Monday, August 27, 2018

Adaptive learning - vocational education perspective

Adaptive learning is promoted as a form of personal learning, with opportunities to tailor learning to students’ understanding. It is perhaps most useful when students have to learn foundational principles or practice essential skills. Adaptive learning resources take a large amount of time to develop. The learning designer requires a good understanding and ability to unpack the tacit dimensions of learning. Adaptive learning is good for helping students learn the ‘canon’ required – especially foundational theory and discrete skill sets (e.g. basic maths) which have one ‘right answer or recommended way to solve. 

Adaptive learning has been around for some time, for example, 'programmed learning' 30 years ago was available mostly through text-based resources and I remember testing out very basic computerised versions. Basically, they were text books with small (usually multiple choice) quizzes and the results from these quizzes, directed you to another part of the text book. The approach was based on behaviourist theories which emphasised scaffolded learning.

Currently, adaptive learning is again and a response to standardised learning promoted in many countries - see previous blog for overview and return of adaptive learning to the list of currently recommended pedagogical approaches.  in the 'new' iteration, adaptive learning is defined as the ability of a learning resource to adapt to learners' performance. Edsurge reports advantages and particularly for online learning. Educause article also supports adaptive learning as a means to achieve successful learning. There is a good article by Kerr, P (2015) on the topic providing definitions for '‘individualization, differentiation, personalization’ with adaptive learning being the technology rather than the approach.

With the advent of AI, adaptive learning may be one approach to achieving economies of scale with blended / online learning. Education dive, lists many adaptive learning platforms, with many being publishers of text books and other forms of education resources. Forbes reports an upsurge in adaptive learning platforms with a more up to date list from tech advocate.

Commercial offerings include smartsparrow (free for up to 5 learners and up to 100 learners cost US$15 each); dreambox; knewton; and adaptemy. 

Open source platforms include a Harvard and Microsoft collaboration, alosilaps; grapple; and sagefy.

However, there are always other factors to consider. One being the lack of learner choice as the algorithm directs learners on pathways which the learner may not have envisaged going.

As proposed by Siemens, adaptivelearning may be constraining. Another approach is to perhaps offer learners sufficient support to understand the outputs of learning analytics and then for them to work out ways to address the data - see slideshare for 2015 presentation from Siemens, Gasevic and Baker.. The learner has to learn the skills to interpret and act on learning analytics, instead of being taken, without understanding why, down pre-programmed pathways laid out through adaptive learning platforms.

The other current challenge with regards to deploying adaptive learning with vocational education, is the prevalence and reliance on text based approaches. The advent of VR may provide an opportunity to move beyond adaptive learning based on text based responses but for the present, multiliteracies and multimodalities are not commonly included in algorithms for adaptive learning.

So, the main learning from undertaking the exercise of exploring adaptive learning, is caution. Adaptive learning offers advantages but can be constraining and may lead to learners being forced down the linear syllabi path via behavourist approaches. Balance needs to be sought, to provide learners with greater agency as to how learning pathways may be completed. 

Friday, August 17, 2018

NCVER no frills and NZ VET research forum day 3 afternoon

Four concurrent session themes today, apprentices and trainees, young people, policy and skills needs.

First up, I catch up with Kylie Taffard’s (BCITO) women in trades project. Project funded by Ako Aotearoa and came about due to high demand for trades people. Covered how women have succeeded in non traditional trades. Focused on the women supply scope and undertook to understand how women engage in trades. Presented rationale, background and the qualitative research process. Interviewed 34 women across industries and at all stages of training and work. Thematic and inductive analysis to identity themes. Characteristics of women entering the trades included range of ages, ethnicities, location but the main similarities were affinities to active and physical work and job satisfaction. Many fell into the trade, had to do their on research to find out about the work. Many experienced low pay or poverty and trades provided good income. Some followed a passion and male relatives were role models. Schools not always supportive of trades pathway. 
Need to make trades training more visible to young women. Pre trade programmes were useful as a start. Mixed programmes provided initial introduction to work in male dominated work environment. Work experience especially important to consolidate career paths. Finding work post pre trade programme was a challenge. On job support from employers and ITOs similar to other apprentices. 
Recommendations were shared. Developed persona to help characterise the women. 

After lunch. I present, with  Cheryl Stokes from Ara Institute of Canterbury, the guidelines from the eassessment project. In essence, summarised briefly the project rationale and underpinning framework of connecting graduate profiles to the aspect of becoming. Overviewed the importance of feedback in contributing to vocational education and the  affordances conferred by digital tools to assist with the process. The guidelines that are distilled from the project also presented. In particular, the need for digital fluency from both tutors and learners and to make learning overt in the learning activities.

