Archive for the ‘teaching and learning’ Category

The future of learning is social?

May 16th, 2017 by Graham Attwell

In the stream of tweets passing by on the top of my screen I noticed a link to a article called ‘The end of Formal Learning Content’ by Juliette Denny on the elearningindustry.com web site.

“Since formal learning content takes up so much time, and is often hit-and-miss, what would happen if we got rid of it completely? Is it possible to have a content-free learning program?”, asks Juliette.

She goes on to say the first casualities of such a change would be training managers. But “a new post of ‘training facilitator’ has just opened up. Although it has similarities to the dusty old ‘training manager’ role, the purpose is quite different. Instead of trying to make people learn, it’s the training facilitator’s job to let people learn. Rather than prescribe a rigid structure, it’ll be up to them to create the right environment and focus on keeping the learners engaged.”

Juliette points to small learning bites for what would still be formal learning but user generated content, discussion and interchange on a social learning platform as the answer for the future.

Nothing wrong with any of this. However, I think it underestimates the degree of culture change and the amount of work in organising social learning. In the EmployID project we have been experimenting with social learning and in particular with the role of participants as learning facilitators themselves. The evaluation results are pretty impressive, especially as people who say they never liked ‘traditional elearning’ but love our courses. But promoting the discourse required for social learning takes some considerable effort. We have been using different MOOC platforms (albeit with limited numbers – the largest had around 400 signed up. The MOOC platforms do not really support social learning and we are casting around for an alternative. And if we were to get truly massive numbers participating, I thing we would need some numbers of moderators to properly support learners.

So I am heartened that the elearning industry is recognising the potential of social learning – if only in a blog article. But I think there is more work to be done in understanding how such learning can be facilitated.

 

Stress and academic identities

May 7th, 2017 by Graham Attwell

I was planning to write an article on academics and ‘well being’ today so it is somewhat serendipitous that Twitter gave me a link to an article in Times Higher Education on academic stress.

The article reports on a study by Roland Persson, professor of educational psychology at Sweden’s Jönköping University who has developed a ranking of academic stress in 91 countries. Germany, Canada, Denmark, Finland and Malaysia are judged to be relatively stress-free sectors with Chian most successful and UK coming somewhere in the middle.

Professor Persson, ascribes Germany’s success in generating high staff morale and strong job satisfaction among academics to the country’s relative lack of a performance management culture, according to Times Higher.
My article was going to be nothing like so scientific. But I have many friends working in universities sin the UK and am struck how demoralised most of them seem to be.

And Professor Persson’s findings tally with what my friends tell me. He identifies excessive workload as a key driver of stress, alongside a lack of support, understanding and respect from managers. But I think it goes further than that. Universities in the UK are being run as businesses and badly run at that. Tayloristic management was developed for running production lines in car factories. Many modern industries, especially those involved in creative or intellectual work have moved different management paradigms. Yet UK universities now seem to be both excessively hierarchical and at the same time have ado-ted management by target, with targets ever increasing.

Most researchers and teachers I know in universities are dedicated to their students and to their research area. There is a stark culture clash between doing the job in the right way as they see it and a management culture based on cutting costs and generating profit. At heart of this conflict is the identity of teachers and researchers. All that is keeping many of them in their jobs is the lack of alternative.

More about competency based education

March 13th, 2017 by Graham Attwell

Just a quick addendum to my earlier article on competency based education. Things go round and much of my experience was from providing professional development to teachers and trainers for the UK around the introduction of the competency based National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs)in the early 1990s.  At the same time the National Council for Vocational Qualifications, charged with the development of the NVQs established a development group which I was a member of and which held lengthy discussions over issues which arose in trialling and evaluation of the new qualifications. Some of the issues I talked about in the last article including the particularly contentious discussions around knowledge.

Another issue which caused much debate was that of level. In the past longer courses tended to have a higher level, but since competence based qualifications were supposed to replace the updated time serving involved in earning, this was a non-starter. Some argued that it was illogical to even try to prescribe level to a competence – either someone was competent or they were not. But political pressures meant there must be levels so the pressure then was to find any consistent way of doing it. It is some time since I last looked ta UK vocational qualifications and I do not know how the levels are presently being determined. But back in the 1990s it was essentially determined by the degree of autonomy or responsibility that someone held in a job. If they mostly followed instructions then their competence was at a low level, if they were responsible for managing others their level of competence was much higher. Of course, this led to all kinds of strange anomalies which were in the best traditions of UK pragmatism juggled with until the level of the qualification felt about right.

I will try and find some of the longer papers I wrote at the time which may still have some relevance for current debates over competency based education.

 

 

What’s the problem with competency based education?

