of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) continue to proliferate. There is a renewed interest in the move from Virtual Learning Environments to Personal Learning Environments and Personal Learning Networks.

Mobile learning seeks to build on personal access to powerful and increasingly cheap Smart Phones to allow access to educational resources and support – in the form of both AI and people – in different educational contents in the school, in the workplace and in the community. However, the adoption of mobile learning has been held back by concerns over equal access to mobiles, their potential disruption in the classroom, privacy, online safety and bullying and the lack of new pedagogic approaches to mobile learning.

The greatest potential of many of these technologies may be for informal and non formal learning, raising the challenge of how to bring together informal and formal learning and to recognise the learning which occurs outside the classroom.

The development and sharing of foresight studies can help in developing awareness and understanding of the possible potential of new technologies as well as their implications for digital literacies and curriculum development. Better sharing of findings and practices in pilot projects would ease their development and adoption.

Once more there is a challenge in how to recognise best practice and move from pilot projects to widespread adoption and how to ensure the sustainability of such pilot initiatives.

Finally, there needs to be a continuous focus on ethical issues and in particular how to ensure that the adoption of emerging technologies support and enhances, rather than hinders, movements towards gender equality.

Open Educational Resources (OER);

There has been considerable progress in the development and adoption of Open Education Resources in many countries and cultures. This has been to a large extent based on awareness raising around potentials and important practices at local, national and international level, initiatives which need to continue and be deepened. Never the less, there remain barriers to be overcome. These include how to measure and recognise the quality of OERs, the development of interoperable repositories, how to ensure the discoverability of OERs, and the localization of different OERs including in minority languages.

While progress has been made, policy developments remain variable in different countries. There remains an issue in ensuring teachers understandings of the discovery, potential and use of OERS and importantly how to themselves develop and share OERs. This requires the incorporation of OER use and development in both initial and continuing professional development for teachers.

Finally, there is a growing movement from OERs towards Open Educational Practices, a movement which will be important in developing inclusion, equity and equal opportunities in education.

ICT in education for Persons with Disabilities

 Adaptive technologies have the potential to provide inclusive, accessible and affordable access to information and knowledge and to support the participation of Persons with Disabilities in lifelong learning opportunities.

Assistive, or adaptive, technology has undergone a revolution in recent years. There is a wide range of established commercial and free and open source software products available (such as screen readers, on-screen keyboards and spelling aids), as well as in-built accessibility features in computers and programs.

More people use mobile and portable devices with assistive apps. One significant benefit of ICTs is the provision of a voice for those who are unable to speak themselves. Apps for tablet devices for example that use scanning and a touch screen interface can now provide this at a fraction of the cost of some of the more complex and advanced hardware technologies.

Most countries have moved towards including young people with Special Educational Needs within mainstream educational provision. The use of technology for learning can allow differentiated provision of learning materials, with students able to work at a different pace and using different resources within the classroom.

Regardless of these potentials there is a need to ensure that institutional policies include the needs of students with disabilities and that staff have time to properly engage with these and to provide staff awareness and training activities. Alternative formats for learning materials may be required and the adoption of OERs can help in this process.

Developing digital skills

The importance of digital skills is increasingly recognised as important for future employability. This includes both the skills to use digital technologies but also their use in vocational and occupational contexts. Discussions over the future of work, based largely on the growing applications of AI and robots, suggest future jobs will require higher level skills including in digital technologies. This will require changes in a wide range of curricula. Mapping of changing needs for digital skills provide a reference point for such development. Some countries are already including coding and computational thinking in primary schools: a trend which is likely to spread but once more requiring professional development for teachers. The rapid development of technology is also leading to changes in understandings of digital skills. Reference Frameworks are important in providing a base line for curriculum development and teacher training but require updating to reflect such new understandings.

It is important that digital skill development is not reduced to an employability agenda. Instead it needs to include the use of such skills for providing a decent life within society and community and to equip young people with the skills and understanding of the appropriate use of technology within their social relations and their life course.  Yet again, such skills and understanding require continuing considerations of ethical issues and of how digital skills can advance gender equality.

Four domains of learning

August 6th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

four development domaninspng

I came upon this text today when I was seeking to extend on an article I was writing that included the idea of learning in four domains. It was produced, I think, for the EmployID MOOC on the Changing World of Work and was probably written by Alan Brown and Jenny Bimrose.Sadly, I was so tied up with producing my own materials for the MOOC and didn’t get to read all of the other peoples. But at a time when there is a growing need to question to division between humanities and technical subjects, I think this offers a good way forward.

