Catching up with the TACCLE4-CPD project – Part One: New version of policy analyses

March 31st, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

During the last few weeks – after getting my computer problems sorted out – I have tried to catch up with my duties for our ongoing EU-funded TACCLE4-CPD project. As I have told in my blogs last year, this project is looking at concepts and models for promoting continuing professional development (CPD) of teachers and trainers with emphasis on digital competences. The project builds upon a series of TACCLE projects that worked with classroom teachers. Now, the challenge is to develop CPD models for wider use – including also adult education (AE) and vocational education and training (VET). In particular the extension of the scope to the field of VET provides a challenge since this brings into picture different governance models, different training providers and different learning venues.

In the light of the above I have written a document with the heading “Policy analyses as background for continuing professional development of teachers and trainers in the field of vocational education and training (VET)”.  Here I share a summary of my interim conclusions:

“This document was started with an overview of educational governance and steering models in the field of vocational education and training (VET). After a rough overview a closer look was taken on the specific features of federal governance and dual system of organizing VET in Germany. As we have seen, the picture of policies promoting digital competences has remained somewhat patchwork-like.

The third section has given a closer picture of local educational and VET contexts as well as of recent R&D projects. These descriptions have given an understanding on the state of the art and of pioneering initiatives. Also these descriptions have given a picture of a patchy landscape of local developments. From this perspective it is worthwhile to ask, what kind of role integrative frameworks can play and how they can be shaped.

The European “DigCompEdu” framework was presented in the fourt section. It differs clearly from European Qualification Framework (EQF) or European Frameworks for Credit Transfer (ECTS and ECVET) or from  European Quality Assurance mechanisms. This framework is not paving the way to intergovernmental agreements with signatory states. Instead, it provides practical assistance for linking digital tools and enhancement of digital competences to different learning contexts.

However, from the perspective of the VET sector, the DigCompEdu framework remains very generic. Yet, in this sector, there are very specific challenges for promoting digital competences. Therefore, the framework study of the project Berufsbildung 4.0 starts with a useful differentiation between ‘digitisation’ (at operative level) and ‘digital transformation’ (at the level of whole organisations and networked production/service processes). Taking into account both levels the project is looking for development perspectives for future-oriented VET provisions. From these starting points the project has worked with several theses and feedback workshops and synthesised the results in transversal themes and analyses that focus on different levels or educational steering and change management.

Altogether, the above-presented sections provide very heterogeneous impulses for anyone, who wants to grasp the essence of policy processes and their impact on policy implementation in the field of VET. Yet, the impulses, insights into field and explorations on framework documents or framework studies need to be considered when taking further steps in shaping continuing professional development of teachers and trainers. For this purpose the next working document is looking more closely at developments in the previous TACCLE projects and in the parallel project Learning Layers. Both projects have a history in developing training for teachers and trainers. Now it is time to put these developments into a wider European picture.”

These were my interim conclusions from the ‘policy analyses’ with which I tried to provide a background understanding for discussing the theme ‘promoting digital competences’ in the field of VET. This takes me further to the next document with which I have been working recently – but that is already a topic of its own.

More blogs to come …

PS: If someone wants to read the full document, I can send it via e-mail or share a link to Google Drive folder. PK

The TACCLE4-CPD project is making further progress – Part Two: Linking my contributions to the common approach

November 27th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous post I started to blog on the third transnational project meeting of our EU-funded project TACCLE4-CPD that took place in Pontypridd, Wales. This project is working with frameworks, pedagogic concepts and arrangements for continuing professional development (CPD) of teachers and trainers in promoting their digital competences. It builds upon the achievements of three previous TACCLE projects that worked directly with teachers and provided support for promoting their digital competences. The fourth project has the task to support training providers and managers in shaping adequate arrangements for CPD in different educational sectors and enhancing appropriate digital competences.

In my previous post I gave a picture, how we revisited the key idea of this project and in what respect we have to face different challenges than the earlier TACCLE projects. The main difference is that we have to support policy-developers, educational managers and training providers – not immediately acting teachers and trainers. This has consequences for the policy analyses and frameworks to be developed in the project – as well as for our approach to collecting Open Educational Resources (OER). In general, we reached a common conclusion on giving a central role for our work with a Mindmap as an integrative tool. However, as I see it, this provided further challenges, how to link my contributions to this approach.