Stayed  in the same room with Deniese Cox, Griffith University, on  pedagogically framing VET online. Started with personal background and presented on PhD study. Provided rationale including VET not having much research on online learning. Teaching online is different from teaching f2f. Defined teachers, online learning and pedagogy. Project investigated how online VET teachers teach and if knowledge of online pedagogy will support developing of improvement strategies. Pedagogical orientations are from teacher to student centred. Often pedagogical orientation may not align with their pedagogical practice. This gap may occur for many reasons including logistical, organisational and technological. Shared findings including participant demographics, personas developed to illustrate the pedagogical approaches and survey showing actual pedagogical practice. Used Berge’s model of instructor rules and Bain’s what the best college teachers do, as questions to establish participant pedagogy. Influences on matching pedagogical orientation to practice include class size, units of competency resources which are not developed for online and workload. Teaching seen to be sidelined to assessments. 

After afternoon tea, with Geoff Crittenden from Weld Australia, on the future of technical training focused on Augmented reality training for welding. Explained link between TAFE and Weld Australia and the importance of VET. Welding learning similar now as 100 years ago. Video of Boxford augmented reality welding simulator. Specifications for Soldamatic augmented reality training. With AR, learners can do 10 tries compared to 4 in a TAFE welding workshop. Gamification element in the exercises based on analytics from each run. Health and safety not an impediment. Learning from mistakes also less costly as no physical materials used. Peer learning possible as peer can watch process on the screen to provide feedback. Advantages are accelerated learning, savings with consumables and higher completion rate. 

Last presentation with Dr. Karen Vaughan from the NZCER and Andrew Kear from the Building and Construction ITO, on Analytics and insights: developing a tool to support building and construction apprentices’ completion. In conjunction with the BCITO, a tool is being developed to provide predictive analysis on apprentices’ completions. The presentation focuses on the identification of factors influencing non-completion and evaluative data from apprentices, employers and training advisors, used to improve each iteration of the tool. Karen provided context and information on NZCER and Andrew on the BCITO. Shared statistics on completions and withdrawals and non-completions. Large numbers of withdrawals are in the first year. The learner success project is to develop a health profile tool to focus on likelihood of completion. Needs to also allow for different ideas of success and provide advise for learner support. Project seeks to identify influences, collect data and refine and calibrate. Discussed challenges including methodology, ethics and data integrity. 

A busy but informative conference. Official sessions closed with award for best poster and handover to the 2019 hosts in Adelaide - July 10 - 12. 

NVCER no frills and NZ VET research forum - day 3 morning

Day 2 morning presentations and summary of evening

Dinner, welcome and presentation from Jon Black, TAFE NSW, extolled the merits of VET but provided dire stats on consideration of VEt by Australian school leavers as being only 10% for females and 16% for males (sigh).
Bruce Callaghan, Australian Council for Private Education and Training, introduced the need for VET systems to reform as learner needs are for just in time learning, completed in short bites. Exampled general practitioners in Asia, Gulf and Australia who supplement their formal medical training with micro learning. Called for greater response to these needs by working together across sectors, qualifications that make sense, responsive to future needs and relevant to learners. 
The night’s speaker is Kevin Sheedy, who is  an Australian football pLayer and AFLHall of  fame legend, apprenticeship ambassador and plumber. Shared his story and the importance of apprenticeship. 

A cool and sunny morning for a quick walk to the conference. The proceedings begins with ministerial address from the Honorable Karen Andrews, assistant minister for vocational education and skills. Reiterated the importance of VET to prepare people for the coming future. Australian VET well regarded internationally with the majority of graduates attaining employment. Employment shifting to high skills demands and also shifting to a replacement phase of baby boomers retiring. Recommended the use of JAROD to assist people in finding work which fits their attributes and for careers advise. Preparation for industry 4.0 a key for moving forward. Important to reestablish the status of VET as a key pathway for all to qualifications and employment. Launched an extended tuition fees protection to all students if provider falls over. Also an increase in the skilling Australia fund to increase apprenticeships and training in key industries. 

Keynote is with Dr. Andrew Charlton from AlphaBeta on moving from fear to action on the future of work. Summarised the current media on AI, robotics etc. and jobs being changed or lost. Some well-founded but there are opportunities as well. However, young people taking their first job are going to see many of these jobs disappear. Need to identify what will change and what will not. Shift of types of jobs being lost to Technology from agriculture to manufacturing to service sector. Need to reskill, upskill and learn new skills to deal with automation, globalisation, longer lives, urbanisation and changing job preferences. Currently Australian workers would have changed occupations 2.4 times. Workers not changing jobs are seeing a change in their job tasks. Lifelong learning is the norm, young Australian spend 3-4 hours a week learning to keep up with job demands. Need to understand what, when and how we learn.
What: Employers demanding more digital, creative problem solving and interaction skills. In general, knowledge, skills more readily automated when compared to attributes / characteristics.  Characteristics include empathy, creativity, leadership, originality, social orientation, cooperation, integrity etc. shift from firm specific skills and knowledge or human capital to generalised human capital.
When: lifelong learning will be the norm. Increase in just in time learning. Mid career learning needs will have to be met.
How: flexible, appropriately funding and relevant learning. 

