Archive for the ‘Community’ Category

“Mein Koffer in Berlin” – Part Two: Refreshing memories and catching up with friends of old

April 12th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I started a series of blog entries focusing on my recent visit to Berlin and on the chances to refresh my memories from the mid-1990s when I was working and living in Berlin. My motto is the same as with many famous artists who have left Berlin and long for getting back – “Ich habe noch einen Koffer in Berlin” – as the old song tells us. In the first post I told you how I was dealing with my luggage of memories while walking around Berlin and seeing the well-known sights. In this second post I shift the emphasis to meetings with friends and colleagues of old time – many of which I had not seen in 15 – 20 years. So, there was a lot of sharing and catching up with different groups of good friends.

Treffpunkt “Mutter Hoppe” – catching up with Sabine and John

In my first lunch meeting the venue itself was part of the memories. But let us begin from the start. I had met Sabine Manning already during my first weeks working at Cedefop. then in Berlin. I knew of her research interests in comparative educational studies. In particular I knew that she had studied initiatives that ingrate general/academic and vocational learning into dually oriented qualifications (Doppelqualifizierende Bildungsgänge). When Cedefop – my employer organisation – moved from Berlin to Thessaloniki I got the chance to monitor an accompany European cooperation projects. This led to a long-term cooperation with Sabine who was leading a set of such projects and my beloved Johanna (who became my partner in life) who was leading another set. This cooperation was continued in the annual ECER conferences and in the VETNET network for European research in vocational education and training.

So, coming back to the restaurant “Mutter Hoppe” – this old-styled restaurant at the Alexanderplatz had served as a meeting point for me, Johanna, Sabine and her husband John some ten years ago. Since then we had mostly contacts via phone and e-mails, but not via face to face meetings. So, this time it was very convenient for us three to meet at Mutter Hoppe (and keep Johanna present in our talks). To some extent we discussed the recent news of the VETNET network (to which Sabine contributes via her mailing list and newsletter) and the forthcoming events. But as family friends we shared a lot of family news. I told  of our experiences working as expatriates (me in Bremen, Johanna in Tampa, Florida). And we had a lot of news to share of the adult children pursuing their careers as expats, returners or home-bound. And of course we talked about grandchildren. So, we had a nice lunch in a very convenient location (see photos of the restaurant) that I totally forgot to take photos of ourselves.

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Treffpunkt “Hellas” – ‘Klassentreffen’ with veterans of BiBB and affiliated friends

Another meeting took place on the same evening after I had been walking around in Berlin (see my previous blog). This meeting was agreed with two friends of old (including their spouses – also good friends of old), but they had managed to spread the news and some more friends came along. So, we were a nice group – just like a “Klassentreffen” (a school class reunion). And here again, the venue was part of the memory. The restaurant “Hellas” was very close to the building of Cedefop (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training) when it was located in Berlin. (Now I was surprised to see that the building serves as the cultural department of the embassy of a non-European country.) And given that Cedefop (and me with my employer organisation) had moved to Thessaloniki, I was pleased to refresh my memories of Greece in a Greek restaurant.

Thinking of my friends who were there, I had learned to know Gerhard Zimmer already during my first visits to Germany 1989, 1990 and 1993 and he had visited Finland in 1990. And during the years 1994-1995 we had a lot of sharing knowledge and experiences, including leisure activities involving also his wife Brigitte and my daughter Paula (who visited me in Berlin every now and then). At thar time Gerhard was working in the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BiBB) in Berlin. After my years in Thessaloniki I had a chance to bring a group of vocational teacher educators to Germany in the beginning of the year 2004 and then we visited Hamburg, where Gerhard was now a professor in the Helmut-Schmidt-Universität. Again, it was a good encounter with several common themes.

With Reinhard Selka my cooperation started shortly after the move of Cedefop to Thessaloniki. On top of my duties in research cooperation in the field of vocational education and training (VET) I had taken a temporary responsibility on the project ‘Teachers and Trainers in VET’ since the earlier project manager had left Cedefop. During the transitional period Reinhard (as the expert on ‘training of trainers’ in BiBB) was a great help and a great friend as well. During our cooperation in this period I was happy to receive him in Thessaloniki and to visit his place in Berlin. His spouse Monika with her Greece-expertise was a natural ally in these talks. And it was a great experience to attend the concert of the Dubliners in the Tempodrom tent (next to Haus der Kulturen der Welt) with Reinhard, Monika and my son Antti (who was at that time a teenager). When handing over the transitional responsibility on that theme ‘training of trainers’ our cooperation came to an end and shortly afterwards Reinhard retired from BiBB.

With Johannes Koch I got acquainted in the same conferences as Gerhard Zimmer and as the neighbour of Reinhard. Johannes had been for a long time a prominent representative of accompanying research (Begleitforschung) attached to pilot projects (Modellversuche) in the field of VET. Johannes had been the prominent promoter of pilots with self-organised learning supported with instructional scripts (Leittexte) and analysed the importance of appropriate working & learning tasks in the field of VET. With Johannes our cooperation went further, including my first years in the ITB (when we were in charge of promoting networks and consultation processes across Europe).

With Bent Paulsen I had been in cooperation during the early stage of the European action programme Leonardo da Vinci. Bent had become the head of the Leonardo coordination unit in BiBB and I was working my way into the realm of European cooperation. Our discussions in Berlin (before the move of Cedefop) and afterwards, during my visits to Berlin, gave me a lot of support and solidarity.

