Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Contributions of neuroscience and neuro-psychology to understanding vocational education learning

Now the ‘learning a trade’ report has been completed, I will be moving through a list of readings in the fields of neuroscience and neuro-psychology. Basically, my ‘summer reading’ project from now into mid-2014. This is an exciting time for scientists working in the fields of neurobiology due to the enhanced opportunities afforded through recent advances in medical imagery.  Learning on brain function is no longer limited to post-activity or illness study through autopsy.  MRI and CT scans are able to provide synchronous recording of brain activity as it takes place.

As a first update, I worked through Steven Picker’s ‘Theblank slate: The modern denial of human nature’ a couple of weeks ago (while at the NTLT conference) to update myself on readings in socio-biology undertaken before I started work on my PhD. Books read at that time include RichardDawkin’s ‘The selfish gene’ and ‘The blind watchmaker’, Jared Diamond’s books ‘ Guns, germs and steel’ and ‘The third chimpanzee’, E.O Wilson’s work to bring the sciences together in ‘Consilience’.  All ‘parked’ for a few years while I put energies into literature on vocational identity formation, workplace learning and vocational learning required for the dissertation.

Socio-biology basically argues that as humans, we are high wired with some ‘pre-programmed’ traits, affinities and learning processes. The pre-programming is seen to be the result of natural selection, providing individuals with a collection of genes that pre-dispose them to affinities for certain types of activities (both physical, mental and emotionally).  The learning of languages, as per the work of Norm Chomsky, is used often to support the argument that young children’s brains are ‘designed and predisposed’ to learn language. Language learning has a ‘fixed window of opportunity’ within the first four years of life.  Our brains are also supposed to learn motor skills through processes of mimesis (imitation), trial and error and practice. Many feedback mechanisms for motor skills like proprioception (body stance and balance) occur subconsciously. Experts cannot isolate the knowledge of process (KP) or result (KR) due to inability to articulate the nuances of complex motor activity.

So, what do the fields of neurosciences and neuro-psychology have to offer to vocational education learning?
I now have a list of about a dozen books to work through to gain a better perspective on how knowing about how the brain works, may inform how we learn skills, apply concepts to problem solving and attain dispositions and attitudes congruent with our occupational identities.  So, as usual, will put up summaries of pertinent books as I work through them, with commentary on the contributions from the books that are relevant to understanding vocational education learning.

My goal is to find a direction for how to go down the road for exploring vocational learning ‘signature pedagogies’.  There will be a need to work collaboratively with sports and education psychologists and perhaps medical imaging specialists further down the track. I need to bone up on the jargon and quantitative research methods used in these disciplines so as to begin conversations. The socio-materiality approach to learning holds much promise but research approaches recommended like activity theory, complexity theory and actor network theory will be a bit of a hard sell to my ‘quantitative’ colleagues in sports and psychology. How to ‘blend’ something like actor-network theory to ‘learning how to weld’ using video, would in itself be an interesting exercise!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Reflections on trip to China

Have had a couple of weeks to reflect on latest trip toChina. Every time I visit, I feel some sense of belonging, even though my family is several generations removed from the mother country. The food, language, ways of doing things are familiar, and yet somehow also strange and exotic.

Wandering around the streets of Beijing or Tianjin, I could feel the energy of people set on progressing forward. The sheer magnitude of people is overwhelming. The pollution in Beijing and Tianjin is also a sobering reminder that progress has consequences. However, the Chinese are aware of their environmental challenges. Lots more trees seem to be grown in the Beijing area and new developments have park lands set aside to ensure the cities are not a continual urban sprawl.

Again, I saw instances of young people assisting others. Two young trendily dressed women in high heels, helped an older woman carry a bundle up the subway stairs. They pitched in without being asked and waved away the older woman’s gestures of thanks. Young men gave their seats up on the subway to the elderly and grandmas taking their grandchild to school. These were spontaneous everyday events. I find I am taken for a local, so the small acts of kindness were not done to impress foreigners.

I enjoyed my sojourns into the local neighbourhoods without by Kiwi colleagues. On the two occasions I went shopping with them, we were inundated by shop keepers, beggars and touts. So, visiting the local areas on my own, yielded more authentic experiences. The non-tourist areas still find foreigners to be a novelty. When I took one of my Kiwi colleagues into the back streets behind the hotel in Tianjin to find breakfast, we were treated with kindness and humour. My fractured Mandarin managed to navigate us through the challenges of ordering and paying for breakfast. The vendors and other patrons were curious to find out where we were from and happy to assist with queries. Despite the emphasis on learning English as a second language in Chinese schools, once outside the usual tourist areas, the older locals tend to not have any English.