Address from Ian Rowe, acting assistant deputy director sector services, Ako Aotearoa. Introduced the role of Ako Aotearoa in the NZ Tertiary sector. Provided an overview of the origin and objectives. New themes going forward are professional standards, networks and communities of practice and Maori and Pacifica learner success, organisational structure and business model, knowledge base and adult literacy and numeracy and cultural capability. Summarised the impact evaluation undertaken on all funded projects and shared examples of several VET projects. 

Morning tea is with poster presentations.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

NCVeR and NZ VET research forum 2018 - day 2 afternoon

After lunch, with Anne Alkema from the ITF on embedded research informing policy and practice in foundation level workplace training programmes. Presented on literacy and numeracy ,skills highway, and the evaluation of its efficacy. Funded by Tertiary Education Commission and Ako Aotearoa for provider and employer led strands. Funds 25 to 40 hours for around 7000 employees. Programmes are delivered in the workplace during work time. The evaluation assessed impact on individuals and workplaces, provide evidence base to inform ongoing policy development, explore links between literacy and numeracy skills and productive, and seek solutions to sustain workplace literacy programmes. Workplace L and N is not to fix, but to prepare people for future workforce needs and future jobs. Evidence collected includes LN results by assessment tools, changes to employees practices, changes in workplace behaviours and productivity and return on investment. So far have found funding reaching the right way, changes related to practice, better self efficacy, career progression and some impact in productivity. Use newsletter to share findings, success stories, summarise research topics, videos and resources. Literature review provides some examples from other countries. Need for digital literacies and developed a 4 level framework that describes practices in the workplace. Move into Hinatore, literacy as an empowerment tool, project co-funded  by Ako Aotearoa and Industry Training Federation. 

Following on with Dr. Helen Anderson from the NZ School of Tourism on graduate profile outcomes: ready to fly. An evaluation of graduate profiles developed for NZ qualifications, post NZQA targeted review. Began with her background and rationale for the study. Helen works as curriculum and programme developer for a range of qualifications. Detailed background to review, process and move to graduate profiles. Interest in how future focused graduate profiles should look. Barrie 2004 graduate is an integrated model of scholarship, global citizen and lifelong learner. Defined the purpose of vocational education including occupational capabilities,  credentialing and engagement with issues of ethics, social commitments etc. studied  706 qualifications and 4248 graduate profiles and characterised them and 45 % were on technical skills, 11 compliance, and 1% communication. Another study on recently re reviewed showed increase in more generalisable skills and have ability to be more future proofed. Check Nagarajan and Edwards 2014 is the graduate ready for work. 

After afternoon tea, Erica Smith, Professor Federation University on enterprise registered training organisations: training and learning practices. Began by defining what enterprise RTOs are and the benefits and challenges to companies when they register as a RTO. Summarised findings from first project on how qualifications delivered by eTrO contribute to improved skills. Second project is on VET teachers which included ErTo trainers. Both involved different enterprises and there is a significant churn in eRtos as they merge etc. contexts studied included bus driver training, rail infrastructure, road construction, and call centre skills. There was classroom study when the main perspective is that ERtos train in the workplace only. Most learners had prior skills but not all had assessments for these and did not have to undertake training again. Most learners were satisfied and most learners were doing initial training. For educators, Queensland framework with 5 indicators was selected. In general, ETRO trainers consistently placed less importance on each of the 5 factors and less confidence on how they were able to meet these indicators. Tended to be higher on demands of different contexts, communicating with learners and importance of feedback. More information on RAvE recent research website - researching adult and vocational education at Federation University. 

Last presentation of the day with Dr. Silin Yang from Institute of Adult Learning in Singapore on work, innovation and learning in small medium enterprises. Reports on a project in progress to understand the SME sector in Singapore. SMEs do not find returns from sending their employees for training. Provided overview of project and focus on the health care industry. Seeks to find out how SMEs develop innovation, what support do they need to further innovate. although incentives provided, only half of SMEs have accessed. Defined innovation learning culture. Used semi structured interviews, survey of employees, work shadowing,  company documents to provide case study data. Shared enablers for innovation including empowerment, recognition of employee contributions, tolerance for failure, alignment, community network and partners, knowledge flows, and nature of work needs to support innovation. 

