02 SES 03 A, Diversity in VET and challenges in teaching
Recent debate on VET, at both institutional and academic levels, points out the need for new approaches able to face the current and future challenges: (technical) innovation, attitude to lifelong learning, internationalization, literacy, among the others. A stronger partnership between the industrial and the educational systems is increasingly suggested.
To this extent, the great drive towards work-based systems, including dual systems and job-school rotation, is based on acknowledging that workplaces can serve as an opportunity to perfom work actions and typically educational measures. The workplace can be conceived as a cultural heritage that the school may make instrumental use of in favour of its educational goals, thus adequately combining training delivered in its premises with training measures completed at work. Research and study into these models, however, identify increasingly less interest in school subject-matters, with a growing risk of a gap in literacy and numeracy, in addition to a perception of mere juxtapposition between so-called theoretical and professionalizing subject-matters, at the expense of the former in terms of commitment.
Such risks first of all take the shape of a mismatch between contents developed in school and those arising from the labour market (Aakernes, 2016), which is often the result of a missing dialogue between school and companies and lack of a serious and consistent analysis of market needs (Hiim, 2015). Therefore, students feel that learning through curriculum subject-matters is boring (Hagen e Streitlien, 2015) and useless (Rintala, 2016); sometimes, also due to lack of time for an individualized study process, curriculum subject-matters are considered less relevant with respect to pursuing work targets set by companies and as such they are neglected.
Furthermore, cultural difference, both in context and experience, leads school and company stakeholders to different views, which is not instrumental to a successful training (Aakernes, 2016; Andersson et al., 2015; Billett, 2011; Young, 2004). In this respect, it may be useful to promote more regular convergence efforts by school entities (tutors and teachers) and company entities so as to agree on goals but also on criteria to evaluate training and competences.
Henceforth, it is clear that rather than rooted only on work-based learning, the needed competences for the “unknown future” (Mulder, 2017) depend on new approaches able to stimulate in the students/apprentices a lifelong learning attitude.
In line with well-known approaches - learning by doing (Dewey, 1916), experiential learning (Kolb, 1984), and action learning (Marquardt & Yeo, 2012), Cometa Formazione VET school (Como, Italy), has implemented the “reality-based learning” approach. Both the professional training and the general education are integrated in a learning process based on involving students in the design and production of real products for real customers in school’s workshops. Thus, the whole learning process, including all the mandatory professional, basic, cultural and human skills in the educational curricula, has been designed accordingly to a production process. Henceforth, the emerging result consists of a hybrid of school and workplaces (Cremers et al. 2017), a laboratorium where “theoretical thinking” has to be in connection with “technical making” and practice, with the same dignity (Gardner, 1983).
This research, based on a case study analysis, aims at (1) outlining the educational and training practices which denote the main elements of originality of the approach; (2) identifying the key players and their roles in the educational process; and (3) implementing and measuring a set of KPIs to evaluate outcomes and social impacts of the approach.
The research has been developed by a team involving Tiresia Group (Politecnico di Milano) and Cometa Research (internal research department of Cometa Formazione). The aim of this case study, as previously mentioned, is two-folded: on one hand a deeper pedagogical analysis; on the other hand, the outcome and impact analysis. To this extent, the research is based on a quali-quantitative analysis. A) Preliminary semi-structured interviews have been realized with the VET school key players: director, principal, coordinator of tutors, a selection of tutors and teachers. Based on the emerging information, it has been possible to clarify: the evolution of the mission; the link among mission, vision and the theoretical framework behind the approach and its practices; the value chain to consolidate a grid of monitors relating to outcome and impact of training. B) The methodology for the social impact analysis developed for the research is a hybrid (Bengo et al, 2016) between: - the Social Impact Assessment - SIA (Global Social Venture Competition, 2012), which allows the identification of results and impacts and the definition of results and impact indicators; - a synthetic indicator - including the monetization of the impact related to early school leaving (a share of Cometa students are dropouts or at risk of); C) Surveys for the relevant stakeholders (namely students and tutors) have been set up and validated with the educational staff of the school. The surveys have been submitted in the final part of the school year to collect data for the selected KPIs. D) Relevant data on students’ socio-economic background, past educational experience, existing disabilities and final results have been collected from the school database; other sources on students’ placement after graduation include the annual survey to Alumni. E) Data have been processed in order to measure the indicators of output, outcome and social impact which have been selected.
