Archive for the ‘teaching and learning’ Category

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.

 

Crossing Boundaries

April 5th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

I think I have written several times before about the problems with conferences. Too many boring sessions with short presentations featuring long lists of bullet points in PowerPoint. At best time for a couple of questions before the next speaker. Inadequate review processes as all conferences want to get as many delegates as they can. Too expensive, thus excluding emerging researchers, but still with enough funding for gala dinners for those senior enough to get a travel grant.

And of course, we all say how the informal discussion outside the conference room is the best part but we never think about why that might be.

But things are slowly changing. Just as smaller, better organised niche music festivals have slowly emerged alongside the mega events, so too are new conferences being established which try at least to promote discourse and to break the traditional mould.

One of the best I have attended recently is the Crossing Boundaries conferences – held three years ago in Bremen in Germany and last year in Rostock.

The “Crossing Boundaries in Vocational Education and Training” Conference, the organisers say is guided by the following ten principles:

  • being active: all participants are presenters, therefore you cannot participate without presenting
  • interdisciplinarity: all contributions around work and learning are welcome
  • keynote speakers: each day will be opened with at least one keynote
  • open: no conference fee
  • selection: you submit to the conference organizer a short research paper (500-1000 words) which will undergo a review process
  • familarity: one evening is reserved to catch up with old friends and meet new ones in a relaxed atmosphere
  • small size: the conference is limited to 80 participants
  • time: the presentation time is 20 minutes (maximum) with additional 10 minutes time for discussion (minimum); sessions are chaired
  • proceedings: after acceptance all participants contribute with their research paper (up to 2000 words) to the conference proceedings which will be available on the first day of the conference in printed version and later in digital (with download option e.g. on ResearchGate)
  • special edition: some participants will be invited to contribute with an extended research paper (up to 5000 words) to a special edition which will be published in IJRVET International Journal for Research in Vocational Education and Training

The 2019 Conference is being held in Valencia, Spain. Abstracts are due in by 31 May this year. See you there?

The slow cancellation of the future

March 12th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

leeds-ucu-strike-christianhogsbjergWriting in the Guardian, Becky Gardiner, a senior lecturer at Goldsmiths University in London, explains why she is on strike. Although the strike in the UK universities is now into its fourth week and is ostensibly abut cuts to pensions it raises wider issues’

‭Becky says:

My favourite banner on the picket line reads “Against the slow cancellation of the future”, a phrase popularised by the late cultural theorist, Mark Fisher. In the grip of neoliberalism, we begin to believe that there is no alternative, Fisher told us.

In universities, this slow draining of hope began with the introduction of tuition fees in 1998, and gathered pace when they were tripled in 2010. Successive governments, enthusiastically aided by overpaid senior management drawn from outside the university sector, have turned higher education into a utilitarian and consumer-driven activity that students buy in exchange for skills for the job market.

The latest idea coming from the UK Department for Education (DfE) is to introduce a ratings system would which would allow students to make “consumer-style comparisons of degree courses.” Subjects will be given a gold, silver or bronze award, and details will be made available about post-degree employment prospects, potential earnings and dropout rates, according to the DfE.

The problem for DfE is that for all their efforts educations is not a consumer good. And statistics suggest that the best indicator of potential earnings comes not from which university or indeed which subject is studies but is dependent on the social class that the student comes from. So those courses with more upper class students will have the best post employment prospects, presumably attracting more upper class students and reinforcing their positioning in the consumer style ratings. The slow cancellation of the future seems to be speeding up.

Taking further steps with the TACCLE4-CPD project – Part One: Setting the scene for project activities in the field of VET

February 21st, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

In December 2017 I wrote a blog on the kick-off meeting of the EU-funded TACCLE4-CPD project that took place in our institute ITB at the University of Bremen. In that blog I described the background of TACCLE projects and presented the achievements of the pioneering TACCLE1 and TACCLE2 projects. I also drew attention to the legacy of the recently completed EU-funded Learning Layers project (2012-2016) upon which our institute can draw in the present project. As we see it, the Learning Layers’ Construction pilot was in many respects a predecessor of the present project in the field of vocational education and training (VET). Now it is time to have a closer look at our context of work and make more specific plans for the forthcoming activities. I will start this with an updated description of the TACCLE4-CPD project that I prepared fro the ITB website and then move on with the stock-taking (with focus on the Learning Layers’ successor activities and with the project neighbourhood that I have found from our own institute).

TACCLE4-CPD in a nutshell: What is it about?

