Tag Archives: trainers

Wrapping up the ECER 2019 experience – Part One: The opening session of the VETNET network

Once again, the annual European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) – organised by the European Educational Research Association (EERA) – has taken place. This time the venue was the University of Hamburg.
With this series of blog posts I try to cover different sessions in the program of the VETNET network – the research network for the field of vocational education and training (VET) and give some insights into developments in the network. In this first post start with the opening session of the VETNET program. Firstly I need to give some insights into the role of the networks of EERA in organising the conference and of the specific traditions of VETNET.

EERA and ECER as the common umbrella – VETNET as a community with its own identity

When the EERA was founded and started organising the ECER conferences on regular basis, the common umbrella was created in two ways. The EERA was shaped as the umbrella organisation of national associations for educational research. For the shaping of the conferences EERA invited the member associations to propose thematic networks that would then be in charge of organising their section in the conference programs. The network for research in vocational education and training (VET) – from the beginning on known as VETNET – was accepted as the Network 2 of EERA. The number of networks grew rapidly and they developed their own patterns to run peer reviews, to organise social events and to disseminate the research in their area of specialisation.

As a contrast to this general picture, the VETNET network has been from the very beginning more than just one of the EERA networks and a small club for organising part of the ECER program. Already in the founding phase there was a sense of building a community of VET researchers under the EERA umbrella. Yet, we were aware that we had somewhat different discipline-based backgrounds and in some countries the institutional commitment to VET was a basis of special disciplinary structures. Therefore, we have also paid attention to openness and mutual learning across the network.

In this spirit the VETNET network has developed a tradition of common Opening sessions – starting from ECER 1999 in Lahti, Finland (initiated by the VETNET program chair Johanna Lasonen). These opening sessions have mostly been keynote speeches by prominent researchers from the host country – with comments by invited discussants. Sometimes they have been panel discussions on critical research issues or on future research agendas. In ECER 2007 the Opening session celebrated the 10 years’ milestone of VETNET as an active network (as organiser of its own program). In ECER 2018 in Bolzano/Bozen the opening session got insights into VET development in the host region from different stakeholder perspectives (and from representatives of different lingual communities).

The VETNET Opening session at ECER 2019 – insights into apprentice training at Airbus sites in Germany

At the VETNET Opening session 2019 the invited speaker was Matthias Havekost, head of vocational training of Airbus commercial in Germany. He had been an active practitioner counterpart of several VET research projects of our institute (ITB, University of Bremen) and familiar with our research approach. From this perspective it was appropriate to invite him to discuss directly with the participants on the role of apprentice training and other training activities at Airbus sites in Germany.

We got a lot of information on the development of apprentice training in the course of years – regarding the demographic factors (aging workforce), technological changes (balancing between manual work and robotics) and educational changes (developing vocational pathways to higher qualifications). In between we had glimpses to the actual contexts of working and learning on site – provided by videos that were prepared by apprentices and students in so-called dual studies (that are based on a combination of apprentice training and higher education).

An interesting part of the presentation of Havekost was the example of a particular workplace learning arrangement at an early phase of apprentice training. Instead of explaining the task and launching the group work with the task that trainer took considerable time for a ‘teaming up’ phase. At this phase all apprentices were invited to discuss their views on their occupation, their understanding on their tasks and on the requirements. These views were shared in the group and contrastive views were discussed to the point that mutual understanding was reached. In the beginning some of the participants were annoyed by such delay instead of going straight to the task. Yet, it appeared that the group had developed a culture of collaboration and it finished the tasks in shorter time and with better quality than earlier groups. Also, teachers of vocational schools and representatives of production units noticed the change in the performance.

Another interesting aspect alongside the above-mentioned cultural change was the career development of trainers. For Havekost it was important that the in-company trainers are experienced in the production and keep up to date. Therefore, the trainers should be trainers only a certain number of years and not for too long time. This kind of rotation has been successfully implemented and those trainers who went back to other business in the company entered real interesting and adequate jobs (e.g. production, quality, manufacturing engineering).

