Archive for the ‘trainers’ Category

Learning Layers – What kind of transition phase are we going through in our fieldwork (Part 3: Design process and training activities)

August 25th, 2013 by Pekka Kamarainen

In the first  post of this series of blogs I indicated that we (the ITB team together with our Pontydysgu colleagues and the application partner Bau ABC)  are going through a transitional phase in our fieldwork for the Learning Layers  (LL) project. In the second post I looked back at the shifts of emphasis that had characterised our field visits and workshops in Bau ABC since the first ones in winter to the latest ones before and after the summer holiday break. In both postings I made the point that we had moved from preparatory measures to work in the context of a participative design process. In this posting it is time to consider the implications of such process for the design activities themselves and for the necessary training activities to be planned and carried out.

In principle, there has been an implicit agreement among the LL partner that our project is not a “technology push” project. Neither have we seen our application partners as clients in the supermarket – making choices between ready-made solutions that are on the shelf. Instead, the emphasis has been put on participative co-design processes. Yet, it has been quite a challenge to get such processes take off in the domains and in the locations where we want to carry out pilot activities.

In the case of the Rapid Turbine initiative Graham Attwell has given some insights into the first steps of the design work, into the plans to produce videos (the helmet camera) and into conceptual challenges (“closing the gap”). Much of this design work is still on the way and the demonstrators are yet to come. However, we already know that much of the messages of trainers and apprentices have been taken on board. The important thing is that the Pontydysgu colleagues try to provide real support for completing working and learning tasks without dropping the idea of self-organised learning. Thus, the web tools and the software solutions are there to enhance the learners’ awareness of their own learning. At the end of the exercise, the apprentices should have a picture what they can do, what the cannot do yet and what challenges they can meet in the next phase. This is being discussed between developers, trainers and us, the accompanying researchers.

This has also implications for getting the forthcoming Rapid Turbine designs work together with existing applications and software solutions (such as the Reflect application for the LL project and the software for the assessment procedures in Bau ABC). In this way the support for project-based learning of apprentices would be linked to a tool that enables audio recording of learners’ reports and trainers’ feedback – and to the assessment processes. This, as we understand, will take some time and requires further efforts in the design process.

Parallel to this we have made progress in our discussions, how to give shape for training activities that would support the Rapid Turbine initiative and enhance the general media literacy of trainers and apprentices. Whilst the design work and the discussion on appropriate workshops were firstly taking off as two different things, they seem to be getting closer to each other. It is obvious that the design of the Rapid Turbine gives rise to specific training activities. These can be seen as one part of a wider range of training options to be considered together with the application partners. Here, we are pleased to be able to share experiences with the EU-funded TACCLE projects that have a long experiences with such workshops for teachers to help them produce user-generated web content.

Here I need to stress that both the design work for Rapid Turbine and the development of the training concepts are at an early stage. Yet, we are carrying out this work via joint working meetings in which different parties are actively engaged. This, to me, is already aq good sign and I am looking for the next steps that are taken very soon.

To be continued …

PS. I have written this blog posting just before a series of working meetings with several LL partners and stakeholders that will bring these issues (and wider issues) further. As I will not be present in all these activities and since I will be travelling some time afterwards, it may take some time before we get updates. PK

Acknowledgements. This work is supported by the European Commission under the FP7 project LAYERS (no. 318209), http://www.learning-layers.eu.

 

Barriers to e-Learning in SMEs

July 4th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

for the last eighteen months or so Pontydysgu have been a partners in a project called Webquests for HRM coordinated by the  Management Observatory Foundation (MOF) from Poland. The project is developing a Collaborative and Blended Learning model for what we call Webquest 2.0 defined as “an inquiry–oriented activity that takes place basically in a Web 2.0–enhanced, social and inter-active open learning environment, in which the learner can decide to create his own learning paths choosing the Web 2.0 tools and the on–line resources needed for the completion of the final Webquest 2.0 product” (Perifanou, 2011).

The project is funded by the European Commission under as strand of the Lifelong Learning project called ‘the transfer of innovation’. In our particular project, we are seeking to transfer a pedagogy and approach to the use of technology for learning develop in schools and academic education for training in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). We have published the first drafts of the methodology and a guide for trainers on the project web site. Over the last six moths or so, we have been piloting the approach with SMEs in Poland and in the UK.

The following text, which is the draft of an extra chapter for the second, revised edition of the trainers’ manual, relates some of our findings. I think it is particularity interesting because most, if not all of the findings are more generally applicable to the challenge of introducing technology enhanced learning in SMEs.