Linking the sector of vocational education and training (VET) to the work of TACCLE projects

In this context it is worthwhile to remind that the TACCLE projects have so far focused on general education (and general adult education). Thus, the emphasis has been on school-based education and classroom teaching. In this respect the field of vocational education and training (VET) with different institutional settings and with different interfaces between education and working life has not been present. As a contrast, our institute (ITB) had recently worked in a major EU-funded project Learning Layers in which we worked together with construction sector and with a training provider for work process -oriented learning. As a contribution to this project we had organised two campaigns for training of trainers to enhance their digital competences. In the proposal for the TACCLE4-CPD project this background had been highlighted as a major asset of our institute ITB in the current project.

However, when the TACCLE4-CPD project started working, it became clear to me that I have to provide insights into the legacy of the Learning Layers project and what needs to be considered when discussing CPD policies and measures in the field of VET. Also, I noticed that there is a need to provide insights into the institutional complexity of the German VET system – in order to grasp the role of different policy levels and R&D programmes. In this respect I felt that we from ITB had to work ourselves in into the TACCLE4-CPD projects and that we had to open new perspectives for the project work. Below I illustrate this process with three key themes.

Critical analyses of policies for promoting digital competences in the field of VET

Already in an earlier blog I had addressed the institutional complexity of the German VET system – with reference to the federal governance model and the dual system of VET (based on workplace-based training supported by school-based education). Taking into account the diversified power structures on education and training it is possible to understand the relevance of R&D projects and of specific sectoral partnerships. Therefore, I had produced for our November meeting a report that firstly gave a brief overview on the governance structures in education and training in Germany. Then I presented an overview of selected R&D projects that have a relevance for promoting digital competences and in shaping patterns of CPD. Thirdly, I included some interviews from actors in the field to highlight, what kind of impact different policies and initiatives have at the local level.

When I presented this contribution, I realised that it was written in the old way as a national report. In the light of our discussion on the critical analysis of policies I needed to transform the perspective to a general approach to the field of VET. Then I needed to outline different systemic models and levels of policies – after which the German governance structures could be given as examples. In a similar way the level of R&D programmes should be outlined with some main themes – under which the selected cases should be given as illustrative examples. Finally, the engagement of actors in the field should be discussed in the light of lead initiatives and by presenting modes of participation. In this way the report would provide (to some extent) an introduction to the VET section in the MindMap and should also address, how the MindMap can be used.

Exploring the project histories of TACCLE projects and of Learning Layers

As a second contribution I had prepared a discussion paper that compared the project histories of the three earlier TACCLE projects and that of the Learning Layers (LL) project (with focus on the Construction pilot). In both project histories I noticed similar phases of search, reorientation and enrichment and encountering new challenges. From the perspective of LL project experience I emphasised the central role of Learning Toolbox (LTB) as an integrative toolset for supporting vocational and workplace-based learning. From this perspective there is a slight tension vis-à-vis the former TACCLE projects that focused on general school education and emphasised the role of teachers’ handbooks.

When discussing this contribution I realised that I had not been able to reach the perspective of TACCLE4-CPD. Here, in addition to the work with the MindMap, it is worthwhile to take a look at the DigCompEdu framework as a bridging approach. Based on this framework it is possible to see the legacy of the LL project (including the co-design process, the training campaigns and the introduction of the LTB) as a systematic effort to link occupational competences, pedagogic competences and learners’ competences to each other. Here, the LTB served as a toolset that was shaped to support such integrative processes. From this perspective I needed to rework the paper to emphasise this approach and to avoid an impression that I would only be pushing the tool as such.

Reflections on different training models for promoting digital competences

A further important theme that we discussed was comparison of different training models. We noticed a general trend towards divisive grouping of training models as abstract lists. In our discussion we found it more appropriate to reinterpret such ‘models’ as ‘characteristics’ and to look, how different characteristics can be combined in holistic training concepts. From this perspective the “Theme Room” training that was used in the LL project would serve as an interesting case. In particular the prospect of further development of this concept – including the use of LTB during the training and after it – is an interesting challenge.

