Monday, April 16, 2012

AVETRA day 1 - 12th April

At the Australian Vocational Education and Training Research Association (AVETRA) conference late last week. A good opportunity to network with mainly Australian VET researchers. A large number of presentations taking place with 6 concurrent papers presented at each time slot. I have selected the papers that are accompanied by refereed papers and which are related to apprenticeship, trades learning or trades teacher training.

Conference opens with welcome to country providing a good overview of the Indigenous perspective.
and official welcome from Dr. Llandis Barratt-Pugh - current avetra president - summarising the Australian context and current political landscape. Andrew Leigh, representing the Minister of Tertiary Education then provided overview of current federal government policy to provide opportunities for all Australians to contribute to the economy with VET playing a key role in preparing people for ongoing challenges presented by social, technological and political changes.

Keynote 1 from Robin Shreeve, CEO of Skills Australia,on 'aligning tertiary ed. with the demand for skills and qualifications in a changing world'. Firstly provided an overview of Skills Australia (which will be transformed with added remits in July). Then the challenges faced by Australia in the short and long term and how skills training may contribute. Three conceptual pillars used : apply concept of specialised occupations, develop, test and model multiple scenarios to achieve flexible policy reponses and fund users rather than providers. Described the 4 scenarios developed for the Australian context to replace pervious one based on work by Royal Dutch Shell. Models are - long boom, smart recovery, terms of trade stock and ring of fire. Proposes an integrated VET/HE sector to be more responsive to various challenges and meeting projected skills requirements from various scenarios.

Concurrent session 1 with Dr. Hilary Timma, Charles Sturt University, on 'eclectic approaches by worker-learners to authentic work based learning and assessment. summarised a project, following 13 mature-aged learners who had completed vet-based studies by distance ed. Mainly examined how people learn (and are assessed) in workplace, especially as developed through processes of social interactions in the workplace and through significant others who contribute to assist, encourage or comment on what is taking place. occupations included police, hospitality education, client services, business management and horticulture. framed by sociality of learning (Boud), communities of practice (Lave & Wenger) and workplace learning (Billett).

My session on findings from the 'first year apprentices project' then took place. good attendance and a broad range of questions at the end.

Session 3 on 'apprenticeship pedagogies in a Tasmanian RTO: What teachers say? with Rod Mason, Skills institute, hobart, Tasmania. investigates the approaches to traditional trade apprentice teaching and learning in the Tasmanian Skills Institute (TSI). What strategies are used and favoured and WHY. Teachers typically developed their won theories of learning style. completion of Cert IV might not equip teachers with appropriate skills. innovative approaches required knowledge beyond Cert IV level. pedogogies used were generally traditional (lecture/formal presentation, demonstration followed by practice, dependent and independent use of workbooks), flexible delivery included CD-Roms, online, self directed workbooks and some evidence of innovative strategies (computer based games, interactive DVDs). Choice of pedagogy tended to be based on past experiences, established practices within teaching teams and external industry demands.

Next session with Dr. Llandis Barratt-Pugh and Dr. Sue Bahn - how pre-site construction induction training improves work safety but illuminates the issues of on-line certification. reports on a project to look at mandatory pre-site training as offered in WA and impact of the study on current delivery methodology. Pre-site construction safety programmes need to change beliefs about workplace safety and also provide opportunities to learn and be able to deploy 'instinctive' responses (perhaps learnt through repetition). Evaluation of programme indicates programme was useful, but delivery mode, either f2f or online had mixed responses due to different needs of individuals and companies they work for. Some companies did not trust the online certification and this project findings did lead to removal of subsidies for online programmes.

After lunch, first session with Sonal Nakar on 'the voice of VET teachers: teacher dilemmas and its implications on international students, teachers and VET institutions. identified many challenges, some turning into dilemmas and all based on need to make some form of ethical decision. examples of dilemmas include: lack of resources and support systems for teachers in helping international students with differing IELTs scores; managing percieved inappropriate gift giving by students; inconsistencies amongst various VET institutions regarding curriculum, assessment standards and extent of the course; teaching subject without expertise. Recommendatyions include better partnership between govt and educators in policy making; toughened and consistent national framework for regulation to delivery high quality teaching and learning outcomes; greater opportunity for teacher qualification; and consistency in curriculum/duration delivery.

Next, 'Promises and expectations between apprentices, trainees and their employers' with Ros Brennan Kemmis, Sharon Ahern and Diane Middleton (Charles Sturt University). presentation introduces the concept of 'practice architecture, as apprentices, trainees and employers come into an already established pre-configured way of saying/thinking, doing things, and relating among the different kinds of participants (cultural-discursive, material-economic and social-political dimensions). drawing a subsection from Smith, E. Walker, A & Brennan Kemmis, R. (2011) Understanding the psychological contract on apprenticeship/traineeship to improve retention. NCVER. (need to check). the study reported in this project Uses 3 case studies from the main study. where there were instances of differences between expectations and promises between apprentices and employers. in general, preconditions necessary to fulfil contract include: sound HR processes for recruitment, performance management; systems reward both tangible and intangible; early intervention; monitoring training both on and off-job and clear lines of communication.

Then paper from Anthony Wareham from Unitec - evaluating the effectiveness of plumbing and gas-fitting pre-trade programmes in NZ. Looked into theory/practical components of the programme and whether pre-trade courses provided skills/knowledge relevant for entry-level employment in the plumbing trade. 3 pre-trade courses evaluated (school based try a trade, plumbing and gas fitting 4 weeks 'taster' of a 16 week multiskills course, and students Gateway). programme evaluation criteria distilled with need to provide students with authentic work experiences to learn work ethics, be introduced to tools, work etc.

Also attended two sessions with unrefereed papers. The first with Alison Miller, Higher Ed. Qualifications pathways manager and Mary Leahy from L H Martin institute on 'connecting education and work: vocational streams and the capabilities of approach (Sen & Nussbaum)- due to interest in the capabilities approach. both explored the need to an improvement of pathways through tertiary education. Capabilities approach -- alternative to flawed theory of utilitarinism, focuses on what people need in order 'to be and to do', to live life they have reason to value, set political goals as capabilities rather than functioning, appreciation of the corrosive effect of entrenched disadvantage, intrinsic value of people, and humans are social beings.

Keynote by Dr. Salim Akoojee, university of the Witwatersrand, on 'towards a responsive TVET research agenda for the 21st century: Time for doing different things differently'. The presentation - explored the nature of VET research practice and the role of political-economy, provide a possible framework by which we could interrogate VET research and develop a 'responsive' TVET research agenda to take social justice as a starting point. An interesting and thought-provoking presentation, also reminder of Sen and Nussbaum's capability approach, of how transportation of processes that work in developed countries (e.g. national qualification frameworks) may not be suitable in developing world contexts. TVET research needs to ensure reponsiveness to political/social sphere and take a stand to ensure research is used responsibly.

AVETRA AGM followed then the conference dinner - a long day with several interesting presentations to mull over.

1 comment:

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