The conference dinner rounds off a busy day. 

NCVER no frills and NZ VET research forum 2018

Day 2 morning

In Sydney for the combined conferences of the National Centre for Vocational Education and Training Research (NCVER) with the New Zealand VET research forum, convened by the Industry Training Federation

Welcome reception last night started off the conference, good to catch up with many familiar researchers in Vocational education.

Conference opens with welcome from Dr. Mette Creaser, interim Managing Director of NCVER and Michael Ross, Principal advisor for the NZ Industry Training Federation. Michael provided participants with overview of the NZ industry training context. Provided summaries of the three key reviews and supporting shifts in accompanying systems to meet the needs of the future. Check report from info metrics on megatrends in work and education.

Short address from Genevieve Knight, acting national manager research at NCVER on the Skills for the future report. A short presentation to summarise key points. Main employment in Australia and New Zealand now in services sectors, health, professional, scientific and technical, education and training and construction. Quick shift in Technology requires rapid and agile vocational training systems with continuous and lifelong learning delivery and support. VET systems required to play a key role in ensuring people attain, maintain and continue learning to keep up with the requirements for the need of future work.

First keynote from Lene Tanggaard, Professor at department of communication and psychology at Aalborg University in Denmark, on creativity in VET. Brought together crafts, vocational education and training and creativity. Extended on the premise of the epistemology of the hand and the need to recognise its contribution. Creativity argued as a key, difficult to replicate without human input, skill. Not only for artists, designers or academics but found high levels in VET apprentices. Need to treasure VET for how it contributes to a practical and pragmatic way of igniting and expressing creativity. Imagination is a foundation for creativity- see 2018 Tanggaard and Brinkmann. PISA test will now include creativity as a component. There is a correlation with personal growth, academic and job success (Long and Plucker, 2014). Creativity is essential for all (Csikszentmihalyi) but entails actual work (Vera John-Steiner, 1997) - a notebook of the mind. Creativity builds on the ability to see clearer and to rediscover what we know but seem to have forgotten. Creativity is about mastery, craft and recycling, not just brainstorming and post-it notes. It is more about business as usual than not. Creativity needs the ability to synthesis (combination of opportunities), analytical sense (what and why is this good?) and practical intelligence (ideas do not sell themselves! There is a need to tinker to make it work). The eyes of the skin and the thinking hand by Juhani Pallasmaa, a Finnish architect. The poet, the sculptor or architect worked with the entire body, not primarily through intellect, theory or acquired professional qualifications. In fact a lot of what we have learned must be unlearned to be useful. Summarised latest study on how inventiveness and innovation takes place. A model of creative learning in VET has three interconnected circles with resistance, immersion and experiments and ‘fooling around’. Therefore need to build expertise within a field and VET plays an important role in providing the skills base for creativity. 

Five streams in concurrent sessions running on themes of practitioner, employability and foundation skills, skills, International and rural and remote.

 Begin with Emma McLaughlin’s (Wellington Institute of Technology) presentation on ‘working around the words’ tutor strategies and the tutor voice in vocational education. This is an output from the Ako Aotearoa funded national project ‘the language of the trades’ which used linguistic Research methodology to explore the complexities of learning the skills, social mores and practice in the trades. Summarised purpose, findings and recommendations from the project. Purpose was to describe the language, texts and visual features in carpentry, Automotive , fabrication and electrical. Trade vocabulary was as challenging as academic. Embedding language is through tutor talk, diagrams were used extensively and learning was through doing. Interviews with tutors and learners in carpentry used in the presentation. Tutors use the language, use different synonyms, deliberately use the terms, elicited correct terms and learning was embedded in the work of building a house. Shared underpinning literature on situated learning and the complexities of trades language. In practice, tutors used strategies to assist including, modelling, eliciting, reinforcing, clarifying etc. recommended using a strengthens based approach - doing well, share and try. Introduced resources on Ako website, working around words and building a working vocabulary. Shared the model and the resources - teaching strategies, videos, glossaries, posters etc. 

Then with Louise King from Charles Darwin University, on factors influencing international teachers enactment of Australian VET curricula. Presented on a subset of her PhD study. What are the contextual factors that influence teachers enactment of the Australian curriculum. Used phenomenological approach and  3 in-depth interviews with 13 teachers. Experienced teachers in Australia but not as long overseas. Reported on themes around information (generally insufficient), resources (often insufficient to maintain curricula fidelity), materials (teaching materials not always available), institutional arrangements (generally inadequate) and student readiness (goals and interest, language proficiency, prior knowledge and abilities and learning styles and preferences). Dissonance experienced and no preparation provided to support them through the challenges posed.