 

9. Webquest 2.0 training experiences: Flexibility and Creativity

The first edition of this handbook was published in January, 2012. Since then we have been piloting the use of Webquests 2.0 with Small and Medium Enterprises in Poland and in the UK. The pilots have involved both training trainers in SMEs to create Webquests 2.0 and piloting the Webquests 2.0 themselves with employees of SMEs. We have also piloted different approaches to blending learning, Including using online activities within face to face workshops, and delivering distance learning though the synchronous and asynchronous use of technology. Similarly we have experimented with both individual tasks and group tasks through the pilot Webquests 2.0. In the process of the pilots we have learnt a great deal about the issues involved in using Webquests 2.0 for HRM in Small and Medium Enterprises. This extra chapter in the second edition of the manual summarises some of the issues we have discovered and more importantly what trainers may need to do to deal with these issues.

9.1 Platforms

For our initial pilot Webquests 2.0 we used a wiki on PB Works as a platform. Although not open source, PB Works is free to educational organisations. However the licensing costs for use on commercial organisations may prove a barrier to take up in SMEs. We have subsequently experimented with a number of different platforms including the free and open source WordPress Content Management system. We have found that some organisations do not wish to use a separate platform but wish to incorporate the Webquests 2.0 within their own Enterprise Systems such as Microsoft Sharepoint. Conversely some organisations have told us they are looking for more flexible and cheaper solutions than their present organisation web platforms.

9.2 Web 2.0 tools

In the handbook we have drawn attention to a wide range of powerful Web 2.0 and social software tools that can be incorporated within Webquests 2.0 and can be used to develop a rich, collaborative and immersive learning experience.

In practice we have encountered a number of issues. Organisational firewalls are a particular problem. Whilst some organisations are relatively open in their policies, many firewall particular applications and tools. This can be a serious problem, for instance when employees are unable to view YouTube videos. In some cases we have been able to persuade system administrators to provide access to us to tools needed for training sessions with Webquests 2.0, in others we have been able to persuade them to review their policies, pointing out the value of these applications for learning. In still other cases, we have had to revise our training courses and Webquests 2.0  to reflect the security policies of the organisation.

Useful tip:

Whatever the answer, if you are developing a Webquest 2.0 you need to pay attention to this issue in advance.

We also found that trainers and SME employees often had only a limited knowledge of and experience of using Web 2.0 and social software tools. Almost all enjoyed learning about these tools in the course of the training sessions we organised and trainers in particular appreciated how they could use these tools in their own training practice. However, there was a tendency for learning about the tools to take over the whole dynamic and subject of the workshops. It was also felt that providing too many tools could be intimidating for trainees in SMEs. Therefore we would recommend that you restrict the number of tools you use in a Webquest 2.0, particular for those with less experience of using computers. The tools need to be chosen carefully. Some tools may promote greater collaboration and creativity but may be more difficult to use. Conversely, some tools may be easy to use but have little added value to promoting creative learning and higher order thinking skills.

Useful tip:

Remember that you will have to support learning about the topic and learning about the tools at the same time and think about the best strategy for doing this.

9.3 Blended Learning

One of the main successes of the pilots was the use of different forms of blended learning. Many organisations had not used computers intensively as part of a face to face training session and appreciated its potential. Equally participants were grateful for the opportunity to access the Webquests 2.0 and the learning materials after the training sessions. However one of the issues in this mode of blended learning was access to computers. Whilst in a number of SMEs we were able to find dedicated computer training rooms the layout of these rooms limited opportunities for groupwork and collaboration. One organisation was able to provide laptops for all participants and this worked much better. Whatever the solution, the layout and design of the learning space in a face to face session needs conscious attention.

In some of the pilots we used a mixture of face to face and online learning. This was seen as very successful with many organisations beginning to appreciate the potential of online learning for professional development and training in their organisations. This was particularly so with SMEs with a geographically dispersed workforce.

Furthermore, a number of the Webquests 2.0 involved the development of practice in the use of soft skills in SMEs. It was felt that learning about these practice based skills in a classroom was inappropriate. Online learning could provide better integration with practice in the workplace.

However, one of the issues this raised was the skills and competences of the trainers. Training on line involves many of the skills and competences that any good trainer will have. It is not the same as face to face training and may involve extra competences. We do not have space in this handbook to go into these in detail. At a minimum, we would recommend that any trainer providing e-learning and Webquests 2.0 online for the first time should themselves first participate in an elearning course or session and reflect on the similarities and differences and how they need to adapt their practice to cope with the opportunities and difficulties online training and learning provides. In particular they need to think about how they can support their trainees on line. It may involve the use of different tools and a different way of organising work, as well as knowledge in using computers and a broad variety of software.