In the light of the above we had a rich and lively discussion that gave food for thought for different sessions in the VETNET program. Also, we had some discussion on the training culture on other Airbus sites and on the role of VET systems in the respective countries. These issues were also taken up later.

I guess this is enough of the VETNET Opening session. In the following posts I will first report on the sessions that were closely related to my ongoing project and then cover some other themes.

Trainers’ views on introducing digital tools to vocational learning – Part Two: General views on the use of Learning Toolbox

With my previous post I started a series to report on interviews with vocational teachers, trainers and supporting researchers or consultants for the TACCLE4-CPD project. The project seeks to develop  continuing professional development (CPD) of teachers and trainers – with focus on enhancing digital competences. As I have mentioned, my work concentrates on the field of vocational education and training (VET).  I  still have some interviews on my list. Yet, it has been helpful to write down some points raised by full-time trainers of the training centre Bau-ABC. In this second post I will draw attention to the use of the digital toolset that we have co-developed in the Learning Layers project. I will start with the transition from the common project work to using the main product after the project.

Getting clarity on terms of service and permissions to use the toolset

The Learning Layers (LL) project had been a wide trans-national research and development (R&D) project in which many research partners, technical partners and application partners had been involved. During the long funding period they had co-designed, co-developed and pilot tested digital tools to support learning in the context of work. The digital toolset Learning Toolbox (LTB) was the main product that was developed in the Construction pilot of the LL project. After the project the LTB-developer team launched a start-up company (StackServices) to develop the LTB further and to support user organisations. This provided the basis for further use of the toolset after the project.

After the funding period the service provider has developed a differentiated set of contracts and permissions to regulate the use of the LTB software, the use of the LTB platform and the use of the services of the LTB-developers.

Shaping common structures for trade-specific LTB-stacks and overarching themes

In the LL project the LTB was shaped as a digital toolset that provides stacks (consisting of different kinds of tiles) for the users. During project the trainers who participated in the pilot testing developed their own stacks for their own apprentices and based on their own pedagogic priorities. After the project the trainers have developed a common structure for trade-specific stacks and for overarching themes. Also, they have coordinated the filing of digital worksheets and of photos. Thus, they have common patterns to work with the LTB.

Using LTB to enhance vocational (work process -oriented) learning

In the LL project the use of LTB was adjusted to the apprentices’ learning projects (that were shaped from the perspective of holistic look at planning, task preparation, task implementation and assessment). The learners were guided to self-organised (individual or team-based) learning. Whilst the LTB was at that time used mainly as trainers’ tool to provide guidance and instructions, it is now increasingly used as apprentices’ tool to report on their projects. Moreover, the use of specific Apps like GoConqr quiz apps has considerably enriched the learning process.

In particular LTB has served well as a central channel to essential web resources, such as the norms or regulations (as summaries) that need to be taken into account in construction work and to users’ guides for machinery and vehicles (also as summaries).

Using LTB from the perspective of apprentices

In all the interviews I got the picture that the apprentices have received well the use of LTB – once they have got the login sorted out and created their own account. The WLAN functions better and there are tablet PCs available at the training workshops. Via LTB the apprentices get advance information on the forthcoming training projects with which they will work during the next presence period in the training centre. When they are working with the projects the LTB serves as a documentary toolset for recording the interim results and final results. Moreover, the apprentices can check whether they are working correctly and eventually ask for advice (with reference to their photos etc.). And if something is not quite right, they can take the necessary measures and update their documentation. However, the final reporting with the apprentices’ portfolio reports has not yet been digitized – that is depending of training regulations (not  a matter for local decisions).

I guess this is enough of the general picture on using Learning Toolbox as support for training. In my next blog I will discuss the relevance of Learning Toolbox for two overarching learning areas – training and learning in ‘health and safety’ and support for learning German as foreign language (with focus on domain-specific vocabulary in construction sector).