So, altogether we were like a group of classmates after many years’ break. And just continuing from what we had had as common topics, we managed to pay attention to critical incidents. But, after all, I hope that the picture above has been appropriate and yet appreciates the contribution of the expert musicians from wherever they come. In this meeting we got ourselves into a special feel for Greece that it merits to be presented below. And here again, we forgot to take photos. So, here we come! As a compensation of the photos, let us take as a common denominator our interest in Greece and Greek culture and let us call Maria Farantouri to express that!

Treffpunkt “Raymons” (Spandau) – Refreshing memories on Berlin and Thessaloniki with Alison & Gerd

My final meeting of this type was with my former Cedefop colleague Alison Clark (from Scotland, but a real Berlin oldtimer) and her husband Gerd Romeike (a native Spandau inhabitant). I had learned to know Alison as the cheerful coordinator of the Cedefop translation service and as the natural meeting point hostess for the afternoon tea for the more or less British tea-drinkers in the Berlin time. After the move to Thessaloniki the afternoon tea break with Alison’s teapot helped us to put away with all kinds of monor inconveniences of the beginning period. And when we started to get settled, Gerd was also seen there as a frequent visitor to join the family of Cedefopians. Also, with Alison I got involved into the Caledonian society of Thessaloniki as a quasi adopted Scotsman and that was a great musical and cultural experience.

After my temporary contract in Cedefop came to an end my friends among colleagues prepared a special farewell song to me – “The melting snowman” – and Alison and Gerd were involved there as well. So, after all these years, it was a great pleasure to have a private catch-up after they had left Thessaloniki behind and got both settled to Berlin. Indeed, there was a lot of talk on Berlin, Thessaloniki and friends of old – as well as of experiences of travelling around the world. And I was happy to get Alison with me to join my main activity during this Berlin visit (see my next blog post). We had an enjoyable lunch session at a lakeside restaurant Raymons in Spandau and as they were both shining in the photos. Good for them!

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I think this is enough of these meetings and of the magic of being back in Berlin with friends of old – as if the years in between had not been there and as if it had been just a couple of days since we met last time. This was very encouraging and empowering. Yet, the best of all was to come after these encounters – but that is a topic for another blog entry.

More blogs to come … 

 

 

Remebering Curtis Finch – the American scholar in the VETNET network

January 31st, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

Couple of days ago we received the sad news from Blacksburg, Virgina: Curtis Finch, the American scholar with whom we have worked in the European VETNET network, had passed away. To those, who new Curtis more closely, this was not a surprise. He had been suffering from a severe illness for quite a long time. Yet, when the final message came, then we felt the loss – Curtis was a unique personality and we will miss him.

When looking back, I remember that I first time met Curtis at the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) in the year 1996 in Sevilla, Spain. That was the pioneering conference in which the scattered European researchers in the field of vocational education and training (VET) came together to set up a common research network under the umbrella of the European Educational Research Association (EERA). Curtis, a prominent American professor from the Virginia Tech and State University, was also there with us. He had already created his European networks and was happy to come to Sevilla to contribute to a symposium on School-to-work transition in different countries. And Curtis was also there, when Martin Mulder invited an open meeting in which the researchers agreed to set up the VETNET network (as the Network 2 of the EERA).

Later on I heard that Curtis had shared his experiences on the regulations and working patterns of the special interest groups (SIGs) of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) with his European colleagues. In this way he had already positioned himself as an active supporter of the newly created network. Consequently, he was invited to work in the first VETNET Board, which he gladly accepted. Parallel to this, Curtis was actively involved also in the global organisation International Vocational Education and Training Association (IVETA). So, it is no coincidence that the papers of the above mentioned ECER symposium were published as a special issue of the IVETA journal. This happened long before the VETNET network could reach the point of publishing its own proceedings or launching its own journal.

During the 1990s Curtis was actively there in our conferences and fulfilled his duties in a quiet and effective way. At that time I worked at Cedefop (the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training) with an emphasis on supporting European cooperation projects and ‘networking the networks’. Therefore, I could not always follow that closely what Curtis was up to. But whenever I met him, it was a positive encounter – whether on our European grounds or far away in Hong Kong (the IVETA world congress 2000).

The latest European cooperation initiative in which I remember that Curtis played a central role was a comparative study on the upgrading of Polytechnics into Universities of Applied sciences. Curtis, who himself had a vocational and professional background, was interested to find out, whether these aspects are going hand in hand or getting separated. In this initiative in which he worked in 1999 – 2000 he was comparing the developments in the United States, in Scotland, in the Netherlands and in Finland. (Unfortunately the years 2001 and 2002 were gap years in my participation in ECER, so I am not aware, how the initiative worked further.)

After those years Curtis had gone to retirement and was no longer participating in ECER. But, as I see it now, he was a role model for the non-European scholars who were interested in knowledge sharing on research and development in the field of VET. And his example has been followed by many colleagues from different global regions. Today we see that this has borne fruit in the VETNET network and in the International Journal for Research in Vocational Education and Training (IJRVET). Although Curtis couldn’t witness these latest developments with us, I am sure that he would have enjoyed the progress we have made.

Farewell Curtis, your memory lives with us!

Wrapping up the ECER 2017 experience – Part Six: Developments in the VETNET community

August 31st, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my five previous posts  I have shaped a series of blogs reporting on the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER 2017) that took place last week in Copenhagen. The first post outlined an agenda of themes to be covered. The second post provided insights into my own presentation. The third post discussed the themes ‘qualification frameworks’ and ‘credit transfer’. The fourth post discussed reforms in vocational teacher education and issues related to practicum studies of teacher candidates. The fifth post reported on a special research workshop that discussed ‘multi-methodological strategies in research on vocational education and training (VET). In this concluding post I will report of common events of the European Vocational Education and Training Research Network (VETNET) and on developments in the VETNET community. I will start with the common events in Copenhagen and then move to issues on the VETNET community and its activities.

