02 SES 04 A, New Learning in VET
To implement a vocational education and training (VET) curriculum that corresponds to both the demands of the labour market, and the students constitutes a challenge to any education system (Akkerman & Bakker, 2011; Billett, 2007). In Sweden, pedagogical aspects of teaching and learning in VET programmes have been almost invisible in the debate that preceded the upper secondary school reform in 2011. Students who were identified as less academic were destined for an upper secondary curriculum designed to meet an evolving demand for qualified workers (Andersson et al, 2015). In such school-based apprenticeships, the students are expected to alternate between school and workplace in order to integrate learning in the workplace and in secondary school. In this way, they could attain the general and vocational learning objectives expressed in the guiding coursework. To gain a deeper understanding of how students are afforded access to different learning activities in school, and in the workplace, this paper analyses how students construct pathways to knowledge in such VET practice: What problems do the students face, and how are they resolved? How is the students’ access to different assignments restricted and supported in school and in the workplace?
Research that focuses on how students develop vocational knowledge shows how they make use of both school and workplace to become skilled workers (Berner, 2010; Tanggaard, 2007). However, some problems can be foreshadowed when a school-based apprenticeship model is implemented as workplace learning (Berglund & Henning Loeb, 2013). This was identified in previous trials with Swedish upper secondary apprenticeships. The more qualified tasks demanded in the coursework may, for example, be withheld from the students in the workplace. This problem is embedded in the different ways knowledge acquisition is arranged and organised in school and in the workplace (Akkerman & Bakker, 2011; Kilbrink & Bjurulf, 2013). With regard to the new Swedish apprenticeship model, implemented in 2011, the students need access to learning opportunities in school and in the work place, which relate to school based foundation- and vocational subjects. Hence, to build on previous research: When we want to learn how upper secondary apprentices construct pathways to knowledge, the students’ participation in the teaching of general subjects needs to be taken in to consideration alongside the vocational training.
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