Archive for the ‘teaching and learning’ Category

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.

New book: Empowering Change in European Public Employment Services

July 18th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

employid bookReaders familiar with European Research projects will know how they work. The projects negotiate with the European Commission a DOW – Description of Work – which details the work to be undertaken in each year of the project. It is divided into discrete work packages. Every year the work package provides a (usually over lengthy) report on research and development undertaken which is then presented to a team of expert reviewers who can ‘pass’, recommend changes or ‘fail’ the report. Although obviously large scale multi national research projects need structures and plans. But all too often the work package structure separates research and development activities which should not be separated and the DOW become a restrictive ‘bible’, rather than a guide for action. And despite the large amount of work which goes into preparing the work package reports, they are seldom widely read (if indeed read at all), except by the reviewers.

In the EmployID project which is working with identity transformation in European Public Employment Services (PES), we are doing things differently. The work is structured though cross work package teams, who follow an adapted SCRUM structure. The teams are reviewed at face to face meetings and recomposed if necessary. And this year, instead of producing a series of Work package reports, the project partners have jointly contributed to a book – Empowering Change in Public Employment Services: The EmployID Approach which has just been published and can be downloaded for free.

The introduction to the 244 page PDF book explains the background to the work:

European Public Employment Services (PES) and their employees are facing fundamental challenges to the delivery of efficient and effective services and the need to change their strategies to combat high unemployment, demographic change in increasingly uncertain and dynamic labour markets. This does not only require developing new professional skills related to new tasks, but poses for more profound developmental challenges for staff members.

Three of these changes relate to understanding the changing world of work; a ‘turn’ towards coaching; and the increased importance of relations with employers. The staff need to learn new ways of working, with a major challenge being to enhance the power of collaborative (peer) learning in order to support staff in accomplishing their goals.

All these changes are linked to transforming professional identity, which requires learning on a deeper level that is often neglected by continuing professional development strategies. EmployID makes its contribution here; that PES practitioners’ learning related to professional identity transformation needs to be facilitated through social learning approaches and the nurturing of social learning networks, which include the following:

  • Reflection as a way of turning one’s own and others’ experiences into general insights on multiple levels, both from an individual and a collective perspective

  • Peer coaching as a way of helping learners in changing their behavior through a structured process

  • Social learning programmes as a way of engaging learners with new topics, other perspectives, and conversations around it.

Learning Layers in dialogue with DigiProB project – Part Two: Interviews with guest trainers/lecturers in continuing vocational training

May 12th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous blog I started a series on the new phase of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. Currently, in the Construction pilot we have been able to start closer cooperation  with a spin-off project. The German-funded DigiProB has started its work and the training centre Bau-ABC and the research institute ITB have a central role to play. The DigiProB project focuses on the training of  certified construction site managers (Geprüfte Polier) – see more on this training and on the background of the project in my previous post. In this post I will have a look at the initial interviews and what we may learn from the dialogue with gust trainers/lecturers who are engaged in this training programme.

The reform of the training concept and tensions in the implementation

As I indicated in the previous post, the new training of the certified construction site managers had introduced a new examination model that put an emphasis on integrative tasks and on a concluding project report. In the conceptual preparation for the project proposal we had emphasised the following tensions:

  1. The new training regulation was introduced with short introduction events that familiarised the trainers on the new guidelines. However, these events did not provide an in-depth training for guest trainers/lecturers  to adjust themselves to new requirements.
  2. The guest trainers/lecturers are engaged as subject specialists and are responsible for specific blocks in the presence training. They do not have an overarching responsibility on the supervision of integrated learning tasks and project work.
  3. There has been no clear model for developing online support, arranging peer tutoring and promoting peer learning among the participants.

Now that the DigiProB project was started, the initial interviews provided an opportunity to test, whether the above outlined picture was correct and what new features could be learned from the guest trainers/lecturers involved in the programme.