9.4 Producing Webquests 2.0 is time consuming

One of the major issues that arose was the time it took to develop a Webquest 2.0. This brings us close to the heart of the problem that led us to develop the Webquest 2.0 project. Producing any online learning materials is time consuming. Of course it is possible to buy off the shelf, online training packages. However, these often do not meet the diverse needs of employees in SMEs. Once more, it is possible to commission commercially produced bespoke training materials. But this is very expensive.

In reality, producing any training materials is time consuming. It is only if these materials are reused that the unit cost becomes cheaper. This is also so for online training such as Webquests 2.0. Producing bespoke a Webquest 2.0 for an individual group will be expensive. We know it is important that the Webquest meets the needs of particular groups of learners. We would suggest that over time the speed of production will increase as trainers become more familiar with the approach and the tools and develop a bank of reusable content and materials. At the same time we would emphasise that online training is not just a cheap alternative to traditional forms of training. Our major motivation is to improve the quality and effectiveness of training and learning, not just to reduce cost. SME managers need to appreciate that they will have to invest in trainers’ time if they are to reap the benefits that online learning through Webquests 2.0 can bring. We will return to this issue further on in this section of the manual.

9.5 Self Directed Learning

The aim of the Collaborative Blended Learning Model (CBLM) is to develop and support self motivated and self regulated learning. Concerns were expressed that such an approach requires new skills from both trainers and learners, especially as much traditional training in SMEs is quite strongly trainer directed.  To some extent this concern may be justified. Learners may have little experience of self directed learning and may lack the skills and motivation to plan and direct their own learning. But this may also reflect a misunderstanding. The overall aim of the Webquest for HRM project is to develop self directed and self motivated learning as we believe such processes are critical to the development of lifelong learning in SMEs. On the other hand, we acknowledge the key role of trainers in providing appropriate support for learners at every stage in a Webquest 2.0. Without this support we will never achieve our ultimate goal.

9.6 Open and closed evaluation

In the manual we propose sharing the outputs from a Webquest 2.0 through the Worldwide web as a means of gaining community feedback and evaluation. Some enterprises are not prepared to allow their employees to do this. We understand there may be legitimate concerns over security and competition, however, in general, we feel the advantages in allowing employees to use Web 2.0 tools and social software in a responsible manner outweigh the dangers for SMEs.

9.7 Sharing Resources

As we said above, one of our motivations in developing the Webquest for HRM project and CBLM manual was to stimulate the development of high quality, online learning materials for use in Small and Medium Enterprises. We were aware that creating a Webquest 2.0 was time consuming. However, we felt that if trainers were prepared to share the Webquests 2.0 they had produced we could develop a dynamic repository of high quality materials. To that end we have worked on developing a rubric for evaluating the quality of the Webquests 2.0. Our initial pilots have revealed that most SMEs are not prepared to openly share learning materials. They either see these as providing competitive advantage or want to sell such materials to others. We believe such an approach to be short sighted and would urge enterprises to consider carefully the most advantageous long term strategy in developing e-learning and e-learning materials. We also note that when the idea of Open Educational Resources first emerged in the education sector, many institutions had a similar reaction. However most are now embracing OERs. Of course trainers will have to respect company policies in licensing Webquests 2.0. But we urge enterprise managers and trainers to think carefully before ruling out sharing resources.

9.8 Flexibility and Creativity

We have attempted to develop models and tools that can help trainers to produce high quality Webquests 2.0 to use in their own training practice. As part of this we have developed the seven step Learning Circles framework and templates to follow in developing a Webquest 2.0.

However, some of the trainers with whom we have piloted the Webquests 2.0 and tools, have felt the template and model to be too prescriptive and too restrictive for what they want to do. Of course any model is just that – a model. And templates are meant to be adapted and changed to meet particular needs.

Useful tip:

If you feel some parts of the model do not meet your needs, this is fine. Similarly feel free to change the templates to suit the needs of your trainees.

Our main aim is to develop flexible and creative training opportunities. And for that to happen we need to engage with trainers who can make flexible and creative use of the opportunities which technology provide for learning.

 

Developing a response to youth unemployment

May 9th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

Since I wrote my last article on ‘What is the answer to youth unemployment?‘, elections in Greece, France and Germany have seen a decisive rejection of European austerity politics. This is hardly surprising. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that ever deeper cuts and austerity, whilst ultimately cutting the real cost of labour and thus boosting corporate profits, are unlikely to boost growth, jobs or individual prosperity in any way.

The EU reaction has been to call for a new strategy for growth, although details of what that might entail are pretty hazy.

As I wrote in the previous article, one of the main results of the recession has been a massive increase in youth unemployment and, in particular, a substantial increase in graduate unemployment. At the same time companies are increasingly requiring work experience prior to employment resulting in increasing pressure for new graduates to undertake low paid of unpaid internships. Pretty clearly new policies are needed for education and training but there seems little public discussion of this, let alone of what such policies might be. The prevailing EU policy is more of the same and try harder.

