Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Industry Training Federation (NZ) 2008 research forum

Presented a paper at the ITF research forum yesterday. Conference was held at Te Papa in Wellington and was opened by Hon. Maryan Street, associate minister for tertiary education who would be the first ‘voc ed.’ minister we have and has oversight on Skills strategy. This was followed by keynote from Douglass Watt, associate director of the Conference Board of Canada (sort of a Canadian NCVER) on International approaches to training in small & medium enterprises. He presented case studies based on 65 SMEs around the world which focused on practical training responses to critical business issues and successful learning strategies that lead to meaningful outcomes for employers and employees. Good relevant and useful information for SMEs in NZ in a handout that summarised 15 of the case studies. Second keynote of the day from Paul Satherley & Eliot Lawes from the Ministry of Education summarising findings from the adult literacy and skills survey (ALLs). Very interesting data on where NZ stands with regards to literacy (document literacy) and numeracy.

Then attended following sessions:-

  • How students manage the difference between theory and practice in voc. ed. by Dr. Peter Gallagher of UCOL. Interesting concept on how ‘personal value’ in nursing students helps them negotiate through decisions they have to make with regards to the theory they learn and what they see in actual practice.
  • Measuring skill utilisation by Heather Lees from the Electrotechnology Industry Training Organisation was based on a research project in a call centre to see if individual skill perceptions, skill measurements (National quals.) and skill utilisation (company objectives) align. She found that they did not and also provided insight into the challenges of doing research in the workplace.
  • Web based dramatised scenarios to facilitate reflection, discussion and critical thinking from Keith Tyler-Smith, TANZ covered using photos and audio files to convey ‘case studies’ which engage online learners through their appeal to the affective senses of students.
  • Molding the market: skill ecosystems in the NZ context ‘ with Gemma Piercy, Waikato University was based on 2 summer project by university students to find out if skill ecosystems, developed in Australia would be relevant in the NZ context (possibly) or have commonalities / synergies with community of practices (possibly but requires further work).
  • Embedding sustainable workplace learning and assessment within workplace infrastructures’ by Dr. Nicky Murray & Gill Genet from Careerforce. Nicky provided a good overview of the challenges placed by the changing nature of our society and the workforce in maintaining training for her industry (providing care within the health and disability sector) & three workplace models that could assist in planning workplace training for her sector. Billett’s workplace pedagogy, Fuller & Unwin’s expansive / restrictive participative continuum & Ellstrom, Ekholm & Ellstrom (2008) on enabling and constraining learning.
  • My paper on ‘belonging, becoming and being: Role of apprenticeships went well.

Plenary discussion on ‘research & policy development’ with Dr. Karen Vaughan from the NZCER, Dr. Peter Coolbear, director of Ako Aotearoa & Roger Smyth, manager of tertiary sector performance and reporting. This provided insight into how government policy developers (Roger) view research (draw evidence from wherever created to provide insights towards a more consolidated picture). How researchers (Karen) view policy makers – need to have more conversations between researchers and policy makers & this needs to be ongoing for life of a research project. And how funders (Peter) see research – research needs to be timely (although longitudinal research also important (Roger), and outcomes of research must be applicable by employers, providers, learners etc.

The ITF vocational education forum has played a role in encouraging research in workplace learning and vocational education in New Zealand. This, along with the start of Ako Aotearoa, provides the impetus for the emergence of some useful research into both workplace learning and vocational education in New Zealand. We are still a long way behind the Australians with their National Centre for Vocation Education Research but at least things are now starting to move along.

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