02 SES 03 B, Transitions: Becoming and Being
The aim of the paper is to reflect on the work place mentor’s role in vocational education and training and how the mentors can support the apprentices in their learning processes. The dropout rate in Norwegian upper secondary education in vocational education and training is alarmingly high (Byrhagen et al. 2006) and different models and pedagogical strategies are tried out to prevent dropouts. The background for the reflections in this paper is a pilot project “From talent to skilled worker” aiming to develop a new alternative model to improve the rate of successfully completed vocational education. This project included ten students within the Programme subjects for Technical and Industrial Production. The idea was to let students, who were at risk at dropping out of school, start their apprenticeship directly after lower secondary school. Thus, they would obtain all their education within the apprenticeship, as opposed to the Norwegian main model of two theoretically based school years followed by two years of apprenticeship in a training establishment. In the research we asked about the participants’ experiences and when learning occurs in the enterprise and what the nature of workplace learning is. According to Eraut et al. (2001), knowledge is situated in the context where it is acquired. Learning environment contributes to apprentice learning and development; the apprentices learn within a community of practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991; Wenger, 1998). A community of practice involves much more than the technical knowledge or skill associated with undertaking some task. Members are involved in a set of relationships over time (Lave and Wenger 1991: 98) and communities develop around things that matter to people (Wenger 1998). The fact that they are organising around some particular area of knowledge and activity gives members a sense of joint enterprise and identity. For a community of practice to function it needs to generate and appropriate a shared repertoire of ideas, commitments and memories. It also needs to develop various resources such as tools, documents, routines, vocabulary and symbols that in some way carry the accumulated knowledge of the community. In other words, it involves practice: ways of doing and approaching things that are shared to some significant extent among members. As Eraut (2007) describes, learners need to have the opportunity to listen and observe, reflect and distinguish significant learning and to learn from mistakes. Learning confidence e.g. in the enterprise is affected by social relations, levels of power, sharing and trust. Apprenticeship is a negotiated, constructed experience where developmental time is important. Apprenticeship is a time of turbulence and tension, and squeezing learning out of work is a core competency in apprenticeship.Helping the apprentices finding their place in the community of practice, the mentors play an important role. The relationship between apprentices and work place mentor is critical to the apprentice’s learning and motivation for accomplishing their vocational education (Connor & Pakora 2007; Eby 2007). As research points at, apprentices learn best when they are supported, stimulated and challenged in both formal provision and workplace development (Dweck, 1998). The mentors are important for all apprentices, but especially for those who are struggling to come to grips with the expectations of the workplace. Research indicates that in a relational mentoring model, where trust and social capital are developed, mentors also developing ways that benefit the organisation, and the culture of the organisation is improved. However, mentoring may also develop a hierarchical relationship where power and strict control of knowledge can become barriers to open communication between the mentor and the mentee. The mentors may also have difficulties in finding time to perform the role adequately (Billett 2003).
Billett, S. (2003). Workplace Mentors: demands and benefits. Journal of Workplace Learning, 15 (3), 105-113. Byrhagen, K., Falch, T. & Strøm, B. (2006): Frafall i videregående opplæring. Betydningen av grunnskolekarakterer, studieretninger og fylker. SØF-RAPPORT NR 08/06. Connor, M. & Pakora, J. (2007). Coaching and Mentoring at Work: Developing effective practice. Berkshire: Open University Press. Dweck, C.S. (1999): Self-Theories. Their Role in Motivation, Personality, and Development. Psychology Press. Eby, L. (2007). Understanding relational problems in mentoring: a review and Proposed investment model. In Ragins, B. R. & Kram, K. The handbook of Mentoring at Work (pp. 51-94). California: Sage. Eraut, M, Alderton, J, Cole, G, Senker, P (2001). Development of Knowledge and Skills at Work. In Coffield, F. (ed.). Differing Visions of a Learning Society, Vol 1, Policy Press: Bristol, pp 231-262. Eraut, M. (2007). Learning from other people in the Workplace. Oxford Review of Education, 13(4), 4003-422. Hagen, A. & Streitlien, Å. (2015). From talent to skilled worker. Telemark University College: Final report. Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (1991): Situated learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge MA: Cambridge University Press. Lindøe, P., Mikkelsen, A. og Olsen, O.E. (2002): «Fallgruver i følgeforskning», Tidsskrift for samfunnsforskning: 199-217. Ragins, B. & Verbos; A.K. (2006). Positive Relationships in Action: relational Mentoring and Mentoring Schemas in the Workplace In Exploring Positive Relationships at Work. In Dutton, J. E. & Ragins (eds.). Building a theoretical and Research Foundation (pp 91-115). Wenger, E. (1998): Communities of practice: learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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