Friday, April 12, 2013

ITF 2013 vocational education research forum DAY 2

Day two begins with a welcome from Dr. Peter Coolbear from Ako Aotearoa. Peter also thanked sponsors; provided housekeeping type announcements; provided at advertorial for a workshop exploring the integrations between education and workplace learning (August 15th in Wellington – Whare Whaka) and summarised yesterdays presentations. His take is that there is a pragmatic focus to the application of voc. Ed. Research that will make a difference; still a critical mass of people to be formed; research takes inputs of time and effort but has to lead to outputs which benefits learners.

An ‘expert panel’ of Dr. Karen Vaughan, Dr. Nicky Murray and myself’ review the 10 years the forum has been running. Nicky begins with overview of how the research forum began and the ITO perspective. Karen provides the NZCER (NZ council for ed. Research) viewpoint and I follow up with the ITP perspective on vocational education research, it’s importance and the need to make research accessible to vocational practitioners.
Following the panel, a plenary session on ‘moving on up –what young people earn after their tertiary education with Paul Mahoney, Zaneta Park and Roger Smyth from the Ministry of Education. Presented by Zanetta and Paul. The study undertaken to provide students with more informed choice about what and where to study; help providers understand and improve students’ outcomes; help understand dynamics of the tertiary education and the labour market – for policy making and accountability; and a National govt. priority.
Dataset comes through collation of a range of data from education institutions, inland revenue dept., ministry of social development (for student loans), migration data. Several studies undertaken from this dataset, on post docs destination, comparison between women and men earnings; etc. 

Report presented looks into graduate destinations of young people who had completed tertiary programmes. Results published by qualification level in field of study. Employment outcomes as in median, lower and upper quartile incomes. As expected, higher qualifications gain higher earnings. In level 4 certificates, education, architecture/building, management commerce, natural and physical science slightly higher, evening out as the 5 year mark comes up.  Comparisons of earnings after five years also need to be compared with annual rise in earnings. Summarised in a more accessible form on the Careers NZ website – compare study options.

Future work includes maintaining and keeping updated, thecareers NZ website; exploring destinations earnings by gender and ethinicity; looking at outcomes of those who do not access tertiary ed.; explore feasibility of publishing datasets for individual proviers – to help individuals work out WHERE to study; look into what factors predict income post study; destination of persons with qualifications at level 4; and completion of industry training qualifications.

After morning tea, concurrent sessions begin. First up, I attend the session with Dr. Marion Sanders from Bethlehem Tertiary Institute (BTI) on ‘maximising learning dialogue in professional field-based experiences’ an Ako Aotearo funded project.  Provided an overview of BTI offering degrees in education (school teachers), social work and health. Based on literature – mentors and supervisors need specific training; lack of researched programmes for mentor development; an importance of discussions/dialogue; inability to share professional knowledge; foundational importance of relationship; and avenues to develop mentoring skills.
Explored if careful selection of tasks expected of student over course of field-based learning assisted. Would development of professional learning relationship and learning dialogue assist?  Project with early child hood (16) and counseling students  (11) involving 3 institutes. 4 phases – pre-intervention (questionnaire and repertory grid); intervention; post intervention (questionnaire, focus group, interview) and post intervention resource development and dissemination.
4 intervention strategies used – partnership map, belief inventory, professional article and critical incident discussion.  . Interventions assisted by providing structure, purpose, springboard for to open communication; helped unpack responses and reactions, developed shared understands, built trust and maximise learning dialogues.
Findings – professional learning relationships are the foundation for maximizing professional learning dialogue. We cannot assume mentors and students have the necessary skills to engage and work together. Tasks provided increased learning dialogue. However not the use of specific tasks but the use of A task that made the difference. – Intentionality –
Challenges in field-based mentor sessions was time and physical space restrictions, the degree of agency of students and need for institutions to expect accountability to know exactly what happens during placement. Bonuses for the research team was that the team learnt lots about working across institution; managed the challenge of the Chch. Earthquake’ effects; mentor neophyte researchers; and a contribution made to professional field based studies.
Then Keith Tyler-Smith (Learning at work) and Kris Bennett (Otago Polytechnic) on ‘degree-level work-based learning: a new paradigm invocational education’. WBL well established in UK for over 2 decades. More than 90 UK universities deliver WBL at or above degree level.
WBL is a three way partnership between employee, employer and Provider/ institution. Learning undertaken at work, through work and for work. Curriculum and assessment designed through negotiation with learner, learner’s employer and academic advisor. Best suited to experienced people who hold positions of responsibility; facing a particular challenge at work that involves new learning; are highly motivated, capable of self-management and keen for new learning, skills and knowledge; have employer support and interests; have demonstrated ability to undertake degree level learning.
Presentation of an action research project funded by Ako Aotearoa. Batchelor of Applied Management via APL (assessment of prior learning) through workplace learning. Needed to find out impact of WBL on learners (needs and aspirations); employing organisations; academic staff (practice and challenges); institution (practices and processes).
Participatory action research through phone interviews with learners, facilitators, admin staff, academic mentors, quality assurance, assessors etc. output focused mainly on institutional systems but a follow up grant now to investigate the experiences of the learners.
The WBL process: APL process to determine credit award and balance of learning requirements – measured against graduate profile (GP) criteria. Negotiate learning agreement that determines how balance of learning is met, timeframe and how it will be assessed in terms of GP. Implementation of learning agreement through project work in the workplace, regular contact with academic advisor and completion of negotiated ‘assessments’.
Review of WBL learning include the foundation of WBL as being robust and holistic. Learners are guided through a process of deep critical reflection. Curriculum designed and developed through a negotiated learning agreement, reflecting needs of learner, employer and academic requirements. Learning agreement clarifies learning goals and learning activities. Learner implements learning agreement through project work. Work undertaken according to resources, timelines and learning outcomes stipulated by agreement. Mentoring enables student to recognize strengths; develop existing and new abilities. Assessment points at review of learning assessment; learning agreement approved by sub-committee of academic board and completed through three hour presentation.
Report details the 15 principles / guidelines developed from thematic analysis.

