Thursday, April 09, 2015

AVETRA 2015 - day one morning

At the annual AVETRA - Australasian Vocational Education and Training Association - conference. Met up with familiar faces yesterday at pre conference drinks. Today begins with a welcome to country with Tony Garvey and conference opening with Michele Simons, president of AVETRA. 

Conference keynote is from Professor James Avis, University of Huddersfield, on 'Neo-liberalism and VET into the abyss'. Covered the relationship between democracy and VET and the impact of neoliberalism on work. How competitiveness, economic growth, up skilling, social mobility and centrality of waged labour impact on VET. VET seen to be preparation for work or work based learning for para professionals, trades, work readiness etc. for the ordinary and the under served 50% (UK, Bathmaker, 2013). Reviewed the social democracy models of meritocracy and social mobility and how the promises now challenged by shift to neoliberalism and the need to meet market demands. Moves to performativity, audit, market setting, casualisation, new public management, privatisation, commodification of VET and  IT workers, deregulation, individualisation, precariousness and post fordIsm. Summarised a range of critiques of neoliberalism as requiring the reining in of the excesses of the financial sector, return to real economy and softer, more inclusive form of capitalism. Contrasted the precepts of industrial capitalism based on work practice and knowledge and shift towards cognitive capitalism based on collective common knowledge of field, appropriated by companies to create value. Unfortunately cognitive capitalism more amorphous and subject to difficulties in boundaries. E.g. Under Fordism, weekends etc. untouched but with cognitive capitalism, all spheres of life are affected and expected to contribute. Another example in the deployment of social media as spanning work and personal lives as social networks blur and access becomes ubiquitous. Open source initiatives another instance. Proposed need to rethink the knowledge economy given some knowledge work as digital Taylorism and aspects of VET requiring levels of unrecognised knowledge complexity. A good revision for me on the sociological implications of policy on VET. 

After morning tea, I follow the apprenticeships and traineeships track. First up, Professor Emerita Berwyn Clayton presents on 'expanding apprentice responsibility in the assessment process: the competency progression challenge' and part of NCVER project. Trades are cookery, carpentry and metal fabrication. Based on policy intents to accelerate training for apprentices who exhibited relevant competencies at various levels. Findings from project were little change in the assessment of knowledge, shift by majority to more holistic assessment of practical tasks, excellent instances of fully integrated training and assessment,technology critical I supporting increased flexibility and stress on apprentices as evidence gatherers BUT often with little understanding of how and what. Apprentices understanding of quality evidence critical but apprentices not necessarily ready gather evidence. Used work of Sadler 1989 and McMillan & Hearn, 2008 stress importance of learners being given opportunity and skills to evaluate their own performance, understand what high quality performance looks like and compare their work to gauge. Integral are early feedback, involvement of self / peer assessment and improved engagement means enhanced motivation. More sophisticated understanding by apprentices and employers of options and opportunities. 

Then, 'different forms of assessment in Swedish apprenticeship education' with Ingrid Berglund from the University of Gothenburg. Covered the research method, forms of informal and formal assessments on student's work readiness, challenges and role of work readiness assessments in the boundary between school and work. Four programmes, construction, business and administration, electricity and health and care. Informal assessment refers to assessing workplace expectations and basic vocational specific qualifications, often dispositional aspects. Challenges for VET teachers in developing procedures, organising follow up sessions and bridging gap between workplace and school curricula. Envisages VET teachers as boundary workers in agreeing to, expediting or placing barriers on students' access to work placement. 

I shift across to the assessment teaching and learning stream as I present in the next session. Roger Harris, now adjunct professor at the University of South Australia, presents on 'from Fleming to productivity commission: is VET teachers preparation walking the Tightrope? Summarised the Fleming report 1998 and Productivity commission report and also a 1972 book by Hermann, Richardson and Woodburne on trade and technicians education. Cert 4 should be a beginning, not an end! Lifelong education a goal but realities and practicalities have prevented objective being met. Fleming report was catalyst to VET teacher ed. and improve standing. Unfortunately in 2011 challenges still remain as reported through the productivity commission report! Between the two reports large numbers for VET initial teacher availed due to opening of market. But focus still in initial and not on continued   Or in service education / professional development. 

My presentation is on the topic of 'from competency to graduate profiles: New Zealand's shift to a relational approach'. Briefly summarising the move of NZ qualifications from 'unit standards' to graduate profiles and the opportunity to therefore recognise the wider occupational identity variants of individuals. Also discuss implications, including the aspect of consistency across qualifications offered through various programmes of study

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