Monday, April 30, 2018

AVETRA Practitioner Research Conference DAY 2

Day dawns cool and cloudy and begins with official opening of this year’s conference. Linda Simon, conference coordinator welcomes participants. Robin Shreeve, new AVETRA president extended welcome and also provided context to the conference with an overview of current challenges. Although govt. seeks to increase education in areas of skills shortage and encourage school leavers to investigate non university tertiary education, funding for VET has never been lower.

The sessions begins with a keynote from Jose Luis Fernandez Maure, head of the institute of innovation and applied research for vocational education and training in the Basque Country (population of just over 2 million). Jose speaks on the challenge and potential for VET practitioner research. Began with a summary of the institute - Tknika. Explained challenges in mid 2000s leading to formation of Tknika, in particular the need to equalise quality of VEt trainina across all VEt institutes, some of which were excellent but some still requiring extension. At Tknika, 250 teachers work half their time there and half their time in their colleges to support innovation. The main objective is to reduce the skill gap quickly, so innovations ( pedagogy, technology, discipline specific) and future skill needs are met. Detailed the distributed model used to extend professional development across the sector. Main fields are in biosciences, energy and advanced manufacturing. Provided case study and examples of projects.  Detailed a project to encourage micro enterprises with support to students, teacher training to support the entrepreneurial process, support to create companies and a company network to leverage collaboration and networking. Teachers have masters qualification in teaching. 
Vet organisational changes include self managed teams of teachers, modular curriculum, flexibility of skills across occupations and skills assessments based on development of students to be able to continually learn. Challenges based collaborative learning frames pedagogy. This requires flexible timetables and learning spaces to allow for reconfiguration as the challenge base learning requires. Student learning is centred around being able to complete the challenge. 
Requires a whole system change to put in place and results may take a decade to realise. A key is to ensure all the institutes network to share practice and innovations to accelerate the impact. Collaborative work across institutions important, for example, culinary colleges working with agricultural colleges, for produce and waste to compost.

After morning tea, I chair three 45 minute presentations on the theme of VET teaching.

First up, Dr. Lesley Petersen from Tauranga who runs Petersen Consulting on Developing communities of practice as a pedagogy support mechanism for VET tutors. Began with a context of her work, especially with private training (PTEs) and industry training organisations (ITOs) and the objectives of the project with tutors teaching foundation skills at a PTE. She investigated how a Community of Practice (COP) provide space for tutors to develop pedagogical practice. Based on previous work on signature pedagogies involving 3 PTEs using a blended and action research methodology. Summarised details of the approaches and logistics of engaging with the tutors across the six months of the project. 4 meetings across 4 months with tutors trialling and implementing strategies to support student achievement between meetings. After workshops, evaluative process included minutes of each meeting, mid point online survey, summative interviews at conclusion. 
Influences on the success of the COP in this particular context included: training workshop at beginning important to build trust and purpose; place and space provided to share and collaborate; prompted critical reflection on teaching practice; peer mentoring; designated facilitator. Summarised challenges and implications. Recommendations also shared as PTE continued the COP. 

Second up are Anne Deshepper and Denise Stevens from Deschepper Consulting on Good practice in teaching and learning - the practitioners’ perspective. The evidence base comes from a project for the Victorian Departure of Education (2016) which led to production of a good practice guide (2018). Denise began with background and context. Guide is about to be published and free. Report involved literature review of VEt quality reports from Australia. UK, NZ and Ontario, interviews with practitioners and draft framework. Guide constructed after consultation across sector and variety of providers and validation of framework.
Four factors anchor the framework and described minimum, good and excellent teaching and learning. The factors include currency of specialist discipline knowledge / professional educator indicators, programme development, programme delivery and review of programme. Detailed an example and explained the various practice perspectives of a subset of one indicator. Discussed some ways to implement the guide. 

Then, Dr. Sonal Nakar on Impact of ethical dilemmas on VET teacher well-being. Started with background and rationale for work. Defined dilemmas as used in the project which also included actions following having to face moral based decisions. Defined four types of dilemmas - responding flexibly to increased student diversity, limiting educational engagement, constrains on teacher responsiveness and manipulation of learning assessments. Reasons teachers provided for making their decisions included changing policies, funding mechanisms, immigration rules changing culture and philosophies of education and inadequacies of teacher preparation. Most teachers never provided with codes of conduct and need to find their own way or rely on colleagues for advise. Interview fragments shared to support themes. Summarised implications for teachers of the ethical challenges including ill preparation, lack of support and ethical desensitisation. Recommendation for supporting teachers in this arena.

After lunch, a series of short 10 minute research project snapshot sessions in two streams. I attend the stream with presentations focused around teaching and learning.

Ann Murray on summarises her PhD in progress on A comparison of learning styles and success in the classroom , workshop and online. Rationalised and backgrounded study. Goal to help students match their way of approaching learning with delivery mode. Summarised learning styles diversity. Introduced Curry (1983) onion models with learning strategies wrapped around learning styles and learning preferences. Case study used with 3 students (Cert 3 to Diploma level ) in each delivery mode, monthly interviews across a year. Learning styles test (VARK) initially given, interviews with student, teachers/supervisors, examined student work and student diaries. Data analysis just commenced.

Caroline Lancaster presents on An exploration of current VET pedagogical trends through conversations with educational leaders. Interviewed seven leading VEt specialists. Used open questions centred around pedagogical issues and implications on professional identity. Shared responses and discussed implications. 

Ryan Euinton and Julie Ryan from Holmsglen teaching in the clothing design programme on Learning practical skills within a digitally integrated classroom. Rationalised the need for documentation, record and archive of skills to enhance learning. Focused on skills required to learn spatial orientation with regards to learning from digital resources. Presented example of resource and detailed process of developing the resource. 

Kay Schlesinger, Tania Teese, Chris Ho and Annemaree Gibson from Boxhill TAFE on Interactive teaching and learning strategies. Project documents interactive strategies, empower and support teachers, record and monitors adaptability and integration of the strategies and develop a COp to share and review these strategies. Impact on student satisfaction, teacher observations to be collected to gauge outcomes. 

John O’Donnel from William Angliss, tourism programmes, on Mobility as the teacher: experience based learning. Provided outline for the Diploma of Tourism. Shared philosophy on experiential learning. Used two cohorts of students, embarked on 12 day tour on sustainable tourism to the South Island of NZ to find out efficacy of study tours. More structure at pre, during and post phases of the study tour to help students gain the most from their study tour. 

Last workshop of day with Berwyn Clayton on Doing research in and on your own organisation: how hard can it be? Presented on the moral, physical and ethical dilemmas presented by doing insider research. Many advantages but tempered with challenges as well. Suggested strategies to circumvent disadvantages and to ensure research integrity. Advantages include better access to authentic data and participants, have organisation cultural knowledge, practical problem focused, can be cheaper and quicker, can make bigger impact and connect to local context when reporting. Disadvantages include roles duality, bias through familiarity, assuming participant views are known to researcher, unable to see bigger picture and too close to situation to produce good, culturally neutral accounts. challenges include negotiating access, promising anonymity and confidentiality, interviewing your own colleagues, challenging the value system of your organisation and managing power implications. Issues of anonymity, confidentiality and power discussed along with insider bias influencing and comprising validity, internal ethical engagement issues not always accounted for. Provided recommendations to tackle various challenges including access, gatekeepers, institutional / organisational politics, ensuring credibility and the ethics of care (ie. do no harm).

Overall. A good balance of academic and practitioner research presentations. Workshops were useful to allow for deeper exploration of topics or concepts. Good to meet up with familiar colleagues and catch up with their projects. 

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