Archive for the ‘workinglearning’ Category

And the Award goes to … Learning Layers!

November 10th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

The third European Vocational Skills Week (EVSW) took place this week in Vienna (Wien). The event has been launched by the European Commission to draw attention to the importance of vocational education and training (VET) for education, economy and society. Our European VETNET network has also played a role in drawing attention to the contribution of VET research to the development of VET. However, due to several intervening factors I have not been able to attend to these events. Yet, this time I was somewhat more engaged in the preparation and followed more keenly the news from Vienna.

The competition for European VET Excellence Awards 2018

As usual, during the EVSW, there was also this year the competition for European VET Excellence Awards for different kinds of contributions to the development of VET. In the category “European VET Research Excellence” the jury had nominated two European research projects for the final competition:

  • The Learning Layers (LL) project that carried out a complex Europe-wide R&D project for studying the use of digital tools, web resources and mobile technologies to support learning in the context of work. The project engaged application partners in healthcare sector (UK) and construction sector (Germany) in co-design, pilot testing and actual use of new tools. In the competition the project was represented by the scientific coordinator Tobias Ley from Tallinn University.
  • The Modelling Vocational Excellence (MoVE) project is a transnational project that has studied World Skills competitions at the national, European and wider international contexts. The aim of the project is to draw conclusions from competition processes for the development of everyday life practice in the field of VET. This project was represented by the scientific coordinator Petri Nokelainen from Tampere University.

After the nomination the finalists were presented on a special website for public voting that took place during the last weeks before the event and during the first two days. On the evening before the closing ceremony the finalists in different catergories had the opportunity to give short pitches to make their case. Then, in the closing ceremony the nominees of each category were invited and the winner was declared. Concerning the award for VET Research Excellence I was pleased to see a video recording and to hear the words: “The award goes to … Learning Layers”. As fair competitors Petri and Tobias congratulated each other. And then Commissioner Marianne Thyssen handed the award to Tobias Ley.

Learning Layers Awarded 2018-11-09Learning Layers Awarded 2018Tobias with the award

Celebrating the award winner Learning Layers

Firstly, let us do justice to both finalists – the two international projects and the teams involved – and for the fair competition. This was a good way to present European and international VET research at such an event.

Then, coming to our Learning Layers project: Why are we so happy that we got the award fror European research in the field of VET (vocational education and training)? Here I am speaking in particular for the partners of the Construction pilot – research partners, technical partners and application partners from the construction sector. I would like to raise the following arguments for us as award winners:

  1. A substantial part of Learning Layers pilot activities were carried out in the context of apprentice training for construction sector in North Germany. In this context the project was developing a digital toolset “Learning Toolbox” to support work process-oriented learning. Now, in the initial pilot context – the training centre Bau-ABC – the Learning Toolbox will be introduced to the training of all occupations.
  2. The co-design and tools deployment processes were carried out as participative Research & Development dialogue. In this dialogue practitioners, technical partners were developing tools that promote a culture of self-organised learning in different craft trades.
  3. The project organised training of trainers in such a way that they could act as promoters of innovation and adjust the use of tools to match their pedagogic priorities (self-organised search of knowledge within a wide set of resources vs. gradual extension of resources that are available for learner). The ‘theme room’ approach is being used in the further promotion of the tools by other trainers.
  4. After the end of the Learning Layers project there have been several follow-up initiatives to spread the use of Learning Toolbox to support practice-based learning in Vocational and Higher Education (e.g. in Estonia and Spain). These pilots have involved also other sectors (e.g. education/training in healthcare and media occupations).
  5. A major spin-off arising from the Learning Layers is the use of Learning Toolbox as support for ePosters in conferences. This was started in the conferences for medical and dental education (AMEE, ADEE) and in the conference for technology-enhanced learning (ECTEL). Most recently the ePosters were piloted in the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) in the network for research in vocational education and training (VETNET).

The points above make it clear that the Learning Layers project was not merely a theory-driven or a tool-driven project. Instead, the project took a high risk in launching open-ended co-design processes and was very much dependent on the cooperation with practitioners in the pilot sectors. Moreover, the tools that were developed in the project – notably the Learning Toolbox – reached the stage of viable products. But in order to bring them further as tools for regular use, additional efforts were needed by the tool developers, practitioners and supporting researchers. These efforts have pointed out to be successful and it was fortunate that reports on recent success were communicated in the event. Thus, the award was a recognition of all the work that contributed to our success. Now we can celebrate, next week we have to take further steps in our work.

More blogs to come …

Bringing Learning Toolbox to wider use in training for construction sector

November 5th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last week I returned from my long sick leave. And I had immediately the possibility to attend a working meeting at the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup. With this training centre we had worked in the EU-funded Learning Layers project many years to develop digital tools to support work process -oriented learning. During the project we reached the stage that Learning Toolbox (LTB) was ready as a viable product to support training and learning processes. The pilot testing in the final phase of the project proved that trainers and apprentices can use the toolset in their training processes. Yet, there were several practical issues that slowed down a wider use of the LTB. Thus, the trainers that had been involved in the pilot testing kept on using the toolset but a wider use was delayed.