March 8th, 2017 by Graham Attwell

competencybasedlearning

I got this diagram from a report by Katherine Hockey on the Accelerating Digital Transformation in Higher Education conference, I’ll write more about some of the topics Katherine raises, but for the moment just want to focus on Competency Based Learning.

Katherine says “Higher education learning may be open to change regarding teaching methods. Competency-based learning is being implemented at UEL, whereby the structure of a course is not linear in the traditional sense: the learner chooses modules at an order and pace that suits them. This aims at increasing employability, and was met initially with reservations but soon became popular with academics.”

Lets take the first sentence first. It seems to me that there is no doubt that Higher Education in general is open to new teaching methods. There may have been in the past resistance to using technology in education – partly based on a lack f competence and confidence in using technology as part of teaching and learning – but there have always been islands of exciting experimentation and innovation. The question has been how to move out from the islands.

But it is a big jump to equate openness to change with competency based education. Competency based education itself is hardly new – in the early 1990s the UK reformed its Vocational Education and Training provision to move to competency based qualifications under the National Council for Vocational Qualifications (NCVQ). It was not an unqualified success. And there are disturbing parallels between what NCVQ said at the time and the University of East London’s diagram.

Firstly is the myth that employers always know best. Just why a qualification developed with employers should be valid, and one developed without employers not is beyond me. The problem with employers is that they tend to look to the present or the short term future in defining skills requirements. Nd there is a difference between the skills that individual employers may require – or even groups of employers – and the wider knowledge and skills required to be flexible and forward looking in employment today. But even then would this be con

Another problem that beset NVQs was the relationship between ‘competence’ and knowledge and how to define performance to meet such competence. The NVQ system evolved, starting out with bald functional competence statements (yes, developed with employers), but later including ‘performance’ criteria and ‘underpinning knowledge.’ But even then was achievement of these standards considered as ‘mastery’? Some argued that it would be necessary to define the context in which the skills should be evidenced, others that there should be frequent (although how many and how often was never agreed) demonstrations of performance. And then of course there was the question of who is qualified to recognise the University of East London student’s mastery? How is there competence to act as assessors to be defined and assessed?

One of the big arguments for National Vocational Qualifications was the need to move away from time serving and have personalised and flexible routes whereby individuals could choose what they wanted to learn. In fact, some at NCVQ went further arguing that learning as an activity should be separated from qualifications. Once more few went down this route. Courses continued to be the way to qualifications, although there were a number of (quite expensive) experiments with recognising prior competences.

I would be deeply suspicious of just what they mean by “tuition model is subscription based”? This seems like just another attempt to package up education for sale in nice chunks: a step forward in the privatisation of education. But if past experiences of competency evangelism are anything to go by, this one will fail.

The unwritten rules of engagement

January 16th, 2017 by Graham Attwell

Fascinating research from April Yee, program officer for the James Irvine Foundation in the USA. In a report entitled “The Unwritten Rules of Engagement: Social Class Differences in Undergraduates’ Academic Strategies” and reported in Times Higher, Yee says even when students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds are able to access higher education they face further challenges that their more privileged counterparts do not. This she believes is due toe different learning strategies. Whilst the learning strategies of middle class students are recognised by the institutions, the strategies of first generation working class students are not.

“First-generation students believe that they are responsible for earning good grades on their own,” she writes.

“First-generation students employ engagement strategies that emphasise independence while middle-class students…emphasise interaction, in addition to independence. Thus middle-class students are more likely to achieve not because they exert more absolute effort, but because they employ a wider range of strategies.”

She adds that the research, published in the Journal of Higher Education, “points to the role of institutions in defining the implicit rules of engagement, such that middle-class strategies of interaction are recognised and rewarded while first-generation strategies of independence are largely ignored”.

Of course all this leaves more questions than it answers (and is why people should read full reports, rather than rely on the Times Higher digest). I am interested in just what is an engagement strategy that emphasises interaction. To what degree can the design of student assignments, for instance with groupwork, support interaction – if indeed such a learning strategy needs to be supported. And if this research holds true for universities what might it mean for the schools sector.

Informal learning in practice

December 13th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

Last week I travelled from Derby to Manchester airport by train. It was a typical English Midlands December day – cold, damp and foggy. Waiting at the station was a train driver – I knew this because she had on an orange hi vis jacket with driver printed on the back. At some time a much older male driver came along and they started chatting. The conversation was about the weather – no surprises there. But it seems she had been driving the previous evening when the fog had been very thick and she had never encountered such conditions before. It was fairly obvious that she was new to the job. Her big worry had been not knowing where she was and failing to slow down in time for stations. The more experienced driver sympathized and advised her to slow down to 20 miles an hour. If you go at 20, he said, you will always be able to stop in time. But, he said, don’t worry – as you get more experienced you will get to know where the stations are.

