Monday, July 30, 2018

Integration of vocational education and training experiences - book overview

Integration of Vocational Education and Training: Purposes, Practices and Principles, published 2018 by Springer, edited by Sarojni Choy, Gun-Britt Warvik and Viveca Lindberg.

Disclaimer: I am the lead author of one of the chapters in this book.

The overall premise of the book, is to bring a variety of perspectives on the integration of study /vocational educational programmes with work. Most of the chapters, focus on how to better help students, studying in dual systems, or completing full-time study with components of work integrated learning, bring the skills / knowledge and attitudes which demark each context, into a complementary whole. Of note is the need to address the 'space in between' as formal study is structured through both intended and enacted curriculum and workplace learning is driven by work processes and objectives. 

The book has 18 chapters in 2 parts. The first chapter sets the scene and provides an overview of the book's direction and contents. The last 2 chapters, provides a synthesis of the themes explored through various chapters and brings the commonalities and differences across the various contexts reported, into discussion.

Part 1: - 4 chapters on the provision and integration of work experiences within vocational education
The first introductory chapter – integration between school and work: developments, conceptions and applications – by the editors – provides an overview of the premises of the book. This first chapter sets the context for the following chapters in the book. The term ‘ integration’ is discussed and historical development described. Various approaches towards understanding integration are summarised. Including: three types of integration – low road integration to assimilate skills and automate practice through authentic work exposure; high road integration whereby reflection is engaged to integrate knowledge and skills via ‘accommodation’; and transformative integration, allowing for individuals’ perspectives to be changed as an outcome of WIL. Fuller and Unwin’s restricted vs expansive participation is also used as a framework for the affordances of learners to develop ‘integration’. The boundary crossing concept is also another. Pedagogies of for integration of WIL include the 7 dimension of purpose, context, nature of integration, curriculum issues, learning, partnerships and support to students. WIL also requires support for students’ learning before, during and after WIL.

As prefaced above, student’s agency is important to achieving WIL goal. Chapter 2 is by S. Billett on student readiness and the integration of experiences in practice and educational settings. The 8 dimension of readiness require addressing – conceptual, procedural and dispositional (i.e. knowledge, skills and attitudes). Recommendations for promoting student readiness before students engage with work placements and how to ensure students’ integrate their experiences after work placements, are detailed and discussed.

In the third chapter, D. Guile presents work experience and VET: insights from the connective typology and the recontexualisation model. This work is based on various models including bridge to work, experiential learning, a generic model, work process and the connective model. The article argues for a ‘continuous recontextualisation of knowledge and professional practice model. Learning for occupation / work is seen to be a continual process of adjusting to context, comingling of conceptual understanding and professional experience and further workplace recontextualisation as work evolves.

Chapter 4 by P. Grollman is on the topic of ‘varieties of duality: work-based learning and vocational education in international comparative research’. Calls for not only work to inform ‘school’ curriculum but for work to be also influence by school learning contributions. Describes various approaches across countries and unpacks the dualities in these systems.
Part 2, integrating work experiences within vocational education: empirical cases – presents a range of international examples and case studies.

Chapter 5 by S. Choy presents the Australian perspective with ‘integration of learning in educational institutions and workplaces. Based on a study on how VET students, teachers and managers/ coordinators conceptualise connectivity between what is learnt at educational institutions and workplaces. 4 conceptions are proposed. Experiences as preparation for learning in different sites represents a more sequential / linear progression from learning in education, and application to practice at work. A broader perspective includes the opportunity to de-construct / reflect on how learning and experiences from each (TAFE / workplace) inform or support each other. A third perspective is to encompass the learning from both sites. A fourth is the stimulation of higher-order thinking through the reflective cycle and the opportunity to select or negotiate ways forward.

The next chapter by R. Smith, discusses the role of ‘learner agency and the negotiation of practice’ is a summary of his PhD work. The main argument is the opportunity for workers to use their learning to contribute to the work process. There are many complex mechanisms in a workplace which can support or dis-engage a worker from participation. Worker agency is a key as to how, when and why workers engage. The negotiation of workers’ contributions is held to be a role of workers’ decisions (agency) and enablement through workplace practice. Each cannot occur without the other.