Trainers’ views on introducing digital tools to vocational learning – Part One: Trainers’ reflections on craftsmanship and pedagogy

During the last few weeks I have been doing interviews with vocational teachers, trainers and supporting researchers or consultants for the TACCLE4-CPD project. In this project we focus on continuing professional development (CPD) of teachers and trainers in order to promote their digital competences. Here, the main point of interest is to find appropriate uses of digital tools and web resources in order to enhance the quality of learning. My contribution to the project is to provide analyses from the field of vocational education and training (VET) and to develop models and materials for CPD measures in the field of VET.
I am still in the middle of the interviews but I find it appropriate summarise some first impressions from my discussions with trainers in the vocational training centre Bau-ABC with which we have worked together several years. In this first post I will take up some pedagogic points on the role of digital tools in craft trades and vocational learning.

Craftsmanship vs. use of digital tools

In many interviews the trainers pointed to the traditional idea of craftsmanship – to make something with your own hands. This refers to the sense of working with manual tools, to feel the materials with your own hands and to be able to assess the quality with your own senses. From this perspective older trainers and craftsmen have often reservations regarding the use of digital technologies as support for working and learning: “That’s how we have always done these things …”. Also, the introduction of stand-alone tools and apps has not always been successful. Moreover, may allegedly user-oriented apps or instruction videos are not of sufficient quality  to support learning. Furthermore, when introducing new technologies, there is often an anxiety that this brings more work to the trainers or craftsmen – instead of offloading them.

In the light of the above it is important to approach the trainers and craftsmen with solutions that work in practice and support working and learning in their trades.

Vocational learning vs. use of digital tools

Concerning the newer generations of apprentices, it is worthwhile to note that they have been less exposed to manual work, getting in touch with the materials and working with traditional tools. Moreover, their computing skills tend to concentrate on operating their smartphones. This provides a challenge for trainers and craftsmen – how to incorporate the use of digital tools into vocational learning without transforming the learning process into a virtual world

In the light of the above it is of vital importance that the use of digital tools shall serve the planning, preparation, implementation and assessment of work process -oriented learning. And the role of digital tools is to deepen the understanding of one’s learning – not as a short cut to answers provided by someone else. This is in particular the case when using digital tools with the cross-cutting theme ‘health and safety’ at work.

Thoughts on the future of craftsmanship

At the end of the interviews we shifted the emphasis from promoting digital competences in the current craft trades to a bigger picture of digital transformation through entire production, service and marketing networks. In the public debate we see often the dominance of negative scenarios that anticipate redundancy of craftsmanship and replacement of human workforce by robots, advanced automation and ‘internet of things’. From the perspective of their own trades the trainers made the following points that outline new possibilities for advanced craftsmanship:

  • Concerning carpenters, there will always be a need for advanced craftsmanship in the renovation of traditional buildings. Parallel to this, thanks to the new construction techniques, wooden constructs are being used as the structures of high buildings. Moreover, even when human workforce can be replaced by robots, this can be used as a basis for new complementarity in which craftsmen are engaged in creative tasks and robots in heavy tasks.
  • Concerning well-builders and tunnel-builders, there are new possibilities for using geo-data and advanced sensors and new techniques for drilling.  Yet the risk analyses, when starting drilling (horizontal or vertical) require communication between craftsmen on the site and authorized experts.
  •  Concerning welding, the use of welding robots is widespread in the industries. Yet, in outdoor construction work in which the results should sustain heavy strain and climate changes, it is essential to have a good understanding of materials, circumstances and differences in the quality of work. The sensors of welding robots may not be in the position to guarantee the required safety and sustainability.

I guess this is enough of these aspects. I still have some interviews listed for this week. If needed, I will update this post with further post. However, in my next post I would like to discuss, how the trainers commented the usability of the Learning Toolbox as a digital toolset to support work process -oriented learning.