Thursday, April 04, 2013

AVETRA 2013 day one morning

In Perth this week to attend and present at the annual Australian Vocational Education and Training Training Research  (AVETRA) Conference. Conference is at the Esplanade Hotel in Fremantle, the cooler sea breezes temper the hot 30’C plus temperatures Perth has had over the week. Wifi seems to be working, so should be able to post through the conference.
Day one opens with a welcome from AVETRA president, Dr. Michelle Simons along with a welcome to country.

The first keynote is from Dr.EtienneWenger, who speaks on ‘Learning in and across landscapes of practice – developments in social learning theory and implications of VET’.
Wenger’s approach is to view learning as occurring across all aspects of everyday life and is social in nature. Therefore, the ‘body of knowledge’ of a specialist area is reflected in the practices of various communities of practice. Learning occupational skills is a journey across the various practice communities leading to individual’s vocational identity formation. His presentation provided background on his original work with Jean Lave, how the study evolved. Their premises were founded on Jean’s ethnographical studies on apprenticeship with learning viewed as a trajectory into a community of practice (the legitimate peripheral participation). Through learning, apprentices eventually belong to a community, through engaging in practice, producing meaning from the experience and attaining identity (becoming). Thus, the learning trajectory can be traced through changes in identity as learners progress. However, communities of practices cannot be designed as they arise organically through practitioners’ engagement and interaction. The ‘curriculum’ shifts to align with social, political and organisational imperatives in unpredictable / idiosyncratic ways.

Approaches?? Competence is defined within a COP – claims to competence negotiated in the politics of community formation. Knowledgeability – defined in relation to a landscape of practice – claims knowledgeabiliy negotiated in the politics of landscapes of practice. So there needs to be a negotiation of identity in a complex landscape connecting the individual to professional body, training, research in disciplines, colleagues, clients, workplace and regulatory bodies. Not all of these influences will be in congruence! Mechanisms include informal curriculums, institutes, NGOs, bloggers, COPs, informal communities, personal networks, twitter, google etc. becoming knowledgeable includes the need to modulation across the many influences and mechanisms. Learning is still interface between individual and the social contributions. Need to be shift from ‘curriculum’ to skills to negotiate through. Within the landscape of practice building the trajectory needs to include imagination (seeing the future, locating oneself); engagement (crossing boundaries, being creative, going deep); and alignment (making a difference, seeing a future).  Learning is therefore the need to ask regularly – who am I becoming?  For VET practitioners – how can theory and practice help learners and educators address the learning challenge of on-going becoming /identity transformation.

After morning tea, concurrent sessions begin (7 streams!) so as usual, will summarise the ones I attended and catch up on the others (refereed papers) when I get back to NZ.

My presentation ‘ enhancing deliberate reflective practice using situated technology enhanced learning with tablets’ is a summary of work with Debby Taylor. Improving the learning of hotel front of house receptionists’ check-in and check out processes. Writing the paper for this conference has helped to make more concrete, some of the learning we have gained. The final report, which includes 2 more sub-projects, has now been recently submitted to Ako Aotearoa for peer review.

I stay in the same stream ‘VET practice and attend Hugh Guthrie’s presentation on ‘institutionally based research and evaluation to advise practice: messages and lessons from three projects’. Based on Hugh’s work at the University of Victoria in Melbourne. The projects were to introduce a new approach to trades training - TradeApps; study of youth strategy programme for students who had not completed year 12; and a pilot trade experience programme for people to try out trades – Victoria govt. funded project . Methodologies for these studies are evaluated.  Issues included significance of these evaluations, institutional climate, change and politics, the evaluation approaches and methods, outcomes and utility of the evaluators and the effective planning of the evaluations themselves – shared objectives between evaluators and organisations.

Learning include: Evaluations need to be strategic and significant; evaluators must immerse themselves in the prevailing climate and culture not only to understand what is going on, but also to take what actions are possible to ensure the evaluation gathers the best possible information; and evaluators must spend the time to get ‘buy-in’ from key individuals and groups – at wide levels to unlock more and better sources of information; evaluators must validate the information gathered carefully using multiple sources to ensure veracity. Need to be aware of the limits of the evaluation methodologies and data sources used and what can reasonably be concluded based on the quality of info. collected. Evaluators need to be sensitive to organisational climate and climax. Evaluators need to work closely with their client to ensure that forms of reporting and their timeliness are fit for purpose. Effective institutional evaluation requires careful initial planning, leading to credibility and ability to effect real change.
Therefore, there is a need to have skilled and arms-length evaluative and research capability within VET providers.

Then Berwyn Clayton on ‘Keeping up with the Joneses: updating professionals in knowledge leading organisations’.
Berwyn’s presentation reports on a project examining industry views on the management and maintenance of industry currency on VET practitioners. Study included fields of science, health, engineering, and human resources. Not only need to establish importance of currency but to establish structures to support – including organisational strategies, collaborative undertakings, monitoring and review. Follow up on a NCVTR project on knowledge and professional obsolescence.
The presented project focused on what ways organisations may manage professional obsolescence and what can approaches to these problems drawn from industry and the professions be applied strategically in VET organisations? Approaches to updating professional practice include learning in and through work; collaborative learning; networking; problem-based and project-driven learning; shadowing, peer review and programmed knowledge exchange - eg. weekly seminars to share learning.

Lunch follows with opportunity to catch up with familiar faces and meet up with new researchers.