Now, in our meeting last week we were facing a new situation. In the meantime most of the hurdles had been overcome and there was full confidence among all parties involved that LTB can be introduced in the apprentice training of Bau-ABC for all trades, Now the pioneering trainers, the management/administration representatives and the LTB developers were discussing, how to support a full-scale implementation of the toolset. From this perspective there was a need to harmonise the use of LTB stacks across the trades and to ensure effective ICT support. Secondly, there was a need to create awareness of good practice in different trades and to share experiences across the trades. In this context the presence of us – researchers from the research institute ITB – was relevant, since we are working in TACCLE projects that support training of trainers and we can draw upon the work in Bau-ABC.

WS-participants 1WS-participants 2WS-participants 3

Insights into the uses of LTB to support training in different trades

Here it is not possible to give a complete overview of all the examples that were presented by Bau-ABC trainers representing different trades. Below, I have selected exemplary cases that show, how the use of LTB had been incorporated into the the work process -oriented learning projects of Bau-ABC apprentices:

  1. Pipeline-builders (Rohrleitungebauer) were using LTB to draft joint plans, how prepare the grounds for the pipelines. Instead of just doing the spadework individually, they made their plans as teams – they divided the tasks and allocated responsibilities for controlling.
  2. Road-builders (Strassenbauer) had prepared a comprehensive overview of the machines provided by the company W&N with nutshell versions of users’ guides (based on the original materials).
  3. Tilers (Fliesenleger) had prepared a comprehensive overview of technical tools that were used in their trade with links to the instructions provided by the manufacturers.
  4. Construction plant operators (Baugeräteführer) had prepared electronic forms as checklists for the inspection of the vehicles before starting to use them. Only after completion of the form and reporting that the vehicles were in order the operators got clearance to start working.
  5. Carpenters (Zimmerer) had been working in a joint project “WorkCamp GreenHouse” with other training centres in Germany. In the project they had developed several modules for ecological construction work (focusing on their trade and the use of materials). In this project they had used LTB as a common toolset and developed a common project plan structure to guide the creation of mother stacks and daughter stacks.
  6. In the area “Health and Safety” (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz) trainers from different trade had worked together to shape a common stack structure that presents the overarching regulations and the local instructions in the training centre. Within this structure different trades had the possibility to present trade-specific content (e.g. concerning their trade-specific personal safety outfits).
  7. In all trades the apprentices (Auszubildende) were using the LTB to upload photos as progress reports on their work and learning in the projects. The trainers used specific background colours for the tiles that documented apprentices’ work.

LWM-stacks 1LWM-stacks 2LWM-stacks 3

The relevance of the recent progress for apprentice training and vocational learning

If the points that I have listed above are taken only as separate inputs with dedicated tools, it would not appear very “revolutionary”. But the essence of the recent progress is that the trainers are working with an integrative digital toolset – the LTB. They have already used LTB for giving instructions and worksheets for apprentices’ projects. Now, with these newer features the range of using LTB in working and learning contexts is expanding. And – as already mentioned – the trainers are themselves leading the innovation and sharing experience with each other. Moreover, for the apprentices the use of LTB is not just a matter of receiving instructions and reporting of the completion of their tasks. As we have seen it from the examples, the use of LTB requires from them a holistic view on their projects and a professional attitude to completion of the tasks. This has been the spirit of working with the LTB in Bau-ABC.

Now, at this stage we were happy to see that Bau-ABC is organising the wider use of the LTB independently of externally funded projects and within its own organisational frameworks – in collaboration with the LTB developers. And, moreover, Bau-ABC is looking for ways to spread the use of LTB across its professional networks. As we see it, the work of the Learning Layers project bears fruit! We – as accompanying researchers – are happy to observe this also in the future.

More blogs to come …

Remembering Jenny Hughes – Part Two: Reflections on the TACCLE projects

October 31st, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

This post is a continuation of my previous post in which I gave a picture of my long-term cooperation with Jenny Hughes who sadly passed away last Sunday. When discussing different themes I mentioned that I would get back to the TACCLE projects in a separate post. This was not only due to the fact that the TACCLE projects have been the flagship projects in Jenny’s career and their continuation proves that they have been a success story. However important this may be alone, another argument is that I have authentic video material in which Jenny reflects the experience earlier TACCLE projects and outlines her plans for forthcoming projects. This discussion was recorded for another European project (Co-op PBL in VET) in 2012 but it was reused and republished couple of times in the context of the Learning Layers project. The introductory text below is based on my earlier blog of April this year. Let us give the floor for Jenny with this adapted text and the videos!

The continuing learning process through different TACCLE projects

The series of TACCLE projects started with the first TACCLE project (Teachers’ Aids on Creating Content for Learning Environments) that worked in 2008 and 2009. It prepared an E-learning handbook to support the e-learning competences of  classroom teachers. In the Taccle2 project the work was differentiated to address different subject areas and alongside them the primary education teachers. In the Taccle3 the emphasis on teaching programming and coding for school children. The  project Taccle4 focuses on developing materials and media to support continuing professional development of teachers and trainers in different educational sectors. The most recent project – Taccle5 – focuses primarily on the field of vocational education and training (VET). As the following two interviews were recorded already in 2012, so the it was not quite clear, in what order the successor projects would come up, but the vision was clear – this work merits to be continued.