The research led to the outline of the “reality-based learning” approach, pointing out the process, its phases, activities, key players. Innovations in the training process have been described and explained in connection to the pursued educational goals: basic, professional and soft skills. Beside the professional identity of the students, future-oriented competencies (Mulder, 2017), relevant for learning motivation, effective performance, social inclusion, and citizenship, are taken into great consideration; the so-called tutors (acting more as coaches) play a crucial role not only at the more personal level of the students, but also in the general coordination of the learning/production process for every class and their teachers. Quantitative analysis outlines mainly positive results. Some preliminary data emerging from the research include: • 95% of students recognize their soft skills increased; • 90% of dropout students completed their new career at Cometa; • So far, since 2012, more than 60% of former students got a stable employment and are no longer completely dependent on their families; • The employment rate of graduates is 8% higher than other VET schools in Italy. In line with recent EU documents claiming for “making VET a first choice”, this reality-based learning approach and its implementation show positive results in terms of effectiveness, quality of outcomes and relevance of the generated social impact. Positive results emerge also for special categories of young people including dropouts, potentially dropouts, youngsters of underprivileged groups. Some practices have emerged as important: among the others, tutoring is essential for the development of non-cognitive skills as well as the coordination of the reality-based learning process for every class. Further developments of the research can already be mentioned as potential improvements, namely the following: (1) introducing counterfactual analysis for a stronger significance of the impact analysis; (2) consolidating the data collection process to generate historical series of the relevant KPIs.
- Aakernes, N. (2016). Coherence between learning in school and workplaces for apprentices in the Media industry in Norway. Paper presented at ECER 2016. - Andersson, I., Wärvik, G.-B. & Thång, P.-O. (2015). Formation of apprenticeships in the Swedish education system: Different stakeholder perspectives. International Journal for Research in Vocational Education and Training (IJRVET), 2 (1), pp. 1-23. - Bengo, I., Arena, M., Azzone, G., Calderini, M. (2016). Indicators and metrics for social business: a review of current approaches. Journal of Social Entrepreneurship, 1 (2), pp. 1-24. - Billett, S. (2011). Vocational Education: Purposes, Traditions and Prospects. Dordrecht: Springer. - Cremers, P., Wals, A.E.J., Renate, W., & Mulder, M. (2017). Utilization of design principles for hybrid learning configurations by interprofessional design teams, Instructional Science. 45(2), pp. 289–309. - Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education. New York: Macmillan. - Gardner, H. (1983), Formae Mentis. Saggio sulla pluralità dell’intelligenza, Feltrinelli, Milan. - Global Social Venture Competition (2012). Social Impact Assessment Guidelines. http://www.iedu.org.cn/gsvc/download/2011_GSVC_SIA_Guidelines.pdf. - Hagen, A. e Streitlien, Å. (2015). From talent to skilled worker. Telemark University College: Final report. - Hiim, H. (2015). Educational Action Research and the Development of Professional Teacher Knowledge. In Gunnarsson, E., Hansen, H. P., Nielsen, B. S. (Eds.). Action Research for Democracy. London: Routledge. - Kolb, D. (1984). Experiential Learning: experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. - Marquardt, M.J. & Roland Yeo (2012). Breakthrough Problem Solving with Action Learning: Concepts and Cases. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. - Mulder, M. (Ed.) (2017). Competence-Based Vocational and Professional Education. Bridging the Worlds of Work and Education. Cham, Switzerland: Springer. - Mulder, M. (2018). The Pedagogic Function of Reality in Progressive Vocational Education: the Case of Cometa Formazione. Posted on http://cometaresearch.org/educationvet/the-pedagogic-function-of-reality-in-progressive-vocational-education-the-case-of-cometa-formazione/ - Rintala, H., Nokelainen, P. & Pylväs, L. (2015). Katsaus oppisopimuskoulutukseen: institutionaalinen näkökulma Review of apprenticeship education and training: an institutional perspective. Paper presented to ECER 2016 - Young, M. (2004). Conceptualizing vocational knowledge: Some theoretical considerations. In Rainbird, H., Fuller A. & Munro A. (Eds.), Workplace learning in context. London: Routledge.
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