A Finnish example by L. Pylvas, H. Rintala and P. Nokelainen on the topic of ‘integration of holistic development of apprentices’ competences’. Reports on a study of apprentices to gauge their integration into the workplace. Found there was poor integration. Proposes the need to ensure integration occurs and to support apprentices beyond skills training. In particular to ensure they also are drawn into the culture of the workplace, develop social and meta competence and become part of a workplace.

Then, an example from Iceland. E. Eiriksdottir writes on ‘variations in implementing the dual VET systems: perspectives of students, teachers and trainers in the certified trades’. Discusses the impact of economic, socio/political, historical contributions to the length and sequencing of WIL periods across trades apprenticeship programmes.

Chapter 9 is from a team at Ara Institute of Canterbury in New Zealand. S. Chan, B. Beatty, D. Chilvers, L. Davis, A. Hollingworth and I. Jamieson summarise the difference approaches to work integrated learning with an emphasis on biculturalism. ‘WIL in Aotearoa/ New Zealand: Diversity, biculturalism and industry-led. This chapter uses case study of a range of WIL arrangements deployed by discipline specific programmes. Commonalities across the programmes include the importance of WIL to provide authentic learning, an emphasis on citizenship characteristics through preparation for the bi-cultural nature of NZ, and crucial support from stakeholders. The historical legacies from industry and discipline, contribute to how WIL is constituted. 

Chapter 10 with K. Vaughan, presents work-based learning in New Zealand with ‘even better than the real thing: practice-based learning and vocational thresholds at work. Discusses the important grounding focus, if a dispositional nature, of 3 disciplines. Carpenters with an emphasis on craft work and the values of craftsmanship; development of an expertise of uncertainty in general practitioner doctors; and development of a ‘social eye’ by engineering technicians. Each discipline, bringing to the development of their apprentices / trainees, a specific approach and perspective.
L. C. Lahn and H. Nore write on ‘ePortfolios as hybrid learning arenas in VET. Presents the work on using ePortfolios to be used as a device for liaising with apprentices, training offices, schools and companies.

T. Nyen and A. H. Tonder present a chapter on the Norwegian context with ‘Development of skills through integration of practice training periods in school-based vocational education’. Discusses the pros and cons of school-based and work-based learning. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.
The next chapter is from Singapore, with H. Bound, A. Chia and W.C. Lee on ‘spaces and spaces ‘in-between’ – relations through pedagogical tools and learning. Chronicles the integration of learning across different spaces and intents. These affect the way curriculum is designed. Both work and out of work learning yield potential and understanding the interrelationships is a key. Therefore, the ‘place in-between’ work and off-work learning, is a context which is now not utilised. The current shift to preparing workers for the future of work, adds another dimension to the intersection and interrelationships between work and learning.

I. Anderson writes on ‘workplace learning for school-based apprenticeships: tripartite conversations as a boundary-crossing point’. Uses activity theory to unravel the interconnections between vocational teacher, workplace tutor and student. Boundary crossing is used to explain how plans and negotiations, impact on learning at school and at work. The workplace expects school to prepare students for work. However, a lack of congruence between skills / knowledge learnt at school and workplace expectations, make it always a challenge to meet the needs of both work and school learning.

Then G-B. Warvic and V. Lindberg present on ‘integration between school and work: changes and challenges in the Swedish VET 1970-2011. Another study using activity theory as a framework. Discusses the need to ensure teachers are provided with opportunities to stay conversant with the demands of the contemporary workplace. Teachers are then enabled to mediate between what is expected of students work readiness learning and how this may be actioned through school based learning.

