02 SES 04 B, Slow Work and Learning Culture in Organisations and Schools
The core of the Italian initial Vocational Education and Training (VET) system, named Istruzione e Formazione Professionale (IeFP), resides in the 3 and 4 years programs. These paths aim to develop basic, transversal, and technical-occupational skills in order to obtain the Professional operator certificate (3 years program – Level 3 EQF) or the Professional technician diploma (4 years program – Level 4 EQF). The 3 and 4 years programs are provided by VET centers (private training centers accredited by the region according to nationally established criteria) or by public vocational schools in a subsidiarity form (CEDEFOP, 2014).
Despite the recent apprenticeship reform (Accordo in Conferenza Stato Regioni, 24 September 2015), the new Italian dual system is not yet neither stable nor widespread. So, actually, the most part of the students’ work practice activities take place in the IeFP laboratories rather than in the workplace (students can work in a company only during the 3rd year for a 2/3 months internship). The IeFP laboratory (VET-Lab) is a specific instructional setting, inside the VET centres, where workplaces are simulated through the presence of professional instruments and equipment.
In the VET-Labs, students' learning takes place as result of real practice activities, in real situations. These activities seem to be motivated by the students’ interest, and often for the pleasure of solving concrete and challenging professional problems. Although these activities take place in formal context (VET centres and VET schools), the just outlined learning process seems to have many things in common with the non-formal learning. In this practice-oriented setting, which is often characterised by high technological density, students seem to improve their knowledge about cultural subjects, e.g. mathematics, literature, foreign languages, etc. (Tacconi, 2011, 2014; Tacconi & Gomez, 2010). Technologies could have a relevant role in this learning context because they “can serve many roles to support Work-Based Learning (WBL)” (Margaryan, 2008).
The instructional practices implemented by teachers in this particular learning context has rarely been the subject of empirical studies. Indeed, an exploratory literature review showed no results. This kind of instructional practices risks being confined in the VET-laboratory framework, leaving unexploited their potential that could be able to crossing boundaries between the classroom and the workplace. Thus, an analysis of instructional practices of VET-Labs’ teachers could be useful in order to provide transferable and reusable information by both VET and general school teachers (also those of cultural subjects). As result, the research questions that guided the present study are as follow: Which are the teaching strategies implemented in the VET-labs? Which are their features? Which are the features of the VET-Lab context? How are technologies used for fostering VET-Lab instructional practices and in the workplace? Which is their role? Could the VET-lab instructional practices be useful for learning activities in classroom activities and general cultural subjects? If so, how can it enhance student learning processes?
Due to the lack of empirical research on VET-laboratory’ instructional practices, a deep comprehension of this novel research topic environment was necessary. Thus, in order to answer to the proposed research questions ethnography (Van Manen, 1990) and the Grounded Theory (GT) approaches were combined (Charmaz, 2006; Glaser, Strauss, & Strutzel, 1968).
The just outlined qualitative methodology mix has been recognised as a good solution for exploring new research topics because (Bamkin, Maynard, & Goulding, 2016; Charmaz & Mitchell, 2001): 1) the ethnographic elements allow the researcher to deeply enter in the studied environment and permits participants to be active in the research process; 2) the GT approach provides a structural framework for the data analysis, maintaining the emergent theory grounded in data. In this way, the “voices” and the experiences of the involved actors can be enhanced (Mortari, 2007; Tacconi, 2011). Given the difficulty to implement a long-stay ethnography and given the need to include different instructional situations, a multi-site ethnography methodology was used (Marcus, 1995). Data collection was carried out in two phases. In the first phase, four VET centres were selected for the participant observation (Pole & Morrison, 2003) through a convenience sampling strategy; all the selected centres belong to the same VET federation (CNOS-FAP). The observations took place over the course of the 2nd semester (4 months – about two days a week) in 17 classes of the 3rd year during the VET-Lab activities. In total, 18 teachers and about 300 students were involved in the observed activities. The selected classes belonged to 6 professional sectors: mechanic, automotive, hydraulics, electronics, marble, and graphics. The observer main focuses were the teacher instructional practices and the role of technology as the subject of learning. The gathered data consists of field notes, pictures, teaching materials, and documentation about curricula. The first phase activities also allowed the researcher to improve his technical vocabulary concerning the professional sector of the observed instructional practices. In the second phase, a semi-structured track questionnaire has been developed on the basis of the research questions, and the data gathered during the first phase (Mortari, 2007; Tacconi, 2014). Through a snowball-sampling strategy, 11 VET-lab teachers of other two VET federations (ENAIP and Scaligeraformazione) were involved in the research. These teachers and 10 of those involved in the first phase were interviewed (21 in total). Following the principles suggested by GT, the questions were revised and corrected after each interview with the aim to improve the quality of the investigation (Charmaz, 2006). During and after the second phase, the interviews were recursively analysed following the GT procedure.