The ErasmusPlus project TACCLE4-CPD promotes strategies for integrating digital technologies into teaching/learning processes. From this perspective the project supports teacher trainers and organisations that develop teachers’ and trainers’ digital competences. The project builds upon the digital tools, web resources and training concepts that have been created in prior TACCLE projects or other predecessor activities. From the ITB point of view, this project provides an opportunity to work further with the Learning Toolbox (LTB), a key result from the Learning Layers project.

TACCLE4-CPD in a closer look: What is it trying to achieve?

The TACCLE4-CPD project is funded by the ErasmusPlus programme as a ‘strategic partnership’.  It promotes educational strategies for integrating digital technologies into teaching/learning processes in different educational sectors. From this perspective the project puts the emphasis on supporting teacher trainers and/or organisations that develop teachers’ and trainers’ digital competences. When doing so, the project builds upon the digital tools,  web resources and training concepts that have been created in earlier TACCLE projects and other predecessor projects.

Regarding the earlier TACCLE projects the current project can make use of the TACCLE Handbook (that will be updated), the TACCLE2 websites and the separate TACCLE courses. Regarding the Learning Layers project the current project can build upon the work with the Learning Toolbox (LTB) and on the Multimedia training schemes (that were organised with construction sector partners).

Whilst the previous TACCLE projects have been working directly with pioneering teachers, the TACCLE4-CPD project addresses now the training of trainers.  In the same way the emphasis is shifted from particular teaching/learning innovations to shaping models for continuing professional development. In this respect the partners promote community-development among professionals and organisations that support the delivery of digital competences and their integration into learning culture. Regarding ITB, it has a specific possibility to develop cooperation and synergy between ongoing European and German projects – in particular between TACCLE4-CPD and the parallel projects STRIDE and DMI.

I think this is enough of the starting points of the TACCLE4-CPD and how I interpret our task in the project. In my next blogs I will continue by looking more closely what we can bring into the project from the Learning Layers’ follow-up and from the neighbouring projects.

More blogs to come …

Are we lost in online space?

February 14th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

Last November I was invited to give a presentation at a conference “Are we lost in online space?” organised by in Belgrade.

As the report on the conference web site says, the conference brought together 48 participants, most from east Europe, and 6 experts in the field of online learning. Participants had the opportunity to learn, experience and discuss about digital pedagogy, personal learning environment, online counseling for youth at risk, the possibility to educate youth workers in the online context, the ability of young people to use online tools when they are used for educational purposes, using games with young people, the potentials of using the virtual reality packages in youth work.

The web site also has video of all the presentations. I particularly liked the presentation on How to approach young people at risk to use the opportunities of online counseling by Anni Marquard, from the Centre for Digital Youth Care, Denmark and on Using games & gaming culture for educational purposes by Uroš Antić from Serbia)

It was a lively conference with a wide range of different experiences and views and some great participatory workshops and activities. It was apparent that at least from the countries represented in the conference, technology is a relatively new field in youth work, but also that many youth workers are ready to engage with young people through technology. However, tools and platforms such as Moodle seemed really not to support the pedagogy of youth work, nor to engage with young people. Youth work is more about informal learning – and ed-tech has tended to focus on formal learning.

There was a quick straw poll at the end of the conference on whether or not we were (still’ lost in online space. Participants were divided – some lost, some not and some not sure!

The problems of assessing competence

February 12th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

It was interesting to read Simon Reddy’s article in FE News,  The Problem with Further Education and Apprenticeship Qualifications, lamenting the low standard of training in plumbing the UK and the problems with the assessment of National Vocational Qualifications.

Simon reported from his research saying:

There were structural pressures on tutors to meet externally-imposed targets and, judging from the majority of tutors’ responses, the credibility of the assessment process was highly questionable.

Indeed, teachers across the three college sites in my study were equally sceptical about the quality of practical plumbing assessments.

Tutors in the study were unanimous in their judgements about college-based training and assessments failing to adequately represent the reality, problems and experiences of plumbers operating in the workplace.

In order to assess the deviation away from the original NVQ rules, he said, “it is important to understand the work of Gilbert Jessup, who was the Architect of UK competence-based qualifications.

Jessup (1991: 27) emphasised ‘the need for work experience to be a valid component of most training which leads to occupational competence’. Moreover, he asserted that occupational competence ‘leads to increased demands for demonstrations of competence in the workplace in order to collect valid evidence for assessment’.

