Wrapping up the ECER 2019 experience – Part Four: Developments in the VETNET network

September 8th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my recent blogs I have been wrapping up my experiences on the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER 2019) that took place earlier this week in Hamburg, Germany. The first post focused on the Opening session of the VETNET network (including background information on VETNET and other networks). The second post focused on the sessions that discussed the ongoing TACCLE projects (in which I and my colleagues are working). The third post focused on presentations that have an immdeiate relevance for the TACCLE project. In this fourth post I try to give insights into recent developments in the VETNET network.

Organisational consolidation of the VETNET network

As I have already mentioned in my first post, the ECER conferences are organised by the European Educational Research Association (EERA). EERA was founded in 1994 as the European umbrella organisation of national associations for educational research. Whilst the representatives of the national associations are in charge of the management, the development of the conference programs is the matter of networks. EERA has currently 32 thematic networks (and the Emerging Researchers Group) that each prepare and run a network program in the annual ECER conference.

The VETNET network is one of the oldest and largest networks and it has from the very beginning had an identity of its own kind. It has brought together researchers who focus on vocational education and training (VET) and who may have somewhat different academic backgrounds. However, there has been a strong commitment to develop a European research community that is open for interested colleagues outside Europe. In this respect VETNET started to shape organisational structures and develop common procedures at an early stage. By the year 2000 it got an elected network board that was working on the basis of jointly approved regulations. Parallel to this the network consolidated the pattern of double-blind peer reviews of conference proposals. By 2004 it got its first pilot website to present the conference program and the contributions.

During the years of growth the issue of membership had been kept open. The liberal interpretation was that all who participated in the VETNET program were also invited to participate in the VETNET assembly as members. By the time that the VETNET activities beyond the ECER conference started to get more standing (see below) this was too ambiguous. Therefore a task force led by Johanna Lasonen – together with the link convenors Barbara Stalder and Christof Nägele – prepared new regulations. These were then matched with the guidelines that EERA prepared and presented at the VETNET assembly. Based on the new regulations, a new VETNET board will be elected in ECER 2020.

International Journal for Research in Vocational Education and Training (IJRVET) and the Vetnetsite

From the year 2000 on VETNET has had the intention to set up a journal for European and international VET research. At that time a working group was negotiating with a commercial publisher. After a period of latency (due to organisational rearrangements on the publishers’ side) the first initiative led to creation of a journal without VETNET involvement. Few years later the idea was brought back to discussion – now with the intention to set up Open Access journal using an appropriate platform. By ECER 2013 the concept was prepared to maturity and by ECER 2014 the first issue was published. Here it is worthwhile to note that the journal was launched as an international journal (and it reached a wider international support). During the years after, the journal has been published on regular basis, its status has been acknowledged and it is being used as the organ of VETNET. A special step forward was taken when the articles of the years 2017 and 2018 were made available as the respective IJRVET Yearbooks.

Parallel to this, the earlier pilot websites for publicising the VETNET conference program and sharing the presentations have been replaced by the current Vetnetsite.

Conferences, interim conferences and proceedings

Alongside the founding of ht IJRVET the VETNET network has made progress with interim conferences and with publishing the conference proceedings. At an earlier stage, during the preparation for ECER 1999 the VETNET program chair Johanna Lasonen managed to get the conference papers in time and published a hard copy proceedings publication by the conference. In the subsequent conferences this was not achieved. An interim solution was the collection of papers and/or powerpoint presentations to the VETNET website or to a separate proceedings page provided by Sabine Manning on her Wifogate website. During the recent years the link convenors Christof Nägele and Barbara Stalder have introduced the process of preparing and editing the annual proceedings by the conference.

Parallel to this development the VETNET network has got a settlement with two regular ‘interim conferences’. Stockholm University has had quite some time a tradition of annual cruise conference in May. Another conference tradition emerged when the University of Bremen (2015) and the University of Rostock (2017) organised international VET research conferences shortly before ECER with the theme “Crossing boundaries in VET research”. In 2017 an agreement was reached to organise these conferences every two year in May. Thus, in May 2018 we had the Stockholm conference, whilst in May 2019 we had the “Crossing boundaries” conference in Valencia. And the most important is that the proceedings of these conferences have been prepared by the conference. With the Stockholm conferences the production of book publications has taken place after the conferences.

Higher standing of VETNET network as a European expert network

Alongside these developments the VETNET has gained a higher standing as a European expert network in the field of VET. In particular this has become manifest in the cooperation of the European Commission and in the role that VETNET has got in preparing the European Skills Week. Since 2015 VETNET has been invited to organise a research-related workshop. Also, VETNET has had the task to prepare the nomination for European VET research award in the context of European Skills Week. Taken as such, these have been small steps, but they have also paved the way for proactive discussions on the future European funding programs. In this respect the VETNET board has organised in the recent years round table discussions on European VET research agenda to raise awareness and to strengthen the profile of our research community.

I think this is enough of the developments in the VETNET network. In my final post I will reflect the debates on European VET research that we have had at different phases of the community development.