My conscience is slightly conflicted with regards to being viewed as an ‘expert’ in vocational pedagogy. The Chinese are keen to encourage greater innovation and creative in their technician occupations. The Ministry of Education has set a direction for vocational education to move from didactic teaching to be more learning-focused. In particular, to use problem or inquiry-based learning and learner participative strategies like role plays and simulations. The government funds architecturally spectacular physical learning spaces and state of the art technical equipment. Their task is now to up-skill their software, the over a million vocational educators PLUS transition their learners from a school system with emphasis on rote learning to self-directed learners AND convince parents that vocational education is just as good, if not a better option than a university education. These challenges are not unique as we in NZ are working towards similar goals albeit on a much smaller scale and with a social structure somewhat more attuned to ‘transformative’ learning approaches.

I think my objective in the next visit is to encourage our Chinese colleagues to reflect on their own approaches. What works for them? What do they see as the strengths of Chinese pedagogy? How do their students find learning through case studies, problem and inquiry-based learning approaches? What influences do students find, will enhance their learning? We should also try to talk to students who have recently completed their vocational ed. and find out if the 'newer' approaches have prepared them for work. If the approaches have, what aspects contributed to assisting them in their new jobs? What were the useful generic skills they learnt through participation in alternative learning approaches? Ditto for employers. Are the graduates they employ, entering the workforce with the level of productivity required of entry-level technicians? What support would employers provide for entry-level staff, to assist them to settle in and 'belong' to the workplace and trade/industry? So, lots to look forward to exploring in the near future.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Pens for Surface RT Tablet

We have just about started our 'Project surface tablet' projects. We have 12 project teams, each with an identified learning outcome that can be enhanced through the use of 'situated technology enhanced learning'. Several of the teams have learning activities that use OneNote in tandem with Skydrive to create shared learning resources. OneNote, along with other note taking apps (youtube video of notetaking), allows for the use of a stylus to draw or use the predictive text screen option on the tablet's keyboard.

Unlike the Surface Pro, Surface RT is limited to use of pens with the fatter stubby end rather than fine point due to it's capacitive screen –  wp central has a collection of pens (various prices and types). At present, it is difficult to obtain stylii from suppliers in NZ to try out. However, we have been able to get hold of some of the 'stubby' pens along with the finer point 'Jot it/pro' range from adonit. The adonit pens are about double the price of the stubby pen options. 

We will be undertaking some trials with the various pens plus also raising awareness amongst our project surface tablet teams to the note taking and sharing options provided by the Surface RT. The co-creation of learning resources is one of the main advantages of going digital and we need to make sure both teachers and learners are able to maximise the opportunities for co-construction of learning.

Friday, October 04, 2013

National tertiary learning and teaching conference - Day 3

Keynote from Dr. Peter Coolbear from Ako Aotearoa opens the last day of an interesting conference. Peter presents on 'supporting the success of priority learners - translating policy aspirations to enhancement of practice'. Covered the policy sitting, what the education performance. indicators are telling us, argue that teaching teams have a role to play and then some projects that hope to address some the issues. Alco Aotearoa working assumptions include working in a system that allows great teaching and learning to occur, we do not do enough to share good practice, we still allow mediocre performance, the system is fragmented and research still weak and has limited impact on practice. These views are shared by government. NZ has moved to greater public accountability from all public funded education. EPls tell us that course completion rates have plateaued at 80 -85%. Therefore, as tertiary teachers, maximising individual performance is no longer enough, focus needs to shift to whole teaching teams causing a significant culture change.  Teaching teams need better management, support and take responsibility for student success on their programmes. Suggested a traffic light model of assessing programme academic health based on principles of learner focus, outcome focus, learner support etc. and include accreditation, completions, academic standards, student evaluations, graduate destinations, equity pathways and community /Iwi involvement. Provided overview of how traffic light model may work for students, teaching team, managers, academic board and council. Related projects include: improving large class learning, using student evaluations to improve outcomes, model of success for Maori learners in workplace settings, success for Pacifika, adult refugee learners: effective responses and recent publications bringing themes together

Parallel sessions follow morning tea. I attend Iain Huddleston's on 'blended delivery gains student support'. Presented examples of changes made to delivery of an engineering course to improve students' learning experiences. Technology based resources were developed to enhance learning and a blended approach used. Group work and enquiry based learning used. Each week groups presented their learning qfrom week before and rest of class time put into exploring the next topic. A learning commons environment set up supported with WIFI, laptops and presentation facilities. Presentations are marked and count towards summative assessments. Review of topics through online quizzes and crosswords. Students develop research, presentation, team work and collaborative skills.