The VETNET Opening Colloquium in Copenhagen

For many years the program of the VETNET network at ECER has been started with an Opening Colloquium or Keynote speech with discussants. In most cases this opening session has made visible VET research and current issues in VET development in the host country. This time the VETNET coordinators – Barbara E. Stalder and Christof Nägele – and their ‘local’ counterparts – Vibe Aarkrog and Christian Helms Jörgensen – had provided a two-course menu with desserts. Firstly, Vibe Aarkrog (from Copenhagen) gave insights into the host country with her presentation “A Danish perspective on VET: current challenges and recent changes”. Then Christian Helms Jörgensen (from Roskilde) broadened the discussion into the group of Nordic countries with his presentation “What can be learned from the Nordic VET-systems?”. Both presentations opened interesting insights into successive reforms and their main effects and (unexpected) consequences – and into modifications or counter-steering measures following each other. These input speeches were followed by comments of Lorenz Lassnigg (from Austria) and Stephanie Allais (from South Africa). Here I do not try to go into details. I am looking forward to the publication of the presentations on the Vetnetsite.

The VETNET General Assembly 2017

This year the VETNET Board had several interim activities and achievements to report. Here some main points on the reports of Christof Nägele, Michael Gessler and Lazaro Moreno:

  • The International Journal for Research in Vocational Education and Training (IJRVET) had gained more attention and had been indexed by further databases in different global regions. As we remember, the founding process was kicked off at ECER 2013 in Istanbul and the official launch took place in ECER 2014 in Porto. Now the journal has clearly reached a consolidated phase. (The latest issue came out just after the conference.)
  • The WERA network “Internationalisation of Research in Vocational Education and Training (IRNVET) – the global counterpart of the VETNET network had completed its working period in January 2017. As we remember, this wider international research network (under the auspices of the World Educational Research Association) had been initiated also at ECER 2013 in Istanbul and launched at ECER 2014 in Porto. This network had provided wider international support for the development of the IJRVET and international VET conferences and explored the basis for common thematic initiatives. The successor network (also called IRNVET) will continue the work in the years 2017 -2019.
  • The International VET Conferences (in Stockholm and in Bremen 2015/Rostock 2017) organised by host universities with the support of VETNET and IRNVET have also created their own traditions. During the ECER 2017 the host universities had reached a working agreement that both conferences will work on a biennial schedule and as Spring conferences. In Spring 2018 Stockholm University will organise its cruise conference as usual but the next one in 2020. In Spring 2019 the University of Valencia will host the next “Crossing boundaries in VET” conference to be followed by the next one in 2021. In this way the two conferences will work as mutually coordinated ‘neighbours’.
  • The VETNET contribution to European Skills Week is a new form of cooperation between the European Commission and the VETNET network. The cooperation emerged as a spin-off from the Bremen International VET conference in 2015 and took shape as a Research Workshop in the European Skills Week in Brussels in 2016. Now the VETNET network is preparing a new research workshop for the European Skills Week 2017. In this context the VETNET network has the possibility to award European VET researchers or research projects for special merits. This activity is led by Barbara E. Stalder.
  • The cooperation of VETNET with Emerging Researcher’ Network of EERA had been successfully continued with a specific workshop led by Christof Nägele, Michael Gessler and Lazaro Moreno.

Based on the impressive activity report the General Assembly was happy to carry out the election of a new VETNET Board (see more on this in a short while on the Vetnetsite.

Nomination of a new Honorary Member of the VETNET network

A special moment in the meeting was when the VETNET board proposed to nominate Prof. Dr. Johanna Lasonen from the University of South Florida (Tampa, Florida) and the University of Jyväskylä (Finland) as a new Honorary Member of the VETNET. This nomination will be forwarded to the Council of the European Educational Research Association (EERA). Below we see Johanna and Ludger Deitmer who presented the laudatio for Johanna on behalf of the VETNET Board.

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Here a brief extract of the proposal submitted to EERA:

“Prof. Dr. Johanna Lasonen has contributed to the founding process of VETNET with her expertise on AERA Special Interest Groups. As a founding member of VETNET she has worked in the VETNET Board on several occasions and as a reviewer of the VETNET proposals since ECER 1997. She was the first ‘local’ VETNET programme chair for ECER 1999 in Lahti to set the standards for the VETNET Opening Colloquium, for VETNET Proceedings, VETNET social event and for VETNET study visits to companies and vocational schools. She has also been the pioneer in involving VETNET in cross-network sessions with other EERA networks and in developing contacts between VETNET and UNESCO. During her work as a coordinator of EU-funded and nationally funded projects she has promoted actively the dissemination of the work of these projects via ECER symposia involving partners from different countries. Recently, she has supported the founding process of the International Journal for Research in Vocational Education and Training (IJRVET) – the official organ of VETNET (supported by EERA) and she is an active member of the Editorial Board of the IJRVET. Moreover, she has contributed actively to the work of the global pendant of VETNET, the IRNVET network of WERA.”

We congratulate Johanna for the nomination and look forward to the confirmation by the EERA Council.

Looking forward to ECER 2018 in Bolzano/Bozen, Italy

In the light of the reporting on the VETNET sessions in my previous posts and on the network activities in this post we can be happy with the ECER 2017 and the VETNET program. Many thanks in particular to the VETNET coordinators Christof Nägele and Barbara Stalder, who put a great effort in getting everything working smoothly. Also, we can look forward to the next ECER that will take place in September 2018 in Bolzano (Bozen), Italy. The stand of the local organising committee in the exhibition area provided us helpful information and delicious apples from the region. Moreover, in Copenhagen we got acquainted with new participants from Italy and Spain who were developing ‘college research’ and continuing professional development in the field of VET. We are looking forward to new productive cooperation partnerships (also in the context of preparing the ECER 2018). Let us see, what we can achieve by that time.