I liked that conversation – it was a great example of informal learning – learning taking place in a chat at a station. And it also illustrated communities of practice – the learning took place around a common practice of driving trains and a common problem of driving in fog.

The next day I travelled early in the morning by train from Madrid to Valencia. This time I was on an AVE – the Spanish Renfe services high speed train. And once more there was thick fog. But this time the train did not slow all. I suppose it helps that there is only one stop between Madrid and Valencia. But I suspect the reason is that the AVE has m0re advanced technologies than the aging UK railways.

I wonder whether in learning to use these more advanced trains knowledge is passed on in the same ways or there is more emphasis on formal learning and knowledge. And I wonder which is the most effective?

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

December 10th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

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

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

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

The TTplus project – approaches and initiatives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The consultation seminars – overall approach and insights into the workshops

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

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

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

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

– – –

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

More blogs to come … 

 

 

 

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

December 9th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The UNESCO International TVET meeting in Hangzhou (November 2004)

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

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

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

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

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

Concluding remarks

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

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

– – –

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

More blogs to come …

 

Thoughts on “Digital divide 4.0” – Part Four: How to bridge the gap between formal and informal learning?

September 18th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my three latest posts I have presented reflections on “Digital Divide 4.0” (regarding the concept, see the first post). These reflections have been inspired by recent experiences with fieldwork for our ongoing EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project and in particular with its key product the Learning Toolbox (LTB). In my second post I discussed, how this concept reflects the initial difficulties of our project work in the construction sector training centre Bau-ABC.

In this post I shift the emphasis to another part of the German vocational education and training (VET) system – to vocational schools. This is partly triggered by a recent working meeting with a vocational school teacher, who wondered, why their school was not included into our project.  Indeed, for us in ITB and in the training centre Bau-ABC it is a key issue, how to bridge gaps between formal and informal learning when developing workplace-based learning. In my short answer I referred to the funding priorities that emphasised strongly the promotion of informal learning (and SMEs as target groups). In order to understand this it is useful to look back at the development of earlier policies to promote e-Learning or Technology-Enhanced Learning (on the one hand) and initiatives to promote professional development of teachers and trainers in VET (on the other hand). Yet, we need to ask, why the conceptual gap between parallel earlier policies and initiatives has remained. Moreover, we should reflect, how our work in the LL project could help to bridge the gaps.

Background: Earlier e-Learning as ‘alternative’ for institutionalised education and training

Looking back at the educational initiatives in 1980s and 1990s there was a gradual movement in efforts to create new opportunities for open learning. This was reflected in the terminology – ‘remote learning’, ‘distance learning’, ‘open distance learning (ODL)’, ‘blended learning’ – all these referred to different steps and measures to open access to education and learning. Suddenly, at the end of 1990s and at the brink of the ‘New Millennium’ there was a great hype on ‘eLearning‘. In the newer initiatives there was a clear tendency to push the institutionalised education (and the adult education movement) aside. Some protagonists tried to bring forward private providers and new ‘career spaces’ via commercial eLearning programs as the innovation leaders. This was reflected in the separate European funding opportunities for e-Learning of that time. However, concerning the projects on the uses of e-Learning by work organisations, I remember that they concluded that the take on eLearning provisions was low. Instead, wider European surveys – like the the ones of the project “ICT and SMEs” – provided valuable information on the ways that SMEs actually used to support (organisational) learning.

Shift of emphasis: Teachers and trainers in VET as ‘key actors for lifelong learning’

Whilst the above mentioned developments emerged from fringe areas in education and training policies, the next wave – the follow-up of the EU Lisbon Summit 2000 – was part of an overarching development of EU policies. In the field of education and training this took shape firstly in the European Commission strategy document Education and Training 2010 and the aim was to promote a digital learning culture to support global competitiveness of European economy. In the first phase this follow-up was promoted by European working groups and supported by commissioned follow-up studies. In particular the follow-up study for the Maastricht meeting in 2004 drew attention that the engagement of teachers and trainers (notably in vocational education and training (VET) was lagging behind regarding the promotion of digital learning culture.

This gave rise for the European Commission to introduce new initiatives to stimulate trans-national cooperation and European exchanges with different formats: the Eurotrainer surveys, the TTplus framework project, the network ‘Trainers in Europe’, the policy-makers’ Peer Learning seminars and the Europe-wide series of ‘regional’ consultation seminars for different stakeholder groups. Altogether these measures increased the European knowledge basis on VET teacher education and training of trainers across Europe. However, these activities did not provide a basis for common qualification frameworks – instead they recommended the continuation of such participative dialogue forums with emphasis on learning lessons from recent innovations.

