02 SES 12 A, Educational Decisions and Pathways
Aim of the study and research questions
Transitions between successive VET levels appear to be problematic for many students (Biemans et al. 2013). Crucial issues in this regard are the lack of curriculum continuity and the absence of integration of educational programmes. In many countries, such transition problems between educational levels resulting in high student drop-out rates have been reported (e.g., Catterall et al. 2014).
To improve students’ transitions, continuing learning pathways have been implemented in VET (and general education) systems around the world as curriculum design solutions (e.g., Harris and Rainey 2012; Jäppinen and Maunonen-Eskelinen 2012; Biemans et al. 2016). Continuing learning pathways can be defined as sequential educational programmes combined into a new integrated learning trajectory (Biemans et al. 2013). In the Netherlands, the context of this particular study, many experiments have been initiated in the last decade by governmental policy (see e.g., Dutch Educational Council 2014) to design continuing learning pathways and, thus, to connect various levels of the VET system (i.e., lower secondary pre-vocational school-based programmes (VMBO), middle-management VET programmes (MBO) and higher professional bachelor programmes (HBO)).
For example, the so-called Green Lyceum or GL has been implemented by agricultural (or ‘green’) VET institutes. The GL combines a VMBO programme and a MBO programme at EQF4 level in an integrated learning trajectory and aims to foster students’ transitions to HBO (not only in the agricultural domain but also in other domains). As a prominent example of a continuing learning pathway in Dutch VET, the GL is typified by a combination of design characteristics, e.g. acceleration of the learning trajectory, integration of the respective educational (VMBO and MBO) programmes, and specific attention for development of study skills needed in HBO (see for more details Biemans et al. 2016; 2018).
The GL target group consists of students who combine a relatively high cognitive level with affinity for practical assignments and have ambitions to proceed with an HBO programme. For GL students, regular general secondary education at EQF 4 level (HAVO) would fit with their cognitive preference but this type of education lacks a specific vocational orientation and does not allow the students to apply their knowledge and skills in practical situations. A regular middle-management VET programme (MBO at EQF 4 level), on the other hand, does provide this practical orientation but might not offer enough cognitive challenges for them.
Previous research (Biemans et al., 2018) already demonstrated that former GL students more often proceeded with an HBO programme than comparable students coming from regular MBO. The central aim of the present study was to examine former GL students’ experiences in HBO and to compare those with the experiences of students coming from two other, more traditional routes (i.e. regular MBO at EQF4 level and regular general secondary education at EQF4 level (HAVO). A successful HBO career could be considered as the ultimate goal of continuing learning pathways such as the GL (see also Bradley 2008; Gorard et al. 2006; Watson 2006).
To be specific, this study aimed to provide answers to the following research questions:
- Do these three categories of students (former GL, former MBO, and former HAVO students) differ in motivation for and perceived success in their present HBO programme?
- Do these three categories of students differ in appreciation for and satisfaction with their previous educational programme?
- Do these three categories of students differ in the extent to which they feel prepared for their HBO programme in their previous educational programme?
Method Participants in the present study were 270 students who had all chosen a higher professional bachelor (HBO) programme after graduating from their previous educational programme and who were in the second half of the first year of their HBO programme during data collection. To be specific, 62 former GL students from 2 Dutch agricultural VET institutes were compared with 127 former regular EQF4 MBO students from the same institutes and 81 former regular general secondary education students at EQF4 level (HAVO) who had chosen for a follow-up study in comparable domains at the same HBO institutes as the former GL students. Students’ experiences in the first HBO programme year were collected through an electronic questionnaire that consisted of the following categories of items: • Motivation for school (2 items), school wellbeing (15 items), and school satisfaction (3 items) (see also Biemans et al. 2013) (RQ1); • Perceived study success in HBO programme (5 items) (RQ1); • Appreciation mark for their previous educational programme (GL, MBO, HAVO) (1 item) (RQ2); • Satisfaction with their previous educational programme (preparation for HBO programme, theoretical and practical level, teacher competencies) (11 items) (RQ2); • Extent to which specific study skills required in their HBO programme were developed in their previous educational programme (e.g., presenting, using ICT, reflecting) (10 items) (RQ3); • Extent to which students feel prepared for their HBO programme in their previous educational programme with respect to specific theoretical subjects (e.g., Dutch and English language, mathematics) (8 items) (RQ3); • Extent to which students feel prepared for the vocation-oriented aspects of their HBO programme in their previous educational programme (e.g., internships, research) (5 items; only relevant for former GL and MBO students) (RQ3); • Extent to which students feel supported in choosing a specific HBO programme in their previous educational programme (e.g., career orientation) (7 items) (RQ3). Students had to use five-point Likert scales (1=minimal score; 5=maximal score) to respond to the various items. Mean scores of the three groups (former GL, former MBO, and former HAVO students) were compared for the various scales and items.