More blogs to come …

 

Wrapping up the ECER 2017 experience – Part One: Thematic overview

August 28th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I already made some remarks on the circumstances that overshadowed my participation in ECER 2017 and on my plans to report on the experience on the VETNET sessions. Yet, I think it is better that I provide a thematic overview – or a working agenda – for my forthcoming blogs. With each of the themes to be covered I have also different role positions and interests of knowledge that need to be taken into account.

For the moment I see the need to report on the following themes:

  • My own presentation on “Begleitforschung” (Accompanying research) in the context of the Learning Layers project and in the follow-up of its construction pilot;
  • Issues on European/national qualification frameworks and in studies on credit transfer – in current projects and in the VETNET sessions of the past;
  • Issues on vocational teacher education and on the role of practice-based learning (= practicum) phases – in current contexts and as topics of our previous European projects;
  • Discussions on ‘multi-methodological practices’ and perspective transformations in research on vocational education and training (VET) – in the light of current studies and earlier (implicit) agreements on European VET research (within the VETNET community);
  • Updates on recent news and developments in the VETNET community.

I guess these are the key themes that I need to cover – and at the same time revisit my own experience as a presenter, session chair or active participant in the discussion.

More blogs to come …

My journey with the VETNET network – Epilogue: The (rocky) road to ECER 16 in Dublin

August 16th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my five latest posts I have written a series of blogs on my journey with ECER conferences and the VETNET network. In these posts I have discussed the development of the network from its earliest origins in the beginning of 1990s up to present date. These blogs are my contribution to the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) 2016 and to the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the founding of VETNET – the European Vocational Education and Training Research Network.  Unfortunately I have to stay out of ECER because of health issues, but these posts may serve as building blocks for the collective memory. In this epilogue I shift the emphasis from the past to the preparation of the forthcoming conference with some final remarks.

From ECER 2005 (Dublin) to ECER 2016 (Dublin) – Ten/eleven years after

My first remark is related to the preparation of the VETNET Opening colloquium. Interestingly enough, the VETNET  organisers have invited once again James Wickham as a keynote speaker (he had this ro le also in ECER 2005). To me this was a very good choice. In 2005 made interesting comparisons between ‘the European dream’ and ‘the American mirage’ as leading ideas for European training and labour market policies. Now he has chosen the heading “Always the first cut – vocational education and training in the Irish crisis”. It would be interesting to see, what kind of links he might make between his earlier analyses and those on the present crisis.

Communities, networking and web tools

My second remark is related to the way in which we discussed in ECER 2005 on the role of research communities (in regional initiatives) and on the support provided by social networking and web tools. At that time we were dependent on very early stage of web technologies and related possibilities for social networking. At that stage the interaction between researchers, tool developers and practitioners was far more complicated (and the chances for participative design were far more limited). Now, our experiences with the Learning Layers project (and with the online tools of the VETNET network and the IJRVET journal) open new horizons.

Visibility of VET research

Finally I would like to make a point on the visibility of VET research – both within the EERA community and at a more general level. In both respects the VETNET network was in 2005 still in the process of making its case. The subsequent years of stabilisation, consolidation and new initiatives have clearly given more visibility to VETNET and European VET research in the context of ECER and the EERA community. And in particular the launch of the journal IJRVET and its success have brought the public visibility of European and international VET research to a new level.

– – –

I guess this is enough food for thought for those who are on the (rocky) road to ECER 2016 in Dublin. It is a pity that I cannot join them. But I will keep in touch and then catch up with the news. I am looking forward to that.

More blogs to come …

 

 

My journey with the VETNET network – Part Five: The years of new initiatives

August 16th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my latest posts I have been writing a series of blogs on my journey with ECER conferences and the VETNET network. These blogs serve as my contribution to the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) 2016 when we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of VETNET – the European Vocational Education and Training Research Network.  This year I have to stay outof ECER because of health issues.  In the previousposts I have covered the earliest years from 1992 on, the founding  phase until  2001, the stabilisation phase between 2003 and 2007 and the consolidation phase between 2007 and 2011. In this final post I will have a look at the latest phase up to present date.

ECER 2012 in Cadiz: The role of VET in overcoming the economic crisis

Whatever we might have been able to plan in advance for ECER 2012 in Cadiz, real life pushed genuine challenges to public discussion. The fact that the host country Spain was heavily hit by the economic crisis and youth unemployment gave us a clear clue, what to discuss in the conference. Therefore, in the VETNET Opening colloquium we raised the question on the role of VET in overcoming such a crisis. Fernando analysed recent developments in and current debates on Spanish VET system. He drew attention to potentials that had not been used (cooperation between VET and working life) and demands for changes that have not been thoroughly thought through (transfer of German model of dual system to Spain).  Marg Malloch presented a picture of parallel developments and political pressures on privatisation of VET in Australia. Michael Gessler analysed, how the German dual system works regarding the transition from school to working life and examined, how a complex web of additional options and measures – the system of transition schemes – has emerged and stabilised as a self-sustaining system.

