Monday, July 30, 2012

Reflections while away and returning - use of technology and readings on embodiment

Back into the swing of things after almost three weeks away. Will be resettling back into work routine as from today but have jotted some observations and reflections while away. These now summarised.

I stayed in youth hostels for 10 nights, a week in Adelaide and 3 nights in Brisbane. As usual, the hostels were busy with school groups, travellers and visitors. I did my usual observation of the types of technology being used. Almost every person at the hostel, apart from the younger school children, had a laptop or tablet with most also using a mobile phone. The main difference was the prevalence of video messaging, using Skype or Facetime. The reading and TV rooms were usually occupied with people talking to their laptops and there would be several people in the common room doing the same. Ease of access and use has made video communication mainstream for travellers.

While away, I worked through two edited books by Ericsson. The first was the 2006 edited book on expertise and the second, the 2009 one on developing professional expertise. Summaries are forthcoming on this blog. Both provide up to date information that is relevant and applicable to practice in trades based teaching and learning.

In Brisbane, I was joined by my elderly parents and my grown up children. I usually travel using public transport and enjoy getting to know a place through walking. However, with more people, I had to resort to hiring a car, equipped with a GPS to navigate the one way system and highway/toll ways. I have a good sense of direction and found the GPS to be frustrating as it would invariably send instructions to go around in the wrong direction before finding it's way back on track via the one way streets. After a couple of days, I was back to studying the map to work out a route and then using the GPS as a reference of where I was, rather than letting the GPS lead me to the destination. I suppose its a case of using the parts of technology that fit into my way of doing things, or perhaps I am getting too old to change!! Perhaps my sense of direction is so much embodied into my being that receiving information that does not correlate with my inner compass, creates too much input to cope with. Something to think through over the next couple of weeks as I continue readings in the area of embodied cognition.

Friday, July 13, 2012

NCVER day 2

Day 2 begins with keynote from Robym Archer 'on hands on and hands up: the place of arts training in higher education'. Basically argued for the value of the performing arts in society and the need to ensure people are provided with opportunities to train in this area. However young artiste consider university degrees as a pathway to performance arts but apprenticeship is still the best wat to learn. Perhaps TAFEs retaining the master/apprenticeship model may be a better fit.

Concurrent session follow and I attend sessions on youth transitions.

Dr. George Myconos, Brotherhood of St. Laurence, presents on 'Navigating VET: experiences of at risk youth. Provided evidence of the difficulties faced by students who have dropped out of school due to personal challenges and how enrolment in VCAL as run by community organisations instead of school to lead to Community VCAL (CVCAL) may provide some assistance. CVAL consists of class room tuition, vocational learning usually at TAFE or similar and work placements.  However, supportive class room tuition in community organisations not alwats followed through with appropriate pastoral care at TAFEs or workplaces. Suggest approach of 'small spaces in big places' to help integration. This requires all three to work together towards shared objectives, consistent pastoral care guidelines, PD for staff to provide appropriate care and flexibility in institutional processes.

Then Cain Polidano (University of Melbourne) presents on 'impacts of school VET programmes in Australia', a quantitative study using data sets from OECD, PISA 2003 and longitudinal survey of Australian youth survey 2003. Found taking VET course with workplace learning leads to higher likelihood of completing school but negatively impacts on changees of attaining higher ed. qualifications.

A VCAL 'influence on shcool leaving' project then presented by Sheldon Rothman from Australian Council of Educational Research (ACER). A quantitative study using statitstics from Ontrack, the Victorian high school students' destination survey of 2010. Provided background on VCAL structure of foundation, intermediate and senior. The study focused on the intermediate and senior levels. Completing VCAL senoir tends to lead to apprenticeship and employment. Higher level trades prefer student to have completed VCAL senior whereas trades like hairdressing and hospitality were accepting VCAL intermediate.

Last concurrent session with Mani Nallsamy from Box Hill TAFE on a mentoring project to improve teaching with teachers who had high technical abitlity but were unfamiliar with Australian cultrure and education systems. Provided mentor support through English classes, teacher training and class room observations.

Conference ends with panel session on 'quality of research: The experts' view. A broad discussion of reseach aspects including data interpretation, rigour in applied science research, multi-method approaches, engagement and policy and reviewing research. Panel members were Tom Karmel, Lorraine Dearden (University of London), Gerald Burke (Monash), Anne Edwards (former vice chancellor), David Finegold, Barry McGaw (University of Melbourne) and Robin Ryan (Flinders).

NCVER - 'no-frills' vocational education research conference - day 1

In Adelaide this week for the annual National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) 'no-frills conference. On Wednesday, workshops convened and there was a welcome reception followed by an 'Intelligence2' debate organised by St. James Ethics Centre and presented through NCVER as part of the celebrations for the 21st year of the 'no-frills' conference. The topic was "Having a university degree is grossly overrated" with Professor Peter Shergold, Annabel Crabb and Dr. Lyn Arnold arguing for and Professor David Finegold, Hon Annabel Vanstone and Stephen Johnston arguing against. The debate was supported by an audience of over 700 and provided an enervating start for the conference.