Last keynote with Dr. Stuart Middleton on 'teaching and learning: the Park momentos or 21st century'. Began with overview of how he arrived to the work he is now focused on. English speaking systems seem to all have similar challenges with equity and outcomes. Challenge is to address the schools system as vocational and higher works from the outcomes students bring with them. ITPs have to work with school systems to bring about change and interconnections so students are able to transition into programmes that will provide them with future prospects. Structures like curriculum, time, pastoral care, age related cohorts, sectors, programmes and delivery are things that need change. Transitions between various educational sectors has attrition. Proposed 2 sectors. MIT tertiary High School one way to integrate secondary and tertiary, leading to a seamless transition to allow students to complete multiple qualifications across sectors.

Conference closes with Poroporokai.

Overall, the range of presentations was good. A balance between reports from practitioner on their own teaching contexts and keynotes that set the tone and create forums for discussion. Always good to catch up with colleagues from other institutes to share ideas and brainstorm creative ways to do more with less in the staff development process.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

National tertiary lerning and teaching conference - day 2 afternoon

After lunch keynote from Ria Tomoana from Whitireia Polytechnic on 'sharing successful teaching and learning strategies for Maori, Pacifica and youth'. need to change ALL staff altitudes from "tell me what to do and   I will do it" to" I am here to help students meet their learning goals". Value of undertaking an Ako Aotearoa research project include opportunity to derive an internal solution, potential to create champions among staff, honour staff who are getting good results, clarify the Whitiriea way. Belief in students' potential important to change attitudes. Students will pick up through body language if staff do not really mean what they say. Need robust induction process for staff, mentoring and staff development and performance and appraisal systems aligned to values.

Workshops follow and I attend Katrina Marwick, Rae Perkins and Carole Crawford's session on 'online individual learning plans.' The workshop revolved around 2 working models of ILPs used at NMIT. ILPs used to improve the students' learning journey. ILPs developed on Moodle.
Rae shared the way ILPs used to support business students through her role as a learning advisor. Students begin writing their ILPs at orientation, then initial meeting to discuss initial goals and clarify actual aspirations. Academic strengths and weaknesses are identified and matched to study programme choice. Follow up meetings proceed. If on track, praise, if not, review study plan and work on strategies to work through challenges. Final meeting to celebrate completion.

Katrina provides a learning coach perspective. Matching ILPs to inquiry learning. Students use ILPs set their own targets, apply actions, share the journey. Learners agree to meet deadlines on assessments etc., use of cell phones, through learner contracts. Learners self analyse against required skills. Need to prepare students to take responsibility for their own learning goals and to be able to assess their own progress.

Good discussion eventuated around purpose of ILPs, how institutions or student uses and how both have different reasons for using.

After afternoon tea, keynote with Dr. Kerry Reid-Searle from CQU - Central Queensland University at Rockhampton. She presents on 'suspension in disbelief - an innovative approach to learning and teaching through simulation'. The presentation begins with a role-play simulation of a 'client' and how the 'nurse' models how to work with a patient by encouragement and empathy with the patient's circumstances and needs. Used the initial  'performance' of authentic scenario to explain teaching practice and how to engage students. The 5 senses need to be deployed to learn effectively. Experiential learning needs to really involve students, they cannot just stand aside and watch but participate, feel, do, smell, hear and taste. Simulation is realism, fidelity and authenticity. Teachers need to create realness, integration and connection. Introduced Mask-ed to use KRS simulation. Latex prosthetics along with realistic portrayal of 'characters' provides students with access to authentic learning in a safe environment. The core elements are the character, the educator is hidden, the educator is still expert, learning is important. The character is on the side of the learner. Scenarios are an interplay between character and learners and have strong stories. Need to make sure there is fit with curriculum and used across all delivery, learning activities and assessments. Introduced next iteration Pup-ed using puppets to provide understanding of paediatric practice and used to help build rapport with young patients.

Conference dinner convenes in the evening providing added opportunities to network.