A Swiss perspective is presented in chapter 16. V. Sappa, C. Aprea and B. Vogt write on ‘success factors in fostering the connection between learning in school and at the workplace’. Summarises the challenges for vocational schools to assist apprentices to bridge the worlds of school and work. The study reports on the many complex factors impinging on the integration of work based and school based learning. As with chapter 13 in the Singaporean context, a ‘third space’ which brings together work and school, is explored as a means to provide better integration between formalised school and ‘less structured’ work based learning.

Chapter 17 by S. Billett, G-B. Warvik and S. Choy discusses ‘concepts, purposes and practices of integration across National curriculum’. The chapter argues for the need to ensure there is integration, given the importance of each sector (school and work) towards preparing people for work. The importance of integration are reiterated. There is caution that the intended curriculum – what is planned for students to achieve, learn or attain, does not always transfer into the curriculum as experienced by learners. Learners’ outcomes, may not necessarily need to be constrained or universal, as the discipline, location and societal contexts will differ. Issues identified through the chapters in the book include the important role of individual learner’s agency; institutional barriers including the different objectives of ‘school’ and work; the need to identify and provide learnable or teachable moments as learners engage with work; and the length, sequencing and logistical issues of organising work integrated learning. To resolve, it is important to ensure readiness of students’ to learning beyond school; the issues of connectivity and re-contextualisation between contexts are important to address in assisting learners to understand and mediate between both; and the wider contextual institutional issues also require resolution – with the need to understand socio-politico-historical influences and to consider the means to resolve or tamper their effects, if so required.

The last chapter by the editors, bring the various themes, concepts and perspectives together with a challenge for the ‘consideration for the integration of students’ experiences’. Summarises the various themes presented through the book. In particular, the need for deliberate effort from school-based / curriculum design / school or qualification systems, to be cognisant of the challenges of integration. Proposes four imperatives: social-cultural arrangements, negotiated curriculum, roles of various stakeholders and learner preparedness. Considerations for improving the negotiated curriculum include maximising and rationally implementing the perspectives gathered from stakeholders for the enactment of integrations. Learner preparedness include ensuring learners understand occupational and pertinent requirements; recognising and navigating the passage through integration; and applying appropriate pedagogical strategies.

Overall, the book contributes to a better understanding of how to assist learners (and educators) to 'cross the boundaries' of the various contexts they learn within. How to find conscensus or resolve differences between 'school learning' and work requirements through reflective or assisted learning processes is the key to better work integrated learning.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Forget about preparing for the future, we need to create it - Kaila Colbin

Attended the launch of the BOMA Christchurch Launch at Ara this morning. BOMA is a 'next step' beyond understanding the various challenges impinging of our lives at present and into the future. It is not just technology, but also many other things.

Kaila Corbin presented on the rationale and future directions of BOMA. Much of what her presentation is detailed in today's Press article. Basically, there is a need to go back to 'first principles' and question - what is the purpose of corporations? What is the purpose of education? Is this the best way to organise society? How do we define success? instead of carrying on tweaking and adapting, it is time to transform and meet the future.

Launch reported in local papers on 27th July which provide details of the way forward on how BOMA seeks to provide facilitation for conversations and actions to continue.

Monday, July 23, 2018

The truth behind brain-based training provides a one stop shop for up to date research on the neuroscience. They provide a good resource to ensure the right information is available. The Brain Facts book is a good reference source for understanding the workings of the brain and neuroscience contribution to understanding how the brain learns.

A 20 minute video  by Jane Zadina, associate profession of neurology at Tulane University, updates on the latest understanding of brain-based learning. She begins the video with 10 questions, which participants need to respond as true or false:

1)      Students can learn something without actively paying attention to it
2)      We use only 10% of our brains
3)      Understanding a student’s learning style can help us teach them better
4)      Physical activities that cross the midline, such as brain gym, help studentsl learn better through integration of left and right brain
5)      Some people are more left-brained and some are more right-brained
6)      Drinking fewer that 6-8 glasses of water a day can cause the brain to shrink
7)      Male and female brains are different and we should adjust our teaching accordingly
8)      It is helpful to examine which of the multiple intelligences students have
9)      The more dendrites children grow, the better
10)   Education cannot address learning difficulties caused by developmental brain differences.