Messages picked from the initial interviews

Currently I am not actively involved in the initial activities of the DigiProB project. At best I have been nearby when my ITB colleagues have carried out interviews. Therefore, I leave it to my colleagues to report on the activities and on the findings in greater detail and in time. Yet, already at this stage it is possible to pick as ‘first impressions’ some messages that come through and have been reflected by my colleagues. Although these are only preliminary signals, not thoroughly analysed findings, it is worthwhile to pay attention to them:

  • Rapid implementation of the new model: It seems to me that both the training providers (such as Bau-ABC) and guest trainers/lecturers that they use for the training have had very little time to adjust their pedagogic approaches. The training providers arrange short introductory events but then the individual trainers/lecturers have draw the conclusions on their own.
  • Willingness of trainers/lecturers to work with an integrative pedagogic approach: Although the guest trainers/lecturers have been engaged as subject specialists, they seem to have an interest in getting their special know-how put into practice. Therefore, they are individually looking for ways to link ‘theoretical’ elements into practical tasks and exercises. Moreover, there seems to be interest in sharing experiences and examples of good pedagogic solutions.
  • Interest of trainers/lecturers in using digital media and web tools: It appears that (at least some) guest trainers/lecturers show interest in using digital media and web tools to support their teaching and training. In this respect the Learning Toolbox (whenever demonstrated) has been greeted as a promising framework and the interviewees are willing to learn more of it.
  • Interest of learners to share knowledge and experiences: According to the guest trainers/lecturers interviewed so far, the participants (learners) are interested in sharing knowledge and experiences during the course periods and during the periods for self-organised learning. In particular from this perspective they considered the Learning Toolbox as a promising toolset to support individual and collaborative learning processes.

– – –

I leave these first impressions and ‘messages picked from discussions’ here and let my colleagues work with further interviews and the group pictures that we get as a result. Altogether, I believe that the DigiProB project is well-timed and that the trainers/lecturers as well as the learners will be interested to work with the project. However, the project will also pose new challenges for the tool developers and to the project partners who introduce the tools.

More blogs to come …

 

 

Learning Layers in dialogue with DigiProB project – Part One: Preparations for the new project

May 11th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

Our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project has recently entered an interesting new phase. In the Construction pilot the Learning Layers project has a chance to work together and share experiences with a spin-off project. Recently, the German-funded DigiProB has also started its work in the German construction sector. Two LL partner organisations – the training centre Bau-ABC and the research institute ITB – play a major role in the new project that can be called as a spin-off from the LL project. Whilst the LL project is focusing on workplace learning from the perspective of skilled workers and apprentices, the DigiProB project shifts the emphasis on training of  construction site managers. With this series of blogs I try to give a picture of the conceptual preparation for the new project (part one), on the lessons to be learned with initial interviews (part two) and on the prospects for using LL tools in the new project.

I start by looking back at a symposium at the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER 2015) in Budapest that was initiated by the LL team of ITB. In the symposium we brought together three recently completed or ongoing projects with focus on digital media, web tools and support for workplace learning. With their recent work the three projects (Kompetenzwerkstatt, Learning Layers and EmployID) had -reached a transition stage. From this perspective the symposium provided an opportunity to learn from each other and to draw conclusions for a new phase activities. Below, I will focus on the contribution of the LL team in this symposium and on the interim conclusions from the discussion.

Outline of DigiProB presented in an ECER symposium in Budapest 2015

In our contribution to the symposium we shifted the emphasis from the Learning Layers  project to a designed spin-off project (DigiProB) which we expected to be start soon. The context of this project is the training of construction site managers – a vocational progression route for former skilled workers.

In a recent reform the training of certified construction site managers (Geprüfte Polier) has been regulated with new nationwide standards. The tasks of the certified construction site managers include organisation and controlling of work processes, supervision of construction workers, subcontractors and apprentices as well as monitoring the compliance with health and safety regulations. The new examination model with integrative tasks and project work seeks to push forward a more holistic learning culture.

The major challenge for adapting the new requirements in the training scheme lies in the construct of the curriculum. In general, the curriculum is based on a two-phase model. The first phase (ca. two months) is provided by presence courses in the training centre. During this period external part-time lecturers provide courses in the main areas of expertise for the future construction site managers.  The second phase (which has now been shaped in the light of the new regulation) is based on self-organised learning activities of the participants alongside work. This phase includes integrative learning tasks and production of a coherent project report. With the integrative tasks the participants are expected to demonstrate their capability to manage complex construction sites and supervise related work processes. The project report should make transparent their competences in planning, preparing, implementing, documenting and assessing construction projects.