Findings and conclusions With respect to their motivation for school, school wellbeing, and school satisfaction, the three student groups had comparable mean scores: On average, students from the three groups were satisfied with their current HBO programme. The same pattern was found for perceived study success in their HBO programme: Former GL, former MBO, and former HAVO students reported that they were equally successful in their first HBO study year so far. Former GL students graded their previous educational programme with the mean appreciation mark 6.8, while former MBO students gave the mark 6.5 and former HAVO students the mark 7.1. Students from the GL and HAVO groups had higher mean scores for satisfaction with their previous educational programme than students from the MBO group, especially concerning preparation for the HBO programme. Students coming from HAVO gave the highest score for the theoretical level of their previous educational programme, while students coming from GL and MBO gave the highest scores for the practical level of their previous educational programme. With respect to acquired study skills in their previous educational programme, GL students had the highest mean scores on most skills, except for reading and learning texts for which HAVO students had the highest scores. Regarding theoretical subjects, former GL and HAVO students had comparable mean scores, which were higher than the scores of former MBO students. Former GL and MBO students felt equally prepared for the vocation-oriented aspects of their HBO programme. To summarize, the continuing learning pathway GL seemed to combine the advantages of MBO and HAVO programmes: theoretical preparation for HBO at HAVO level combined with practical preparation at MBO level. Moreover, GL students seemed to acquire study skills needed in HBO programmes to a higher extent than MBO and HAVO students.
References Bradley, D. (2008). Review of Australian higher education: Final report. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia. Biemans, H.J.A., De Bruijn, E., Den Boer, P.R. & Teurlings, C.C.J. (2013). Differences in design format and powerful learning environment characteristics of continuing pathways in vocational education as related to student performance and satisfaction. Journal of Vocational Education and Training, 65(1), 108-126. Biemans, H., Mariën, H., Fleur, E., Tobi, H., Nieuwenhuis, L. & Runhaar, P. (2016). Students’ Learning Performance and Transitions in Different Learning Pathways to Higher Vocational Education. Vocations and Learning, 9(3), 315-332. Biemans, H., Mariën, H., Fleur, E., Beliaeva, T., & Harbers, J. (2018). Promoting Students’ Transitions to Successive VET Levels through Continuing Learning Pathways. Vocations and Learning (DOI: 10.1007/s12186-018-9203-5). Catterall, J., Davis, J., & Yang, D.F. (2014). Facilitating the learning journey from vocational education and training to higher education. Higher Education Research & Development, 33(2), 242-255. Dutch Educational Council (2014). Overgangen in het onderwijs [Transitions in education]. The Hague: Dutch Educational Council. Gorard, S., Smith, E., May, H., Thomas, L., Adnett, N. & Slack, K. (2006). Review of widening participation research: Addressing the barriers to participation in higher education. A report to HEFCE. York: University of York, Higher Education Academy and Institute for Access Studies. Harris, R. & Rainey, L. (2012). Learning pathways between and within vocational and higher education: Towards a typology? Australian Educational Researcher, 39, 107-123. Jäppinen, A.-K. & Maunonen-Eskelinen, I. (2012). Organisational transition challenges in the Finnish vocational education – Perspective of distributed pedagogical leadership. Educational Studies, 38(1), 39-50. Watson, D. (2006). New Labour and higher education. Perspectives: Policy and Practice in Higher Education, 10, 92–96.
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