Thursday, October 26, 2017

NZ VET research forum - DAY 1

Notes taken at the annual NZ Vocational Education and Training research conference. Held in Wellington as usual and my annual opportunity to catch up with NZ VET researchers.

The conference opens with a whakatua and welcome from Josh Williams CE of the Industry Training Federation (ITF). Josh, in his usual style, summarised the intent of the conference and reminded the participants to keep their eyes / ears out any major announcements!

Professor Stephen Billett sets the pace with his keynote on Emerging goals for Vocational Education and responsive curriculum and pedagogic practices. Firstly, build his case, summarising the need to ensure we better understand pedagogy at work due to the ongoing pace of change taking place now in types of work and how work is in turn constituted. There is growing focus on job readiness, contextualisation to local needs, requirements to understand ‘difficult, work and need to have greater self directed learning and lifelong learning. Recommends, job readiness needs to also ensure learners have opportunities to learn different ways the occupation may be enacted. Educational goals include canonical knowledge and situational manifestations. Reiterated that expertise is situational. Defined how hard to learn knowledge, especially as work shifts from tactile to symbolic e.g. mechanical to CNC lathes. Through most of history, occupational learning has been through practice. 
Responsive curriculum and pedagogies assist through provision of authentic, purposeful workplace learning experiences; educational institution based experiences through simulations, story telling, projects, etc.; integrating workplace experiences - esp. before, during and after; post-work experience augmentation; learning of symbolic and conceptual knowledge; and promoting the development of active engagement by learners. 

After morning tea, the concurrent sessions begin.

I attend session with Sean Squires from Toi-Ohomai - Institute of Technology - Tauranga, who is head of Automotive Engineering, on designing and delivering Vocational training programs to meet the need of future workplaces. advocates the need to ensure learners are able to find, evaluate and apply knowledge rather than memorise information. Need to find out what industry needs. Provide students with tools to learn. Flexibility and innovation enables connectivity between learners, trainers and industry. Shift from text to digital and multimedia / multi modal. Trust between employer, trainer and apprenticeship important. Surmises that there is a need to have humans undertake teaching as AI and robots may not be able replicate the individuality of trades learning.

Then, a session with Karen Vaughan and Jo MacDonald on transfer of learning in apprentice development for health and community support work. Focused on helping apprentices attain reflective learning skills to enable workplace based learning to be effectively undertaken. Rationale for the work, changing nature of support work and beginning of a new apprenticeship programme. What was the value of adding an apprenticeship. 21 apprentices participated and they worked in aged care, intellectual physical therapy and case work with disadvantaged youth. Nature of support work includes high unpredictability with need to continually problem solve and reflect on practice, great job satisfaction, team work and the emotional labour. Defined near, further and far transfer of learning. Reported on how apprentices understood their learning and matched to near, further or far transfer. Also connected to and defined as per finding, Schon’s reflecting on / in action. How and when reflection took place and what did apprentices do with the results of their reflective learning. Key finding, changes are personal and professional, guided by underlying principles, there are flexible interactions with clients. Businesses need have confidence for apprentices, client and business, what happens before and after training, challenges are presented by the nature of work, training arrangements and organisational climate and affordances. 

The after lunch keynote is with Dr. Craig Fowler CEO from the Australian NCVER. He presents on from measuring to interpreting: progress in visualisation, analytics and research to inform the Australian VET system. Began with overview on NCVER objectives, funding and purpose. Presented vision and mission of the new NCVER strategic plan from 2017 to 2020. Summarised complexities of the federal system on collection of data and the data products produced. Introduced the new tools for dissemination of data through digital visualisation. Discussed in greater depth the challenges for analysis and advantages presented by data linkage across other government databases. Provided example of data mining of job advertising to work out if currency and validity of training packages. Need to try to collect regularly, skills performed and skills identified as lacking from a job, so individuals, trainers and policy makers better informed. 

**Announcement made of next NZVET research forum to be held with the annual NCVER no frills conference in Sydney from 15 to 17 August 2018. **

Concurrent sessions carry through the afternoon.

I present details on the various sub projects from the eassessment project. This time, more details on each actual sub- project. The common threads are to match the context of learning with the affordances of technology to enable the feedback process to be effective. Learners need to learn how to understand feedback and leverage of it. Tutors need to be familiar with technology affordances to maximise application. Technology needs to be matched to learning goals and context of discipline / organisation. 

Then, Graeme Couper presents on an integrated approach- holistic assessment of NZ dairy farm trainees. Started with background and rationale. Summary of a study towards Masters thesis in Education. Post Troq, more holistic approach possible to bring together theory and practice, aligned to grad outcomes, less assessing and looking into other ways to assess knowledge in practical context. Detailed research design and questions. Interviews recorded on smart pen. Found better integration between theory and practice, more flexible, active and engaged learning, real world evidence used , active assessment interaction between those involved, greater satisfaction and enjoyment of process, and some practical challenges in the change.  Summarised implications towards approaches towards applying knowledge to practice, authentic and robust assessment, and an opportunity to revisit the con pet of competence.

Last session with Averil Coxhead, Jean Parkinson and Falakiko Tu’amoheloa from Victoria University on bilingual approaches to technical trades vocabulary in Tongan and English. Presented on one aspect of the Ako Aoteoroa National fund - learning the language of the trade- project. Began with overview of the wider project objectives and where the study presented fits. Summarised the rationale for the project, why study trades language which has just as demanding a vocabulary as university level learning. Tongan lists derived from word lists for carpentry, plumbing and engineering. 30% technical vocabulary is in the written language but 10% in spoken in the workshops. Seems to be mismatch in words in the glossary between words in glossary and words in the textbook. Detailed difficulties in translating vocabulary. The Pasifika approach to research (Talanoa) to carry out the translations was detailed. Learners need to know there are technical words in Tongan, some are Tonganised and the ones without equivalents require rules to derive. Implications also presented. 

As usual, a busy day and I was unable to be at several sessions due to clashes in the programme. Evening networking continued to allow for catch up with ITO and ITP people with an interest in and supportive of VET research. 

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