After lunch, another plenary session on ‘the future of business management training in the NZ SME sector’ with Diana Sharma with Dr. Ken Simpton, Ngaire Molyneux from Unitec. Research question was ‘ what model of ITO-ITP cooperation best enhance the generic management capability of NZ SMEs? SMEs employ less than 20 employees make up 40% of NZ economy output and 31% of employment. However, SMEs are declining slightly in numbers with more having closed that starting up and this is across all sectors. Primary causes of SME failure include inadequate capital and lack of appropriate management skills. 75% of failures could be avoided if proper help available and accepted. Productivity in SMEs improve when principal starts works ON the business and not IN the business.
Project seeks to find out what industry need/wants/demands and assess potential for ITO-ITP collaborations (but also needs to include PTEs). 133 surveys – ITOs, Industry, ITPs and PTEs.
SME attitude towards vocational and generic management training finds high focus on voc. Ed. But much lower in generic management training – also reflected in results from ITOs, ITPs and PTEs.
SME needs improvements in forward planning, financial communications, communications and IT, staff management and customer management skills.
Reasons for SME lack of participation in management training – time, cost of releasing staff, value of money, relevance to business, lack of funding or incentives to participate. Qualifications are not a driver. At the moment, ITO, ITP and PTEs do not need the management training needs of SMEs – with relations between SMEs and ITOs/ITPs/ PTEs only 55% effective.
Barriers to ITO/provider collaboration include – lack of role clarity, funding and costing model, patch protection and competition, history of mistrust, lack of capability awareness.
Research progressing and formal report will be produced.
Final keynote with Professor Paul Dalziel from AERU at Lincoln University on ‘skills education in the twenty-first century’ – education and employment linkages (EEL). Provided background of EEL running between 2007 to 2012 – with Karen Vaughan (schools), Jane Higgins (regional), Hazel Philips (Maori) and Paul Dalziel (economics). In each area, explored the international context (lit. review), understand what is (mapping) and why ((interviews, survey, focus groups) it is happening, how can it be different(case studies) and integration of assessment (2 pilots of best practice, assessing pilot site and integrated results of the 4 research streams).
Example of the employer led channels –from school community / family and whanau and employers with PTEs, ITPs, wananga, universities and gap year. How is information on school to work, pathways and options communicated to individual.
From the NZ 2006 census – no. of residents in each occupational category by skill level – indicates level 4 at the ‘heart’ of the NZ economy. Labour market skills created by – individuals discovering their individual abilities + educational investment (human capital) + employment opportunities via trusted qualifications + matching strengths! If things connect, then skills occur. = discover, discipline and display.
Educational system needs to change to cope with learner diversity. Example of 15% being the long tail of struggling students in primary school (presently 60,000 a year!). And Stuart Middleton’s work on NEETs and the need to reengage students.
Recent developments indicate some movement: NZ school curriculum is being broadened; links between schools and work established (Gateway); tertiary / trade academies established; vocational pathways established – a shared project from ITF/ITO and MOE. Careers offices in schools/ITPs needs extra effort in particular to network with their communities – to help young people make linkages to possible vocational pathways ie provide career education – not career advice.
A worthwhile conference with many relevant presentations. 


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