As a representative of the Wesh Joint Education Committee, I worked closely with Gilbert Jessop in the early days of NVQs. Much (probably too much) of our time was taken with debates on the nature of competence and how assessment could be organised. I even wrote several papers about it – sadly in the pre digital age.

But I dug out some of that debate in a paper I wrote with Jenny Hughes for the European ICOVET project which as looking at the accreditation of informal learning. In the paper – with the snappy title ‘The role and importance of informal competences in the process of acquisition and transfer of work skills. Validation of competencies – a review of reference models in the light of youth research: United Kingdom.’

In the introduction we explained the background:

Firstly, in contrast to most countries in continental Europe, the UK has long had a competence based education and training system. The competence based National Vocational Qualifications were introduced in the late 1980s in an attempt to reform and rationalise the myriad of different vocational qualifications on offer. NVQs were seen as separate from delivery systems – from courses and routes to attain competence. Accreditation regulations focused on sufficiency and validity of evidence. From the very early days of the NVQ system, accreditation of prior learning and achievement has been recognised as a legitimate route towards recognition of competence, although implementation of APL programmes has been more problematic. Thus, there are few formal barriers to access to assessment and accreditation of competences. That is not to say the process is unproblematic and this paper will explore some of the issues which have arisen through the implementation of competence based qualifications.

We went on to look at the issue of assessment:

The NVQ framework was based on the notion of occupational competence. The concept of competence has been a prominent, organising principle of the reformed system, but has been much criticised (see, for example, Raggatt & Williams 1999). The competence-based approach replaced the traditional vocational training that was based on the time served on skill formation to the required standard (such as apprenticeships). However, devising a satisfactory method of assessing occupational competence proved to be a contentious and challenging task.

Adults in employment who are seeking to gain an NVQ will need a trained and appointed NVQ assessor. Assessors are appointed by an approved Assessment Centre, and can be in-house employees or external. The assessor will usually help the candidate to identify their current competences, agree on the NVQ level they are aiming for, analyse what they need to learn, and choose activities which will allow them to learn what they need. The activities may include taking a course, or changing their work in some way in order to gain the required evidence of competence. The opportunity to participate in open or distance learning while continuing to work is also an option.

Assessment is normally through on-the-job observation and questioning. Candidates must have evidence of competence in the workplace to meet the NVQ standards, which can include the Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL). Assessors will test the candidates’ underpinning knowledge, understanding and work-based performance. The system is now intended to be flexible, enabling new ways of learning to be used immediately without having to take courses.

The system is characterised by modular-based components and criterion-referenced assessment. Bjornavald also argues that the NVQ framework is output-oriented and performance-based.

We outlined criticisms of the NVQ assessment process

The NCVQ methods of assessing competence within the workplace were criticised for being too narrow and job-specific (Raggatt & Williams 1999). The initial NVQs were also derided for applying ‘task analysis’ methods of assessment that relied on observation of specific, job-related task performance. Critics of NVQs argued that assessment should not just focus on the specific skills that employers need, but should also encompass knowledge and understanding, and be more broadly based and flexible. As Bjornavald argues, ‘the UK experiences identify some of these difficulties balancing between too general and too specific descriptions and definitions of competence’. The NVQs were also widely perceived to be inferior qualifications within the ‘triple-track’ system, particularly in relation to academic qualifications (Wolf 1995; Raffe et al 2001; Raggatt 1999).

The initial problems with the NVQ framework were exacerbated by the lack of regulatory powers the NCVQ held (Evans, 2001). The system was criticized early on for inadequate accountability and supervision in implementation (Williams 1999), as well as appearing complex and poorly structured (Raffe et al 2001).

We later looked at systems for the Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL).

Currently the system relies heavily on the following basic assumptions: legitimacy is to be assured through the assumed match between the national vocational standards and competences gained at work. The involvement of industry in defining and setting up standards has been a crucial part of this struggle for acceptance, Validity is supposed to be assured through the linking and location of both training and assessment, to the workplace. The intention is to strengthen the authenticity of both processes, avoiding simulated training and assessment situations where validity is threatened. Reliability is assured through detailed specifications of each single qualification (and module). Together with extensive training of the assessors, this is supposed to secure the consistency of assessments and eventually lead to an acceptable level of reliability.