Then works through each of the above to discuss the contributions from current neurobiology research, in particular the use of brain imaging to confirm or dispel the prevalent brain-based educational approaches of the last two decades.

1)      Selective attention is important. Act of attention affects plasticity. Need to pay attention to focus. When told, after an study of hotel room maids that what they did daily equated to going to the gym, they started to lose weight!

2)      we use much more than 10% of the brain – cognitive load is important.
3)       Students do learn differently but neuroimaging does not support learning styles theory. Students may have preferences but how they learn should not be pigeonholed. Learners need to be able to access all aspects of learning – check multiple pathways model.
4)      Brain gym not evidenced as well. However, intense aerobic exercise helps learning and can raise achievement.
5)      Similar to learning styles, right / left brain not supported through neuroscience research. There are some parts of the brain which are used more for some skills but in general, the whole brain is involved.
6)      A myth.
7)      More similarities than differences – as per right/ left brain
8)      Again not supported by contemporary research. Preferences, skills and interests exist but not specific intelligences. Does not mean we ditch but use appropriately
9)      Brain goes through cycles of growth and depletion, new dendrites formed when we learn but requires much more.
10)   Brain plasticity is now recognised. We are able to learn more and become experts, given the relevant practice and reinforcement.

So as always, it is important to think through the implications of various findings made by scientists and to be vary of 'fads'. 

Monday, July 16, 2018

Cork dork – book overview

This book, the Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker, came via GoodReads recommendation. There is a positive review from Decanter - wine industry magazine; overview from the NYTimes; and a less glowing report, here - which surmises the book encourages wine noobs to ignore the snobs, just drink cheap wine! 

I tracked the book down at the local library and read it over a wet weekend. One of the sub-projects from the recently completed e-assessment project, was to help cookery students learn how to taste. As tasting was deemed to be something ‘everyone is able to do’, the cookery teaching team did not place much emphasis on overtly teaching students how to taste. Learning how to taste like a chef, was therefore chiefly learnt through modelling from the chef tutors.

The chef tutors only realised that students were unable to articulate the sensory evaluation of dishes when students were required to reflect on the cooking process of dishes as part of the evidence gathering towards collating eportfolios. The researcher for this sub-project, is a food and beverage tutor, who had come from the tradition of being taught how to taste wine. Part of the project, was therefore to try to make overt and structured, the ways food tasting could be described. Mindmapping and notetaking apps were introduced to assist with learning the ‘language of tasting’. These apps were to facilitate the sharing of dish descriptions and evaluations to assist students to widen their sensory evaluation vocabulary.

Back to the book, which has 11 chapters, tracing the journey of the author, from novice / layperson to practicing sommelier. The author was able to make a head start using her contacts as a tech journalist and with the rationale of the book as a lever into the rarified world of professional wine tasters. Being a sommelier entailed not only being able to taste wine, but also to sell it, provide good service in fine dining restaurants and gain a foothold into a challenging but well-paid occupation (when compared to other hospitality work).

To begin, the author managed to gain an entry level job as a ‘cellar rat’, assisting with the storage and re-stocking of a wine cellar in a prestigious restaurant. She was able to make friends with several well-known sommeliers and join them for their tasting sessions. This led her to prepare for the first level of accreditation to become a sommelier through eligibility to take the Certification exams.
By the end of a hear, the author was working as a sommelier in a wine bar, had passed the first of a series of professional exams, and also established, through a fMRI scan, that her brain reaction to wine, was similar to experts. So the year of hard graft, tasting many wines and learning the esoteric knowledge components of wine making, had triggered a change in her brain structure.

The perceived method towards training the brain therefore, begins with training to smell. ‘Stocking the sense memory’ was essential to being able to connect the descriptive wine terminology, with tasting and identification of wine. The patterns of taste has to be organised, so the patterns connect with wine types, grape varieties, regions etc. Apart from learning how to taste wine, service of wine required skill training through repeated practice and an understanding of the psychology of people’s social relationships.  In short, sommeliers really have to work for their pay.