In addition to this opening event we had several contributions on the role of VET in supporting transitions and in supporting workplace learning. In particular the Dutch contributions on VET schools as organisers of/ partners in practice-based learning (Aimee Hoeve, Hester Smulders, Jeroen Onstenk) addressed these issues. I gave an overview on the development of the themes ‘workplace learning’, ‘cooperation between learning venues’ and ‘work process knowledge’ in European projects since 1995 to present date. Ludger Deitmer discussed the role of apprentice training as a basis for innovations in organisations (with reference to analyses using the QEK-tool).

For the VETNET community the Cadiz experience was a strong impulse for getting more intensively engaged with the crisis and paying attention to specific support measures (e.g. bilateral programs between Germany and Spain or Greece).

ECER 2013 in Istanbul: VET between academic drift and enhancement of work-related learning

Concerning ECER 2013 in Istanbul, the advent of the conference was characterised by massive protest movements and partly these demonstrations continued during ECER. However, these protests were not related to economic problems or youth unemployment. Thus, the Opening colloquium of VETNET focused on the position of VET in Turkey – between academic drift and lowly esteemed occupational work. The VETNET organisers discussed this theme with two Turkish professors – Oguz Baburoglu (as expert on the development of Turkish Higher Education institutions) and Özlem Ünlühisarcikli (as expert on Turkish VET development). We couldn’t draw clear conclusions but we learned a lot.

In the sessions our ITB project team presented the first contributions from our ongoing Learning Layers project – at a theoretical level revisiting the studies on ‘work process knowledge’ and ‘informal learning’, at empirical level discussions on the design ideas for mobile learning in construction sector and analyses on user stories (based on interview material). In another session our Dutch colleagues (Loek Nieuwenhuis, Aimee Hoeve, Ilya Zitter) presented a set of interactive innovation projects in which research teams were supporting practice-based learning in VET and (vocational) higher education. A specific symposium of our former ITB-colleagues from three universities discussed validation of informal and non-formal learning in Germany and at European level. Finally, Martin Mulder presented newest results of his project to map the European group picture of VET research in the light of articles in refereed journals.

For VETNET network this would have been normally the year to elect the Convenor and the board. However, since the change of Convenor(s) had already taken place in the previous year and since the colleagues were available for a new term, the board members were re-elected. However, as a new challenge we took note of the fact that the global umbrella organisation WERA (World Educational Research Association) had published a call for proposals for WERA International Research Networks (IRNs). We concluded that VETNET (with its international partners outside Europe) is in a good position to set up such a global network for the field of VET. Therefore, such a proposal was prepared shortly after the Istanbul conference and it was approved by WERA in the beginning of the year 2014.

ECER 2014 in Porto: Past, present and future of VET research

The ECER 2014 in Porto celebrated the 2oth anniversary of the founding of the EERA (European Educational Research Association) with the theme “Past, present and future of educational research”. In this spirit we agreed to discuss past, present and future challenges in VET research in the VETNET Opening colloquium in Porto. Marg Malloch chaired, whilst I presented reflections on the development of European research on learning in the context of work (past), Eduardo Figuiera discussed  the current stand of Portuguese VET research (present) and Karen Evans outlined some challenges for (future) VET research.

In the sessions I was mainly engaged with the contributions of the Learning Layers project. Our main contribution was the symposium “Construction 2.0” in which we discussed the development of our accompanying research approach (in the context of participative design processes) and the matching of mobile learning with the development of vocational learning in intermediate training centres. Our second session was a joint workshop with the Dutch team from HAN University (Loek Nieuwenhuis and Aimee Hoeve) in which we compared two Dutch and two German cases as examples of interactive innovation research in the field of VET.

Concerning the VETNET network and the wider international community there were two clear highlights:

  1.  In the VETNET General Assembly we launched the new online journal “International Journal for Research in Vocational Education and Training (IJRVET)” and published its first issue. After a lengthy pre-history the final phase of preparations led to a broad mobilisation of VETNET network and international partners as support network and the practical arrangements were agreed quickly and smoothly between ECER 2013 and 2014.
  2. On the last conference day the newly founded WERA IRN “Internationalisation of VET research (IRN-VET)” has its Forum session to present its action plan and to discuss some selected themes for future cooperation (International VET research review, Developments in governance of VET, Internationalisation in VET teacher education and doctoral studies). Via this Forum a wider range of network members became engaged in cooperation at global level.

Bremen Conference 2015 “Crossing boundaries in VET”

In this context it is worthwhile to mention shortly that the next major event of VETNET and IRN-VET took place already before the ECER 2015, since the ITB-hosted conference “Crossing boungaries in VET” was organised one week before ECER. With this pre-conference the networks provided a wider opportunity for European and international participants to debate and exchange views on themes that are presented very shortly in ordinary conferences. The keynote speakers were mainly VETNET board members, whilst a major part of the IRN-VET board members were active as presenters or co-authors. Given the good dialogue-oriented atmosphere, several participants expressed the interest to continue with such conference and the University of Rostock expressed its interest to host the next one in 2017.

ECER 2015 in Budapest: Transitions in societies and VET research

When ECER 2015 was about to start in Budapest, the world news were overwhelmed with reports on waves of refugees heading north via the “Balkan route” and the Budapest railway station being one of main stops during these journeys. This gave rise for the EERA council and secretariat to appeal to the participants to show solidarity and distance themselves from xenophobic attitudes. Given that the theme of the conference was “Education and transitions” there was a close similarity to the beginning of the societal transitions in Central and East European countries in the year 1989.

In this spirit the VETNET Opening colloquium had invited as the keynote speaker professor Andras Benedek, former education minister and director general of the national institute for VET. He presented a thorough examination on the developments during the post-communist era and on the developments in VET and Higher Education, including the issue of academisation of vocational teacher education. This picture was later on complemented in the paper presentation of Magdolna Benke on the short history of the National Institute for Vocational Education (NIVE) and on later research on building partnerships to promote VET.