A number of observers have argued that these assumptions are difficult to defend. When it comes to legitimacy, it is true that employers are represented in the above-mentioned leading bodies and standards councils, but several weaknesses of both a practical and fundamental character have appeared. Firstly, there are limits to what a relatively small group of employer representatives can contribute, often on the basis of scarce resources and limited time. Secondly, the more powerful and more technically knowledgeable organisations usually represent large companies with good training records and wield the greatest influence. Smaller, less influential organisations obtain less relevant results. Thirdly, disagreements in committees, irrespective of who is represented, are more easily resolved by inclusion than exclusion, inflating the scope of the qualifications. Generally speaking, there is a conflict of interest built into the national standards between the commitment to describe competences valid on a universal level and the commitment to create as specific and precise standards as possible. As to the questions of validity and reliability, our discussion touches upon drawing up the boundaries of the domain to be assessed and tested. High quality assessments depend on the existence of clear competence domains; validity and reliability depend on clear-cut definitions, domain-boundaries, domain-content and ways whereby this content can be expressed.

It’s a long time since I have looked at the evolution of National Vocational Qualifications and the issues of assessment. My guess is that the original focus on the validity of assessment was too difficult to implementing practice, especially given the number of competences. And the distinction between assessing competence and assessing underpinning knowledge was also problematic. Easier to move to multiple choice computerized testing, administered through colleges. If there was a need to assess practical competences, then once more it would be much simpler to assess this in a ‘simulated’ workshop environment than the original idea that competence would be assessed in the real workplace.  At the same time the system was too complicated. Instead of trusting workplace trainers to know whether an apprentice was competent, assessors were themselves required to follow a (competence based) assessors course. That was never going to work in the real world and neither was visiting external assessors going to deliver the validity Gilbert Jessop dreamed of.

If anyone would like a copy the paper this comes from just email me (or add a request in the comments below). Meanwhile I am going to try to find another paper I wrote with Jenny Hughes, looking at some of the more theoretical issues around assessment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revisiting the Learning Layers experience “2.0” – Reworking the research papers of 2017

February 9th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last April (2017) I prepared for myself a ToDo list to prepare three conference papers with which I would revisit the experience of our EU-funded Learning Layers project (2012 – 2016) with emphasis on the achievements of the Construction pilot. I had the plan to participate in three conferences and I expected that I could prepare respectively three research papers that would examine from a conceptual point three important aspects of our project work

  • the methodological issues on accompanying research (comparing our work with that of predecessors);
  • the pedagogic foundations of our work (relating our starting points to current developments at policy level and in parallel pilots);
  • the relevance of our work vis-à-vis industrial and organisational innovations (comparing our innovation agenda with its prior and emerging innovation concepts).

In October 2017 I wrote a blog in which I mentioned that intervening factors had slowed down my work. However, I was pleased to inform that I had managed to complete my ToDo list and produce three working papers to cover the themes that I had planned. Yet, after a short while I had to admit it to myself that I had celebrated my achievements too early. Indeed, I had covered the themes but the quality of the papers was uneven. In all papers I could see gaps that I had to cover. I had brought into picture essential elements of each ‘story’ but not all of the stories were woven together with a coherent argumentation. So, I understood that I have to rework all the papers from this perspective.  Now I have revisited the Learning Layers experience once again and completed the necessary reworking of these papers.

What do the (reworked) papers tell about our research in Learning Layers and on the growth of knowledge via our project?

Below I try to present the main contents of the newly reworked papers and highlight to red thread of the ‘story’ that is to followed through different sections. Here I want to draw attention on the conceptual and methodological foundations of our work in the Learning Layers as well as to the reflection on the predecessor concepts in the light of our work. Moreover, I will discuss some newer developments in innovation policies and innovation research as challenges for our approach.

Paper 1: Accompanying research between knowledge development and support for innovations in the field – Revisiting earlier innovation programmes as predecessors of the Learning Layers project

The first paper starts with the explanation, why the research team from our institute ITB declared itself as an  accompanying research (Begleitforschung) team in the Learning Layers’ Construction pilot. As a conceptual and methodological background for this approach the paper reconstructs the development of accompanying research in two parallel threads of innovation programmes in Germany:

  • Innovation programmes for social shaping of work, technology and organisations (Humanisierung der Arbeit, Arbeit und Technik);
  • Pilot projects and innovation programmes in the field of vocational education and training (Modellversuche, BLK-Programm “Neue Lernkonzepte in der dualen Berufsausbildung”).

Throughout these explorations the paper draws attention to different positions, whether the researchers should take a co-shaping role in innovation processes – and on shifts of emphasis in the course of time. Finally, the paper draws attention to specific positions that argue for more intensive and shaping-oriented involvement in terms of ‘action research’, smart innovation analyses and/or dialogical knowledge development. In the concluding reflections the paper compares the position of ITB researchers with the latter approaches.