To rethink policies for education and training requires looking back at how we got where we are now. And it requires looking at more than just education and training policy – we need to examine the relationship between education and training, labour market policy and economic policy. here I am going to look at just a few aspects of such policies and hope to develop this a little more in the next week or so.

For the last decade – or even longer – economic policy has been driven by a liberal free market approach. In turn labour market policy has similarly been based on deregulating labour markets and removing protection for workers (interestingly, Germany, the one country in Europe where the economy is growing, has probably one of the highest levels of labour market regulation). At a European level, education and training policy has been dominated by a drive to make qualifications more transparent and thus comparable in order to promote the mobility of labour. Employers have been given a greater role in determining the content and form of qualifications. Employability has become a key theme, with individuals being made responsible for keeping their knowledge and skills up to date, often as considerable personal expense. A number of countries have tried to liberalise education and training systems by reducing subsidies for public education and introducing individual voucher schemes.

At them same time the rather ridiculous EU Lisbon declaration, declared the aim to make the EU “the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion”, by 2010. Obviously this failed. But in line with such thinking most countries in Europe saw the way forward as moving from old fashioned vocational training to mass university education to cater for the demand for the thousands of new knowledge jobs. These jobs never materialised (except in countries such as the UK in the deregulated financial services sector which ultimately triggered the economic meltdown). As Wikipedia notes:

Much of the initial theorizing about the advent of a fundamentally new era in which economic activity is increasingly ‘abstract’, i.e., disconnected from land, labour, and physical capital (machines and industrial infrastructure) was associated with the ‘business management’ literature of the ‘new economy’ NASDAQ bubble, which collapsed in 2001 (but slowly recovered, albeit, in a leaner format, throughout the 2000s). This literature was initially known more for its hyperbole and faddishness than for its academic/empirical integrity.

In reality, many of the new degree courses were vocational in orientation – such as in the new Universities in the UK or in the Fachshule in Germany. These courses were either for new occupations – for instance in computing or simply replaced traditional vocational qualifications. It is arguable whether such a policy was financially sustainable or even desirable. It is certainly arguable whether an academic programme of learning is more effective for such subjects than traditional forms of work related learning.

To further policies associated with the obsession with the knowledge economy were the raising of the school leaving age and the so called lifelong learning policy. Longer schooling was needed, it was argued, to cope with the needs for higher levels of knowledge and skills for the knowledge rich jobs of the future. And lifelong learning was needed for the learning economies in which knowledge is the crucial resource and learning is the most important process.

At them same time the EU and national governments identified a number of key sectors which were felt to be crucial and which were then promoted through he education systems. In the late 1990s, there were dire predications of a massive shortage of computer programmers which never came to pass. And in the last five years or so EU and national governments have promoted the importance of STEM subjects – Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths as key to the future of employment and economies. Such priorities were based on a business driven policy of skills-matching promoting the “involvement of businesses in forecasting skills needs, through an employers’ survey tool and qualitative studies on the skills needs of business” (EU New Skills, New Jobs policy).

It is clear such policies have failed  and exhorting governments and agencies to try harder will go nowhere. What is needed is a fundamental rethink. As Professor Phillip Brown points out, the Lisbon Strategy was based on the idea that the technological lead then enjoyed by advanced industrial economies would be maintained with an increasing polarisation between highly skilled and well paid jobs in those countries and low paid low skilled manufacturing jobs being undertaken in developing countries. For a variety of reasons, including rapid technology transfer and a massive expansion of public education systems in countries like China and India, this hasn’t happened.

Indeed it may be the very manufacturing sector which was downgraded by EU policy which is the future for jobs in Europe especially in Small and Medium enterprises. For all the talk of high tech, knowledge based jobs. The construction industry is the biggest industrial employer in Europe with 13,9 million operatives making up 6,6% of the total employment in EU27. In addition it has a substantial influence on other industries represented by a multiplier effect. According to a study by the European Commission, 1 person working in the construction industry is responsible for 2 further persons working in other sectors. Therefore, it is estimated that 41,7 million workers in the EU depend, directly or indirectly, on the construction sector. Out of the 3,1 million enterprises 95% are SMEs with fewer than 20 and 93% with fewer than 10 operatives (pdf file). And manufacturing makes up almost 25 percent of the German economy, as opposed to only 11 percent in the United States. German mittelstands – small, family-owned and mid-size manufacturing companies – are key to the manufacturing sector. Rather than relying on university graduates for skills and knowledge, the mittelsands tend to employ graduates from the Dual apprenticeship system.

