02 SES 02 C, VET Teachers' Competences and Understanding
This paper focuses on identifying the “periods of practice” as visible in vocational teachers´ narratives. During the recent decades vocational teachers´ work have undertaken a deep change resulting from various parallel reform implementations, diversified student populations, technology developments and globalization trends. Estonian vocational education system has been targeted to most radical societal changes and reform policies introduced during the last 25 years. In our previous work (Loogma, 2016; Ümarik, 2015) we have described the institutional building characterizing developments in Estonian VET since the late years of Soviet Union. In this paper the main aim is to explain what kind of changes in vocational teachers´ everyday work practices institutional changes have involved. According to Kemmis & Grootenboer (2007) individual person´s praxis is shaped by “practice architectures” that mediate the preconditions for practice, including social-political, material-economic and cultural-discursive preconditions.
During the Soviet time vocational education system was strongly related to Soviet industry, companies serving as support and training facilities for schools, also dictating the training needs and content of training. After the collapse of the Soviet Union the operation of VET system changed radically. The period between 1990 and 1997 has been called as a liberal adjustment time as previous Soviet VET system collapsed and entire institutional infrastructure had to be rebuilt. During that period the state-level regulation of VET was weak (Neudorf et al., 1997). However, the foreign experts and donors played a significant role in Estonian VET and several modernization projects were initiated (Grootings, 1998). Only in 1997 the strategic state-level planning and building up the legislative framework for VET started and the development priorities for VET institutions were formulated. The Professions Act, approved in 2000, that provides the basis for the development and rewarding professional qualifications, serves as one of the milestones for increasing standardization. The pre –accession period to join EU (2001-2004) characterizes the beginning of increasing standardization in VET that have continued till now reflected in European policy tools, aims and models taken as frameworks. During this period the first 5-level National Qualification System was introduced that was replaced in 2008 by 8-level European Qualification System that caused a renewal process in national curricula and professional standards. Since 2009 the focus is VET has been on a learner-centered approach, development of key competences in students to ensure their readiness for lifelong learning and decreasing the dropout rate in VET.
This paper aims to understand how different periods in terms of institutional building, material opportunities, social relations and ideologies are expressed in vocational teachers´ practices. We call these as “periods of practice”. The meaning of “practice” in this paper is related to the concept of teachers´ professionality, referring to those personally constructed elements of the teachers´ job that constitute the knowledge, skills, methods and procedures teachers implement in their practical/everyday work (Evans 2008; Loogma et al., 2010) The main questions we aim to address are: What is the interplay between regulatory and institutional changes characterized by different periods in Estonian VET and teachers actual work practices? What has been the agency of teachers in different institutional contexts to shape their work role and practices? Four periods of practice has been presented through narratives of teachers´ practices that might be contradictory depending on teachers´ personal beliefs, previous backgrounds, career trajectories or school context enabling more or less agency.
The paper is based on 17 narrative life-history interviews with vocational teachers representing different fields, age groups, both female and male teachers from different regions of Estonia. The narrative interview focused on teachers´ stories of becoming and being vocational teachers, personal and work careers, presents also their personal sense of being a teacher as well as personal perception of changes and different institutional contexts. The analysis focused on narratives of teachers´ work practices, including teaching content and methods, relationships with students, colleagues and outside actors, perception of work roles etc. The thematic analysis approach (Braun & Clarke, 2006) has been applied in the analysis. The analysis process involves various stages of coding and recoding the interview transcripts, identifying thematic categories and subcategories. In order to position the personal narratives into the historical grid of institutional changes the narratives of teachers has been positioned to the timeline (starting from the end of Soviet period till today) enabling to identify the major shifts in practices and discuss the multiple forces of change.
The narratives of vocational teachers reveal that both social-political, material-economic and cultural-discursive preconditions have played their role in shaping vocational teachers´ practice. The period of 90´s has been considered as a time of chaos, but also that of lots of opportunities. As every school and teacher was inventing a by-cycle it also provided room for teachers´ agency at various levels. As there were lack of teaching and learning materials, teachers themselves were creating the content of teaching. Restructuring of the economy also led schools to look for new niches and elaborate new training fields and curricula, providing teachers involved into this process with feeling of ownership. We can also see that teachers´ individual life and work-related careers, often “chance to be in the right place”, but also personal dispositions have impacted how the institutional preconditions has been responded to and translated into practices. Although from the 2000´s onward the standardization tendencies have increased we can see that teachers still express their autonomy in doing things their own way, not to be “100% loyal” to the curricula. When talking about their recent or present work reality the student becomes among the central topics. Especially the worsening social backgrounds, low motivation and skills of nowadays students tend to diversify vocational teachers work role (being also a social worker and psychologist). The learner-centered approach being discursively promoted in educational policy also reveals in the practice, approaches and methods used at the classroom.
Braun, V. and Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3 (2), 77-101. Evans, L. (2008). Professionalism, professionality and the development of education professionals. British Journal of Educational Studies, 56 (1), 20-38. Grootings, P. (1998). Kutsehariduse reformi arengusuunad Eestis. Tallinn: Sihtasutus Eesti Kutsehariduse Reform. Kemmis, S. & Grootenboer,P (2007). Situating praxis in practice: Practice architectures and the cultural, social and material conditions for practice. In: Stephen Kemmis and Tracey J. Smith (Eds.) Enabling Praxis: Challenges for Education, Sense Publisher: Rotterdam, Taipei. Loogma, K., Kesküla, E., Roosipõld, A. (2010). The Transformation of the Teaching Profession in Estonia: Changes in Professionalism. In: J. Mikk, M. Veisson & P. Luik (Eds.) Teacher’s Personality and Professionalism, vol 2, pp. 11–30, Peter Lang Verlag, Loogma, K. (2016). Europeanization in VET policy as a process of reshaping the educational space. International Journal for Research in Vocational Education and Training, 3(1), 16−28. Neudorf, R., Annus, T., Orro, L. & Jõgi, K. (1997). National Observatory Counrty Report. Report on the vocational education and training system. Estonia. National Observatory of Estonia/ European Training Foundation. Ümarik, M. (2015). Adopting reform policies in vocational education and training: The case of post-Soviet Estonia (Doctoral dissertation). Tallinn: Tallinna Ülikool.
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