02 SES 16 A, Teachers' Assessment, Evaluation and Validation
This paper concerns validation of vocational knowledge and experience prior to vocational teacher education (VTE) in Sweden, taking hairdressing as a case study. The object of study is the conceptualisation of vocational knowledge within the institutional context of academia in relation to the hairdressing trade. A special requirement for becoming a vocational teacher is to be qualified with relevant vocational knowledge and experience, and to have these validated. Validation, also labelled as recognition of prior learning [RPL] or accreditation of prior learning [APL], is an emerging worldwide practice (see, e.g., Andersson & Fejes, 2010;Breier & Ralphs, 2009; Pouget & Osborne, 2004). In policy documents, validation is presented as a promising opportunity, promoting both a more equitable society and economic growth (see eg., CEDEFOP, 2015). Hence, one promise of validation is its inclusive potential. The perils of validation are rarely considered (Stenlund, 2010), and our concern is that some aspects of the vocation, vocational knowledge, and identities may be excluded in validation. Thus, the aim of the study in this paper is to explore how vocational knowledge becomes conceptualised when it is subject to validation in the institutional context of academia, and how this might include or exclude aspects of vocational knowledge and identities, as perceived by the hairdressing trade itself.
Concerning the question of vocational knowledge in policy on validation, the notion of knowledge is to a large extent replaced by a focus on learning outcomes (Allais, 2012; Young, 2010) structured by qualification frameworks (Bohlinger, 2012). In the trade and in workplaces knowledge does not always announce itself, and is often taken for granted by those in the trade (Johansson, 2015). This kind of knowledge is often labelled tacit, which implies that we know more than we can tell (Polanyi, 1983). Traditionally hairdressers were educated in a master-apprentice tradition, in which imitation was one way to incorporate knowledge and to become a hairdresser, and thus to gain the identities of a hairdresser (Klope, 2015). This means that beside theoretical knowledge and craft skills, judgement, collective, moral and aesthetic values were also just as important. The collective, moral and aesthetic values, as coined by Aristoteles in the term phronesis (Janik, 1996; Johannessen, 1999), is an important aspect of hairdressers’ vocational knowledge and identities. Vocational knowledge and identities are also linked to the pride of mastering something unique linked to the particular vocation (Klope, 2015; Korp, 2012). One concern in the study presented in this paper is to better understand what happens when the holistic knowledge conception linked to hairdressers’ identities is confronted with policies and the practice of validation within the institution of academia. A potential for theorising the complexity of ideas, interests and identities is found within new institutional theory (Scott, 2014), and also in more specific theories of identities (Jenkins, 2008). The notion of institution refers to a relatively durable social system with regulation of human actions, which provide stability and legitimacy (Scott, 2014). Scott identifies an institution as being comprised of regulative, normative and cultural/cognitive pillars. In combining these pillars into one analytical framework it provides a potential for analysis of a broad spectrum of institutional aspects. The regulative pillar has to do with rules and sanctions. From the normative pillar it is possible to analyse values and norms. The cultural cognitive pillar has to do with shared conceptions which give meaning in a cultural context. Being part, or not, of an institution may promote and challenge humans’ identities. Jenkins’s (2008) conception of identities is well fitted with the institutional perspective as identities are understood from a sociological perspective, and links individuals and institutional frames.
For grasping the complexity of the different levels of analysis found within the new institutional perspective, we need to develop our methodology accordingly. In doing so we adopted a multimethod approach (Spillman, 2014). The gain from using this approach is that we can analyse and compare the wider institutional frame with involvement in significant situations (Lund & Sundberg, 2004). In this study, institutional frame refers to policy connected to the validation prior to VTE, and the practice of validation in which academics interpret those documents. The significant situations are found in the hairdressing trade and education. We combine empirical material from two different projects, both taking qualitative approaches. One project concerns the validation of vocational teachers, using interviews (Alvesson, 2003) with academics (n=10) and document analysis. This project involves all vocations within the admission procedure, having the question of knowledge as its focus. The study presented in this paper uses data concerning hairdressers. The other project is an ethnographic study within the hairdressing trade and education. In this project extensive fieldwork is made. This study includes classical features of an ethnographic study, taking a holistic approach, long term involvement in the field, and the use of different data sources such as observations, interviews, and field notes (Hammersley & Atkinsson, 2007). The features of ethnography are suitable for exploring vocational knowledge in the trade, due to the need to take a holistic view and to be reflexive (Hammersley & Atkinson, 2007). This reflexivity is particularly relevant as one of the authors is a hairdresser, with the potential of knowing gatekeepers, gaining access to the field, and also gaining a rich and thick description from the field, whereas the other is an outsider with few presumptions about the hairdressing trade. The benefit from combining two projects, and discussing the data, was that both the emic and etic aspects were considered, and the reflexivity was strengthened. For example, the outsider could counteract the risk of the hairdresser taking the perceptions within the trade for granted (Hammersley & Atkinsson, 2007) by providing questions about the data. Likewise,, the hairdresser could pose relevant questions concerning the validation procedure. Both projects followed the ethical guidelines provided by the Swedish Research Council (2002). The multi-method approach of this study did not compromise what the participants were told in the written consent forms. Scott’s (2014) institutional pillars, as described above, are used as the analytical tool.
