Wrapping up the ECER 2017 experience – Part Four: Discussions on vocational teacher education

August 29th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my three previous blogs I have started a series of posts reporting on the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER 2017) that took place last week in Copenhagen. The first post outlined a working agenda with themes to be covered. The second post provided insights into my own presentation. The third post discussed the themes ‘qualification frameworks’ and ‘credit transfer’. With this fourth post I try to give an overview on presentations that discussed reforms in vocational teacher education or issues related to practicum studies of teacher candidates. Here I am facing a multitude of presentations and sessions and I cannot even try to give comprehensive characterisations of them. Instead, I try to list the presentations below as thematic blocks and make some remarks on each block – with the hope that I get access to published 2017 Copenhagen presentations on the Vetnetsite and/or to full papers. At the end I will give links to our (ITB) projects of earlier years that can be read as background materials for the newer contributions.

Vocational teacher education in the light of recent reforms – Danish and Irish experiences

In this block I would like to discuss the two studies presented in the same session:

Vocational Teacher Education and Vocational Didactics – authored and presented by Henriette Duch from Denmark and

The Students’ Experience Of FE Teacher Education Qualification (TEQ) Programmes: A Study of FE Teachers Professional Development And Evolving Identity In Ireland: North and South – authored by Anne Graham Cagney, Carol Yelverton- Halpin, Ned Cohen and presented by Anne.

Both presentations gave a picture of reforms that were allegedly aiming to support pedagogic autonomy of vocational schools or to upgrade the level of vocational teacher education. In both cases the presenters brought into picture boundary conditions and side-effects that overshadowed the implementation.

Finding the ‘e’ in VET and the ‘researchers’ and ‘pedagogists’ in VET teachers

In this block I would discuss one single presentation with multiple messages:

What’s In A Name – VET Teachers Acting Upon The Meaning Of The ‘E’ In VET authored and presented by Lewis Hughes.

In this presentation Lewis gave us insights into a conversation approach to motivate and support VET practitioners to include research as part of their professional practice With the help of a framework (adapted from the Activity Theory group around Yrjö Engeström) Lewis is integrating researching related matters with these teachers perceiving themselves as educators and, accordingly, finding an interest in reflection that takes the shape of research. Moreover, when making this experience as a collective, the teachers are able to position themselves as doing ‘research’ as a means of continuing professional development and adding to vocational currency. Associated with this, Lewis referred to the Australian recent initiative of establishing the VET Practitioner Research Network (VPRN) – his Founding Partner involvement in this is adding to informing his research as his research is also informing his contribution to configuring and activity of the VPRN.

I assume that I have picked a key message from Lewis’ presentation (among other important points). To me it was important that I manage to bring into contact with Lewis a group of Italian VET teachers who represented the institute Cometa Formazione and had established their Cometa Research program based on similar ideas.

The development of VET teacher pedagogy through practice

In the third block I would like to discuss the  presentations of the final session of the VETNET program at ECER 2017:

Development of practicum pedagogy to enhance VET teacher learning – authored by Ingela Andersson, Ingrid Berglund, Ingrid Henning Loeb, Viveca Lindberg and presented by Ingrid from Göteborg.

The practice of feedback in practicum periods in VET – case of Swedish-speaking Finland – authored and presented by Birgit Schaffar-Kronqvist from Turku/Åbo.

Developing novice VET teachers’ pedagogy: A work-based learning curriculum framework – authored and presented by Susanne Francisco from Australia.

Here the two first presentations by Ingrid and Birgit discussed the shaping of vocational teacher education programs by universities in Sweden and in (Swedish-speaking) Finland. These programs are delivered by universities (or by universities of applied sciences) independently of the Bachelor-Master structures. The volume of the program is in Finland 60 ECTS points and in Sweden 90 ECTS points. Both programs can be studied as full-time students or as part-time students. The learning arrangements are appropriate for teacher candidates who are already working as teachers without formal qualification, and for people with vocational backgrounds without teaching experience. The schedules (with on-the-job learning and presence sessions) are attractive for adult learners who want to shift to teacher occupation. However, in both cases the presenters reported on tensions regarding the role of practicum (practice-based learning period) and challenges, how to implement these periods in a such a way that the VET teacher candidates have new learning experiences.