Relational development – learning with and from interacting with other people

A major route for relational development is learning through interactions at work, learning with and from others (in multiple contexts) and learning as participation in communities of practice (and communities of interest) while working with others. Socialisation at work, peer learning and identity work all contribute to individuals’ relational development. Many processes of relational development occur alongside other activities but more complex relationships requiring the use of influencing skills, engaging people for particular purposes, supporting the learning of others and exercising supervision, management or (team) leadership responsibilities may benefit from support through explicit education, training or development activities.

Jack from the UK had switched career and now who worked as a carer. From the outset Jack learned much about his work from engaging with residents in the care home as well as learning from other staff. He had received letters from residents expressing their gratitude, which had boosted his confidence. His manager encouraged him to become a trainer in the care home, and although nervous and unsure he delivered the training and his self-efficacy increased.

Cognitive development – acquiring knowledge and thinking skills

A major work-related route for cognitive development involves learning through mastery of an appropriate knowledge base and any subsequent technical updating. This form of development makes use of learning by acquisition and highlights the importance of subject or disciplinary knowledge and/or craft and technical knowledge, and it will be concerned with developing particular cognitive abilities, such as critical thinking; evaluating; synthesising etc.

Bernard, a Czech automotive worker, participated in a short internal company technical training programme which positively surprised him in terms of practical outcomes and motivated him to actively work on his vocational development. ‘You had to know your stuff, the trainer was extremely competent, he knew his field very well, but sometimes I had difficulties to follow him. Anyway, it was really done by professionals who knew their stuff, and I appreciated it very much. I was very satisfied. I learned lots of things that were later very useful for my work […] It was very interesting to meet people from a completely different and a rather specialised area. I learned a lot of things and I was proud of it. I think this was the moment that made me change my attitude towards learning. I became much more curious.’

Practical development – learning by doing, by experience, by taking on challenges

For practical development the major developmental route is often learning on the job, particularly learning through challenging work. Learning a practice is also about relationships, identity and cognitive development but there is value in drawing attention to this idea, even if conceptually it is a different order to the other forms of development highlighted in this representation of learning as a process of identity development. Practical development can encompass the importance of critical inquiry, innovation, new ideas, changing ways of working and (critical) reflection on practice. It may be facilitated by learning through experience, project work and/or by use of particular approaches to practice, such as planning and preparation, implementation (including problem-solving) and evaluation. The ultimate goal may be vocational mastery, with progressive inculcation into particular ways of thinking and practising, including acceptance of appropriate standards, ethics and values, and the development of particular skill sets and capabilities associated with developing expertise.

Davide, an Italian carpenter, saw learning as a practice-based process driven by curiosity, a spirit of observation, and trial and error. A major role was played by his passion for the transformation of matter, which he perceived as an almost sacred event: ‘It really struck me to see that from a piece of wood one can create a piece of furniture’.

Emotional development – making sense of your own feelings and how others feel 

For emotional development, the major developmental routes are learning through engagement,  reflexiveness that leads to greater self-understanding, and the development of particular personal qualities. Much emotional development may occur outside work, but the search for meaning in work, developing particular mind-sets, and mindfulness may be components of an individual’s emotional development. Particular avenues of development could include understanding the perspectives of others, respect for the views of others, empathy, anticipating the impact of your own words and actions, and a general reflexiveness, which includes exploring feelings. Identity development at work may also be influenced by changing ideas individuals have about their own well-being and changing definitions of career success (Brown & Bimrose 2014).

Henrik from Denmark switched career, moving into caring and developed a new relationship with his work, which he found much more emotionally engaging. While studying for his skilled worker qualification, Henrik immersed himself in individual assignments of his own choice. In one assignment, he developed a ‘product’ to help improve a pupil’s ability to communicate, an ability which was being lost due to a rare disease. When Henrik talked about the assignment he was very engaged and showed insight into the syndrome. Because the assignment was closely related to his experience and practice, he saw meaning in undertaking it: ‘It was as though there was a circle I could complete on my own.’ He received a top grade for the assignment, and it is evident that positive learning experiences and the perception of entering into learning processes that are meaningful to his life and work situation are strong motivating factors in his engagement in further learning.

Data and the future of universities

August 2nd, 2018 by Graham Attwell

I’ve been doing quite a lot of thinking about how we use data in education. In the last few years two things have combined – the computing ability to collect and analyse large datasets, allied to the movement by many governments and administrative bodies towards open data.

Yet despite all the excitement and hype about the potential of using such data in education, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. I have written before about issues with Learning Analytics – in particular that is tends to be used for student management rather than for improving learning.

With others I have been working on how to use data in careers advice, guidance and counselling. I don’t envy young people today in trying to choose and  university or college course and career. Things got pretty tricky with the great recession of 2009. I think just before the banks collapsed we had been putting out data showing how banking was one of the fastest growing jobs in the UK. Add to the unstable economies and labour markets, the increasing impact of new technologies such as AI and robotics on future employment and it is very difficult for anyone to predict the jobs of the future. And the main impact may well be nots o much in new emerging occupations,or occupations disappearing but in the changing skills and knowledge required n different jobs.