Paper 2: Research as mediator between vocational learning, work process knowledge and conceptual innovation – on the role of research in the modernisation of vocational education and training (VET)

The second paper starts with recapitulating how the ITB researchers entered a participative co-design process with an open agenda and then supported the design idea – digitisation of training and learning processes in VET – with conceptual inputs. In the following sections the paper presents different conceptual reflections and insights into policy debates – to be followed by exemplary pilot projects that respond to the challenges raised in the debates. The relations between these sections can be characterised as follows:

  • The contribution of Rauner (shaping-oriented VET) provides an interim synthesis of different concepts and themes that are essential for VET development. The empirical studies of Böhle (experiential knowledge) and Koch (mastery of complete work process) highlight the importance of their key concepts for advanced automation and future-oriented staff development.
  • The contribution of Baethge et al. presents a negative scenario on renewability of VET and vocational learning culture during the transition to ‘knowledge society’. The contribution of Pfeiffer presents a critique of Baethge’s interpretation on ‘experiential knowledge’ and gives insights in complementary relations between academic and experiential knowledge in innovative organisations. The contribution of Spöttl deepens the analysis with his examination on to parallel educational genotypes (Bildungstypen) and on the relevance of hybrid types for the emerging innovation agenda ‘Industry 4.0’.
  • In the light of the above-mentioned conceptual inputs and the debates on the sustainability of VET the selected pilot projects (and the example of Learning Layers) demonstrate, how shaping-oriented VET can be based on participative processes of practitioners. The exemplary cases demonstrated, how pilot projects have mobilised the participants in creating their own innovation agendas and implementation plans – and shaping the digital tools and web resources they need for themselves. Even, if these may have been modest starts, they have provided a basis for peer learning and peer tutoring – as social dynamics for innovation transfer.
Paper 3: Accompanying research as bridge-builder between digitisation and social shaping in workplace learning – Linking ‘work process knowledge’ and ‘smart innovations’ to ‘Industry 4.0’

The third paper examines the innovation agenda of the Learning Layers’ Construction pilot vis-à-vis industrial and organisational innovation research that takes into account the role of VET. In this context the following milestones and transitions are discussed:

  • The starting point is the re-examination of the legacy of the European Work Process Knowledge network of the late 1990s. The paper gives a brief overview on the studies, the debates and the conclusions on the importance of VET.
  • The next milestone is the re-examination of the German project “Smarte Innovation” that was completed in 2012. This project developed a more intensively participative approach to analyses of product life cycles and innovation potentials at different stations. The project also presented critical analyses of communication gaps, lack of understanding on innovation potentials in ‘remote’ stations and on the dysfunctional role of externally imposed process standards. Concerning the role of VET, the project drew attention to an emerging model for continuing vocational training (CVT) that outlined a new career progression model.
  • The following milestone is the analysis of successive innovation programmes and the shift of emphasis from ‘remedial interventions’ (that compensate the negative consequences of mainstream innovations) to ‘enabling innovations’ (that seek to facilitate the development of ‘learning organisations’ into innovation leaders). As a contrast to the above-mentioned ones, the emerging innovation agenda ‘Industry 4.0’ shifts the emphasis to advanced automation, complex networking and new digitised production and service chains.
  • The final milestone is the examination of the current discussion of social and educational scientists on the role of human actors in the context of ‘Industry 4.0’. Here, a number of researchers have brought together different conceptual and empirical studies that emphasise the potential of skilled workers and on the possibility to shape learning opportunities when developing new production or service concepts. Parallel to this, some researchers explore the possibilities to develop off-the-job learning opportunities as means to enhance workplace learning alongside the new production concepts.

– – –

I think this is enough of the contents papers and of the ‘stories’ that weave them together. As I see it, the Learning Layers’ Construction pilot may not have been at the forefront of industrial and organisational innovations or in the introduction of digital agendas to the field of VET. Yet, it has been clearly part of the big picture on all accounts and it has done its part to stimulate essential innovations in the field of VET. However, this leads us to another question: What can we say about transfer of innovations in the light of the Learning Layers project and its follow-up activities? To me, this is a subject to further studies to be reported later.