And the story goes on …

As I have indicated above, the series of Taccle project was continued to a somewhat different direction than anticipated in the video interview above. The next theme (and target group) to be picked up after the subject teachers in Taccle2 pointed out to be teaching coding in primary schools (Taccle 3). This was a clear response to new educational priorities at European and national levels. The theme ‘continuing professional development of teachers’ (Taccle4) was an urgent need because the resources of Taccle partners were not sufficient to meet the demand for Taccle courses. And finally, the field of VET was taken up in the Taccle5 project.

As we sense it from the videos, Jenny had put her heart and soul into the work in these projects. She learned a lot, how to bring these new competences to teachers in such a way that they became owners of their own learning. She also learned. how to meet the demands of the time. In Taccle1 it was necessary to work with hard copy book to get the teachers on board. In Taccle2 it was necessary to move to an online platform in order to manage the multiple contexts. In Taccle3 it was necessary to bring the coding specialists into work with teachers. All this required learning and mutual adjustment.

As I have said it earlier, we have lost Jenny but we have learned a lot of her and we can work further in the same spirit.

More blogs to come …

 

Remembering Jenny Hughes – Part One: Personal memories on our cooperation

October 31st, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last Sunday we got from Graham Attwell the sad news: Jenny Hughes has passed away. As we know it, Graham is a long-time friend of Jenny over decades. In his blog Graham has already given us a picture what all Jenny has been up to during the years they have known each other (see Graham’s recent blog post). I have also known Jenny and Graham quite some time – our cooperation dates back to the year 1996 when I started monitoring EU-funded cooperation projects as a project manager of Cedefop (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training). Little did we anticipate, what all we would experience together in the years to come and what kind of initiatives we could bring forward. Below I try to cover some of the main themes with which we have worked together in the field of vocational education end training (VET). In this context I will try to give a picture, how Jenny has contributed to European networking and community-development through all these years.

Jenny training the trainers in Bau-ABC

Professionalisation of teachers, trainers and VET professionals altogether

The first time I met Jenny (and also Graham) in Bremen in January 1996 in the kick-off meeting of the European cooperation project “Europrof”. The project was initiated by Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB), University of Bremen, but they chose to employ Graham as the coordinator. Jenny was representing the UK (Welsh) partner organisation. I was representing Cedefop – as an additional accompanying researcher. The aim of the project was to shape a new integrative framework for VET professionals – to overcome the divide between teachers (in school-based education) and trainers (in workplace-based training). The conceptual starting point inspired many European colleagues to join in at a later stage – as affiliated expert partners. However, the project had difficulties in working its way forward from a critical ‘state of the art analysis’ to a realistic change agenda that could be adjusted to different VET cultures. Yet, the work in the Europrof workshops prepared the grounds for a Europe-wide ‘invisible college’ and community-building process that was continued in other projects. In the beginning phase I remember that Jenny was critical about the ‘European English’ terminology that we (non-native English speakers) were using. It took some time for us to understand that we were not disagreeing on the underlying ideas but instead we were not aware of the connotative meanings in British English – that made our message weaker or diluted it altogether. Once we understood this, we were happy to work with Jenny on our side.

The Europrof project had tried to outline an integrative change agenda for promoting education and training for new VET professionals (covering the school-based and workplace-based VET). The successor projects tried to develop a differentiated approach – addressing teachers and trainers in VET as different target groups. The TTplus project (2006 – 2008) was initiated by Graham (now representing Pontydysgu and bringing Jenny with him). I joined this project as a freshman in ITB, based in Bremen. In this project we looked at the instances of change and interests that we could trace in different countries – in order to draw common conclusions. In this project Jenny provided insights into the training practices in Welsh organisations and outlined a framework for continuing professional development (for countries that did not have strong established frameworks at place).

A third phase of such European cooperation took shape in the European Consultation seminars 2007 -2008. The European Commission had decided to launch a consultation process based on six ‘regional’ workshops involving EU Member States and EFTA cooperation partners. The workshops had the task to bring different stakeholders to joint discussion on the role of European policies in promoting the professionalisation of teachers and trainers in VET. The project was led by ITB and supported by Pontydysgu. In the light of the difficulties that we had experienced in previous projects it was of vital importance that Jenny was able to shape a set of interactive workshops that kept the participants busy in common discussion instead of getting stuck with institutional and systemic differences.

Here some of the key points of this workshop concept:

  1. Mapping of concerns of teachers and trainers: What are the issues – what are common to both, what are different? The issue cards were written and set on the wall – illustrating the sense of commonality or relative distance between teachers and trainers.
  2. Witness sessions: Participants reported of recent reforms in their countries and of current European projects that they perceived as innovative.
  3. Problem and Solution cards: Participants wrote on one side of the card a pressing problem and on the other side a possible solution. These were then discussed in groups.
  4. Mapping policies: On a matrix the participant groups were asked to indicate, what European policies do more and what less and what national policies should do more and what less.
  5. Taking a message home: Participants were asked to formulate their own conclusions as messages to take home.
  6. Self-evaluation of the workshop: Participants indicated on flipchart, what had worked well and what was less well in the workshop process – and the process could be improved.