National Tertiary Learning and Teaching conference- day 2 morning

Day 2 begins with workshops. I attend Bronwyn Hegarty's on 'open education practices.' The group is separated into 3 groups to work out the good, bad and downright ugly of 'open education'. Lively discussions emerge from each group.

Parallel sessions follow. First up Brian Tuck with 'mindfulness'. Began with a youtube video on 'what i mindfulness?' When we pay attention to how we pay attention, we find it is actually quite difficult to sustain attention. we practise how to breathe, to enhance mindfulness.

Then Jo Rhodes with 'learning is not a spectator sport - avoiding just another lecture. An active session modelling the premise of the presentation, the student needs to do the work to do the learning. Strategies include: make a large class feel small, encourage questions, be available, learn students names, relate lectures and discussions to actual or potential student experiences, pay attention to individual students,  consider your self presentation and give personalised feedback. Important to plan before the lecture, how you will begin, what activities and 'energy shifts' will be used, learning styles to allow for, materials to be used and what happens after lecture.

Third up I catch up with Aidan Bigham's presentation (on Prezi) as I was presenting in the opposite stream at Qingdao. Aidan shares 'teaching engineering geology in a blended inverted classroom. Inverted classrom akin to flipped classrom, using multimedia resources through blended learning. Went through advantages and disadvantages. Change of heavily content focused approach to meeting student learning outcomes. Used OTARA model to ground planning - objectives, activities, resources and assessment. Student evaluations show higher engagement and increase in students' motivation to take responsibility for their learning.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

National tertiary learning and teaching conference - day 1 afternoon

After lunch, 3 workshops. I attend Jenny McGee's workshop on 'communicating across cultures'. Cultures do not only mean ethnicity but includes all aspects of social, economic and values systems.
 An interactive session with much input from all group members. 5 strategies include know yourself, watch your bias (check out project implicit), mind your language, what you do not say matters just as much, and understand the values.

Keynote 2 from Jenny Magee on 'Turning outsiders into insiders'. Discussed layers of diversity as one way to approach understanding diversity in all  its myriad contributions. Inclusion to make how to make. diversity work.
Bringing diversity and inclusion together provides for engagement to take place. In organisations, communications and relationships contribute to inclusion in turn leading to cohesion, belongingness and inclusion. So instead of 'treat others as you would like to treated
' to treat others as They would like to be treated'. Inclusion derailers include: we recruit people like us, making assumptions, unconscious bias, abd cultural norms. Inclusion enablers include modelling from the top, finding common ground, little things matter, check your expectations and reframing political correctness.

5 parallel streams of 3 sessions follow. I stay with the stream I am presenting last on.
First up, Georgie Gaddum from on 'technology and teaching: a case study of software enhanced enquiry based learning across academic pathways'. Project evolving since 2004. Provides students with an authentic learning experience with del life expectations and time limes. Journalism, photography and web design students, education it and publish a paper for each of the 4 days of the agricultural filed expo held each year at Mystery Creek near Hamilton.

Secondly, Dr. Monique Dalziel, Chris Dunn and Belma Gaukrodger with 'nursing students on cloud 9: engaging students in their assessments'. Used to help first year nursing students learn appropriate communication skills with patients. 5-6 minute videos are taken of interview between student and actor. Students upload the videos on to YouTube and have to reflect on their performance.

My presentation 'applying principles of situated technology enhanced learning to improve trades learning' closes a busy day. Provided overview of the four projects. Firstly completing competency based assessments using photos and videos in level 2 automotive programme. Second, compiling videos into workbooks with barista students. Thirdly, using video to improve learning of front office skills. Fourth project to improve students critical evaluation of web sites via virtual hotel tours.

NAtional Tertiary Learning and Teaching Conference 2013 - day 1 morning

After a frenetic week in China, a complete change of scenery and ambience with 3 days in Invercargill for the annual National tertiary learning and teaching conference hosted by Southern Institute of Technology.

A stirring powhiri is followed by opening address from Maree Howden, Deputy CE of SIT and a welcome from Invercargill mayor, Tim Shadbolt.

