02 SES 04 B, Transitions: Vocational Teacher and Trainer Development in Times of Change
In vocational and trades education, the role of instructor is becoming increasingly complex. Student populations are more culturally diverse, industry standards are changing, and the role of the instructor is expanding to include, for instance, applied research (Darwin 2007). In order to support instructors in meeting these changing teaching requirements, vocational institutions have traditionally invested in funding course and conference attendance. Yet, in response to studies that show limited impact of professional development initiatives, Webster-Wright (2009) urges professional developers to move beyond an intervention-transfer-impact paradigm and to re-conceptualize professional development (PD) so that it aligns with what we know about how professionals learn at work. While the study of workplace learning has gained momentum in the past 20 years (Billett, 2011), studies of vocational educators’ professional learning are limited. A 2013 search of peer reviewed publications in the educational research database ERIC using “professional development” AND “vocational education” as keywords revealed only 182 publications between 1977 and 2013. The majority of these publications focus on student learning in practicums and work placements. Most of the other publications describe PD programs for vocational educators and their evaluation. Few studies actually describe the professional learning of vocational educators as it occurs through every day work. The paper being presented will partially address this void by describing the professional learning activities of vocational educators in three different educational programs, and by relating these learning activities to structural and cultural aspects at the organizational and departmental level.
Research on workplace learning shows that such learning is deeply embedded in practice and informed by the way people within and outside of the organization conduct and understand their work (Engeström 2011). Explanations of workplace learning require both the exploration of communal practices as well as personal aspects related to self and subjectivity (Billett,2002). The paper being presented will combine socio-cultural and cognitive approaches to learning by conceptualizing learning activities as comprising, simultaneously, a socio-cultural and a cognitive component. Learning is defined as undertaking activities that lead to a change in behaviour or a change in capacity for behaviour (Shuell, 1986). The capacity for behaviour is defined as the knowledge, skills and/or attitudes that, should the circumstances allow, enable the learner to demonstrate certain behaviour. The activities that the learner engages in that contribute to this change are learning activities. While the workplace affords certain learning opportunities, the individual also engages their own agency and subjectivities that are socially derived through their unique personal histories (Billett, 2011; Lasky, 2005).
The purpose of the paper is to describe how instructors’ professional learning activities are informed by the professional practices of their previous trade/profession, the departmental and organizational culture and practices, and the agency and subjectivity the instructors themselves bring to their learning. In this paper we will look particularly at five aspects of instructors’ work-environment: (1) perceived autonomy,(2) collaboration, (3) feedback and assessment, (4) shared norms, and (5) support for learning (Imants, Wubbels & Vermunt, 2013). Research questions addressed are:
- What learning activities do instructors in three different programs typically engage in?
- How are their learning activities related to:
- norms and standards in the trade/profession they teach?
- their experience of the five workplace aspects in their department?
- their own beliefs about their role as instructor?
Billett, S. (2011). Subjectivity, self and personal agency in learning through and for work. In M. Malloch, L. Cairns, K. Evans, & B.N. O’Connor (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of workplace learning (pp. 60-72). Los Angeles, CA: SAGE. Darwin, S. (2007). The changing contexts of vocational education: Implications for institutional vocational learning. International Journal of Training and Research, 5(1), 55-71. Engeström, Y.(2011). Activity theory and learning at work. In M. Malloch, L. Cairns, K. Evans, & B.N. O’Connor (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of workplace learning (pp. 86-104). Los Angeles, CA: SAGE. Imants, J., Wubbels, T. & Vermunt, J.D. (2013). Teachers’ Enactment of workplace conditions and their beliefs and attitudes toward reform. Vocations and Learning, 6, 323-346 Hoekstra, A. & Crocker, J. (in press). ePortfolio’s: Enhancing professional learning of vocational educators. Vocations and Learning. Hoekstra, A., Korthagen, F., Brekelmans, M., Beijaard, D., & Imants, J. (2009). Experienced teachers’ informal workplace learning and perceptions of workplace conditions. Journal of Workplace Learning, 21(4), 276–298. Lasky, S. (2005). A socio-cultural approach to understanding teacher identity, agency and professional vulnerability in a context of secondary school reform. Teaching and Teacher Education, 21, 899-916. Meirink, J. A., Meijer, P. C., Verloop, N. & Bergen, Th. C. M. (2009). How do teachers learn in the workplace? An examination of teacher learning activities. European Journal of Teacher Education, 32(3), 209-224. Shuell, T.J.(1986). Cognitive conceptions of learning. Review of Educational Research, 56, 411-436. Webster-Wright, A.(2009). Reframing professional development through understanding authentic professional learning. Review of Educational Research, 79, 702-739.
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