During the workshops the participants worked mostly in mixed groups and language support was provided on demand. Also, at different phases of the process that participants changed groups. In this way the workshop stimulated cross-cultural dialogue and knowledge sharing on key issues and emerging initiatives. The participants emphasised the value of such process and hoped that it would be continued. Unfortunately the Commission services were expecting the process to deliver a Common European framework that would make such exchanges gradually redundant.

From ‘distance learning’ and ‘e-learning’ to the TACCLE projects

Another key theme for Jenny has been the promotion of teachers’ and trainers’ competences in e-learning – remote learning, open distance learning, multimedia learning, e-learning, technology-enhanced learning – whatever it has been called at different times. The major flagship projects in this context have been the TACCLE projects (I will get back to this in my next blog) and the related TACCLE courses. In these projects and in the supporting courses Jenny had the chance to shape handbooks, web-based support materials and workshops that brought the e-learning competences ‘home’ to the work of different teachers and trainers. As a personal memory I can refer to the Multimedia Training workshops that Pontydysgu and ITB organised together for the full-time trainers of the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup in Germany. The lively approach that Jenny radiated throughout the training made the construction sector trainers do their best to get something useful for them in their own work. At a later phase of the Learning Layers project these pioneering trainers served us the champions in introducing the digital toolset Learning Toolbox to their training. And later on they have served as peer tutors in their own organisation and multipliers in a wider context.

Networks, communities and real life wisdom

One important aspect in Jenny’s career has been her role in European networks and community-building processes. She may not have pushed herself into the representative positions but yet her contribution has been vital. I still remember the start of the European “Forum” network that was launched in 1995 as a ‘learning community’ for European researcher. This network tried to avoid premature institutionalisation. Instead, it developed a culture of regular thematic workshops – and included specific workshops for emerging researchers. Gradually, it became necessary to apply for funding and to develop a formalised structure for thematic knowledge development – and in this way the project-specific goals for producing publications in each work package took over the process dynamic. During this development Jenny was trying to maintain the culture of ‘learning community’ and resist the atomisation of the network.

Throughout her career Jenny has been remembered as an advocate of ‘real life wisdom’. She took seriously the challenges of academic knowledge development but at the same time she always work together with practitioners and supported their development. We have lost Jenny but her legacy inspires us from now on.

More blogs to come …

 

Quiet on the blog – Pekka on sick leave

September 25th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

Normally after the annual ECER conference I am eager to step into the ongoing project work – catching up with reports to be finalised and moving on with fieldwork. This time I have had to pull the brakes. Shortly after publishing the blogs on #ECER2018 I was sent to an eye operation as an emergency case. Now, one week after the operation I have a good feeling about the recovery – but it takes quite some time. Therefore, no intensive reading or writing or anything else that may disturb the healing. I am on sick leave until the 15th of October and perhaps it needs to be extended. So, I am better off taking it easy and taking rest from blogging as well.

Funnily enough this blog post seems to be the 300th after I got myself into regular blogging at the beginning of the EU-funded Learning Layers project in November 2012. It seems ironical that I have to celebrate reaching this milestone by announcing a quiet period. But this is life – and blogging has to be adjusted to facts of life.

Mind you, I have very little to complain when I compare my sick leave and my sick note to the well-known case of the Irish Paddy on a construction site, reported by the Dubliners:

So, I am taking my time out and will be back when I am fit again.

More blogs to come (in due time) …

 

Reflections on #ECER2018 – Part Five: Developments in the VETNET network

September 14th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my four previous posts I have shaped a series of blogs on the European Conference of Educational Research (ECER 2018) that took place last week in Bolzano/Bozen. In the first post I reported on the pilot with  ePosters powered by the digital toolset Learning Toolbox (LTB). In the second post I gave an overview on my own contributions – on the research background of the LTB and on ‘transfer of innovation’ issues in recent and earlier innovation projects. In the third post I reported on the Opening Session of our VETNET network (European Vocational Education and Training Research Network) and on some contributions of our Italian colleagues. In the  fourth post I give insights into some of the VETNET sessions that I had attended as a participant.With this fifth – and concluding – post I will focus on the VETNET network and its general assembly.

Successful preparation – successful participation

The convenors of the VETNET network – Christof Nägele and Barbara Stalder – had a pleasant duty to report on the preparation of the VETNET program and how it was put into practice. Once again we had clearly over 100 proposals and despite some withdrawals we remained among the biggest EERA networks. For the convenors the high number provided a challenge – not to end up with four parallel sessions in the same time slot. They managed it – although packing sometimes four presentations into one session. But this seemed to work fine. Also, when distributing the session chair duties, they took a new approach – in each session the last presenter was appointed as the chair. In this way the chairing duties were distributed more widely – not only to the board members. And in this way also the last presenters got their fair share of the time. Finally, the organisation of the VETNET dinner – with a record participation – was praised widely.

ECER VETNET Proceedings 2018

One of the remarkable achievements of the convenors was that they managed to produce proper proceedings – as an online version and as a book that is printed on demand:

Nägele, C., & Stalder, B. E. (Eds.) (2018). Trends in vocational education and training research. Proceedings of the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER), Vocational Education and Training Network (VETNET).https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.1319718

The VETNET pilot with ePosters

This year VETNET had a specific pilot activity with ePosters powered by the Learning Toolbox (LTB). Together with Christof Nägele I initiated firstly an EERA event for presenting this approach and then an EERA-funded Network project that enabled us to organise an interactive poster session with six authors who had prepared their ePosters (see my first post of this series). In the VETNET assembly I was pleased to report that this pilot activity had been a successful one. The sessions had good numbers of participants, the technology worked well and the mini-poster wall enabled further discussions after the sessions. And the EERA showcase and the instruction page are available for further use.