One reaction to this from many governments including the UK has been to push the idea of employability. To make their point, they have tried to measure the outcomes of university education. But once more, just as student attainment is used as a proxy for learning in many learning analytics applications, pay is being used as a proxy for employability. Thus the Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) survey, an experimental survey in the UK, users administrative data to measure the pay of graduates after 3, 5 and 0 years, per broad subject grouping per university. The trouble is that the survey does not record the places where graduates are working. And once thing we know for a certainty is that pay in most occupations in the UK is very different in different regions. The LEO survey present a wealth of data. But it is pretty hard to make any sense of it. A few things stand out. First is that UK labour markets look pretty chaotic. Secondly there are consistent gender disparities for graduates of the same subject group form individual universities. The third point is that prior attainment before entering university seems a pretty good predictor of future pay, post graduation. And we already know that prior attainment is closely related to social class.

A lot of this data is excellent for research purposes and it is great that it is being made available. But the collection and release of different data sets may also be ideologically determined in what we want potential students to be able to find out. In the same way by collecting particular data, this is designed to give a strong steer to the directions universities take in planning for the future. It may well be that a broader curriculum and more emphasis on process and learning would most benefits students. Yet the steer towards employability could be seen to encourage a narrower focus on the particular skills and knowledge employers say they want in the short term and inhibit the wider debates we should be having around learning and social inclusion.

 

The TACCLE4-CPD project takes further steps in its work – Part One: Reflections on our project meeting

June 10th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

As I had told in my earlier blog of December 2017, our institute ITB is involved in a new European project TACCLE4-CPD. This project is the fourth one in the TACCLE project family that supports teachers and trainers in integrating the use of digital tools and web resources into teaching and learning processes. Our project is developing tools and concepts for continuing professional development of teachers and trainers in different educational sectors. (For further information on the background and on the earlier TACCLE project see my blog of the 9th of December 2017.)

Now we had our second project meeting and we were able to see, how we can bring our activities with different educational sectors and with different “Intellectual Outputs” together. As I had mentioned in my previous blog, the earlier TACCLE projects had been working with general education – with primary and (lower) secondary schools. In our project some partners continue the work with focus on these educational sectors whilst others bring into project insights from adult education (AE) and vocational education and training (VET). In our kick-off meeting we had a first look at the work program and on the starting points of different partners. Now we were  having reports on activities of different partners – both concerning the fieldwork and the conceptual work. In this way we were able to take further steps in adjusting our activities to each other and in including different contributions to the Intellectual Outputs. Below I will firstly discuss the progress with our work program and then some specific issues from perspective of the German team and of the VET sector.

Progress with ‘streamlining’ the work program and the partners’ activitities

In our meeting the dynamics was as follows: We had firstly activity reports of one or two partners, then we noticed that they served as a lead-in to some of the Intellectual Outputs. We had a brief debate with some challenging issues – and then ended up with a common conclusion that ‘streamlined’ the work for all of us. Below I will take up some topics that illustrate this:

  • Analyses of current policies to promote digitisation and digital competences: With the activity reports we were caught with the contrast between countries that have centralised educational policies (driven by the National Curriculum) and others with more fragmented power structures and policy processes. This led us to a brief debate on what is merely ‘local/regional’ and what counts as ‘policies’. With a little help of mindmaps and diagrams from other project we found a good formulation for streamlining our mapping and analyses: “Policies looking for appropriate practices – innovative practices and R&D initiatives looking for policy support”. In this way we could provide a European group picture without giving too much emphasis on explaining different policy contexts and instead draw attention to the ‘implementation realities’.
  • Developing a tool for quality assurance: In this context the responsible partner informed of their ongoing qualitative study with schools participating in the eTwinning programme. This triggered a discussion, whether other partners should replicate a similar study or not. However, in the course of discussion we noted that the study is shaping a matrix for analysing quality issues and in this way contributing to the project.
  • Developing a Route Map for promoting digital competences and Planning tools for institutional managers: In this context the responsible partner presented earlier versions of such Route Maps. They had been successfully implemented in earlier TACCLE projects and in national follow-up activities. Another partner presented a somewhat simplified and more condensed version (developed in another predecessor project) that could be taken as a basis of the planning tool. We agreed to merge the tasks and work with both variants of the tools.

I guess this is enough as reporting on our meeting. We had several other points to discuss in the meeting. I will get back to them in due time. In my next post I will discuss the mapping and analysing of policies from the German perspective and with emphasis on the VET sector.

