Monday, May 30, 2011

INAP -Iinternational Network on Innovative Apprenticeship 4th Conference - Day 1

Notes taken at the INAP conference running 26th and 27th of May in Beijing.

Conference opens formally with a welcome in Mandarin (with translation in English) from the Director of VET division of the Ministry of Education, Professor Jiping Wang. His speech focused on the importance of VET in supporting China's strategic goals towards better economic progress for Chinese people. A major challenge has been to work through a method to integrate VET with workplace based training and learning, a process that is still progressing. Modern apprenticeship proposed as a solution, combining the base of traditional Chinese approaches to craft apprenticeship and best of the systems used by other countries.

Then official welcome from Jiayong Li Dean of the Faculty of Education from Beijing Normal University, one of the conference organizers.Followed by welcome from Professor Jianfeng Cai, director of the Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press. All reiterating points made by Professor Wang on need to further research in VET to inform develop appropriate VET in China.

First presentation from Professor Weiping Shi of the Chinese Society of Vocational and Technical Education, from The Institute of voc and adult education, East China Normal University, to set the scene.
Covered the 3 strategic national priorities and how VET may assist. A challenge is still the reluctance of parents to allow students to select a voc ed.pathway. therefore need to match labour market needs with aspirations of individuals. need to make voc ed more multi-functional including strengthening lit/num skills that leads to further opportunities for voc ed students beyond voc. occupations. integrating lit/num to life and work skills needs to be undertaken to make voc ed relevant. much still needs to be done to integrate voc ed with industry skill needs including partnerships with between voc ed institutions and industry/organisations. Another challenge is to provide development of the 'informal' workplace learning.

Professor Felix Rauer of the International Network of Innovative Apprenticeship then completed the formal welcomes with an opening speech, firstly by thanking organisers and then providing a brief summary of the evolution of INAP through 3 previous conferences in Europe and then this one in Beijing. Then introduced the 4 areas / themes of the conference and connected them to themes from previous conferences. Continued to discuss issues of poor reputation on voc Ed. often further acerbated by qualification frameworks which put Voc Ed below academic qualifications. Proposed a need to research more thoroughly the work process skills/knowledge in order to understand more clearly components of professional and technical work.

After morning tea, first keynote by Professor Philipp Gonon from the University of Zurich, on 'Apprenticeship as a model for the  international architecture of TVET'. overviews apprenticeship as a concept, models. element of a successful VET system (e.g. Swiss) and recommendations. Defines apprenticeship in terms of  modes ( type of learning, way of education, traditional vs modern) variations (dual, trial) and conceptual (sites, interactions, interest groups). Compared approaches / systems in German (occupation, industry skill based, input orientated and holistic ) French (technical approach, school based, input orientation and access / junction) and UK (qualifications competency based, learner / output orientated and flexible).

After lunch, I attended the sessions on 'learning and development theories and  models, one of 4 streams.

First up, Christof Nagele and Patrizia Hasler from the Swiss federal institute for VET- learning at the workplace: optimal learning environments. Work process forms product, work develops not only skills but also many other occupational identity formation indicators. Workplace learning also encompasses both individual and social elements. All handicraft, manual work is first of all: cognitive work. optimum workplace learning for individual (motivation, persistence), social (team support etc.) job design, trainers (expert in domain) and curriculum. used mindmaps constructed by apprentices to try to  understand cognitive conceptions and to see if various factors affect apprentices learning. Important to optimum wb learning is trust in the trainer, mere executing  of task not learning, demanding tasks with variability and scope for action.

Then Jeroen Onstenk from Inholland University of Applied Sciences, on 'enhancing situated learning: apprenticeship in learning departments. provided a brief overview of the Dutch apprenticeship system and a move into  multi-versions of apprenticeship - new apprenticeships, simulations,work learning period (traineeship), adultapprenticeships, learning departments (nursing, care, administration), in-school learning company (catering, restaurant, administration) and out of school learning company. This project evaluated the effectiveness of apprentices, often in different courses, within a single dept. of  organisation. Apprenticeships  have a coach/teacher from school, the workplace and often students from several levels. The entire department is by apprentices.

Third up, Yanying Gu on ' how to convert individual skill operator to integrated task solver: Teaching research on  action-orientated learning for secondary voc.ed. school students studying basics of computer ed. Reports on a shift from being  presented with learning, teacher showing how to fix and students replicating towards  one in which understanding of important concepts can be transferred. Therefore from just able to replicate to being able to self-directed in planning, developing and creating. Recommends to teach 'course not 'textbook', design learning tasks carefully and select appropriate teaching methods. Uses action process teaching working systematically   through informing, planning, deciding, realizing, controlling and evaluation based on 'action-orientated' learning.

After afternoon tea, Tongji Li from Tongji University in Shanghai, and Remy Rikers on 'the role of deliberate practice in Chinese vocational teaching. Defines 'deliberate practice' as not just  work or play it must be designed for consciously improving performance. Outlined the background behind research on deliberate  practice  for instance work of Ericsson (1993) on acquisition  of expertise. Found in a small study that some of the premises of 'deliberate' practice', as described in western coontext, also useful in  the  Chinese context. When designing delibrate practice, ensure also task difficulty falls in the zone of proximal development, not repeating on the previous level. task requires  conscious effort, concentration and self regulation. May have low entertainment, no immediate reward and needs high motivation for perseverance. Feedback and adjustment in time plus high  requirement in physical and mental resources.

Then my presentation 'learning practical workplace-based judgement through using cognitive apprenticeships and voc.ed. identity formation models. - bringing together work with welding students on how modeling and feedback assists students to learn the nuances of welding in peer support  groups.

Last up  for the day, Professor Erica Smith, Arlene Walker and Ros Brennan Kemmis on 'importance of the  psychological contract for effective learning in apprenticeship.  A psychological contract between employer and employee concerning mutual expectations and obligations. survey of apprentices, employers, govt. bodies etc.indicates both  apprentices and employers agreed on expectations and that most obligations were met. Training obligations generally better met than employment conditions/obligations. hard promises (specific time for training, range of training methods) and soft promises (opportunity to apply what is learnt, exposure to different experiences) less well met. Older apprentices felt their expectations were met was lower than for  younger apprentices.

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