The first keynote address from Dr.Stewart Hase on the topic 'heutagogy' follows. Heutagogy is a word coined to extent andragogy. It refers to self-determined learning. Encouraged audience to suspend comfortable habits and look beyond the usual means of problem solving or coming up with new ideas. Check http://slideshare.re/GzuMKt. Also new book 'self-determined learning' edited by Stewart and Chris Kenyon. People learn different ways and ask different questions. Self-determined learning one way to match latest learnings from neuro-biology with curriculum and learning development. Humans learn through, focus develops specific regions of the human brain; brains sensitive to culture / environment; memory is fragile unless strengthened; attention span 8 minutes; system 1 (assumptions) vs system 2 (work at problem solving) thinking;  effort develops human brain; learning needs to be multi-sensory; humans are naturally curious and explore; emotion and learning are inextricably linked; humans motivated to resolve incongruity; brain plasticity; state dependent learning; the first 30 seconds; repetition required; takes years to develop reliable memory; when real learning occurs is unpredictable; humans learn best by immersion; ingredients are to puddings as knowledge and skills are to learning.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Inaugural Sino-NZ Vocational Education Research Forum - Qingdao 23 - 24 September

Day 1
In Qingdao for the inaugural Sino-NZ Vocational Education Research forum. Opens with formal welcome from Professor Qin Chuan, President of Qingdao Technical College.

Then a short speech from the vice-mayor of Qingdao Municipal Government, Liu Mingjun.

Followed by a series of speeches from various signatories of the MOE between China and NZ.

Alexandra Grace, Education NZ Regional director in China.
Gao Yong, deputy director for Central Institute for Vocational and Technical Education (CIVTE), China and Shao Wei, secretary general of China International Association for International Exchange (CEAIE).
all provide background on the formalised relationship between China and NZ to share knowledge on Technical and Vocational Education (TVET) and to learn from each other. China is placing priority in TVET due to its potential to increase economic and social levels. There are over 14000 TVET colleges on China with over 10 million students. it is important to improve teaching and learning in TVET to enhance student learning and in turn contribute to China's progress.

After morning tea, two keynotes.
one from Liu Yufeng, director of comparative education research, CIVTE on 'building a modern vocational education: China's path selection. goal of china to become more competitive, as measured on global competitiveness scales. China is on second stage of development but NZ in stage 3. TVET seen as one way to lift competitiveness through improving science, technology through improvement of human capital. Path for constructing modern VET include connection between secondary and higher VET, cooperation between school and enterprise, and improving social justice.
Then Prof. Qin Chuan from QTC with 'learning teaching and doing in one: let every student be the best of him/herself'. Students in VET weak in abstract and logic ability but good at operations, imagination and other intelligences. Move to supply appropriate learning resources, guide students to learn, motivate students to be the best. learning, teaching and doing need to become integrated.

Third keynote from Mark Flowers, CE of Wintec on 'internationalisation of vocational education and training - learning from each other'. Need to change teaching practice, meeting needs of employers / industry, and focus on our students. Skills of workforce need to lift to cope with China and NZ becoming exporters and the process of internationalisation.

Last keynote with Dai Yuwei, President of Tianjin Light Industry Vocational  Technical College, speaks on 'relying on industry guidance and innovating educational system to achieve effective vocational college education of school enterprice cooperation. Three strategies used. Understand and form a school and enterprise cooperation system, derive a model to improve and evaluate the school and enterprise cooperation system, and effective personnel training through and by the system.

After lunch, two streams present around the theme 'excellent vocational teaching'.  I present in the 'science' stream. Summaries of presentations follow. Other NZ educators present in the other stream, including Aidan Bigham, Peter Bilious, Sam Honey, Dr. Karen Vaughan, Adrian Woodhouse and Dr. John Clayton.

I am first up to provide a quick overview of the 'learning through apprenticeship' project. Basically, how to assist apprentices to become more metacognitive about their learning. Learning as becoming through learning how to do, be, feel and think like a trades person.

Zhang Yi from Baotou Vocational College on 'strengthening knowledge application by inverted teaching, improving cognitive competence by innovation of evaluation system. Focus on introducing authentic learning in the form of project based learning. Steps include introduction (connecting theory to practice, working out learning objective), exploration, practice (through project based teams where students play actual production roles), assessing (teacher, self and peer).

Jo Thomas from Wintec with 'English language teaching for a changing world' two concepts, what English should be taught?' and the learnings from a case study. Important to recognise English learning needs of students, what are they learning English for? Task based learning important. shared experiences of a blended distance learning programme for English teachers in Kwangtung.

Shao Ningping from Ningxia Vocational Technical College of Industry and Commerce on 'applications of various teaching methods on logistics management courses'. A practice / task based approach with problem and case study based learning. Requires teachers to take active role in preparing appropriate resources to support the various learning activities. Role plays often used to replicate real world practice to enhance other approaches. Modelling used to help students learn complex tasks. Enterprise cooperation (often work placement) and competition orientated learning also used.