The official Day one of the conference began at the TAFE SA (South Australia) campus. After a welcome from Dr. Tom Karmel (NCVER director) and a traditional welcome to country, to the land of the Ngana people, the first keynote was from Adrian Smith (chair of the Australian Training and Skills commission) on modernising South Australia's skill base. He presented pros and cons of the demand-driven system for VET and presented SA experiences in bringing about change. Skill bases have changed as SA moves from declining manufacturing sector work to growing minerals based industries. Limitations to the supply-driven systems include difficulty of accurately predicting demand and providers focused on numbers and existing capabilities. Skills for All launched to fund training, ACE and VET infrastructure. A managed approach with funding incentives for qualifications in short supply and capping where there is excess student demand and monitoring of RTO quality seen to be way forward.

Second keynote from Professor David Finegold (Rutgers University - US o A) on 'the 21st century workforce: China, India and implications for Australia. Both China and India trying to move from low skill equilibrium (LSE) to high skill ecosystems (HSEs). Globilisation causing movement of higher value added services and knowledge work from Us to India and China. China now a global leader in low-cost manufacturing and shifting investment to innovation and investment. In the last decade increased graduates from 600.000 to 7 miliion with many gradutea travelling overseas to complete post-graduate qualifications. However, both China and India face in challenges (of different kinds) and countries like Australia need to find out how to match the gaps. Both countries have exploding middle class, willingness to invest in education and for India, high numbers of young people. Therefore, Australia positioned to be Asian VET and HE leader through continued investment, re-branding, offerings tailored to local and regional need and welcoming immigration policies.

After lunch, concurrent sessions begin (6 streams) so I attend the sessions relevant to trades-based learning. First up, Karen O'Reilly-Briggs on 'the master artisan'. Started with overview of the apprenticeship system in Europe. Identified gaps/differences between European and Australian crafts training and continued with rationale for investigating viability of introducing a master-level programme for trades people in Australia. Support for concept found but also revealed frustration and dissatisfaction from trade industry representatives with current AQF system. Suggest importance of existing trade qualifciations, idenity and need to address intrinsic motivation for completing trades careers and reaffirm professional trade identity before meanful pathways for master qualification for artisans proceeds.

Then a session with Professor David Dowling on 'consulting with industry and other stakeholders to define a set of graduate capabilities. Worked through process of how to engage engineers in setting up graduate capabilities (Stephen & Yorke, 1998, p2). Part of a policy driven programme design and delivery process. Review of attributes begins the process. Stake houlder consultation starts with divergent phase (each group - practitioners, former students and teachers), then a convergent phase (each gorup forms clusters of skills ), data analysed and fed into development of graduate capability guide.

Stian Thorensen from Curtin University presented on 'initial pathways and transitions of apprenticveces and trainees with disabilities'. Findings from the first year of a three year longitudinal study presented involving 404 apprentices and a comparison group of 85 without disabilities. Rationale and research method presented. Postal survely and ingerview with 30 across 3 states used to identify social economic outcomes and barriers/facilitators to participation. Map starting points, key change points, destinations, outcomes and career intentions.

After afternoon tea, my session on 'first year apprentices of workplace learning' took place. Tiering of employers' ability to traing and apprentices' expectations for training suggested by one participant as a method to try to better match employers and apprentices.

Next. Flip Leijten presented on his 'peer learning project' using videos taking pre and post feedback workshop intervention to find out 'effectiveness of peer learning in vocational training settings.

Dr. Phil Toner from University of Sydney, then presented on 'diversity in pre-apprenticeship programmes'. These programmes carried out with training providers allow people to try out apprenticeship before they sign up. However, in line with previous research (Folye & Blomberg, 2010; Karmel & Oliver, 2010)  pre-apprenticeships were found to not lead to better apprenticeship completions.

Conference dinner at Regency College capped a full day.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Ako Aotearoa professional development programme - enhancing teaching and learning in vocational education

On Tuesday, I had the privilege of presenting the first workshop in a series of nine for Ako Aoteoroa as part of a professional development programme for tertiary teachers. This first workshop was presented at Tai Poutini Polytechnic in Greymouth, on the West Coast of the South Island. A range of trades, outdoor education and 'humanities' subject tutors participated enthusiastically.

The main objective of this series of workshops, is to present to tutors/teaching practitioners, some of the findings from a selection of completed Ako Aotearoa projects. These projects were on first year apprentices experiences; peer learning investigation while learning how to use videos to study trades learning; and students producing eworkbooks using net tablets. In particular, to help tutors contextualise some of the findings to their own teaching practice.

Another objective was to raise awareness of the role of evidence-based research in vocational education and encourage practitioner-led study into trades learning. There still needs to be capability building in this area. However, Ako Aotearoa hub funding which I think is about to be re-launched after a six month hiatus, is useful as seed funding to pay for teaching release time to allow for small studies to occur.

I am looking forward to presenting the rest of the workshops. This first one has provided several items to improve on for the next session. It is a good opportunity to meet the wider trades tutor community as many do not attend various teaching and learning conferences. Trade tutors are well grounded in the needs of their industry and the make a good sounding board for 'academic' ideas on pedagogical and programme design approaches. The important thing is not whether the ideas are framed by scholarly frameworks but whether the teaching/learning strategies will work with their students.