Indeed, many countries are promoting apprenticeships as one way out of the present mess. The present English coalition government boasts of the increase in the number of apprenticeship places. But in truth most of these places are apprenticeships only in name. The supermarket chain, Morrisons is the largest apprenticeship provider in the UK with many apprenticeship consisting of short induction training courses. To deliver the skills and knowledge for workers in a manufacturing economy through apprenticeship requires high quality training and the active involvement of employers and train unions alike. Moreover it requires social (and financial) recognition fo the value of apprenticeships. that seems a long way away.

To overcome the present crisis of youth unemployment requires a series of radical and interlinked policy initiative involving economic and labour market policies rather than just tinkering with education and training curricula. At a macro econ0omic level it means developing manufacturing industry rather than merely relying on financial services and the high tech knowledge industry sector. It means making sure companies provide high quality training, rather than forcing individuals to be responsible for their own employability. It means making sure that those who have gained vocational qualifications have opportunities to use those skills and knowledge and are properly rewarded for their learning. It means freeing up capital for starting small companies. It means proper financing for vocational schools and providing alternatives to young people rather than just more school and expensive university courses. It means abandoning skills matching and planning for future societal skills needs.

In other words we have to abandon liberalisation and free market ideologies and to recognise that economies and employment are a social function. As such society has to plan for the future of employment and the provision of jobs for young people. Is this too much to ask?

 

 

UK apprenticeships just rebranded short training courses?

November 1st, 2011 by Graham Attwell

I have written several posts about the UK government’s new apprenticeship schemes. Although welcoming the attention being paid to apprenticeship, I drew attention to concerns about the quality and length of the new programmes, questioning whether many of the programmes could really be called apprenticeships. I also drew attention to concerns that allowing any short course to be called an apprenticeship would damage the credibility of apprenticeship schemes and qualifications.

Now it seems that senior officials at the UK government Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, responsible for the development of apprenticeship schemes, have expressed similar concerns.

A report in the Guardian newspaper says discussions over the past fortnight between senior officials have described politicians’ claims about the high apprentice numbers as “dishonest” as they do not reflect the actual demographics of those involved.

The Guardian says: “The government document acknowledges that problems of quality had been raised. in diminishing of quality has had been raised with them. “Growth review consultees have registered concerns about the quality of some apprenticeships, focusing in particular on the intermediate level dominated expansion, the value of some shorter apprenticeships and the increasing number of existing (older) employees in the programme.” It reports that the department has been warned “not to undermine the apprenticeship brand”.

One critic is reported as telling officials: “To badge some of the lower end training as apprenticeships misleads learners and employers as to its value.”

But while the document defends the inclusion of existing employees and older learners, it says: “If we remain committed to calling less substantial training activities an ‘apprenticeship’, it is important to be aware of the impact this may have on public perceptions of the brand.”"

In a further report the Guardian education reporter Jessica Shepherd says that “some 422,700 people started apprenticeships of all kinds in the academic year just gone – a rise of more than half on the year before when the figure was 279,700.”

However she goes on to suggest that many of these are following courses rebranded from the previous Labour government’s Train to Gain programme, scrapped after critical Audit Office reports.

“Over-25s account for 40% of the total number of new apprentices. The growth in the number of under-19s starting apprenticeship has slowed. In the last academic year, it grew by 10%, from 17.5% the year before.

Then there’s the equally problematic issue of what sectors these apprenticeships are in. Ministers want the economy to be less reliant on retail and more on construction.

But while the number of apprenticeships started in retail and commercial enterprises rose by 63% in the last academic year, there was just a 5.3% increase in those started in construction, planning and the built environment. While the number starting apprenticeships in business, administration and law grew by more than 70%, those in engineering and manufacturing technologies rose by almost a quarter.”

Pedagogic Approaches to using Technology for Learning – Literature Review

May 31st, 2011 by Graham Attwell

The proliferation of new technologies and internet tools is fundamentally changing the way we live and work. The lifelong learning sector is no exception with technology having a major impact on teaching and learning. This in turn is affecting the skills needs of the learning delivery workforce.

Last September, together with Jenny Hughes I undertook a literature review on new pedagogical approaches to the use of technologies for teaching and learning. You can access the full (86 pages) document below.

The research was commissioned by LLUK to feed into the review then being undertaken of teaching qualifications in the Lifelong Learning sector in the UK. The review was designed to ensure the qualifications are up to date and will support the development of the skills needed by the modern teacher, tutor or trainer.

However, we recognised that the gap in technology related skills required by teaching and learning professionals cannot be bridged by qualifications alone or by initial training and a programme of opportunities for continuing professional development (CPD) is also needed to enable people to remain up to date.