IJRVET – our journal is getting stronger

Michael Gessler, the editor-in-chief of the IJRVET (International Journal for Research in Vocational Education and Training) reported on the development of journal, Now that the IJRVET  has already reached its fifth volume, we can be happy that it has taken its place as a major journal in our field. during the last year we were happy that Cinterfor – the ILO unit for promoting training in Central and South America – started supporting the IJRVET.  Also, we were pleased to have the journal articles as the IJRVET Yearbook – printed on demand.

Crossing Boundaries in VET – the Spring 2019 Conference in Valencia

Last year we reached an agreement on scheduling two other conferences so that they are not clashing with each other or with the ECER. According to this agreement the “Crossing Boundaries …” conference and the Stockholm International VET Conference will be organised every two years. Thus, the next “Crossing Boundaries …” conference will be organised in May 2019 in Valencia (and the next Stockholm conference in May 2020). The call for papers for the Valencia conference was closed already at the end of May this year. On behalf of the organisers Fernando Marhuenda gave an interim report on the preparation. They were happy about the good number of proposals. Yet, as a consequence, the selection process had taken more time. However, the results will be communicated by the end of September. Here also the organisers are preparing the proceedings to be distributed before/at the event.

The European Skills Week

From the year 2016 on the VETNET network has been supporting the European Commission in organising research-related events in the context of the European Skills Week. In addition to a research work there has been a competition to award distinguished European researchers and successful European projects. This tradition will be continued and the information on the forthcoming event in Vienna will be published soon.

Celebrating the new VETNET Network Honorary Member Johanna Lasonen

Last year the VETNET general assembly had nominated Johanna Lasonen for VETNET Honorary Membership. In April this year the EERA Council confirmed her status and published this on the EERA website. Now the VETNET network was in the position to celebrate her. In his laudatio speech Michael Gessler paid attention to the long career of Johanna as an active member – starting from the founding process and including over 20 years service as a reviewer. Moreover, Michael listed all the new things that Johanna brought into the conference culture of VETNET when she was the first ‘local’ program chair in 1999 – the VETNET opening session with keynote speakers, the VETNET proceedings (published by the conference), the VETNET dinner (sponsored by Lahti Polytechnic) and the VETNET study visits to vocational schools and enterprises. Also, Michael referred to Johanna’s role in supporting the IJRVET in many ways. And finally, Michael gave insights into Johanna’s long career in the International Vocational Education and Training Association (IVETA) as the European Vice-President, as the President Elect, as the President and as the Immediate Past President. These duties required sometimes bold actions and firm leadership, as the examples tha Michael mentioned made us aware.

Awarding-JL-1Awarding-JL-3

Johanna thanked the network and the EERA Council for the honour and paid tribute to other team players as board members and convenors with whom she had worked. With this celebration we were happy to take the course to the next ECER 2019 that will be hosted by Hamburg.

I think this is enough of the VETNET meeting and of the reporting on ECER 2018 altogether. This major conference was a good experience and now it is time to continue with the daily work.

More blogs to come …

Reflections on #ECER2018 – Part Four: Insights into different VETNET sessions

September 14th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous posts I have shaped a series of blogs on the European Conference of Educational Research (ECER 2018) that took place last week in Bolzano/Bozen. In the first post I reported on the pilot with  ePosters powered by the digital toolset Learning Toolbox (LTB). In the second post I gave an overview on my own contributions – on the research background of the LTB and on ‘transfer of innovation’ issues in recent and earlier innovation projects. In the third post I reported on the Opening Session of our VETNET network (European Vocational Education and Training Research Network) and on some contributions of our Italian colleagues. This fourth post will give insights into some of the VETNET sessions that I attended. Here it is worthwhile to note that I don’t try to cover the whole VETNET program nor the sessions that I attended. Instead I try to draw attention to some specific presentations.

Continuing vocational training, progression to managerial positions and digital tools for learning

My colleagues Werner Müller and Ludger Deitmer presented the newest phase of the German project DigiProB. This project focuses on a Continuing Vocational Training (CVT) model that outlines a purely vocational progression route to higher qualifications. As we reported in ECER 2015, this training model has been renewed in such a way that it is not only based on subject-specific courses but – also – integrated with complex working and learning tasks and by an integrative project report.

The training model for General Foremen

The training model for General Foremen

Now, in the present phase of the project, the colleagues could report on the shaping of the software ecology that had been developed to support the training and learning processes.

The software ecology to support the training

The software ecology supporting training and learning

Ten years European Qualification Framework (EQF) – A success story?

In another session Sandra Bohlinger took as her starting point the ten year anniversary of the European Qualification Framework (EQF). In her presentation she had a number of quotes that presented the ‘promises’ at the beginning phase and the others that celebrated the ten years as ‘success story’. However, looking closer to the development during these years she presented a more differentiated picture. Surely, the number of countries that have adopted the framework is larger than the number of EU Member States. And for countries that experienced a transformation from planned economy to market economy the framework appeared as an appropriate support instrument. However, the key message coming through from the evaluation studies that have been carried out recently is that no there has not been such an impact at the European level as had been expected. This, as we discussed in the session, is quite an impact itself when thinking of European policies.