Overall, the book provides a good insight into how a novice, learns a complex set of skills, connects the sensory sensations to a large bank of knowledge, and utilises these in a demanding occupation. A sommelier, is the sum of all of these and each, brings into the job, their own personality and characteristics as well.

All in, a good read and a relaxed way to learn much about the world of wine.

Monday, July 09, 2018

Lightboards @ Ara

After several years of development, Ara is now able to make use of a lightboard for recording instructional videos for students. The team which constructed the lightboard, used a variety of resources to put together the lightboard. An example from here , here  and here on a one button lightboard studio.

Last week there a short presentation with Mark Kingston from engineering at trades, demonstrating how he used the lightboard to support his teaching.
The rationale was to engage trades engineering / fabricating students with trade calculations. These students are often very math phobic due to poor experiences at school. Using the lightboard provides a resource that can be used by learners to repeat contextualised maths to nut out the nuances of trades maths. He has now produced over 30 videos and they are posted on YouTube.

Reflections on the outcomes. Anytime learning and useful with students who are not keen to ask questions in class and it is difficult to work out if they have understood the concept. Moving away from unit standards allowed more time for competency to be built up. The videos allow for a contextualised resource to be built up quickly, sometimes to meet just in time learning needs that have come up during a f2f session. Challenges have mainly been with the software. Keeping the glass clean on the lightboard is crucial and requires some elbow grease.

The lightboard’s original intent is to allow videos to be recorded of the tutor’s board work as they explain a concept. It is particularly useful for disciplines which have a high visual / kinaesthetic focus exampled by maths, engineering and trades subjects. The app ‘explain everything’ is capable of similar but does not allow for the teacher / tutor, apart from their voice over, to also be included.
I am more interested in how the videos recorded with a lightboard will be useful for learners to record their learning as well. Using the Thayer method in a more learning focused fashion will likely provide dividends. The method requires learners to ‘teach’ a topic after they have learnt concepts presented to them in a lecture. Using ‘explain everything’ is the 21st version of using a chalkboard to write up equations. This approach, puts into practice, a concurrence of neuroeducation recommendations for learners to be able to 'teach' what they have learnt. See recently overviewed book on this blog, chapter on educating minds, for rationale.

For the current practice, tutors may record a ‘how to’ video using the lightboard. Learners use this resource to practice an attain fluency. Then they solve a slightly different problem and record their process on the app ‘explain everything’ (or similar). This provides a learning loop to be established, providing the tutor with evidence of students’ learning which may then also be archived in an eportfolio.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Matthew Crawford on satisfaction from trades work - ITF conference 2018

Last week, the annual Industry Training Federation (ITF) conference was held in Welllington. A range of invited speakers presented on a way ahead for NZ with regards to vocational education and workplace based training.

I was not able to get to the conference but the conference twitter feed provided photos and summaries of various presentations. The overall theme of the conference was 'Skills in a changing World'. Speakers concentrated on providing statistics on what the future might bring with regards to demographics in NZ, possible scenarios of work in the future, call for equity to ensure vocational education was availed to groups currently with high youth numbers (Maori and Pacifika) but poorly represented (women, range of ethnicities which have grown in numbers etc.)

One of the keynote speakers was Matthew Crawford, author of the book - Shop class as soul craft - see here for summary / overview on this blog. Matthew also summarised some of the concepts in the book on a Radio NZ interview. A short interview, giving more updated examples then in the book but reiterating the need to look beyond a degree for work preparation. Some 'white collar' work may not provide the job satisfaction or earning potential of trades work.

So although not able to be at the conference, the various social medii provided some opportunity to keep in touch with the overall tone of the conference. NZ has to address the need to ensure there is equity of access to all types of work for all its citizens. Otherwise, the replacement of the mainly pakeha (white) and male workforce in especially the vocational occupations, will be a continual challenge.