In this context Susanne Francisco brought into discussion theoretical insights (with reference to Stephen Kemmis from Australia, who also attended the session) and selected examples from the practice. She also presented some exemplary ‘learning journeys’ that demonstrated, how teacher candidates’ learning processes in practicum can be kept at ‘ordinary’ level or enhanced or driven into dead ends. Altogether, we had an interesting discussion

Revisiting ‘Vocational teachers and trainers’ and ‘Practice-based learning’ as prior European project themes

I am aware that I have only scratched the topics above and not really entered them. That is why I have presented them as thematic blocks that I want to revisit in due time. In this context I also want to revisit the materials of some earlier European projects in which I was involved in one way or another, such as:

  • The Europrof project and its follow-up activities (Training of new VET professionals; 1996 – 2001)
  • The UNIP network for developing an international framework for TVET teacher education (2004 – 2006)
  • The TTplus project in Europe (focus on trainers) and TT-TVET project in Europe and Asia (2006 – 2009)
  • VET teachers and trainers – Consultation seminars in six European regions (2008 – 2009)
  • The Euronet-PBL project (Practice-based learning in engineering, business management and VET teacher education (2008-2010)

I have collected the materials on ResearchGate to the following two Project spaces:

Workplace Learning/ Practice-Based Learning – Legacy of European projects 2005 – 2012

Teachers & Trainers in Vocational Education &Training – Legacy of European projects 1995 -2010

and regarding ECER conferences

My VETNET Journey – Archives of my contributions to ECER conferences and VETNET network (1992 – 2016)

– – –

I think I have made enough notes and taken plenty of homework for the time to come. In my next post I will report on a very interesting workshop at ECER 2017.

More blogs to come …

My journey with Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB) – Part Five: From Work & Learning Partners to Euronet-PBL (2005 – 2010)

December 10th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous posts I started to write a serious of blogs with the heading “My journey with Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB)”. These blogs are intended to support the work (or follow-up) of the ITB “Klausurtagung” that will take place on Friday 9. December 2016.  The inspiration to write personal blogs that deal with the history of ITB comes from the Klausurtagung 2015. With this series I try to compensate my absence due to health issues and to pass a message, wah has happened at different times and with different themes. In the first post I tried to cover my first encounters –  my study visit in 1989 and participation in the Hochschultage Berufliche Bildung 1990 conference. In the second post I gave insights into the Modellversuch Schwarze Pumpe and to related European cooperation projects 1995 – 1999. In the third post I discussed the Europrof project, the Unesco International TVET meeting in Hangzhou 2004 and its follow-up. In the fourth post I discussed the  TTplus project and the European Consultation seminars in the years 2007 – 2010. In this fifth blog I will discuss the development of our work from Work & Learning Partners (2005-2006) to Euronet-PBL on practice-based learning  (2009-2010).

The three previous blogs have discussed reform and innovations concepts with systemic relevance (Doppelqualifikation, New VET professionals) and/or European policy frameworks (Teachers and trainers in VET). As a contrast, the projects to be discussed in this post can be characterised as intermediate innovations (partnerships for workplace learning in VET and for practice-based learning in higher education).

The project Work & Learning Partners (2005-2006)

The Leonardo da Vinci project “Work & Learning Partners (WLP)” was based on the experiences of a successful regional pilot project (Modellversch GoLo) with workplace learning partnerships in the Wilhelmshaven region. This predecessor project demonstrated that a crisis region can cut the declining tendency in apprentice training by grouping SMEs into partnerships that provide training opportunities jointly. Here it is worthwhile to note that in the case of Wilhelmshaven these cooperation arrangements were supported by a local mobilisation of the companies (by the local industrial association) and by training interventions of the pilot team.

The European project (initiated by Philipp Grollmann) tried to promote transfer of innovation by relatively light-weight accompaniment arrangements (with case studies using a GoLo-based “Learning Potential Analysis” (LPA) method. This was originally used to clarify whether the partner enterprises were in the position to cover all content areas in the domain-specific apprentice training – and to identify areas of learning to be covered with partnership cooperation. However, the case studies that were carried out parallel to these analyses gave a picture that the companies involved in the other partner countries were not looking for partnership-based cooperation with other companies by letting apprentices rotate. Instead, in the second phase of the project the partners refocused their fieldwork into examining the kind of cooperation arrangements that could be introduced in their contexts and/or measures to improve their workplace learning with the use of multimedia support. Also, as a support for the initial ideas, the French partner provided an additional case study of the trans-national company Endress + Hauser that has pioneered with rotating ita apprentices between its plants in Switzerland, Germany and France (and completing apprenticeship with certificates recognised in all countries).