Another shift of emphasis: Focus on digital media and mobile technologies to support informal learning

In the meantime the development of web technologies and the spread of mobile devices had given new impulses for technology-enhanced learning. This became manifest in the wider use of online learning platforms, e-portfolios and open educational resources (OER). Now, there was less talk of sidelining the educational establishments but promoting specific initiatives (the networks of open universities) or by joint services (for consortia of member universities). Parallel to this there was a need to explore, how new forms of online learning could be promoted in working life, in particular in such occupations that were characterised by SMEs (and not catered for by university-industry alliances). Partly, the newer policy priorities were looking for genuinely work- and organisation-based modes of (informal) learning, partly for ways to reduce training costs by promoting flexible learning alongside work.

The experience with Learning Layers: The role of trainers and facilitators as change agents

In my two previous posts I have discussed the issue ‘digital divide’ in its current forms (“Digital divide 4.0”) in general and in the light of our fieldwork in the Learning Layers project. Also, I have given insights, how we have made progress with our application partners in the construction sector training centre Bau-ABC and in the network for ecological construction work (NNB). In both cases we have not relied on stand-alone tools or self-learning of practitioners (with the help of online tutorials). With the Learning Toolbox we have managed to develop – in a co-design process with the users – an integrative toolset that meets several basic needs and is easy to expand by the users themselves. Also, we have trained the pioneering users in joint learning sessions to work as peer tutors and mentors in their own communites and networks. However, the wider use has always been dependent on the interest of new users (and anticipation of practical benefits for them). Here, the success factor is to introduce Learning Toolbox as one instrument to promote knowledge sharing, coordination of tasks and real-time communication – and in this way work-related and organisational learning.

Follow-up: What role for teachers and trainers in promoting digital agenda in vocational education?

In the light of the above we (the partners working with the construction pilot of the LL project) have good reasons to consider, what role could teachers in vocational schools play in the follow-up phase. In the German dual system there is a constant challenge to improve cooperation between the fundamental learning venues: enterprise (workplace and the intermediate training centre) and school. In this respect the Learning Toolbox will offer new prospects. Also, the new importance of European mobility schemes (training of apprentices from Spain, Greece etc. in Germany) and the integration schemes for refugees provide new challenges for teachers and trainers in VET. Here, we believe that the introduction of Learning Toolbox could help different parties work together. I will get back to these issues soon.

More blogs to come …

Unconferencing at AMEE

September 12th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

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I am way behind writing things up at the moment – too much going on.

Anyway two weeks ago I was with the Learning Layers team at the Association for Medical Education in Europe (AMEE) conference in Barcelona. We organised a Barcamp session, had a stand, Tamsin and Sebastion presented a paper and a couple of colleagues presented posters.

Obviously with the stand I didn’t get a chance to go to many sessions but did get to talk at some length to quite a few delegates. The conference was big, with over 3200 individuals attending. What impressed me was that the conference seemed to be made up predominantly of practising educators- and at least from looking at some of the over 600 posters to be extremely practice focused. Regard9ing educational technology, there was a perhaps to be expected interest in the potential of Augmented Reality and simulations. But generally delegates (or at least those I talked too) seemed to regard educational technology as a given.

Once more, this may have been a self selected sample of those interested in Learning Layers technologies designed more to support informal learning than traditional classroom teaching, but there seemed to be a growing frustration with the limitations of Learning Management Systems.

The double unconferencing session we ran – promoted as a Barcamp was very well received. After a short introduction into the idea of a Barcamp, participants themselves decided on the topics to be discussed at a series of four round table sessions. Some of the action was captured on a Google doc which can be viewed here.

And there have a number of participants writing about their own experiences of the BarCamp in blogs about the conference (more about the Joycards in a future blog entry).

Natalie Lafferty’s Highlights from AMEE – mention the BarCamp, Learning Layers, Learning Toolbox and the informal learning JoyCard. She shared these reflections on twitter as well.

The Learning Layers BarCamp and the informal learning JoyCard are two of Barbara Jenning’s Top 10 Highlights of AMEE in her storify which was also shared on twitter.

Given the positive feedback – and the obvious knowledge sharing and learning which took place, it makes me wonder why more conference have not adopted BarCamps or similar unconferencing sessions. It seems AMEE is open to different formats and we hope to repeat the experiment again next year. But all too often conferences are sticking to the tried and tested, despite the frequently repeated observation that more is learned in informal chats at breaks and in the evening than n formal paper presentations.

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