More blogs to come …

 

 

One year from the Learning Layers’ final review – Part Three: New information on the follow-up activities in Bau-ABC

January 22nd, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my two previous blogs I have been developing a series of  posts that reflects on the Final Review of our EU-funded Learning Layers project (one year ago) and on the achievements of the follow-up activities. My first post focused on the review event and on the blogs with which I have documented the event and the follow during the year 2017. In my second post I summarised the current phase of the follow-up projects – in particular on further uses of the Learning Toolbox (the main result of Learning Layers’ Construction pilot). This reporting was based on a series of working meetings and conversations that we had last week with different partners. In the second post I discussed follow-up projects and initiatives with several partners involved. In addition, I brought forward the use of Learning Toolbox as support for conference presentations and posters (see the showcases) also in our field. In this third and concluding poster I will focus on the use of Learning Toolbox (LTB) in the training activities and related initiatives of the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup. (As I have reported in my blogs in the years 2012-2017, Bau-ABC was the major application partner in the Learning Layers’ Construction pilot and the central venue for developing and testing the Learning Toolbox.) My report below is based on the information that Bau-ABC trainers shared with us in the working meeting last week.

Use of Learning Toolbox in the regular apprentice training activities

In the context of the Learning Layers project the LTB was developed to be used in the context of apprentices’ projects (normally of one week’s duration) during their stay in the training centre Bau-ABC. At that time the LTB was introduced and tested in a few training occupations (and the results were discussed in evaluation workshops and in interviews with the trainers). Now we were interested to find out, how the Learning Toolbox is being used after the project period.

Lothar Schoka, trainer for the occupations in well-building and borehole building (Brunnenbau, Spezialtiefbau) informed us on the use LTB in his area. It appeared that the use of LTB had become everyday practice in their projects. The information is available in the trade-specific stack, the apprentices get quickly used to working with the toolset and they can combine the work with their mobile devices and work in the computer class. Thus, the use of LTB is a sustainable outcome of the Learning Layers project.

Use of Learning Toolbox for the transversal theme ‘health and safety’

Another arena for working with the LTB has been the transversal theme ‘health and safety’ (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz). In Spring 2017 a working group of Bau-ABC trainers started to discuss the possibility to use digital tools to support training and learning in this field. At that time I had a chance to accompany and support the start of the working group. After the summer holidays the working group continued with regular meetings and concentrated on using the LTB. Now, trainer Thomas Weerts (the shop steward for health and safety in Bau-ABC) reported on the current phase of the work. The trainers involved in the work had agreed on common content structures for ‘health and safety’ to be covered in their trade-specific stacks for LTB. Thomas himself is developing the ‘mother stack’ for the theme ‘health and safety’ that guides the users to groups of trades and to specific trades. (This ‘mother stack’ will also provide a template for the trades that are still developing their own stacks.)

Use of Learning Toolbox in the project “Workcamp GreenHouse”

A further arena for using the LTB was presented by the trainer Markus Pape (responsible for training carpenters). He is currently working in a nation-wide project “workcamp GreenHouse” that has been launched by several training centres in the construction sector. The project is building exhibition areas and items to demonstrate ecological/sustainable solutions in building houses (with emphasis on energy-efficiency, ecological isolation materials etc.). Altogether, the project is shaping a wide range of modules to introduce these principles in the training for construction sector. In the meeting he presented an overview on the modules and explained, what modules would be suitable for piloting with the LTB. For this purpose he invited the LTB developers to prepare a proposal to be introduced to the project consortium.

Use of Learning Toolbox to support language learning alongside apprentice training

A further arena for working with the LTB is the support for language learning for non-native speakers alongside apprentice training. During the Learning Layers project this area was already explored in a workshop with several Spanish apprentices who were having their training in Bau-ABC. In the meantime a separate working group in Bau-ABC had been developing this idea further. Melanie Campbell (as a coordinator of the related Mobipro-EU project) presented a plan for shaping the LTB stacks that support general orientation (blue tiles), trade-specific vocabulary (green tiles) and communication skills (red tiles). We discussed this plan together with her, the trainers and a supporting language teacher. The developers of Learning Toolbox came up with proposals, how to introduce elements of gamification and motivational support for learners.

– – –

I guess this is enough for an overview. To me this was an important update since I am trying to link cooperation with these initiatives to my participation in our new EU-funded project (TACCLE4 – CPD). In this project we are supporting the training of teachers and trainers in using digital tools and in shaping digital contents for learners. As I see it, the LTB can play a major role in promoting these activities in the field of vocational education and training (VET). But, to be sure, I need to explore this prospect deeper and have more meetings with Bau-ABC trainers.

More blogs to come …

 

 

 

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

October 19th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

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

 

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