Friday, April 29, 2011

ITF research conference - day one

At the  Industry Training Federation  - ITF NZ vocational education and training research forum on Wednesday 27th and 28th April.

Began with introduction and housekeeping with Jeremy Baker the ITF executive director. Opening address from Dr. Peter Coolbear, Ako Aotearoa director on "Direction for research". Covered the policy context for workplace learning, Ako Aotearoa portfolio and issues to resolve. Policy context include limited funding on tertiary ed., youth unemployment, need to have return on investment, concern about duplication and fragmentation. Also a need to bring employers, Voc. Ed institutions etc. together.

Big change is no longer outputs and systems but about outcomes - value added to NZ economy, to the individual, productivity for today ad tomorrow and work readiness and career building. Ako Aotearoa  invested 0.9 million in 7 national and 19 regional projects on workplace learning. Emergent trends / issues include little cross fertilization between different forms of workplace learning, work integrated /cooperative education. Competency and capability confused. how education/training programmes proactively address life skills and attributes. Linkages between theory and practice and assessment of learning in the workplace. Emergent ones include how strong is the evidence that work integrated learning opportunities equate to career readiness and productivity? How we actually understand learning in the workplace?Identity as a tradesmen/ professional and what is the nature of expertise? Are we fixated on content rather than concepts and attributes?

Keynote from Professor Stephen Billett on "Making space to lift performance:decision making about and engagement in vocational education". Trying to work through the challenges of what skills drive performance? How to lift performance and what investment in skills will make a difference in performance and productivity.
Introduced intended, enacted and experienced curriculum as a starting point to move forward. Intended - national curriculum documents. Enacted - shaped by what resources are available, experience experience of teachers, interpretation of what is intended, values, situational factors etc. Experienced - what student experience and as shaped by their personal processes of contrual and construction.

Reviewed historical origins of vocational education and provided suggestions on how to move forward from long held perspectives of the hieratic organization of occupations. Important to understand, based on current research, what skills drive work performance. These include set of capacities specific to a particular occupation including conceptual, procedural and dispositional, capacities that augment and are embedded in the domain eg. Communications, team work, problem solvig etc and that exist at canonical and situational. How to lift performance ? State needs to engender value of work, build mAture relationships amongst partners and make space for secure engagement from local contributions, those who assist students to learn and those who learn.  

After morning tea, sessions from postgraduates' research.
First up, Jacqui Remnant from the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) on financial literacy as context for strengthening literacy and numeracy for adults.  Defined financial literacy as beings aware of financial opportunities and risks and having literacy and numeracy skills, financial concept knowledge and confidence to make informed choices. Key considerations include need to connect financial literacy explicitly with other study and work with learner. Matching resources to learners reading and numeracy demands. Flexibility important as is not giving learners financial advise but for them to work it out themselves. Introduced a range of resources currently available to assist.

Gemma Piercy from the University of Waikato on 'insider outsider perspectives: the subjectivity of workplace identity. Study on what others and how professionals perceived vocational identity based on the occupation of baristas. Proposes a continuum of baristas identity. Understanding of skill requirements of baristas varies from highly skilled to unskilled work. Perhaps skill levels related to types of work identity?

Last up Dan Hunt and Diana Sharma from Unitec on debating and defining the scope of ITOs in business capacity development. The project came about through assisting small businesses to build capability. Training and development was an important aspect of capability building. However, not all ITOs developed training solutions would fit into every businesses' capability building strategy. How can there be a connection? And how can ITOs contribute flexibly to different needs and objectives of businesses at various stages of capability development.

After lunch, Professor Jane Bryson from Victoria University on "Lifting performance through facilitating capability". Explored the concept that skill is important but cannot alone create the conditions for performance and achievement. Multifaceted tools need to be used to try to understand the diverse nature of individual, team and organizational performance. Is performance a function of ability/capability, motivation/willingness/effort and opportunity? facilitating capability includes a focus on conditions which enhance means (qualification, resources, etc.) and freedom (workplace, personal agency) to achievement.   Conversion factors between means and freedom include personal (age, gender, ability) social and environment and on capabilities (to use and develop skill) and functioning (vocation, lifestyle).

Presentation by Flip Leijten and myself followed on learning welding: process of feedback. Good interest followed by questions. The study we reported on available as appendix 1 in the guidelines for using video to study workshop and workplace based learning.

After afternoon tea, three concurrent sessions.

Firstly, how does learning happen on the job with Dr. Karen Vaughan, Dr. Paul O'Neil and Marie Cameron. Reports on conditions, motivations and strategies that make workplace learning successful. Based on six workplaces with interviews and observations with learners, trainers and employers. Workplaces were identified as successful by the itos involved. Guidelines include support at organizational level, structured orientation, support structured learning activities, learning from experience and use of formative and summative assessments. Implications were well reported and include a critical interplay between workplace structures and workplace learning, teachers and trainers have a key role, learning is for participation at work, success is about participating in society, knowledge and skills are now always what we assume, and workplace learning both reinforces and challenges institutionally based education.

Then secondary workplace learning and post school transition: insights from the longitudinal surveys of Australian youth with Dr. Sinan Gemici from the Ncver. vet in schools is seen as a way to start students on a career pathway in order to lower the number of youth who do not move into work or higher learning post school. So will work experience at year 11, improve outcomes for youth? After doing quantitative data matching of non wpl kids with kids who undertook wpl, there is still a significant positive effect I.e. Wpl assist school leavers to move on to further learning or into work.

Last presentation of an interesting day. Jen McCutcheon and Mike Hollings present on a community partnership in action - authentic learning through Te Kura. Te Kura provides 'personalized learning distance learning courses supported intensively using a toolbox developed for learning advisors. Based on moving learning towards a big learning picture with the student as part of an advisory group assisted by an advisor. Students also encouraged to be supported by parents and family. A student centered approach encompassing a student education plan focused on students interests and goals. Leads to programs of learning to support interest, job shadowing, development of advisories, internships and portfolio assessments.

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