02 SES 12 B, Learning and Competences in VET
Workplace and school-based learning are core elements in VET but also crucial in the sense of lifelong learning in one’s career, as the acquisition of competences does not end with formal education and training. The development of vocational knowledge and skills depends to a great part on the learning opportunities learners have in their companies and at school. Learning opportunities are shaped by many factors, such as the learning culture of organisation and schools, the instruction and guidance learners receive, or the interaction with trainers, teacher and more experienced co-workers. The opportunities to learn also depend on the tasks, learners engage in (Stalder & Nägele, 2011), the level of task demands, and the control learners have in their learning and working process at the workplace and at school (Taris & Feij, 2004).
In work-based VET programmes such as apprenticeships, learners have to acquire professional competencies at the workplace and at school. Depending on the specific vocational field, learning opportunities at the workplace and at school might vary considerably. Moreover, workplace and school differ regarding their learning culture, learning and job demands and job control. While at school apprentices are accompanied learners, learning at the workplace is situated, and apprentices have to work on real problems and to become productive employees. Research on workplace learning has shown that learning is most effective when job demands at conducive workplaces are high, and when the individual is actively and autonomously involved in a work task (De Witte et al. 2007; Karasek, 1979; Taris & Feij, 2004). Learning at school can be demanding in terms of the workload, the need to study during weekends, troubles to keep up with the fast-changing subjects of lessons and the amount of homework. Job control at school is limited by curricula and tight lesson plans. Taken together, one might assume that school-related demands and control affect learning opportunities differently than job demands at the workplace. However, empirical evidence on workplace and school-based learning and the transfer from one to the other in the context of vocational education is still rare (Mikkonen et al., 2017; Schaap et al., 2011; Tanggaard, 2008).
How people perceive and cope with high job demands is not only related to job characteristics like job control, but also to individual dispositions that are not inherently related to the task, such as their core self-evaluations (CSE). CSE are fundamental premises that individuals hold about themselves and their self-worth (Judge & Ilies, 2004; Judge et al., 1997). Positive CSE include four dispositional traits: high self-esteem, high generalized self-efficacy, internal locus of control, and high emotional stability (Judge et al., 2002). Individuals with low CSE might perceive jobs with high job demands as stressful, while those with high CSE don’t. A vast amount of research has demonstrated the association between CSE and well-being indicators, but to our knowledge, there are no studies focussing on the ways in which CSE might facilitate the use of learning opportunities in the job demand-control-process.
In the present contribution we aim to get a broader understanding and new perspectives on learning opportunities during VET. We intend to understand what situations/circumstances are needed for learners such that they perceive the workplace and the school environment as opportunities to learn. We test effects of job and school demands as well as job and school control on learning opportunities in VET programs and include CSE as person-related resource affecting learning.
We assume that high job/school demands (H1a) and high job/school control (H1b) at the work-place/school are associated with high possibilities for job-/school-related learning. Highest learning possibilities will occur when high job/school demands are combined with high job/school control (H1c). Since individual resources, such as CSE, enable individuals to learn in situations of high job demands, we analyse whether the relationships of job demands (workload) and learning opportunities are related by CSE. We assume that high levels of CSE increase learning (H2a) and that highest levels of learning will occur if learners with high CSE work in jobs/schools with high demands (H2b). To test our hypotheses we rely on longitudinal data over three years from a sample of learners in initial VET (N=2100) (Swiss longitudinal youth study TREE). Job demands and school de-mands were both measured with five items, including quantitative workload (time pressure) and qualitative workload (task complexity) (Prümper, Hartmannsgruber & Frese, 1995; Dunckel, 1999). Job control and control at school (freedom of action) were both assessed by three items (eg., I can decide what I have to learn). Learning opportunities at work and at school, were both measured by three items (possibility to learn, using new skills) (Prümper et. al., 1995; Dunckel, 1999; Stalder et al., 2011). CSE was measured by a composite variable, including self-efficacy (four items by Schwarzer, 2000; Schwarzer & Jerusalem, 1999), self-esteem (eight items by Rosenberg, 1979), and affectivity (10 items by Krohne, Egloff, Kohlmann & Tausch, 1996). Two models were run to measure the effects of demands and control on learning (model 1) and effects of demands and CSE on learning (model 2), using repeated measurement ANOVA. In model 1 individuals were classified in four groups, in line with Taris (2004), distinguishing learners with (1) high job/school demands and high job/school control, (2) high demands and low control, (3) low demands and high control and finally (4) low demands and low control. In model 2 four analogue groups were constructed with high/low demands and high/low CSE.
First results on learning at the workplace support our hypothesis. Learners in apprenticeships with high demands (H1a) and high control (H1b) reported higher levels of learning; but the level of job control did not influence the effect of job demands on learning (H1c). It was found, that high CSE was linked with better learning outcomes (H2a). Results suggest that learners with high CSE can cope more effectively with high levels of demands (H2b). In general, results indicate that it is important to create work situations in dual apprenticeships which include demanding tasks and the possibility to co-decide on job contents and timing, as both stimulate learning at the workplace. Further analyses will be run to test the effect of demands and control in school. Analyses with structural equation modelling are planned to investigate the development of learning, in relation with the change of demands and CSE. The results will be discussed and further elaborated with respect to previous findings on workplace learning of young worker, learners in apprenticeships and learners in school-based VET.
De Witte, H., Verhofstadt, E., & Omey, E. (2007). Testing Karasek's learning and strain hypotheses on young workers in their first job. Work & Stress, 21(2), 131-141. doi:10.1080/02678370701405866 Judge, T. A., Erez, A., Bono, J. E., & Thoresen, C. J. (2002). Are measures of self-esteem, neuroticism, locus of control, and generalized self-efficacy indicators of a common core construct? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83(3), 693-710. doi:10.1037/0022-3518.104.22.1683 Judge, T. A., & Ilies, R. (2004). Affect and job satisfaction: a study of their relationship at work and at home. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89(4), 661-673. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.89.4.661 Judge, T. A., Locke, E. A., & Durham, C. C. (1997). The Dispositional Causes of Job Satisfaction: A Core Evaluations Approach. Research in organizational behavior, 19(1). Karasek, R. A. (1979). Job demands, job decision latitude, and mental strain: implications for job redesign. Administrative Science Quarterly, 24(2), 285-308. Mikkonen, S., Pylväs, L., Rintala, H., Nokelainen, P., & Postareff, L. (2017). Guiding workplace learning in vocational education and training: a literature review. Empirical Research in Vocational Education and Training, 9(1). doi:10.1186/s40461-017-0053-4 Schaap, H., Baartman, L., & de Bruijn, E. (2011). Students’ Learning Processes during School-Based Learning and Workplace Learning in Vocational Education: A Review. Vocations and Learning, 5(2), 99-117. doi:10.1007/s12186-011-9069-2 Stalder, B. E., & Nägele, C. (2011). Vocational Education and Training in Switzerland: Organisation, Development and Challenges for the Future. In M. M. Bergman, S. Hupka-Brunner, A. C. Keller, T. Meyer, & B. E. Stalder (Eds.), Youth transitions in Switzerland: Results from the TREE panel study (pp. 18-39): Seismo. Tanggaard, L. (2008). Learning at trade vocational school and learning at work: boundary crossing in apprentices’ everyday life. Journal of Education and Work, 20(5), 453-466. doi:10.1080/13639080701814414 Taris, T. W., & Feij, J. A. (2004). Learning and Strain Among Newcomers: A Three-Wave Study on the Effects of Job Demands and Job Control. The Journal of Psychology, 138(6), 543-563.
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