The literature review is intended to

  • identify new and emerging pedagogies;
  • determine what constitutes effective use of technology in teaching and learning
  • look at new developments in teacher training qualifications to ensure that they are at the cutting edge of learning theory and classroom practice
  • make suggestions as to how teachers can continually update their skills.

Pedagogical Appraches for Using Technology Literature Review January 11 FINAL 1

From Current to Emerging Technologies for Learning – issues for the training of teachers

October 31st, 2010 by Graham Attwell

Here is the second part as promised of my post “From Current to Emerging Technologies for Learning”. In this part I raise the issues for the training of teachers.

Moving from a technical to a socio-technical approach

Although research has often focused on the impact of new technologies per se on teaching and learning it may be that it is the socio technical developments that will have more impact on education in the longer term. In a more diverse landscape of learning opportunities, there are different options for how to develop curricula and institutional arrangements. However, this implies a need for all members of the education community to develop understandings of the potential of such socio technical change and increased creativity to explore such potential. How should initial teacher training and Continuing Professional Development be designed to develop such understandings and practice? How can we design programmes that allow a focus on innovation in process, rather than a reliance of prescribed outcomes?

Overcoming the initiative fatigue

Education has been subject to a long series of reforms over the past ten years, with new initiatives and targets being released on a regular basis. Teacher complain of ‘initiative fatigue’.How can we respond creatively to socio-technical change and promote novel approaches to curriculum, to assessment, to the workforce and governance, as well as to pedagogy whilst promoting confidence and security in the LLL workforce? What does this imply for institutional management? Is it possible to we bring together Continuing Professional Development with continuing development of curricula and pedagogic processes?

Valuing and promoting creativity

Creativity and and the willingness to explore, model and experiment with new pedagogic approaches may be seen as critical to developing the effective use of technologies for teaching  and learning. How can we foster such competences within ITT and CPD? Do we need more flexible Initial teacher training programmes to allow the development of such creativity? How can we measure, value and recognise creativity? Do present teacher training programmes allow sufficient spaces for exploring new pedagogic approaches and if not how could these be developed?

Promoting an informed debate about educational futures and involving trainee teachers in that debate

The development of new pedagogic approaches and more creativity is predicated on an informed debate of educational futures and educational values. Do present teacher training programmes support such an informed debate? What should the contribution of teacher trainers and student teachers be to such a debate? How can we ensure their voices are heard?

Revisiting Kostelec 4: The way(s) forward from the “Crossing boundaries …” conference

October 24th, 2010 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my recent blog postings (Revisiting Kostelec 1-3 ) I have given an account on the recent international conference with the theme “Crossing Boundaries: The multiple roles of trainers and teachers in vocational education and training”. With this posting it is time to shift the emphasis from the memories and to consider the way(s) forward.

In this context it is essential to note that the organiser of the conference – the network “Trainers in Europe” – is coming to the end of its EU-funded working period. As things stand now, it is apparent that the follow-up phase will be characterised by distributed successor activities (for which the platform can serve as a home base).

For the further discussion on the frollow-up activities I have made the following observations on parallel working agendas that were present in the conference and merit to be considered:

1. The professionalisation of trainers (and parity of esteem between trainers and teachers in VET)

This agenda is stimulated by debates on academic drift and on vocational progression routes. It is overshadowed by the Bologna process and the degree structures. Yet, it can also bring into discussion the value of work-related learning opportunities. In the conference this agenda was represented by the presentation of Alrun Schleiff and Simone Wanken on ‘learning tandems’ and ‘cross-mentoring’. In the preparation phase some other proposals were adressing this context.  After the conference it is worthwhile to explore, what is happening with such initiatives at the national and European level.

2. Trans-national mobility (and comparability of qualifications) of trainers across EU

This agenda is stimulated by policies to promote mobility of trainers (in a similar way as mobility of teachers) across Europe. However, the hitherto perceived diversity of training contexts and professional profiles has made it difficult to promote such initiatives effectively and to get the target groups inspired. Yet, in the light of internationalisation of production and services this is a real challenge. In the conference this agenda was represented by the presentation of Sandie Gay on skills verification and identification of common core areas.

3. Promotion of specific (pedagogic, ICT-related and sectoral) competences of trainers

This agenda covers a wide range of initiatives that are linked to specific aspects of trainers’ competences (pedagogic, multimedial, sectoral) and are looking for ways to address these aspects in a European context. As a contrast to the above mentioned ones, these initiatives do not necessarily raise questions on teh formal qualification frameworks or on recognition issues as their starting points.  In the conference this agenda was represented by the presenations on the development/utilisation of e-learning and of self-assessment approaches.