The task of the DigiProB project is to introduce digital media and web tools to support integrative learning of the participants (with the learning tasks and project work) and pedagogic reorientation of the trainers (to facilitate the learners in such learning).  Here, the new project DigiProB should take into account the prior work of the Learning Layers project.

Interim conclusions of the discussion at the ECER symposium

In its contribution the ITB team drew attention to  following tensions between the new requirements, the traditional mode of delivering the courses and lack of support for the self-organised learning:

  1. The new training regulation was introduced with short introduction events that familiarised the trainers on the new guidelines. However, these events did not provide an in-depth training for trainers to adjust themselves to new requirements.
  2. The part-time trainers are engaged as subject specialists and responsible for specific blocks in the presence training. They do not have an overarching responsibility on the supervision of integrated learning tasks and project work.
  3. There has been no clear model for developing online support, arranging peer tutoring and promoting peer learning among the participants.

The interim conclusions of  the ITB team were formulated as follows: For the new spin-off project it is necessary to build upon the experience with the Learning Layers pilot but to take into account the differences between presence learning within training centre (supervised by full-time trainers) and dispersed self-organised learning (supervised by part-time trainers). Secondly, it is essential to equip the trainers with didactic know-how and learning technologies to support the dispersed learning activities. Thirdly, it is crucial to facilitate peer learning among the participants and to raise their awareness of their own learning.

– – –

At this point I leave our discussions at the ECER symposium behind. Now that the DigiProB project has started its initial activities, it is interesting to see, what kind of new experiences we are making and how the initial picture starts to change. From this perspective it is interesting to have a look, what we are learning from the initial interviews and from the dialogues on the usability of LL tools in the new project. These topics will be discussed in the next posts of this series.

More blogs to come …

Double Loop Learning and Learning Analytics

May 4th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

Another in this mini series on Learning Analytics. When looking at Work based learning, Double Loop Learning becomes particularly important. Double-loop learning is used when it is necessary to change the mental model on which a decision depends. Unlike single loops, this model includes a shift in understanding, from simple and static to broader and more dynamic, such as taking into account the changes in the surroundings and the need for expression changes in mental models.(Mildeova, S., Vojtko V. ,2003).

double loop learning

To remind readers again, in the EmployID European project we are aiming to support scalable and cost-effective facilitation of professional identity transformation in public employment services. And I would argue such identity transformation is based on refection on learning, on Double Loop Learning. Identity transformation necessarily involves the development of new metal models and new ways of looking at work based behaviours and practices.

So where does Learning Analytics fit into this? Learning analytics aims to understand and improve learning and the learning environment. This does not necessarily involve Double Loop Learning. For students feedback about their present performance may be enough. But if we aim for identity transformation and wish to improve the learning environment then we need a deeper interpretation of data. This has a number of implications in terms of designing Learning Analytics.

Firstly we have to have a very clear focus on what the purpose of the Learning Analytics is. Is it to find out more for example about informal learning in organisations or to inform L and D department staff about the Learning environment. Is it to help learners understand about their interactions with other staff or to examine their own dispositions for learning – and so on? Secondly – and crucially who is that data presented to users – be it learners or trainers. The existing parading for Learning Analytics presentations appears to be the dashboard. Yet in the LAk16 pre conference workshops there were a whole series of presentations where presenters invited participants to say what the graphics meant. And often we couldn’t. If LA professionals cannot interpret data visualisations then a leaner has little hope of making their own meanings. I am a little puzzled as to why dashboards have become the norm. And one of my major concern is that often it is difficult to understand the visualisation out of the context in which the learning exchange has happened. If Double Loop learning is to happen, then learners need to reflect in order to make meanings. And refection occurs best, I think, in the context in which it takes place.

technical-challenges-for-realizing-learning-analytics-11-638

Image: Ralph Klamma – http://www.slideshare.net/klamma/technical-challenges-for-realizing-learning-analytics

There are alternatives to the dashboard. For instance with EmployID we are developing real time discourse analysis and are also looking at providing dynamic prompts for reflection.>One final point. If we are aiming at using Learning Analytics for Double Loop Learning we need to find out what works and what does not. That means that any measure for Learning Analytics needs to be accompanied by well designed evaluation measures. All too often because LA collects data, it presumes to cover evaluation. Whilst both LA and evaluation may share data, they aim at different things.

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