Thursday, July 11, 2013

NCVER 2013 'no frills' conference - Day 1

At the annual Australian National Center for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) conference this week. The 22nd conference held at Mooloolaba. The second time i have attended the conference in this location in the last 10 years or so.

As usual the first day of the conference consists of workshops. Here are notes of the actual conference presentations which take up all of today and half of tomorrow. Conference opened with welcome and housekeeping from Sue Ferguson NCVER and traditional welcome to country which included a digeeridoo recital plus official welcome from the Director of Sunshine TAFE, Leesa Boyle.

First keynote from Tom Karmel, managing director of NCVER who speaks on the "implications of increasing education levels on job prospects from a quality of jobs perspective". Higher education for many is encouraged as it leads to economic gains for both individuals and society. however, is there going to be a saturation point? so, what is a good job? how can we rank jobs? by skill, income and occupational status to come up with a cumulative percentile. 1% means job is in the top 1%. examples at the top of income are medical specialists and government officials. High skill include academics. Lowest skill include fast food cooks. lowest paid include hairdressers and cooks. There is a gender bias with male occupations having less correlation between skill and pay. Between 1996 and 2001 large increase in qualifications across Australian workforce.

Corresponding rise in jobs that require professional or specialised qualifications. Over 15 year, advantage of higher degree has declined in terms of pay and entry into top occupations. This change reflected in all other qualifications apart from Cert 3 and 4 where there has been no change. Effects tend to be occupation specific, for example although increase in higher qualification and batchelors engineers and educators retain advantage but management has slightly lowered.

In Science, IT, health greater differences. Therefore, in general, a qualification no longer gaurantees as good job as in 1996, but there is considerable variation between occupations and professions.

Then second keynote with Nik Babovic, deputy vice chancellor of Central Queensland University. He presented on his reflections on the establishment of a dual sector university. Nik reflected on the various operational challenges and new opportunities for teaching and research.

Currently still in transition with CQ University and CQTAFE becoming one institution in July 2014 a process begun in 2010. Challenge involved in bringing higher ed. and VET together to align stategic goals, centralise environments and build the partnership.

After morning tea, concurrent sessions in 5 streams begin. I attend Dr. Darryl Dymock's with Dr. Mark Tyler on "workplace change and skill needs". Report on one of the topics in Professor Stephen Billet's project on continuing training and education in work. Asked the questions, what recent changes have there been in your job? what changes do you anticipate in the future?

The argument is that individuals change as workplaces requirements change. continuing development required to meet workplace requirements, workplace needs transform and remain in the workforce longer. Therefore, what models and practices of continuing tertiary education will meet work requirements into the future?

Interviewed 80 plus workers in a range of industries to find out if there was work driven change. 0ver 90 changes made although 15% stated no change. Examples provided in changes in role, job scope, processs, services and products. For future change, 25% predicted no change but broader influences, work related changes involving work roles, new systems, technology etc.

Changes tended to be due to change of role, expanded work tasks and internal policies and systems. Implications include the emphasis on workplace in supporting learning, workers' need to engage with learning as 'the work is the learning'.

Second session with Dr. Steven Hodge, from University of Ballarat who provided background on "challenging the ideal curriculum alignment in Australian VET". Is there an alignment between competencies as per the intended curriculum with the graduate outcomes? are the graduates work ready as defined by industry. so, are industry skills as specified in competencies and interpreted by and implemented by VET practitioners preparing learners with the required skills.

VET practitioners asked about initial and continuing education in relation to interpreting competencies, implementation of and assessment of competencies. Interviewees revealed disparate levels of understanding about competencies and their purposes. There was divergent understanding with some saying competencies were things to aspire to vs minimum standards. Difficulties could be due to the language of competencies, short initial and lack of continuing education on competencies and expertise development stages means experts are unable to unpack their own understandings.

Therefore, there exist difficulties in the curriculum alignment process as practitioners may have difficulties interpreting the competencies.

After lunch, a session with Beth Evans from OTEN TAFE NSW, with "improving student outcomes: student completion of research and projects in distance education". OTEN is largest vocational education provider of distance learning in Australia with 64000 students with diverse needs, entry levels, motivations etc.

2011 completion rate for VET only 27% compared to university sectors 70%. project of OTEN students gathered 400 plus survey responses. Students generally satisfied with OTEN services but required student pre preparation with regards to becoming distance learning student. Distance learning still highly text based and emphasis needs to be also placed on helping students become self-directed able to pace and structure their own learning programme. Digital literacy important and a tech help person a available to assist when required as all courses fully online.

Second afternoon session on "massive open online courses: MOOCs in the VET sector" with Jamie Murphy from the Australian College of Applied Education (Perth). Provided overview of MOOC including advantages and disadvantages and some approaches to MOOC pedagogy.MOOC mania (Daniel, 2012) provides history and background. Platforms include coursera, google forays, uversity etc. Diffusion of innovations by Everett Rogers, 2003 provides framework to evaluate innovation.

Last up Liz Toohey and Chris Dann from University of Sunshine Coast on using mobile assessment platform: a shared space for critical discourse. Used to support teacher mentors who support teaching students out on classroom experience. Using mobile phone, tablet etc. used to provide means to provide consistent support . ensure learning outcomes can be achieved, assessment strategies can be shared, learners supported and on site supervisors sharing practice. work integrated learning therefore supported with a personalised approach to mentoring.

Research question was 'what is the impact on learning when mobile devices are used to collect data, measure progress and inform judgements against clearly defined benchmarks throughout the learning process.

Ios App - Pre service teacher tracker used to record evidence of student and mentor formative feedback while observing student teaching in the class, providing evidence for later discussion and forwarding on to main institute. Videos can also be attached for self or shared reflection.