Although the validation process is intended to secure fair outcomes, the results revealed that some aspects of vocational knowledge and identities are rendered invisible. The regulative pillar, as conceived, for example, by the Swedish qualification framework, challenges the trade’s regulations. In the trade, a journeyman’s certificate is important. To hang a journeyman’s certificate on the wall of the hairdressing saloon is a marker of vocational knowledge and identities, but in validation: It's about actual competence and you are not particularly interested in if a person has a credential or a journeyman’s certificate because it doesn’t say so much....you may have done the journeyman’s certificate right after upper secondary school. You may not have your journeyman’s certificate but you may have had a hairdressing salon with four employees for twenty years ... (Interview with study counsellor) In the validation procedure the criteria for vocational knowledge are conceptualized as if they were school subjects. Related this to Scott’s normative pillar, where the education system is taken as the norm rather than the trade. Furthermore, the applicants are supposed to write narratives about their vocational knowledge, potentially prioritizing writing skills. From a cultural cognitive perspective, the criteria of those subjects are very general in character. For example, the subject craft of both hairdressers and boat builders share the same criteria, quite different from the pride of mastering something unique in their respective industries. One conclusion to draw from these preliminary results is that generic competences seem to be the most highly valued. This focus runs the risk of downplaying the vocational knowledge. Thus, the inclusive potential of validation might not be realized if the different interests, ideas, and vocational identities of people and institutional contexts are not considered. Care is needed not to turn inclusive intentions into exclusionary ones, however inadvertently.
Allais, S. (2012). Claims vs. practicalities: Lessons about using learning outcomes. Journal of Education and Work, 25(3), 331-354. Alvesson, M. (2003). Beyond neopositivists, romantics, and localists: A reflexive approach to interviews in organizational research. Academy of Management. The Academy of Management Review, 28(1), 13-33. Andersson, P., & Fejes, A. (2010) Mobility of knowledge as a recognition challenge: Experiences from Sweden, Transnational Journal of Lifelong Education, 29(2), 201-218. Breier, M., & Ralphs, A. (2009). In search of phronesis: Recognizing practical wisdom in the Recognition (Assessment) of Prior Learning, British Journal of Sociology of Education, 30(4), 479-493. CEDEFOP (2015) (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training). European guidelines for validating non-formal and informal learning. Luxembourg: CEDEFOP (European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training). Hammersley, M., & Atkinson, P. (2007). Ethnography: Principles in practice. (3rd. ed.) Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. *Janik, A. (1996). Kunskapsbegreppet i praktisk filosofi (Symposion bibliotek). Eslöv: B. Östlings bokförl. Symposion. Jenkins, R. (2008). Social identity [Elektronisk resurs]. London: Routledge. *Johannessen, K.S. (1999). Praxis och tyst kunnande. Stockholm: Dialoger. Johansson, M. C. (2014). Counting or caring: Examining a nursing aide’s third eye using Bourdieu’s concept of habitus. Adults Learning Mathematics. Special Issue. 9(1), 69-84. Klope, E. (2015). I skuggan av ett yrke: Om gymnasieelevers identitetsskapande på hantverksprogrammet frisör: Identities creation within the vocational education and training for hairdressers. Licentiate thesis, Stockholm University. *Korp, H. (2012). Identitetserbjudanden och lärar–elevrelationen. In. I.Henning Loeb & H Korp (eds.), Lärare och lärande i yrkesprogram och introduktionsprogram. (pp. 95–112). Lund: Studentlitteratur. *Lund, S., & Sundberg, D. (2004). Pedagogik och diskursanalys: Metodologiska orienteringsförsök på ett framväxande forskningsfält (Pedagogiska arbetsrapporter, 5). Växjö: Växjö univ., Institutionen för pedagogik Polanyi, M. (1983). The tacit dimension. (Repr.) Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith. Pouget, M., & Osborne, M. (2004) Accreditation or validation of prior experiential learning: knowledge and savoirs in France—a different perspective? Studies in Continuing Education, 26(1), 45–65. Scott, W.R. (2014). Institutions and organizations: ideas, interests and identities. (4. ed.). Thousand Oaks,CA: Sage, Stenlund, T. (2010). Assessment of prior learning in higher education:a review from a validity perspective. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 35(7), 783–797. Spillman, L. (2014). Mixed methods and the logic of qualitative interference, Qualitative Sociology 37(2), 189-205. *Swedish Research Council (2002) Forskningsetiska principer inom humanistisk-samhällsvetenskaplig forskning. Stockholm: Vetenskapsrådet. Young, M. (2010). Alternative educational futures for a knowledge society. European Educational Research Journal, 9(1), 1-12. *English translation will be given in the final version
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