Through the interviews analysis, six core categories emerged: “fostering professionality”, “educate the person”, “improving skills”, facing unexpected problems”, “supporting collaboration”, and “improving manual and mental dexterity”. Those core categories were labelled using the interviewee words. All the instructional practices implemented by the teachers to carry on this actions have been identified and indexed. Some transversal elements seem to emerge crossing the core categories with the identified instructional practices: “connection with labour reality”, “curricula personalisation”, “workplace care”, and “familiarity with technologies”. A complex theoretical model of “VETLab instructional practices” seems to emerge, but the theoretical saturation has not been reached yet and the theoretical model has not been defined. The present contribution represents the first step of a more extensive research project. As an in-progress research, there are future steps to be considered. Therefore, the recursive analysis of data will continue in depth. In the next step, the data gathered during the first research phase (mainly the field notes) will be included in the corpus of data and will be analysed too. The emerging model will also be compared with the literature through the theoretical coding procedure.
Bamkin, M., Maynard, S., & Goulding, A. (2016). Grounded theory and ethnography combined. Journal of Documentation, 72(2), 214–231. https://doi.org/10.1108/JD-01-2015-0007 CEDEFOP. (2014). Vocational education and training in Italy. Short description. Luxembourg. Luxembourg. Retrieved from http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/en/publications-and-resources/publications/4132 Charmaz, K. (2006). Constructing Grounded Theory. A Pratical Guide Through Qualitative Analysis. London: SAGE Publications, Inc. Charmaz, K., & Mitchell, R. G. (2001). Grounded Theory in Ethnography. In P. Atkinson, A. Coffey, S. Delamont, J. Lafland, & L. Lofland (Eds.), Handbook of Ethnography (pp. 160–176). London: Sage. https://doi.org/doi.org/10.4135/9781848608337 Glaser, B., Strauss, A., & Strutzel, E. (1968). The discovery of grounded theory; strategies for qualitative research. Nursing Research, 17(4), 364. González-Martínez, J. A., Bote-Lorenzo, M. L., Gómez-Sánchez, E., & Cano-Parra, R. (2014). Cloud computing and education: A state-of-the-art survey. Computers & Education, 80, 132–151. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2014.08.017 Marcus, G. E. (1995). Ethnography in/of the World System: The Emergence of Multi-Sited Ethnography. Annual Review of Anthropology, 24(1), 95–117. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.an.24.100195.000523 Margaryan, A. (2008). Work-based Learning: a blend of pedagogy and technology. Saarbrücken, Germany: Verlag Dr Müller. Mortari, L. (2007). Cultura della ricerca e pedagogia. Roma: Carocci editore. Pellerey, M. (2015). Uso didattico delle tecnologie mobili e risultati di apprendimento: alcuni apporti derivati da ricerche internazionali. Rassegna CNOS, 2, 39–51. Pole, C., & Morrison, M. (2003). Ethnography for education. Doing qualitative research in educational settings. Berkshire: McGraw-Hill Education. Tacconi, G. (2011). La didattica al lavoro. Analisi delle pratiche educative nell’istruzione e formazione professionale. Milano: Franco Angeli. Tacconi, G. (2014). La didattica nella Formazione Professionale iniziale e l’esigenza di tenere insieme operatività e riflessività. In L’intelligenza nelle mani (pp. 178–201). Catanzaro: Rubbettino Editore. Tacconi, G., & Gomez, G. M. (2010). Raccontare la formazione. Analisi delle pratiche nei centri di Formazione Professionale dell’associazione CIOFS/FP-Puglia. Taranto: Print Me. Van Manen, M. (1990). Researching lived experience. Human science for an action sensitive pedagogy. USA, New York: State University of New York Press.
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