After morning tea, Kelly Pender from Bay of Plenty Polytechnic shares 'empowerment and compassion,enhanced through experiential learning'. Shared approaches used on Certificate of Fitness (level 4). Importance of teachers setting an example. Learning concepts made easier by applying learning through 'learning by doing', improves empathy with others (clients) and understanding why they have to learn certain things.

Chen Xiaofeng from Xinjiang Institute of Light Industry Technology, on 'the teaching innovation of the chemical engineering unit operation and maintenance'. Went through understanding of curriculum planning using a job orientated curriculum. However, employers found graduates to still be under prepared. Therefore, shift to development of students' 'personality' development. Undertook an analysis of the curriculum to increase emphasis on students' 'professional' development. included practising through use of simulation software, then students discuss operation, school competitions motivate students, theory and practical now integrated, use of formative assessments and content extension becomes students' responsibility.

Julia Bruce then presents on 'engaging challenging learners'. Described her work with hairdressing students using a 'living consensus' model. Process of teachers and students sharing responsibility for creating learning environments through group agreements, on-going discussion and shared understanding. Teaching and sharing strategies include ongoing ethical practice discussions, discussions on shared cultural practice (culture share activity), shared group management. Code of practice and shared ethics understandings form the basis of the living consensus. Video diary used to record the evolution of the living consensus so teachers and students are able to reflect on their transformation. Project based learning is the underpinning learning approach.

Malcolm Doidge from Wellington Institute of Technology on 'collaboration as a teaching tool'. Mahi tahi - working together. Provided an overview of work with level 1 - 3 design programme over 3 years. Learning how to help oneself leads to helping others. Used 3 Maori principles, family (whanau), working together (mahi tahi) and principles / guidelines (tikanga) to follow. Using technology (evernote) to record project based learning (developing a board game).

A panel closes the day, followed by conference dinner.

A very packed day but heartening to see the similarities and aspirations between Chinese and NZ current teaching practice and learning focuses.

Day 2

Today there is a series of 3 class room demonstrations.beginning with Du Xiao Ni teaching a session on 'primary hall sensor'. A lesson plan provided in Chinese and the 40 minute session is to showcase 'problem based' teaching approach. the class views an introductory video and then answer a series of questions (in groups). Individual students answer questions using flip carts or diagrams. the teacher clarifies points and revises main features of the lesson. Lesson is teacher directed but good teaching shown in how the teacher draws the aswers out of the students, reinforces correct answers and using 'teaching moments' where appropriate to clarify understanding.

Second demonstration lesson is with Li Qin and a lesson on 'group analysis and modification on the draft of particulat commodities display'. A retailing course whereby students design a display and substantiate their choice. Teacher and other students provide feedback and critique. Questions are mostly from students and team members take turns to answer. Teacher provides a comprehensive critique.

The NZ contribution from Julia Bruce with a group of volunteer students. Julia based her session on helping students understand their learning style preference through completing a short questionnaire. Then discussing ways in which to enhance their learning through the understanding of how they preferred to learn.

Two Chinese and two NZ representatives provided feedback / critique on the three sessions.

The forum closed with short speech from Professor Qin Chuan.

Day 4

Five of us (Jo Thomas, Julia Bruce, Adrian Thomas, Kelly Pender and myself) along with Stewart Brougham (Wintec Offshore project manager) take the fast train (travels at 300km plus an hour) from Qingdao to Tianjin on Day 3. A chance for us to see some of rural Shandong and to debrief the experiences of the previous two days.

On Day 4, we visit the Tianjin Light Industry Vocational  Technical College which is one of 8 educational institutes that make up stage 1 of the Haihe Educational Park. When completed, the park supports educational and residential needs of over 300,000 people!! The physical spaces are impressive and we have another opportunity to observe a few classes in the engineering, art / design, commerce and electronics areas.

Overall, a good experience to observe the challenges China faces and their focus at developing infrastructure and human capital through TVET. There is support from the highest officials for vocational learning to become more learning focused. The sheer numbers of vocational educators to shift from content to learning focus is a particular challenge. However, there are movements from 'sage on the stage' to 'guide on the side' from the presentations and class observations. Small steps in the right direction, although the Chinese will need to contextualise Western models of learning to their culture and social needs.

Link to newspaper article on the conference published late October.