02 SES 10 A, The Contribution of Methodologies to VET Research
This paper discusses the methodology of autoethnography as an instrument of scientific guided, transformative reflection of workplace learning. Based on empirical data gained from a project on vocational internships we investigate how and by what means and methods scientific curiosity, critical reflection of workplace experiences and development of learners` professional competences can be fostered. Vocational internships are an important resource for reinforcing the knowledge acquired in school and for the further development of the professional personality of the learner. Learning as acquisition (LAC) in traditional classroom settings and learning as participation (LAP) within internships or apprenticeships are both included in most VET programs (Sfrad 1998).
The focus of our research is to explore the constitution of ‘learning spaces’ (Billett 2004; Evans & Kersh 2012) within vocational internships. ‘Learning space’ is understood as a multidimensional, metaphysical concept which goes far beyond the narrow comprehension of space as a merely physical location and includes all kinds of moments, occasions, possibilities, practices and actants (Fenwick & Edwards 2010) – i.e. everything that enables learning ‘at, for and through work’ (Evans & Kersh 2012: 26). Hence the internship, as a particular form of workplace learning, opens up a broad range of various learning and work spaces, e.g. inter-personal, intra-personal, virtual, physical or spiritual (Cairns & Malloch 2011: 8) and fragile networks or assemblages, where the boundaries between each of them are considerably blurred.
Within this framework we use the issue of ‘boundary crossing’ (Engeström, Engeström & Kärkkäinen 1995). One important aim of most vocational internships is to establish connections between academic and practical knowledge. The question of the transfer of knowledge between the school and the workplace arises (Eraut 2004). Therefore one research objective is to analyse the phenomena of movements between the learning venues ‘secondary vocational school’ and ‘the internship company’. We assume that the development of vocational competence for action requires an integration of theoretical and practical knowledge through a participation in a community of practice.
The methodology of autoethnography is used in our investigation as a ‘mediating tool’ (Tynjälä 2009: 19) to support learners to develop informal expert`s knowledge, to integrate different forms of knowledge and to reflect on diverse learning spaces. Autoethnography highlights the lived experiences and relational practices between individuals, others and social within the specific internship. Practicing critical thinking and reflection (Gray 2007) enables learners to analyse their theoretical and practical knowledge as well as to recontextualize their existing knowledge and skills in new contexts. Thus autoethnography can be seen as an opportunity for learners to create new, polycontextual knowledge and connective skills within the scope of their internship and to extend their vocational action competence.
 The PEARL Project investigates the mandatory vocational internships of pupils in secondary vocational schools in Austria. It is funded by Sparkling Science, a research program of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy. Sparkling Science adopts an unconventional way in the promotion of young scholars. Researchers at the university work side by side and on an equal footing with pupils of all ages on current research questions. For further information see: http://www.sparklingscience.at/en
Billett, S. (2004). Learning through work: Workplace participatory practices. In H. Rainbird, A. Fuller & A. Munro (Eds.), Workplace learning in context (pp. 109-125). London & New York: Routledge. Cairns, L. & Malloch, M. (2011). Theories of work, place and learning: New directions. In M. Malloch, L. Cairns, K. Evans & B. N. O'Connor (Eds.), The sage handbook of workplace learning (pp. 3-16). Los Angeles: Sage. Davis, C.S. & Ellis, C. (2010). Emergent methods in autoethnographic research. Autoethnograpic narrative and the multiethnographic turn. In S. Hesse-Biber (Eds.), Handbook of emergent methods (pp. 283-302). New York: The Guilford Press. Engeström, Y., Engeström, R. & Kärkkäinen, M. (1995). Polycontextuality and boundary crossing in expert cognition: Learning and problem solving in complex work activities. Learning and Instruction, 5 (4), pp. 319–336. Eraut, M. (2004). Transfer of knowledge between education and workplace settings. In H. Rainbird, A. Fuller & A. Munro (Eds.), Workplace learning in context (pp. 201-221). London & New York: Routledge. Evans, K. & Kersh, N. (2012). Exploring spaces for learning at work. In L. Chisholm, K. Lunardo, A. Ostendorf und P.P. Pasqualoni (Eds.), Decoding the meanings of learning at work in Asia and Europe (pp. 23-36). Innsbruck: Innsbruck Univ. Press. Fenwick, T. & Edwards, R. (2010). Actor-Network Theory in Education. New York: Routledge. Gray, D. (2007). Facilitating Management Learning: Developing Critical Reflection Through Reflexive Tools. Management Learning, 38 (5), pp.495-517 Ostendorf, A. & Ammann, M. (2009). Cross-Border-Learning - Lernen in grenzüberschreitenden Arrangements am Beispiel des Betriebspraktikums von SchülerInnen. bwp@ Berufs- und Wirtschaftspädagogik - online, 17. Available at: http://www.bwpat.de/content/uploads/media/ostendorf_ammann_bwpat17.pdf [Accessed January 05, 2016]. Salisbury, J. (2012). Vocational education and training: Sites for qualitative study. In S. Delamont (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research in education (pp. 143-155). Cheltenham: Elgar. Sfrad, A. (1998). On two metaphors of learning and the dangers of choosing just one. Educational Reseracher, 27 (2), pp. 4-13. Strauss, A. L. & Corbin, J. (1990). Basics of qualitative research: Grounded theory procedures and techniques. Newbury Park: Sage Publications. Tynjälä, P. (2009). Connectivity and transformation in work-related learning - Theoretical foundations. In M.-L. Stenström & P. Tynjälä (Eds.), Towards integration of work and learning: Strategies for connectivity and transformation (pp. 11-37). Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands.
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