Wednesday, April 19, 2017

AVETRA 2017 - Day 1

This year marks the 20th anniversary of AVETRA- the Australian Vocational Education and Training Research Association. The conference is at William Angliss Institute / TAFE in Melbourne. Conference began yesterday evening with welcome reception and 20th birthday celebrations which included a birthday cake covered in red and black icing - AVETRA and Canterbury colours. A good opportunity to catch up with familiar faces and meet new researchers.

Day one begins at 8.30am with Colin Hunter Junior's welcome to country and conference opening with Linda Simon. Linda provided some thought provoking challenges to think through during the inference. In particular, how much has changed and more importantly, not shifted in policy and practice, despite 20 years of the association. What can we do with the research now taking place to make a change in the VET sector? how can research be better supported through the sector? Especially given activity within small numbers of the TAFE sector now beginning the building of a research culture.

First keynote is with Professor Peter Noonan, Professional Fellow at the Mitchell Institute at Victoria University of who shares insights into the future directions for tertiary education in Australia - challenges and possibilities. A report from work completed recently summarised and extension of keynote from last year which focused on funding issues within the Australian contexts. Reiterated the importance of tertiary education to the nation and for individuals. Labour Department projection for 2020 predicts only 69,000 out of each million jobs will require only secondary school education. Formal education only one means to attain skilled workers, also international migration, on job and firm based training, personal experience and development and professional development. Important to apply skills in workplace as this drives productivity not just more people competing qualifications. Capping of enrolments will not allow for the number of skilled people required. However, growth cannot be funded under the current model.   Went on to summarise the challenges presented by VET and HE partnerships and pathways. In the main, differences in qualification design make is difficult to articulate credit transfers. Proposed three scenarios to address challenges, absorption of VET diplomas and advanced diplomas into HE, increased pathways in strong VET and labour market linkages e.g. Higher level apprenticeships and VET becomes major provider of sub-degree programmes including associate degrees. Proposed and rationalised new VET funding model to support need for change to meet the challenges. 

After morning tea, the concurrent sessions begin.

First up, Professor Stephen Billett on positioning tertiary students as interdependent learners. 3  cases as reasons, better understanding now of how learning occurs, needs of industry changed and social expectations. Reviewed some premises of education. Extends on his work on affordances as there is still a need for learner to engage as learning requires effort. Contemporary accounts of learning supports that learning is multi modal and engaging sensory and neural systems with experiences; activities structure cognition; situations are constitutive of cognition; simulations and grounded cognition; individuals mediation of what they experience; physical and social considerations. Learning has been ascendant across human history with formal instruction having a much shorter history. Proposes individuals need to be interdependent rather than independent learners due to mediated nature of learning through life. Critique the consequences of the schooled society- knowledge pre specification, codified teaching of knowledge, mass forms of schooling, administrative and political systems etc. not privileged are many procedural capabilities; embodied learning, haptic qualities, dispositions, all central to occupational performance! Proposes need to extend means with which students engagement e.g. Working with others, studying with others, authentic learning etc. to encourage personal epistemology practices, mimesis, apprenticeship learning, ontogenetic ritualisation, learner readiness. Encourages not about improving teaching but more teacherly practices that promote independence.

Then I follow in the teaching, learning and assessment steam with 'e-assessments for learning in Vocational education: promises, potential and pitfall. Summary of rationale of the eassessment project along with pros and cons of assessment for learning as assisted by technology. Introduced the focus on various sub-projects and how eassessments assist with learning of specialist skills. In many ways, my approach to eassessments apply the precepts from Stephen's presentation i.e. Learning is multimodal, context dependent and includes sociocultural and sociomaterial interaction to assist learners to learn the genre, quality expectations and tacit knowledge components for becoming exponents of an occupation.

In the same stream, a presentation from Na Li, Craig Poole and Anna Daniel from TAFE Queensland on the topic of developing educator capability for delivery of blended learning. Good follow on from my presentation as one of the eassessment implementation challenges is digital literacy of educators. Findings and recommendations from research and pilot training programme. Defined blended learning as combination of classroom with digital technology to enhance learning. Flipped delivery is one form of blended. Interview data from teachers in Queensland and China reveals concurrence on the main themes of benefits and challenges.

Second keynote after lunch with Professor John Polesel from Melbourne graduate school of education. His topic is on VET, inequality and the lure of university. Presentation arose from findings of PIACC data suggesting VET enrolled students are disadvantaged in employment in the long term when compared to people's with general education. A reply to these statistics provided to give a more balanced perspective. Reviewed the historical privileging of HE over VET through societal preference of the liberal arts over manual skills. In Victoria, between 2003 to 2016 had a declining number of school leavers transiting to VET -32 to 22%. To university it has risen from 41 to 54%. Analysed the data to try to explain the non quantifiable aspects of the difference in enrolments and outcomes. In general 50% to university, 25% to VET including apprenticeship, 6% in full time work, 12% in part time work, 6% looking for work and 1% not working. More girls go to university but if into work, mainly part time. Lowest socio economic origin kids have lower university entry 38% compared to over 80% in higher SES. Argues for work on how knowledge is expressed and learnt in HE and VET; links between VET and the labour market and tertiary differentiation.

Then with Lisa Maurice-Takarei and Helen Anderson from Unitec in Auckland with VET teaching: realising potential. Presented on the framework used to bring the new NZ adult tertiary teaching qualifications programmes. The new book 'Designs for Learning: teaching in adult, tertiary and vocational education" introduced. Began with overview of NZ contexts. Discussed the graduate profiles in the NZ qualifications and sought feedback on its composition. The book aligns with the outcomes of the new qualification. 

On to the qualifications, training products and future skills stream with Angela Tsimiklis from William Angliss TAFE on the rise of the artisan: how participatory action research benefits the development of specialised artisan skills. Argues for the need to support the development of a different way to certificates specialist skills. Related her experiences through a deliberate approach based on participation in the practice. Attended 4 weeks learning at Carpigiani Gelato University in bologna, Italy. Provided example of depth of knowledge required to understand the process sufficiently to be able to create gelato variants.

Next presentation from a group from RMIT and William Angliss on the topic of addressing the challenge of scholarship and industry currency in Vocational Education: a pilot. Presented by David McLean on work with Nancy Everingham, Jane Mancini, Amberley Mitton and Melanie Williams. Provided rationale and background to the pilot. Described process whereby VE teachers undertook an ethnographical study on what was actually occurring in their industries. Based on scholarship framework developed by Williams, Goulding and Seddon (2013). Towards a culture of scholarly practice in mixed sector institutions. Adelaide: NCVER. Nancy presented her experiences and the project she worked on including a shift to critical thinking. Jane also presented her project and explained how the framework assisted with providing a scaffold for her work. both Nancy and Jane teach interior design at the associate degree level after many years of teaching on Cert.4 and Diploma.

As usual, a busy day with an early start followed by AVETRA AGM and conference dinner. 

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