To me this was another input in the continuing story of debates on the EQF at ECER and in VETNET sessions. All these years our collegues have made critical remarks on the internal contradictions in such frameworks and their limited potential  in promoting transparency between different VET cultures. However, in this session we raised a new issue – what has happened to ‘earlier’ themes in European cooperation that had been sidelined during the years of making EQF and its national and sectoral counterparts. As I see it, these exercises were ‘translating’ national frameworks to a common ‘esperanto’ terminology and sidelined the tradition of ‘learning from each other’. (I hope that  Sandra will publish her text soon so that we can continue this discussion.)

Use of technologies in learning – Encounters between high and low technologies

Another interesting session was composed as a symposium that brought together different perspectives to using technologies as support for vocational learning.  Marianne Teräs introduced the symposium and presented the palette of presentations and as contributions to ‘use of technologies’ or challenges with technologies in the context of vocational learning. Two of the presentations focused on simulations in the healthcare sector whilst the third one discussed the relations between ‘high’ and ‘low’ technology in a developing country.

Vibe Aarkrog presented her action research project in which she studied learning simulation-based arrangements within nursing education. She gave us insights into her research design and into the discussion on ‘high fidelity’ simulations vs. ‘low fidelity’ simulations. Then she drew attention to different scenarios (framing the learning situations) and to possible interventions of teachers. At the end she raised several useful questions on the role of simulations as support for learning.

Vibe's questions on simulation-based learning

Vibe’s questions on simulation-based learning

Paula Poikela presented her research on the development of simulation-based learning in nursing education. In this context she gave us insights into the earlier models of computer-based simulations, to the emergence of web resources, mobile devices and wearable technologies. She also drew attention to different waves of simulation in healthcare sector, starting from arrangements for medical doctors and then shifting to specific simulations for nurses and to arrangements that involve different healthcare professionals. She concluded her presentation with a trialogical approach to examining meaningful learning based on simulations.

The approach to study meaningful learning based on simulations

The approach to study meaningful learning based on simulations

In the final presentation of the symposium Lazaro Moreno opened a different perspective to using technologies to support learning. He told of a new project in which he studies the training for automotive occupations in Cuba. He gave us a picture of a huge gap in resources and equipment by comparing a) companies that bring brand new cars and maintenance software to serve the tourists and b) vocational schools that train their pupils to repair the oldtimers that are used by local people (and have at best very old computers). With this contrast he drew attention to the principles of polytechnic education – training creativity and problem-solving skills.

Screen Shot 2018-09-14 at 10.48.53

The symposium was characterised by a lively discussion in which the colleagues added further aspects to the theme ‘supporting menaingful learning’.  Also, the participants emphasised the difference between technology at work and technology for learning. These may not necessarily go hand in hand – and this may provides chances for meaningful educational interventions.

I guess this is enough of the VETNET sessions. Although this report is far from a comprenehsive coverage, it nevertheless shows the richness in content. In my final post of this series I will focus on the VETNET network and its general assembly.

More blogs to come …

 

Reflections on #ECER2018 – Part Three: The VETNET network in dialogue with the host country

September 12th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous posts I started a series of blogs on the European Conference of Educational Research (ECER 2018) that took place last week in Bolzano/Bozen. In the first post I reported on the pilot with  ePosters powered by the digital toolset Learning Toolbox (LTB). In the second post I gave an overview on my own contributions – on the research background of the LTB and on ‘transfer of innovation’ issues in recent and earlier innovation projects. I also reported on my own way to prepare ePoster-versions of my presentations. In this third post I will focus on the traditional Opening Session of our VETNET network (European Vocational Education and Training Research Network). Ever since 1999 we have had a tradition to bring forward research issues and/or policy issues from the host country of the conference. Below I will give a brief report on the Opening Session in Bolzano-Bozen and on the issues that came up. Then I will make some remarks on the presentations of our Italian colleagues.

Issues on Vocational Education and Training (VET) in the host country and host region

Already in the preparation phase our Italian colleagues had advised that we should focus on the host region (South Tyrol/ Trentino Alto Adige) as a bilingual region in which two lingual communities live in the same neighbourhood. Following this advice the VETNET network was pleased to welcome representatives of Vocational Education Institutions/Authorities from German-speaking community and the Italian-speaking community. In addition we were pleased to welcome a representative of the German-speaking Trade associations and an Italian researcher as a discussant.

Without going into details of the presentations it is worthwhile to not that the representatives of vocational education from both lingual communities emphasised the efforts of vocational schools to incorporate workplace-based learning into their provisions. Partly this was pursued via local partnerships, partly with the help of regional ESF-projects. Yet, both speakers expressed their concerns of high drop-out rates (although the regional drop-out rates were lower than the average in Italy). In this context the representative of the trade association (entrepreneur himself) expressed his critical views on the bridging arrangements initiated by vocational schools. His association was strongly in favour of the German-like dual system of apprenticeship in which the enterprise is the major partner and the school has a supporting function. He then presented a lively picture of achievements reached (and hurdles met) in making the apprentice training function in the regional context. With these introductory presentations we got a richer picture of the host region in which the lingual communities follow different cultural traditions in shaping the VET provisions and are on somewhat different developmental paths. Due to many questions and comments the session chair had to reschedule the discussant’s contribution (prepared by Marco Perini) to the next session (see below).