In the sessions I could observe an excellent symposium on VET developments in the Nordic countries (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland) and critical discussion, whether there is a common ‘Nordic model’ to be promoted elsewhere. In other sessions I observed several cases of interactive research (once again by the colleagues of HAN University, Loek Nieuwenhuis and Aimee Hoeve) and by a Danish research team evaluating innovations in VET schools. Our ITB team organised a symposium in which we put into discussion transition of earlier project generation to a newer one in two project threads:

  1. The Kompetenzwerkstatt projects for developing vocational curricula and supporting tools for teachers and learners  and
  2. The Learning Layers project and its transition from developing digital media, web tools and mobile technologies in initial vocational training (of apprentices) to a successor project that develops similar solutions to support continuing training (of advanced craftsmen and site managers in construction sector).

In the VETNET General Assembly we were happy to reap the harvest of the successful pre-conference in Bremen and of the VETNET program in Budapest. We could note a highly successful development of the IJRVET since ECER 2014 and we could look forward in an optimistic spirit with all our initiatives. In this context I was pleased to experience that I was nominated by the board as an Honorary Member of the VETNET Network.

– – –

I think this is enough of the most recent phase of the development of the VETNET network – charactersed by new initiatives and their successful implementation. In my next post (the Epilogue) I will have a look at the preparation of the ECER 2016.

More posts to come …

 

My journey with the VETNET network – Part Four: The years of consolidation

August 16th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my latest posts I have been writing a series of blogs on my journey with ECER conferences and the VETNET network. These blogs serve as my contribution to the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) 2016 when we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of VETNET – the European Vocational Education and Training Research Network.  This year I have to stay outof ECER because of health issues.  In the previousposts I have covered the earliest years from 1992 on, the founding  phase until  2001 and the stabilisation phase between 2003 and 2007. In this post I will have a look at the consolidation phase between 2007 and 2011.

ECER 2007 in Ghent: Ten years of VETNET activities in European VET research

In ECER 2007 we celebrated the tenth anniversary of VETNET activities in ECER. Firstly, the keynote of Ides Nicaise focused on the theme “Participation in lifelong learning in the EU-15”. Then, in VETNET Forum we discussed the development of VETNET. I opened the discussion with a powerpoint presentation “The VETNET Chronicle”. Then we had contributions from the convenors, communicators, networkers and newest members from Central and East Europe. After the event we celebrated the launch of the newly published book Vocational Education in international context: philosophical and historical dimensions edited by Linda Clarke and Christopher Winch.

In the sessions we had further contributions on the European Qualification Framework, on European policies concerning teachers and trainers and on quality assurance in VET. One of the special experiences was the round table on eLearning in which most of the contributors had cancelled their participation shortly before – but the interested participants made improvised presentations to fill the gap. Also, in this conference we had a joint session with the Teacher Education network.

ECER 2008 in Göteborg: Looking for innovation research approaches in VET 

The ECER 2008 in Göteborg continued on a similar track as the previous one. The VETNET Opening colloquium was based on the keynote of Per-Erik Ellström on the theme “Knowledge Cceation through interactive research: a partnership approach”. Bernd Hofmaier commented this from the perspective of research on working life. The VETNET Forum was organised as a platform for VET-related journals and their exchanges with the VETNET community.

In the sessions I could once again observe a major emphasis on teachers and trainers in VET,  the impact of European Qualification Framework, governance issues and recognition of prior (vocational or work-related learning). We also had sessions on policy transfer between EU member states and a receiving partner states as well as discussions on occupational core profiles.

ECER 2009 in Wien: Critical reflection on European Qualification Frameworks

ECER 2009 in Wien followed partly the patterns of the previos conferences but had some new features as well. The role of the  Opening colloquium and the VETNET Forum was given to the symposia that examined the role of European (and National) Qualification Frameworks in the European VET policies. The speakers  – Lorenz Lassnigg, Jordi Planas, Michael Young and David Raffe – discussed the internal policy processes, expectations on harmonisation and the practical applicability of such frameworks. In many respects the speakers came up with critical comments with striking examples (e.g. the difficulty to agree on mutually coherent frameworks between England & Wales, Scotland, North Ireland and the Republic of Ireland).

In the sessions we had also some sessions dedicated to VET policies but also new themes, such as practice-based learning as an interface between vocational and higher education. Also, some sessions brought into discussion studies based on activity theory and developmental work research.

Concerning VETNET community and the conference culture, there were some new developments. Firstly, Pontydysgu (Graham Attwell) introduced a new social networking website for VETNET (based on the Mixxt platform). Secondly, the Pontydysgu team managed the video recording of the EERA keynotes and in addition produced several video interviews with VETNET participants and key actors of EERA. Finally, the VETNET General Assembly re-elected Ludger Deitmer as the Convenor and a new board (partly re-elected, partly renewed) for the coming years.

ECER 2010 in Helsinki: Intercultural dimensions of VET and VET research

The ECER 2010 in Helsinki took place already in August and this caused problems to some participants. The invited keynote speaker for the VETNET Opening colloquium, Johanna Lasonen, was in the middle of a transfer to University of South Florida and couldn’t attend in person. As a consequence, she presented an outline of her speech as a video recording and then Marianne Teräs continued live. The theme – The role of VET in promoting integration of migrants and intercultural understanding – was also taken in a specific symposium and in one of the central EERA events.

In other sessions some of the themes of the last year  (e.g. that of practice-based learning) were continued whilst some newer themes were introduced, such as entrepreneurial education and the role of VET in promoting renewable energy.