More blogs to come …

 

 

 

Issues in developing apprenticeship programmes: UK and Spain

May 22nd, 2018 by Graham Attwell

soundtechAfter years of running down apprenticeship schemes through a policy focus on mass university education, the UK, in common with other European countries, has in the past few years turned back to apprenticeship both as a strategy for providing the skills needed in the changing economy and as a way of overcoming youth unemployment especially or those with low school attainment.

The turn to apprenticeship has gone through a number of phases. In its earliest incarnation there was a tendency to just label any vocational work based programme as an apprenticeship. This did nothing for the reputation of apprenticeships either with young people or with employers and there was widespread criticism of the quality of many of the courses on offer.

Two years ago, the government undertook yet another shakeup of the apprenticeship programme, introducing a training levy for large companies and placing a focus on higher level apprenticeships including degree programmes.

Yet this reform has also run into problems. Despite setting a target of three million new apprenticeships by 2020, there was a near 27% fall in the number taking up trainee posts in the last quarter of 2017.

The number starting apprenticeships dropped to 114,000 between August and October, down from 155,700 in the same period in 2016. That followed a 59% drop in the previous three months after the introduction of the apprenticeship levy in April last year.

The biggest drop came in “intermediate” apprenticeships, the basic level, which dropped 38% to 52,000. The highest level of apprenticeships – known as degree apprenticeships – rose nearly 27% to 11,600. Schemes for adult apprentices were worse affected than for those young people, falling by just over 30% compared with 20%.

Last week, the UK House of Commons Education Select Committee heard evidence from the Further Education minister Anne Milton, the quality inspectorate Ofsted, the Institute for Apprenticeships and the Education and Skills Funding Agency on the quality of apprenticeships and skills training.

What seems remarkable from the TES report on the issues emerging from the meeting is how much they parallel problems in other European countries attempting to develop new apprenticeship systems, such as Italy and Spain. Indeed, nearly all of the issues also emerged in our study on apprenticeship in Valencia, Spain, all be it in different forms. This first article provides a quick summary of some of the issues raised at the House of Commons, together with a look at their resonance in Spain. In later posts I will look at some of the issues separately, particularly in reference to developments in the Dual System in Germany.

Higher level apprenticeships

According to the TES, high up the agenda were degree apprenticeships. While degree apprenticeships may raise the prestige of apprenticeship funding, this does little for the lower skilled young people looking for what in the UK are called intermediate level qualifications. Similarly, in Spain the new FP Dual apprenticeship programme has gained biggest traction at a higher apprenticeship level, demanding good school examination results for entry.

Despite the fact that Spain has a decentralised regional system for approving new apprenticeship programmes and the UK operates a national system, in both countries there seems to be significant issues around the level of bureaucracy in getting approval for new programmes and for the management of programmes.

Judging quality

In both countries too, the quality of apprenticeship programmes appears to be variable. Paul Joyce, deputy director for FE and skills at Ofsted, said there was a “very mixed picture” in terms of the quality of apprenticeships, adding: “It is certainly not a universally positive picture in terms of quality.” He said that of those providers inspected so far this year, “round about half are ‘requiring improvement’ or are ‘inadequate’, so it’s a very mixed bag”.

In Spain with no inspection system and few attempts at any systematic evaluation it is difficult to judge quality. Anecdotal evidence suggest also a “very mixed picture” in part due to the lack of training for trainers.

The role of Small and Medium Enterprises

The House of Commons Select Committee heard from Keith Smith, director of apprenticeships at the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), who said there was an aspiration to give employers more control in the system.

He added: “For small businesses, we need to be really careful we provide them with the right support and infrastructure to do that. They’re not the same as big levy-paying employers, they don’t have the same back-office support.

“We’re trying to design this very much with micro-businesses in mind. So, if it works for micro-businesses, it will work for all small businesses.”

Despite that, there would appear to be little take up from small businesses at present, possibly due to lack of knowledge about the new system, or because of the bureaucracy involved.

Similarly in Spain, there is limited take up by small businesses, Whilst in reality vocational schools are in charge of the system, the curriculum for apprenticeship programmes is developed in partnership between the schools and the companies.

More support needed for disadvantaged

Apprenticeships and skills minister Ms Milton said she will do what she can to break down barriers for disadvanataged people, including lobbying other ministers on issues such as travel discounts, an apprentice premium and the benefits system. After education secretary Damian Hinds yesterday refused to commit to the Conservatives’ manifesto pledge of transport subsidies for apprentices, Ms Milton was also coy on the issue.

In Spain there is continuing confusion over support for apprentices. With the adoption of the FP Dual system largely in the control of the regional governments, different regions have different policies, some stipulating pay for apprentices, some of training allowance and others not. Similarly, in some regions transport is paid and in others not. Sometimes it depends on agreements between individual employers and vocational schools.

 

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