4. Promotion of process innovations in training contexts and rethinking the role of training functions

This agenda focuses on the limits of hitherto developed models for in-company training or training in external centres. The main thrust of the agenda is to link the efforts of different parties (workplace trainers/mentors, internal experts, external service providers, intermediate agencies) to real-time innovation agendas and to working with cutting-edge knowledge. In this context the focal point is not in achieving certain formal standards (or using specific know-how) but in bringing different elements into an ongoing innovation process. In the conference this perspective was addressed most explicitly by the presentation of Johannes Koch.

The above presented list of parallel working agendas is probably not exhaustive and there are several overlaps of interest and approaches. However, in my view these agendas can be seen as mutually complementing developments that (at least currentlky) have their own dynamics.

In my view this observation stregthens the final proposal of Europe-wide consultation process on a new type of Innovation Forum that puts the interests of trainers into the centre (instead of highlighting national or European policy frameworks). To me, the conference at Kostelec refreshed the menories of the best consultation seminars and their dialogue-oriented spirit. I think that it is good to build on this heritage.

Looking forward to further discussion!

Pekka

Revisiting Kostelec 3: The working climate in the “Crossing boundaries …” conference

October 24th, 2010 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my two previous blog postings – Revisiting Kostelec 1 and 2 – I have presented my general impression of the conference and then an overview of the thematic sessions that I attended. However, this alone is not enough to give an idea, what made the conference such a positive experience – what brought into being the spirit of Kostelec. Here, I try to give some additional aspects that come up when I refresh my memories.

1) Working and learning together

Already from the first paper sessions I noticed that this conference has the spirit of working and learning together. Surely, the tandem presentation on ‘learning tandems’ was a good start. However, the further sessions continued with the same pattern. Instead of having had a succession of rushed monologues, we had a possibility to go into discussions and to build bridges between the current presentation and the previous ones.

2) Creative interactive spaces

Instead of filling the programme with paper sessions and symposia, the organisers had encouraged the presenters to use more interactive sessions (e.g. speed learning cafe or interactive workshop). These were not perceived as marginal ‘entertainment’ but as valuable sessions and the participants made good use of these.

3) Smart use of poster session

The organisers had encouraged participants to prepare posters. However, on the spot some creativity was needed to organise a well-functioning poster session. The solution was that posters were lying on tables and the presenters were sitting behind the table. The audience had the opportunity to sit down and have a talk over the poster that was on the table. This proved to be a good solution. (It provided also the possibility to reschedule on paper presentation that had to be cancelled because the presenters had been directed to a wrong Kostelec.)

4) The online radio show

Pontydysgu had made preparations for an online radio show live from Kostelec.  Also this event was run in a smart and participative way. When the conference had already reached the halfway stage, the participants were ready to reflect on the event and what they had gained so far. Several ideas were also raised for further discussion.

5) The online exhibition

During the preparation the organisers had welcomed contributions to the online exhibition. Before the conference most of the posters had already been made available via this facility. Also, some videos had been made to be presented in this area. During the conference this work was continued and the participants were encoraged to submit more content to the exhibition area.

6) The concluding debate

The wrap-up session of the conference was not organised as a series of speeches that look back at the sessions. Instead, the participants were invited into a debate. The participants had to submit motions (critical statements) to be debated. By means of lottery, some participants were picked as promoters (and secondants) and others as opponents (and secondants. After each mini-debate the participants were asked to formulate their own statements and then the debate was concluded by a vote. This all added up to the picture of a genuine learning event.

I guess this is enough for this posting. In my next blog I will leave the Kostelec experience and discuss the way forward.

Watch this space!

Pekka

Revisiting Kostelec 2: Insights into the sessions of the “Crossing boundaries …” conference

October 24th, 2010 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous blog posting I presented my positive impression on the international conference “Crossing Boundaries: The multiple roles of trainers and teachers in vocational education and training” (14.-15.10.2010 in Kostelec, near Prague). With this posting I want to look back at the sessions and to what made the conference such a positive experience.

Firstly, it is worthwhile to note that I am writing primarily as a conference participant (my role as a member of the organising network was not a central one). However, I also had some duties as a facilitator, so I had to pay attention, how to get the sessions running well and with good spirit. Yet, I must emphasise that the key factor in the success was the fact that the participants were interesting in building up a good dialogue-oriented event.

The first thematic session that I attended, was based on two contributions from Germany.

  • Alrun Schleiff and Simone Wanken from the University of Trier gave a presentation on “The learning tandems”. Their university is piloting with a special curriculum that combines the learning processes of traditional students (doing their degrees in adult education) and non-traditional students (training specialists in companies, who are in a certificate programme). The fascination of this programme lies in the cross-mentoring approach that supports both target groups and brings them into a cross-mentoring relation during the field studies.
  • Johannes Koch from Friedrichsdorfer Büro für Bildungsplanung gave a presentation on lifelong learning in production contexts. In this presentation he examined the transition of workplace learning into internet-supported and innovation-oriented learning. In this context the role of intermediate agencies is to support the search processes, election processes and utilisation of cutting-edge knowledge.