Also in this conference the Pontydysgu team was actively involved in producing livestreams and video recordings – but now with emphasis on the central EERA events.

ECER 2011 in Berlin: VETNET in transition

The ECER 2011 in Berlin was a conference that brought into picture many transitions in the way VETNET has worked. Firstly, the traditional Opening Colloquium and VETNET Forum were replaced with an active workshop in which all participants worked in three groups (led by three facilitators) to provide a groip picture of their priority themes or key challenges for the conference. In the sessions I could see a strong presence of the new Swedish VET-related doctoral program supported by a consortium of several universities. The participants provided insights into their cooperation with their Scandinavian and Australian counterparts and they highlighted their involvement in European cooperation projects. In other sessions we had discussions on practice-based learning and on governance of continuing training. Also, the key issue of last year – the role of VET in integration  of migrants and in intercultural understanding – was present.

In this conference the Pontydysgu team was working with live radio and podcasts. Thus, several VETNET participants could announce their forthcoming sessions and/or give interviews after their sessions. Furthermore, in an experimental session Eileen Lübcke gave a presentation on the draufhaber,tv project with video demonstrations as essential part of her contribution.

In the VETNET General Assembly we experienced special moments. Firstly (in accordance with the new EERA policies) we nominated Martin Mulder (as the founder of VETNET) and Sabine Manning (long-time board member, editor of the VETNET proceedings as well as the L&W Newsletter) as the first VETNET Honorary Members. Shortly afterwards we accepted the request of Ludger Deitmer to be replaced as the Convenor of VETNET. As his successors we elected Michael Gessler (Link Convenor) and Marg Malloch (Deputy Convenor). With these changes we envisaged a period with new initiatives and new responsibilities to be managed by this tandem leadership.

– – –

I guess this is enough of this phase of consolidation. In the next post I will look at the most recent years and at the new initiatives that were brought into picture.

More blogs to come …

My journey with the VETNET network – Part One: The early years

August 14th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

Normally I have participated in August or September in the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) – the annual conference of the European Educational Research Association (EERA). This year I have to stay out because of health issues. This is bitter, because in ECER 2016 we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of VETNET – the  European Vocational Education and Training Research Network. In order to contribute to the celebrations I have decided to write a series of blogs on my journey with ECER and VETNET – starting from the year 1992 and ending with the present date. Please note that this is not meant to be an ‘official history’ document of the network – these are my reflections on my individual experiences as a network member from the very beginning.

ECER 1992 in Enschede: Pilot ECER before founding of the EERA

In 1992 the University of Twente had the responsibility to organise the annual Dutch conference on educational research conference (Onderwijsresearchdag). However, the organisers decided to open the conference for wider European participation and to arrange it as an English-speaking event. This was the start of the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER). The strand ‘Vocational and Professional Education’ (with keynotes by David Raffe and Frank Achtenhagen) was one of most popular ones – the VETNET community started to get together. I participated as a young researcher from peripheral Finland – not yet a member of the European Union – with a comparative analysis of vocational education and training (VET) reforms in six European countries (Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands).

During the preparation of the pilot ECER the Dutch organisers tried to prepare the grounds for setting up a European umbrella organisation for educational researchers – based on the model of the American Educational Research Association (AERA). However, at that point the time was not ripe for the decision – some more time was needed.

IRNETD 1994 in Milano: Pilot VETNET event before founding of the network

In the next years the VET research group of the University of Twente started cooperation with the American-based Academy of Human Resource Development (AHRD) to explore an alternative option for internationalisation of research in VET and HRD. This led to the initiative to create an umbrella network IRNETD (International Research Network on Education, Training and Development) and to organise the launching conference in Milano in June 1994 (hosted by Associazione Italiana Formatori – AIF).  (I participated this time only as an observer because I had just started in Cedefop, see below.)

Regarding European networking in VET research, the conference itself was clearly a step forward from Enschede 1992. But the designed follow-up by launching a major network was given up due to practical difficulties. Yet, the experience with this conference paved the way for the VETNET community to come up.

Interim developments in 1994 – 1996

In the meantime the idea of setting up a joint European organisation for educational researchers had been accepted and the European Educational Research Association (EERA) was founded in 1994 as the umbrella organisation for national associations in this field. The first ECER under the auspices of EERA was organised in 1995 by the University of Bath co-located with the national conference of the British association BERA. (I couldn’t participate because I was just moving with Cedefop from Berlin to Thessaloniki, see below.)

By the second ECER conference the EERA council had adopted a policy to set up thematic networks to manage respective sections of the ECER. At that time Martin Mulder – a key actor in the above mentioned conferences and the representative of the Dutch national association in the EERA council) took the initiative to set up an EERA network for VET researchers. He contacted member associations to get nominations for a founding board and submitted a proposal that was accepted by the EERA council.

I myself had started in June 1994 (two weeks before the ITNETD conference as a national seconded expert at Cedefop (the European centre for the development of vocational training). Therefore I was not in the position to prepare a paper – yet I could report on the emerging community development in VET research. In 1995 I got a job a project manager job in Cedefop (as temporary official of the European Union – with tasks related to European research cooperation in VET). Due to the fact that Cedefop was being relocated from Berlin to Thessaloniki, Greece, I couldn’t participate in ECER 1995. (The conference took place just when the move was implemented.)

