02 SES 07 B, Teachers and Teaching Practice
The teacher-training course for vocational teachers at vocational education and training (VET) must contribute to the development of practice. This is also the case at other higher education courses at universities of applied science (Professionshøjskoler) in Denmark, such as teacher-training for primary and nursery school. Students move between schools and workplaces and have to show the ability to develop practice during internship. Challenges are addressed by theories using notions such as transfer, transition, and boundary-crossing from different perspectives.
Tuomi-Gröhn, Engeström and Young define Thorndike´s and Judd´s cognitive theories as having a vertical perspective (Tuomi-Gröhn; Engeström & Young, 2003). Other theories focus on the workplace and school as different contexts. The authors define this as having a horizontal perspective. They also refer to Etienne Wenger’s theory as a theoretical approach that considers boundary-crossing as providing the opportunity for students to carry knowledge between contexts and to learn in the different contexts. This is a further development of the sociocultural perspective from Lave and Wenger, which introduced the notion of legitimate peripheral participation (Lave & Wenger, 2003). The challenge as a new teacher at VET is the possibilities to develop. They may or may not be involved in development in teams or departments at the college but, in the context of being a student, they are expected to show the ability to develop. The time for development may be short and colleagues and managers may or may not support and be involved in the students’ tasks from different perspectives (Evetts, 2013). As shown earlier, students and managers at VET have different perspectives on the coherence between work and the teacher-training course (Duch, 2018).
Tanggard integrates the perspective from Wenger and Engeström in her analyses of VET (Tanggaard, 2007). Like Tuomi-Gröhn, Engeström and Young (2003), she explores these different approaches. Tuomi-Gröhn and Engeström (2003) argue for an approach looking at education as a medium for expansive learning. However, Guile and Young (2003) criticise the assumption taken by Engeström that the school and workplace have equal goals. They argue that students can be boundary-crossers: ”This led us to argue that if students are to become `boundary-crossers´ between school and work in vocational education programs, teachers will need to give greater attention supporting students in relating their ´situated´ knowledge of workplaces to the ´codified´ knowledge of the curriculum.” (Guile & Young, 2003 p. 80).
Research shows that vocational teachers have different agencies when teaching in boundary--crossing settings (Vähäsantanen, Saarinen & Epeläpelto, 2009). By stressing the role of the teacher as educator, I draw attention to the fact that teachers need to know about challenges in relation to boundary--crossing. As shown by Akkerman and Bakker, apprenticeship is valuable for learning – “However, they have been mostly located as activities taking place solely in the workplace with hardly any attention for what students do and learn during release days at school.” (Akkerman & Bakker, 2012 p. 153). Looking at school reflection facilitated by the teacher educator thus appears important (Schön, 2001, 2013).
The aim of this paper is to qualify the pedagogy at teacher-training courses supporting the development of practice. This is qualified by action research that shares light on students as boundary-crossers. The research question is: What is the role and relations for students as boundary--crossers between teaching at VET and the teacher-training course?
The methodological approach is action research in practice with practice striving to facilitate development, learning and change. From a democratic and participatory perspective, a process is chosen that focuses on both student-student communication and teacher-student communication as well as the relations between them (Lewin, 1946; Madsen, 2009; Nielsen & Nielsen, 2015). The design is based on four vocational educational courses at a university college. This paper relates to one of them, namely the Diploma of Vocational Pedagogy (DEP). The DEP is the mandatory teacher education at VET in Denmark. The programme entails 60 ECTS and the last module is a 15 ECTS assignment involving a final thesis and an oral examination. The design involved part-time students who were employed in vocational educational courses or related professions. The module started in August 2020 and ended in December 2020 and spanned four days, each with five hours of teaching from 9 am to 2 pm. All students attending were invited to participate in the research – four volunteered. The ordinary module and the research module were separate. In the research, teaching and guidance were integrated – focusing on student actions and development at VET. The students had access to online material with short oral presentations which were not repeated in the lessons. The students´ questions and comments were the starting point for teacher presentations. The lessons also included reflective dialogues focusing on one student at the time. Other students facilitated and mirrored the reflections of the student in the “hot chair”. The teacher took part in these sessions, which were observed by another individual in the research project. Field notes were made by the observer and the teacher made notes as a participating observer (Gold, 1958). After the oral exam the students took part in a focus-group interview lasting 1 hour and 15 minutes (Halkier, 2008). The semi-structured interview was transcribed.
The preliminary analysis shows the four students have different learning trajectories. As boundary--crossers they are involved in different levels at VET as an organisation. Two have involved colleagues and have formal cooperation, one as a formal team. One has involved managers and external actors from working life having VET pupils during internship. The last works with development at an institutional level involving structural problems in relation to VET. All students find these reflective dialogues valuable but also demanding because they become informed by and involved in other students’ challenges in relation to the development at VET. They learn by the community of practice by hearing their different perspectives. However, they all asked for more individual guidance. This was possible but, for different reasons, they asked late in the module. During the module the students discussed and suggested structures for the lessons. At the focus-group interview they also introduced some considerations about how to develop the pedagogy at the teacher-training course. The data reveal challenges as a teacher trying to support and encourage development but also having to ensure information about formal demands in relation to the final thesis and oral examination. This led to a discussion on roles and role conflicts as a teacher. Furthermore, the possibilities for development without involving the vocational colleges were discussed. I suggest, in aiming to qualify the pedagogy at teacher-training courses supporting the development of practice, teacher-trainers can take into consideration how to balance between demands at school and different possibilities for development at VET. Making roles and challenges visible at school might support learning and the transition to the workplace.
Akkerman, S. A. & Bakker, A. (2012). Crossing Boundaries between School and Work During Apprenticeships. Vocations and Learning, 5(2), 153–173. Duch, H. (2018). Training for a profession as a vocational teacher: The transition from the course to the workplace. Professions and Professionalism. Vol. 8, No 2. http://doi.org/10.7577/pp.2021 Engeström, Y. (2001). Expansive Learning at Work: Toward an activity theoretical reconceptualization. Journal of Education and Work, 14(1), 133–156. Evetts, J. (2013). Professionalism: Value and ideology. Current Sociology, 61(5–6), 778–796. Gold, R. L. (1958). Roles in sociological field observations. Social Forces, 36(3), 217–223. Guile, D. & Young, M. (2003). Transfer and Transition in Vocational Education: Some Theoretical Considerations. I T. Tuomi-Gröhn & Y. Engeström (Red.). Between school and work: New perspectives on transfer and boundary-crossing. Pergamon. Halkier, B. (2008). Fokusgrupper. Samfundslitteratur. Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (2003). Situeret læring—Og andre tekster. Hans Reitzel. Lewin, K. (1946). Action research and minority problems. Journal of Social Issues, 2, 34–46. Madsen, B. (2009). Aktionslæringens DNA. En håndborg om aktionslæringens teori og metode. VIASystime. Nielsen, B. S. & Nielsen, K. A. (2015). Aktionsforskning. I S. Brinkmann og L. Tanggaard (Red.). Kvalitative metoder. Hans Reitzels Folag. Schön, D. A. (2001). Den reflekterende praktiker: Hvordan professionelle tænker når de arbejder. Klim. Tanggaard, L. (2007). Learning at Trade Vocational Scholl and Learning at Work: Boundary Crossing in Apprenticew´ Everyday Life. Journal of Education and Work, 20(5), 453-466. Wenger, E. (2004). Praksisfællesskaber: Læring, mening og identitet. Hans Reitzel.
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