Looking back, the the partners had apparently expected more of the willingness of the companies to work in partnerships and of the contribution of the LPA-analyses to the development of workplace learning arrangements. As I came to the project as a replacement of the coordinator (due to an accident and a longer leave of absence), my task was to coach the local partners to find alternative initiatives to be reported. This process history was symptomatic for attempted transfer of innovation with very context-specific innovation concepts to wider European use.

Euronet-PBL – the approach to studying and developing practice-based learning

Some years later the Erasmus project Euronet-PBL was initiated by ITB (by Ludger Deitmer as primus motor). It was shaped as an allrounder-project to study and develop practice-based learning arrangements in three domains: engineering studies, business administration and vocational teacher education. The university partners were working together with partner enterprises to analyse the experieences with hitherto implemented practice-based learning arrangements (case studies), to evaluate the experiences (evaluation workshops) and to collect tools, instruments and support arrangements into a curricular toolbox. Altogether the work was supported by comparative analyses that provided the basis for eventual recommendations that were discussed in valorisation workshops.

Euronet-PBL – student’s projects, evaluation workshops and valorisation workshops

The project worked intensively with its case studies which included context descriptions on the study programs and on the role of practice-based learning arrangements (Praktikum, Company-Action-Projects, Coop-placements). Then, selected students’ projects or placement cases were analysed for more detailed information). based on this interim information the university partners organised with the partner companies and ths students self-evaluation workshops (using an evaluation tool developed in earlier ITB projects). Here, it is worthwhile to note that the use of the evaluatzion tool is linked to the workshop concept and the quantifiying and visualising features of the tool serve the purpose of stimulating discussion and clarification of arguments. On the basis of ‘local’ evaluation workshops the university partners organised valorisation workshops that had the task to validate the findings and to put them into wider (national) group picture.

Euronet-PBL – the role of comparative analyses

Initially the project was expected to produce a common framework or guidelines for supporting the development of practice-based learning arrangements in higher education (in general) and in the participating academic domains. However, the comparative analyses (using the empirical material gathered in the project) came to the conclusion that this is not realistic. Instead, the comparative analyses provided a framework for

  • distinguishing different learning arrangements from each other: intensive intervention projects (CAP-projects), series of  students’ short-term projects (Praktikum projects), work experience placements (without study project);
  • distinguishing between ‘reference case’ and ‘parallel’ case in the academic domains analysed (project vs. placement);
  • making the information on different models and patterns of implementation transparent as a group picture;
  • analysing the role of the Bologna process as a background and context for developing different models;
  • analysing developments and ambitions in shaping different models (taking into account the European context.

Thus, instead of preparing a ‘framework’ or ‘guideline’ document, the project prepared a secondary analysis of exemplary students’ projects to highlight the potentials of such projects for university-enterprise cooperation.

The role of  the Toolbox of the Euronet-PBL (at that time and looking back)

In the light of the above it is easy to understand, what kind of changes the idea of shping a common toolbox went through during the project and how differently such a task would be approached with present-date understanding. Originally the idea of a common toolbox was linked to the common curricular framework or curricular guidelines (to develop practice-based learning). The toolbox was to collect national or local guidelines, instructions, contract templates, reporting documents, presentation templates, assessment guidelines and forms etc. These materials were to be structured in the light of agreed recommendations or guiding principles.

Once the comparative analyses had suggested the conclusion to support mutual learning and exchanges as the main thrust for developing practice-based learning, the role of the common toolbox changed. Now, it was developed as a resource base for learning from other partners’ models, instruments and tools. From this perspective the “Toolbox” was shaped as a moodle ‘course’ that was based on a process model for implementing practice-based learning. The ‘learning units’ of the course highlighted a phase in the planning, preparation, implementation and assessment of practice-based learning. And exemplary instructions, instruments, tools and reports used by partners were made available to illustrate this phase.

Looking back, it is symptomatic that the project of the years 2009-2010 worked with an idea of a curricular toolbox instead of a learners’ toolbox. Now, with present-date Internet-connections and mobile apps it is easier to think of common toolboxes to support learners’ activities and share information on students’ Praktikum or CAP projects in real time.

– – –

I think this is enough of these intermediate innovation projects (between systemic reforms and ‘local’ development measures). As I have indicated above, many of these projects could be revisited as early anticipations of innovation concepts that now can be shaped in a more user-friendly, dynamic and interactive way.