More blogs to come …

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 …

Great start for the new working year – The IJRVET Yearbook 2017 is available!

January 8th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

Dear readers, let me first wish you all a happy and successful working year 2017!

And having said that, I can share with you a great piece of news. Already before the ITB office building was opened to start the new working year, our professor Michael Gessler had a great message to us: The brand new IJRVET Yearbook is available as an online version and as a print version. Now, for the European and international research communities in the field of vocational education and training (VET) this is such great achievement that it merits to be discussed in a specific blog post. So, I will start my working year with this topic already before I have come to my office.

The early initiatives to create an international journal for research in VET

As I remember it, the idea to set up a genuinely international research journal in the field of VET was brought to the agenda of the board of the European VETNET network in the year 2000. There had already been a predecessor initiative (independently of VETNET) that had been turned down by a commercial publisher. In the next phase the original initiator and the VETNET board joined forces and approached another publisher, who reacted positively. Thus, in the VETNET assembly in the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) 2004 in Rethymnon, Crete, we had an optimistic report from the working group that was preparing the initiative. Also, we had a representative of the publisher attending the conference and observing our work. Everything seemed to work into a good direction.

However, several intervening factors brought the initiative to a different direction. The publisher that VETNET had contacted was merged to a larger publishing house, and that put our initiative on hold. Secondly, disagreements emerged within the working group, and the original initiator left the working group of VETNET and started to promote the initiative independently of VETNET. This led to a creation of a new journal but with different characteristics than we had expected.

This led to a period of latency and reorientation, bridged by a feasibility study that identified several hurdles regarding the relaunching of the journal initiative. Luckily enough, the VETNET board did not give up. By the year2 2013/2014 several things came together that encouraged new start:

  • There was more know-how in the VETNET board to set up the editing procedures for an open access online journal independently of publishing houses.
  • There were advanced open source online services to support the publishing of such journals.
  • The scientific communities were ready to recognise publishing in such journals as academic merits and the global databases were ready to index them.
  • Whilst the European VETNET network had already long ago become consolidated as ‘the’ umbrella network for European VET research, a parallel network initiative (IRNVET) had been launched under the auspices of the World Educational Research Association (WERA) to bring together a wider international VET research community.

The launch of the IJRVET  (2014) and the emergence of the support activities

In the light of the above and given the hard preparatory work between ECER 2013 and ECER 2014, the VETNET General Assembly at ECER 2014 in Porto, Portugal, was happy to make the decision to launch the new journal as “International Journal for Research in Vocational Education and Training (IJRVET)”. It was accepted as the official organ of the VETNET and IRNVET networks and it had a rather strong backing in Europe and in other global regions. By the end of the year 2014, two regular issues were published and from that point on three regular issues and eventual special issues.In 2015 we had a special issue on ‘Vocational didactics’ and in 2017 on ‘Returning to VET’

In the course of the years the IJRVET has become increasingly attractive also to authors working outside Europe and we have been able to share information and research contribution from practically all global regions. Among these highlights we can include the fact that IJRVET is now fully integrated and indexed in CNKI (Headquarter: Bejing), AIRITI (Headquarter: Taipeh) and ERIC (Headquarter: Washington). Furthermore, IJRVET has  established cooperation  with the ILO (International Labour Organization) and its regional agency Cinterfor (Centro Interamericano para el Desarrollo del Conocimiento en la Formación Profesional). (See more at http://www.ijrvet.net and at the IJRVET-related updates on the Vetnetsite of the VETNET network.

Shortly afterwards new arrangements could be made that the production of the journal could be supported by several conferences, in addition to the annual ECER and its VETNET programme. From 2015 on a biennial conference tradition was started with the theme “Crossing boundaries in VET research” in Bremen and continued in Rostock in 2017. At the VETNET General Assembly  at ECER 2017 in Copenhagen the VETNET Board could inform of a new working agreement that these conferences will be scheduled for Spring months and that they will rotate with the Baltic Sea cruise conferences hosted by the Stockholm university. In 2019 the ‘Crossing boundaries’ conference will take place in Valencia, Spain (the call for papers will be published in a short while). In this way the conferences that are supporting the IJRVET will not clash with each other but complement each other. More information on these conferences and on their proceedings also on the Vetnetsite.org and on the IRNVET/VETNET  ‘project space’ on the research portal ResearchGate.

The idea of the IJRVET Yearbook

After all the progress that had been achieved so far, the editorial team of the IJRVET had the feeling that something was missing. Indeed, one should appreciate the fact that there was the online journal that was appearing regularly and that readers had an open access to the archives of previous issues. Also, the proceedings of the conferences were available via Vetnetsite and ResearchGate. Yet, there was a need to get an overview on the progress with the journal. And the solution for that was the annual yearbook. Here again, the services were available for producing such a yearbook independently of publishing houses, either as printed publication via Amazon (see Vetnetsite) or downloaded via ResearchGate.

So, in a relatively short time the IJRVET and the supporting European and international VET research communities have taken major steps forward. We are looking forward to further steps during the year 2018 and from that year on.

More blogs to come …

 

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