Italian research papers in further VETNET sessions

We already go interested in the VETNET Opening session and luckily enough we had informative contributions from our Italian colleagues who could give us deeper insights. Unfortunately I couldn’t attend their sessions but luckily enough we find their papers in the ECER VETNET Proceedings 2018 (that have been published immediately after the conference. In this respect I just try to give a brief background information on the contributions that I recommend for further reading.

Marco Perini et al.: Research on Italian VET-laboratory instructional practices

Cover page of the presentation of Marco Perini and Monica Pentassuglia

Cover page of the presentation of Marco Perini and Monica Pentassuglia

In the VETNET Opening Session we had already heard several speakers referring to “VET-laboratories” as joint learning arrangements developed by vocational schools and regional enterprises. In their presentation “One Step Forward: …” Marco Perini and Monica Pentassuglia provided firstly background information on the Italian VET system and on the introduction of this new format for collaborative learning.  Based on the background information they outlined a research framework for studying the implementation of this approach and getting feedback from different parties involved. Since the paper gives insights into work in progress, we are keen on following the further steps of the study.

Paolo Nardi et al:: Case study on the Oliver Twist school as example for new approach in VET

Screen Shot 2018-09-12 at 16.11.26

The paper of Paolo Nardi and his co-authors can be characterised as ‘college research’ and as ‘action research’ in a vocational education and training setting. Cometa – the training institution – is carrying out a quality development campaign with which it wants to evaluate the vocational programs and certify them with Cometa branding. In this context the ‘reality-based learning’ approach is given a major attention. Whilst the teachers are engaged with developmental process, Cometa Research team is supporting the process with documentation and analyses. The paper presents both the approach, developmental measures (concerning internship/apprenticeship) and achieved results. The interesting point here is that the Cometa Research activities are being developed as a continuing support layer – both for the school development and teachers’ professional development and for cooperation with partner universities.

I think this is enough of the VETNET opening and on the dialogue that was opened with the host region and the host country representatives. I am looking forward to the next steps and next encounters. But I also need to give an account on other themes discussed in the conference.

More blogs to come … 

Reflections on #ECER2018 – Part Two: Transfer of Innovation after the Learning Layers Project

September 11th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I started to report on our activities at the European Conference of Educational Research (ECER 2018) that took place last week in Bolzano/Bozen. In the first post I concentrated on the sessions that focused on the use of Learning Toolbox (LTB) as a digital toolset for preparing and presenting ePosters in conferences. In this second post I will concentrate on my own contributions that focus on the follow-up phase of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project and on the issue ‘transfer of innovation’ after such a project.  Firstly I will discuss my presentation on the research background of the LTB – prepared for the EERA session on using the LTB for ePosters. Secondly I will discuss my paper presentation on the theme “Transfer of Innovation after the Learning Layers project”.

However, this time I don’t want to provide simple summaries of two presentations. After all, we were at #ECER2018 with a pilot project in which the poster authors were trained to convert their traditional posters into ePosters with the help of LTB. So, I also took our own medicine and transformed my ‘ordinary’ PowerPoint presentations into hybrid presentations by using the LTB. Therefore, I want to give insights into the ePoster-versions of my presentations and what all has been packed into them alongside the initial PowerPoint presentations. Let me firstly give the link to the EERA showcase, where they can be found among others. Then we can have a look at each of the two presentations individually.

The research background and the  research-related potential of the Learning Toolbox

Research background of Learning Toolbox

Mini-Poster  “Research background of Learning Toolbox (LTB)”

The ‘ordinary’ ppt-presentation gives insights into the Learning Layers project, into the co-design activities in the Construction pilot, into the shaping and pilot testing of the Learning Toolbox (LTB) and into the reporting of the results. Then, the presentation gives an overview of research themes with which I have tried to put the innovation agenda into a wider context. And I have added a lot of references to relevant literature.

In my ‘ePoster-version‘ I have prepared an LTB-stack and told my story with few tiles that accommodate text documents. In addition I have used other tiles to link to web documents for presenting our project documentation and reporting. Then, on further screens I have given access to my research papers and to videos presenting our application partners’ views. In this way the ePoster-version provides a richer resource environment on the background of the LTB.

The ‘transfer of innovation’ issue before, during and after the Learning Layers project

Mini-poster "Transfer of Innovation after Learning Layers"

Mini-poster “Transfer of Innovation after Learning Layers”

Here, the ‘ordinary’ ppt-presentation gives some background information on the Learning Layers projects, on the co-design and pilot activities in the Construction pilot and describes the transition to the follow-up phase. Then, the second part discusses the ‘transfer issue’ as it was analysed in the light of earlier German Modellversuche, in more recent innovation programs and in specific pilots to promote transfer via ‘encounters’ and joint search processes. The presentation makes some comparisons between these earlier examples and our present situation. And here again, we have some literature.