More blogs to come …


Looking back at three years of Learning Layers – Part Two: Role of research in construction pilot

October 25th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I drew attention to the fact that the EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project is preparing  for the review of the Year 3.  This has given rise to consider the development of the project and our activities as an evolution of the context and development of the actors and activities working in the context. In the first post I discussed the challenges of the early phase and the responses of the project. In the second post I will discuss the role of accompanying research in the construction pilot. I will also make some remarks on the role of research dialogue within the project and across the boundaries of the current LL project.

1. Interaction between theoretical work and co-design activities in construction pilot (Year 2 and Year 3)

In the beginning of the Year 2 the Learning Layers project agreed to organise a “Theory Camp” activity with lengthy preparatory phase, and intensive symposium during the Y2 Integration Meeting in Aachen and a follow-up phase. This activity brought into picture the specific interactive relations between theoretical work and co-design activities in the construction pilot.

A considerable part of the contributions to the Theory Camp articles represented different aspects of learning, knowledge development etc. or different accents on design processes. These were to be applied to the fields of application via design processes that focus on specific problems and respective tools. As a contrast, the research partners in construction sector build upon the experience of participative innovation programs that have emphasised the social shaping of work, technology and work organisations from the perspective of whole work processes and holistic occupational qualifications, see Landesprogramm Arbeit und Technik, Bremen (Deitmer 2004); BLK-Programm Neue Lernkonzepte in der Dualen Berufsausbildung (Deitmer et. al. 2004). In this respect the research partners in construction pilot drew attention to themes ‘acquisition of work process knowledge’ (see also Fischer et al. 2004) and ‘vocational learning’ in their contributions.

In the follow-up phase the research partners worked with the themes ‘reviewing accompanying research’ (ECER 2014) and ‘reviewing activity theory’ (Bremen conference 2015). With this theoretical and methodological work the research partners reviewed the theoretical insights and discussed experiences with developmental research approaches, such as the ‘change laboratory processes’ and ‘expansive learning cycles’ (based on the work of Yrjö Engeström and affiliated project teams).

As a consequence, the research partners were in the position to work in the complex and manifold process of designing and developing Learning Toolbox with sufficient openness. This was needed to give time for capacity building and growing readiness for co-development (on all sides of the process). This was also crucial for making the toolsets appropriate to support (holistic) vocational learning and enhancing (holistic) work process knowledge. This has required manifold feedback loops and intensive reporting from field workshops. In this way the research partners in construction pilot have supported process dynamics that have enabled the application partners to become themselves the drivers of the piloting with Learning Toolbox in their own trades (Bau-ABC trainers) or in their specific contexts and activities to promote ecological construction work (Agentur and the affiliated network NNB).

2. The role of research dialogue – internal and external

In the light of the above it is worthwhile to emphasise that the construction pilot has not been developed in isolation. Instead, research dialogue activities – both internal (with  LL partners) and external (with other counterparts) have played an important role in the development of the project. The internal research dialogue activities have been shaped by working groups that focused on transversal themes – such as ‘contextual knowledge’, ‘trust’ – that were equally relevant to both pilot sectors. This work has been covered by other colleagues with their contributions to the reports. In this context I wish to draw attention to two threads of external research dialogue:

a) Exhanges on Activity Theory and Developmental Work Research

As I have mentioned above, this thread was taken up by the ITB team as a follow-up of the Theory Camp and pursued further in a workshop of the Bremen International VET conference (see the report in my recent post). Here it is worthwhile to note that we gathered experiences on the use of Change Laboratory methodology in intervention projects and of theory of Expansive Learning as an interpretative framework in comparative projects. Also, we engaged ourselves in critical re-examination of some concepts used in Activity Theory (such as Vygotsky’s concept of ‘mediation’ and concepts like ‘contradiction’ and ‘transformative practice’). These discussions will be continued as the LL project proceeds deeper to the exploitation of results.

b) Exchanges of parallel approaches to intervention research

Already in ECER 2014 (in Porto) the ITB team had started a cooperation with researchers from HAN University of Applied Sciences with focus on intervention research (see the report in my earlier blog). This was followed up in the Bremen conference and in ECER 2015 (in Budapest). In the Budapest session the colleagues from HAN presented a new project that focuses on practice-based learning in HE programs with strong vocational elements. In this context they worked further with process models and with ‘stealthy intervention’ strategies. In a similar way a Danish project from the National Centre for Vocational Education presented a ‘Vocational Education Lab’ approach for promoting innovations and networking across vocational schools. (See the report in my recent post.) Also these exchanges will be continued when the LL project proceeds with the exploitation activities.

– – –

I think this is enough for the moment. We are now looking forward to next steps with our fieldwork and our exploitation activities.

More blogs to come …

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