I guess this is enough of these points. To some extent this brief report may appear as insider-discussion – given that the MindMap is not yet there as an illustration. However, to me it was important to write down my interim conclusions for further work in the project.

More blogs to come …

 

 

 

The TACCLE4-CPD project takes further steps in its work – Part Two: Reflections on policy mapping in (German) VET sector

June 10th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I reported on the second transnational meeting of our EU-funded project TACCLE4-CPD and our efforts to develop tools and concepts for continuing  professional development of teachers and trainers. As has been the case with earlier TACCLE projects, we focus on integrating the use of digital tools and web resources to pedagogic approaches. In my previous post reported on the meeting itself and on our progress in adjusting our work program and the partners’ activities to each other. With this post I want to take a closer look at one of the tasks – mapping and analysing current policies – and what it requires from us (the German partners) working in the field of vocational education and training (VET). Below I try to give an overview on the role of regulative frameworks, innovation programmes and R&D initiatives in this context.

On the role of regulative frameworks

When discussing the role of educational policies, colleagues from other countries tend to refer to the “National Curriculum” as a key instrument and its implementation as the central process. This doesn’t apply to Germany. Since the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany (and after the German unification) the regulative powers have been given to the Federal States (Länder), not to the Federal Government (Bund). Thus, there are 16 autonomous Federal States deciding their own curriculum frameworks – with some level of mutual adjustment in the Standing conference of cultural ministers (KMK). Yet, the differences between larger states (like Bavaria and Lower Saxony) and the city states (like Hamburg and Bremen) can be considerable.

When it comes to the field of vocational education and training (VET), there are further complications in the picture. For the dual system of apprenticeship (the mainstream model), the regulative powers have been divided. The Federal Government (Bund) has the power to regulate the workplace-based training, whilst the Federal States (Länder) are responsible for the school-based education. Furthermore, the intermediate training centres (überbetriebliche Ausbildunsstätten) that support training in the construction sector and in the craft trades are managed by the umbrella organisations of the respective industries and trades.

In the light of the above, tracing the policy processes at the level of regulatory frameworks reminds me of putting together a jigsaw puzzle with numerous pieces.

On the role of national innovation programmes

Whilst the Federal Government (Bund) doesn’t have the regulative powers in (shool-based) education, there is a growing consensus that Federal funding is needed to promote digitisation and digital competence throughout the society – including the education and training system. For this purpose the key instruments are the Federal innovation programmes – such as the ones promoting the use of digital media in VET (DiMeBB and DiMeBB2). This funding includes R&D projects in which education and training providers work together with service providers and supporting researchers.

Parallel to this, the Federal Government has provided special funding to promote digitisation and digital competences in the intermediate training centres. This funding is allocated partly to support the updating and upgrading of equipment and partly for supporting the staff training.

This reminds me of putting together a mosaic when all the pieces are not (yet) available.

On the role of local/ regional/ domain-specific initiatives

In the light of the above it is worthwhile to pay attention on specific measures and initiatives in a local/regional context or in domain-specific training. These may influence heavily the ‘implementation realities’ in digitisation and in the acquisition of digital competences. Also, it is worthwhile to pay attention to the impact of earlier R&D activities – inasmuch as they may have had a sustainable impact on the education and training cultures. Here I can refer to the long-term engagement of ITB in introducing Project Management training in schools (in particular in Bremen and the neighbourhood). In a similar way we need to pay attention to the use of the Learning Toolbox (LTB) as a digital toolset to support vocational learning and organisational knowledge sharing.

All this reminds me of describing changing facets of a caleidoscope.

I think this is enough to illustrate, how complex these mapping and analysing exercises may be. However, the formulation that we agreed – “Policies looking for (appropriate) practices; Practices and initiatives looking for policy support” – is helpful. In this spirit I find it easy to continue our work with this task.

More blogs to come … 

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