The second thematic session was dedicated to professionalisation of teachers and trainers in VET in Spain.

  • Jose Luis Garcia Molina gave a comprehensive picture on the professionalisation of VET teachers and trainers in Spain and on the role of tripartite cooperation. Interestingly enough, both topics that had been taken up in the previous session were also discussed in the light of the Spanish input.

The third thematic session was based on contributions from the host country, Czech Republic.

  • Stanislave Michek provided insights into quality assurance in the Czech vocational schools via self-assessment and self-evaluation.
  • Jan Sperl presented the development of National Educational Portal and provided insights into the use of the different resource areas  by teachers and trainers.
  • Lubomir Valenta gave an overview of the development of Europass tools and of the use of these tools in the Czech Republic.
  • My general impression of the discussion was that all these presentations were presenting cutting-edge European developments and putting the host country into a European group picture. Also, I could notice that the participants from Nigeria and Romania made good use of this information.

The fourth thematic session was shaped as ‘speed learning cafe’ during which two short presentations are discussed parallel to each other. After half an hour the groups change the table and the presenters start a new discussion. The two presentations focused on workplace learning and  developmental tools in Germany and on assessment of workplace learning in Norway.

  • The presentation by Ludger Deitmer and myself focused on the role of holistic working and learning tasks and on the role of participative development tools. The two groups emphasised the importance of genuine and well-thought working and learning tasks as well as the role of dialogue-oriented tools. However, it was emphasised that the tools alone cannot guarantee the result if the participants are not well prepared for self-organised learning and for self-assessment.
  • The presentation of Haege Nore problematised the boundaries of learning and raised the question “who are the right assessors”. The presentation also brought into picture the potential role of co-participating researchers (basic inquiries, interactive accompaniment and evaluation).
  • Here, the groups made good use of the time but it was difficult to share the results across the two groups (discussion to be continued at a later occasion).

The fifth thematic session that I attended was also planned as a speed learning cafe with two presenters. However, one of the presenters had to cancel his participation. Thus, the session was transformed into an interactive workshop with one presentation.

  • Sandra Sukhan from Canada (originally from Guayana) gave a lengthy and highly inspiring account on her internship as a marketing manager of a newly launched training centre in Botswana. Her real life story gtave a deeper meaning to the topic “crossing boundaries” and to the necessity for taking new roles in a challenging training context (where the sustainability of the training centre and learning results were at risk all the time). Also here, the participants were not left as passive audience but were invited to think loud, what kind of lessons could be learned (when the story was told halfway). Then, this discussion was continued with further insights into the concluding phase of project (and the real life strory).

Here I think it is appropriate to stop this overview. In my next posting I try to make a shorter comment on the working climate in the conference.

Watch this space!

Pekka

Revisiting Kostelec 1: Praise for the “Crossing Boundaries” conference of the network ‘Trainers in Europe’

October 24th, 2010 by Pekka Kamarainen

Just one week ago (14.10. -15.10.2010) the Trainers in Europe network organised a successful international conference. The theme of the  was “Crossing Boundaries: The multiple roles of trainers and teachers in vocational education and training”. My impression as a participant was that the title was appropriate and that the conference really tried to work its way to a better understanding on new challenges and on changing roles of vocational trainers.

It is worthwhile to note that the main organiser – the Trainers in Europe network has had to struggle to find its role on the crowded terrain of European cooperation. As we know. the network has been the successor of the Eurotrainer project that was doing studies and surveys on the position of trainers in Europe. At the same time the TTnet network of Cedefop has been the meeting point of national networks and the summarising arena of country sudies. Moreover, in 2008 – 2009 the European Commission (DG EAC) launched a Europe-wide but regionalisedconsultation process on the role of VET Teachers and Trainers as key actors for lifelong learning. Given all these activities (some of which have already been completed), what could be proposed as a possible way forward?

Looking back at the Kostelec experience, it is important to emphasise that this conference was not shaped as a traditional academic conference or as a conference of country representatives. Instead the conference – taking place in an old castle outside Prague – provided interactive sessions and creative spaces for knowledge sharing.  The particpants came with messages and questions that were related to the position of trainers and to future-oriented initiatives. The formats of the sessions supported active discussion and learning from each other – rather than lengthy monologues that would have tired the participants. Also, the work with online exhibition and with the online radio show have given insights into potentials that have not yet been fully exhausted.

In my subsequent postings I will try to give a picture, what was happening in the sessions (next one) and on some working agendas for follow-up activities.

Watch this space!

Pekka

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