ECER 1996 in Sevilla: The start of VETNET under the auspices of EERA

Whilst the EERA council had already adopted the policy to set up thematic networks, they were not yet established by the time that ECER 1996 took place in Sevilla. Therefore, there was no clear thematic strand for VET research. Instead, most of the contributions of VET researchers were placed in parallel sessions in the morning sessions – which left the afternoons open as ‘creative spaces’ for improvised workshops. I participated with a Cedefop-initiated symposium on accompanying research and as a discussant in a symposium of the Europrof project. Thus, already at this conference we could witness the entry of trans-national projects  and their symposia or workshops into ECER.

A clear highlight for VET researchers was the General Assembly to launch the VETNET network. Martin Mulder invited the participants to announce the official start of VETNET as the Network 2 of EERA. Most of the participants in VET-related sessions attended and welcomed the initiative that was considered as a major step forward. From now on we could see that the community was taking shape and that we had a common framework under the auspices of EERA.

– – –

I think this is enough of the early years. After the pilot initiatives there was a clear course forward to develop the common umbrella network VETNET within EERA and ECER. In the next post I will report on the shaping of VETNET during the founding years.

More blogs to come

 

 

A short note about communities

June 9th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

PodcastToday I got an email from the Yahoo podcasters group mail. It was a long time since I could remember the last. But at one point, the group was very active with usually a daily digest appearing. And at that time it felt like a real community, of people from different countries and contents with different kills and knowledge reaching out to help each other.

As podcasting has become established there is a wealth of help available online, videos and manuals as well as specialist software and hardware. Podcasting is not longer a frontier sport. And the community is no longer need, or at least it no longer plays the same function.

And I wonder if that is true of other communities of practice. Etienne Wenger has suggested that communities of practice are always emergent (a point protecting them from making a fetish of conservative and out of date practices). That is usually taken to mean through membership, with new members becoming central as others move to the edges. But it may be that communities are always emergent in the knowledge and practices which constitute their base. And when that knowledge and practices cease to be emergent – as in the case of the Yahoo podcasters group – unless the community can move on to new emergent pastures, then it simply slowly dies.

Reflections on Communities of Practice

March 17th, 2016 by Graham Attwell


Chahira Nouira sent me an email asking if I could make a short podcast around Communities of Practice. ” I am writing,” she said “because I thought you might have 15 min of your precious time to help me compile an audio playlist where you are the stars! For a year, I have been involved in a project funded by the EU and one of its products is a Community of Practice for Lifelong Learning: DISCUSS. My idea is to get insights from you on CoPs based on how your experience and stories”.

I have been involved – and still am – in a number of projects seeking to support the emergence of communities of practice – defined as groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly – with varying success. In the podcast I try to explain why I think some have worked an others less so.

In early days, in the late 1990s, we mainly saw the idea of Communities of Practice as an analytic tool to understand how informal learning develops in Communities of practice and how knowledge is exchanged. In a later stage we moved on to try to develop or foster Communities of Practice, using IST to support the emergence of dispersed communities.

All to often we thought we could form communities ourselves, not totally understanding the emergent nature and the ownership of CoPs. Too often also, we have conflated organisations with communities. Probably more importantly, whilst we have fused on communities, we have failed to properly understand the nature of the practices which bind together those communities. According to Wenger, a community of practice defines itself along three dimensions

  • What it is about – its joint enterprise as understood and continually renegotiated by its members.
  • How it functions ‐ mutual engagement that bind members together into a social entity.
  • What capability it has produced – the shared repertoire of communal resources (routines, sensibilities, artefacts, vocabulary, styles, etc.) that members have developed over time. (Wenger, 1998)

In seeking to support facilitation a vital prerequisite is understanding the nature of the social practices within the workplace, both through observable patterns of individual practice and through developing an overall pattern language. This includes the use of objects. Objects are necessary components of many practices – just as indispensable as bodily and mental activities. (Reckwitz, 2002). Carrying out a practice very often means using particular things in a certain way. Electronic media itself is an object which can mold social practices and enable and limit certain bodily and mental activities, certain knowledge and understanding as elements of practices (Kittler, 1985; Gumbrecht, 1988).  One approach to choosing ways to develop particular objects is to focus on what Onstenk (1997) defines as core problems: the problems and dilemmas that are central to the practice of an occupation that have significance both for individual and organisational performance.

If understanding the nature of social practices and patterns is a necessary step to developing facilitation services, it is not in itself sufficient. Further understanding is needed of how learning, particularly informal learning, takes place in the workplace and how knowledge is shared and developed. Michael Eraut (2000) points put that “much uncodified cultural knowledge is acquired informally through participation in social activities; and much is often so ‘taken for granted’ that people are unaware of its influence on their behaviour. This phenomenon is much broader in scope than the implicit learning normally associated with the concept of socialisation. In addition to the cultural practices and discourses of different professions and their specialities, one has to consider the cultural knowledge that permeates the beliefs and behaviours of their co-workers, their clients and the general public.”

Eraut attempts to codify different elements of practice:

  • Assessing clients and/or situations (sometimes briefly, sometimes involving a long process of investigation) and continuing to monitor them;
  • Deciding what, if any, action to take, both immediately and over a longer period (either individually or as a leader or member of a team);
  • Pursuing an agreed course of action, modifying, consulting and reassessing as and when necessary;
  • Metacognitive monitoring of oneself, people needing attention and the general progress of the case, problem, project or situation.

He also draws attention to the importance of what he calls mediating objects and points out that while some artifacts are used mainly during learning processes, most artifacts used for working are also used for learning. Such artefacts play an important role in structuring work and sharing information and in mediating group learning about clients or projects in progress.

In general, when seeking to support online communities, we have developed web sites and web based tools which are separate form the work process. Possibly, we should be looking instead at how we can use artifacts from work processes to support learning and knowledge exchange.

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