In my ‘e-poster version‘ I have prepared a simple LTB-stack with two screens. The home screen gives access to the ppt-presentation and to the full paper and to my author information. The additional resource screen gives access to essential web links: the reports on Learning Layers results, the documentation of the Construction pilot as the “LTB-Chronicle”, the EERA-showcase with other ePosters. And concerning the literature, it provides two content tiles – literature on the transfer issue in Modellversuche (only paper-based) and my research papers uploaded on ResearchGate. In this way the ePoster-version has provided a somewhat richer resource environment.

I think this is enough of my contributions. I hope that this blog post helps to get access to the ePosters and to the resources they make available. If that is the case, it was worthwhile preparing them. But this is not all about the #ECER2018.

More blogs to come …

 

Reflections on #ECER2018 – Part One: Bringing Learning Toolbox and ePosters ‘home’ to ECER

September 11th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

As usual, I have also this year participated in the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER). This year the conference was organised in Bolzano-Bozen – in the bilingual South-Tyrolean area next to the Dolomites. But for me and my colleagues this was not at all a touristic mission. In addition to the ordinary conference program we were in charge of the pilot activities with ePosters powered by the Learning Toolbox (LTB). In my previous post I have reported on our preparatory activities. Now it is time to report, how we put it all into practice and what kind of experiences we made. Below I give first insights into the Interactive ePoster session of the VETNET network (European Vocational Education and Training Research Network). Then I report on the EERA special session for discussing the use of the new toolset – the LTB – for preparing ePosters in a wider context.

The Interactive Poster Session of VETNET with ePosters presented in a session room

As I have reported in my previous post, we had invited all authors who had proposed posters to be presented in the VETNET (Network 2) program of the ECER 2018 to prepare ePosters and to present them in an Interactive Poster Session in the VETNET area. We were pleased that all authors had agreed and that we had their ePosters ready in the EERA showcase prepared by the LTB developers. However, we had very little advance information on the venue and very little time to prepare the room for the session. Thus, the best we could do was to organise a similar session as an ‘ordinary’ paper session – but now presenting ePosters. A major difference, however, was the fact that we had a full set of mini-posters presented on ‘poster wall’ in the session room before the session and it remained after the session.

Mini-posters for the VETNET ePoster session at ECER 2018

Mini-posters for the VETNET ePoster session at ECER 2018

We had an additional difficulty in the fact that the EERA session was scheduled immediately after the ePoster session, so we had to organise the presentation and discussion on six posters in a tight time frame to get in time to our next session. For this purpose we grouped the presentations into pairs that had some commonality in their themes. Here again, our authors were flexible and the arrangement suited them.

Firstly. Wilko Reichwein presented insights into the cross-university cooperation in shaping vocational teacher education by linking subject disciplines and pedagogic know-how to each other. Then Marta Virgós Sánchez provided insights into the implementation of ‘dual’ training models in Spain. Cooperation between learning venues (Lernortkooperation) was discussed from the perspective of educational planning (the German presentation) and from the perspective of feedback from the parties involved (the Spanish presentation).

Secondly, on behalf of a Hungarian research team Marta Takacs Miklósi and Attila Karoly Molnar presented their comparative studies between the preconditions for education, training and learning in the prisons in Hungary and Poland. Then they presented insights into the learning opportunities and the role of andragogy (adult-oriented support for learning) in Hungary and Slovakia.

Thirdly, Maria Christidis gave insights into the communication culture and learning culture within the training of nurse assistants in Sweden. Then Katharina Peinemann provided insights into the inclusion issues in the German pre-vocational learning provisions (the ‘transitional system’ ) and into challenges for teachers’ professional development.

Altogether, we suffered from the time constraints, but we could stimulate some discussion. And since the authors could stay a little longer at the ‘poster wall’, they could advise interested participants, how to upload the richer LTB stacks (with the help of the QR-code) to mobile phones and get further information.

The special EERA session “Using Learning Toolbox for presenting Educational Research”

Our next session – the EERA-wide event to inform participants from other networks on the ePosters and the LTB – had been proposed and planned before we knew how successful we would be with the VETNET session. Therefore, we had planned firstly a presentation that gives a report on the development of the LTB in the Learning Layers (LL) project. This was prepared by me. (I will get back to this input in my next post.)

How to start with ePosters - extract from Gilbert's presentation

How to start with ePosters – extract from Gilbert’s presentation

The main input for this session was prepared by Gilbert Peffer on behalf of the LTB-developers. He gave insights into the functioning of the LTB, on the process of preparing and presenting ePosters and on possible uses of ePosters at different conference venues. Also, he presented newer ideas for developing ePoster sessions, e.g. the ePoster Arena. (This includes a central podium for presenting several short pitches and then distributed round tables for discussions with presenters.)

New engagement formats - extract from Gilbert's presentation

New engagement formats – extract from Gilbert’s presentation

In the discussion we had feedback from the authors of the VETNET ePoster session and further questions from representatives of other networks. Also, we got several questions concerning the use of LTB as support for practice-based learning in vocational and higher education. We still have a lot of impressions to digest and a lot of points to be made to EERA as conclusions on our pilot project.

I guess this is enough of this pilot project. But I will keep the topic ‘ePosters’ present when I give an account on my own presentations. I also did my homework in preparing ePosters although I presented in somewhat different sessions.

More blogs to come …

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