02 SES 05 B, Vocational Learning and Pedagogy
Learning to weld in vocational education is an action research project inspired by the learning study method, where the welding education at an upper secondary vocational school in Sweden is video-recorded in iterative cycles (e.g. Asplund & Kilbrink, 2020). It isfunded by the Swedish Institute for Educational Research to meet the demand of studies regarding the relation between teaching and learning in technical vocational education. The two theoretical perspectives conversation analysis and variation theory are combined and a new didactic approach is formed – CAVTA (Conversation Analysis and Variation Theory Approach). This approach is used to design the education, but it also serves as an analytic tool when the video-recorded material is scrutinized. Two researchers at Karlstad University have designed the study in cooperation with a researching teacher and a team of vocational teacher at the industrial program. The researchers and the vocational teachers have developed the project, which has progressed into its third and final year.
There is extensive research within VET that focus on different perspectives of the vocational teachers’ practice, the heterogeneous international educational systems of vocational education and work placed learning (Skolverket, 2019). Although VET didactics research is scant, there are chapters in the UNESCO report edited by Lucas (2012) dealing with subject specific vocational content. Being a compilation, the results are diverse and the general conclusion may be summarized by the following quote: ”The evidence is clear that vocational education needs to be taught in the context of practical problem-solving, and that high-quality vocational education almost always involves a blend of methods (Lucas, 2012, p.9)”.
Nevertheless, when it comes to learning situations and learning processes in technical vocational education, there seem to be a gap of knowledge (Asplund & Kilbrink, 2020; Öhman, 2018). International VET research has a need for practice-based research focusing on learning and teaching and Learning to weld in vocational education intendsto contributewith knowledge filling the void of empirical research results regarding didactics of specific subject contents, in this case welding.
Prior to the project Learning to weld in vocational education Asplund & Kilbrink had built a bridge between the theoretical perspectives conversation analysis and variation theory to study technical education at Swedish vocational programs (Kilbrink & Asplund, 2018). In these studies, Asplund & Kilbrink argue that the two perspectives may be used to visualize tacit knowledge. They show how teacher and student in the learning situation use patterns of variation in the learning process and how the learning is negotiated in an orientation towards shared understanding. Asplund & Kilbrink highlight the need for further studies. Learning to weld in vocational education has developed into an implementation of the didactic approach CAVTA, as an offspring of their earlier works.
Results from the first year of the study has been published already (Asplund & Kilbrink, 2020; Kilbrink & Asplund, 2020). This paper will focus on the results of the second year of Learning to weld in vocational education. The systematic implementation of CAVTA into welding education will be in focus. The research question is formulated: How can the didactic approach CAVTA be implemented in TIG welding education? The purpose of the paper is to contribute with knowledge regarding how a didactic approach based in a theoretical perspective can be applied to teaching in technical vocational education. Moreover, the study will show how a research team can develop welding education on scientific basis. In a wider context, the results may be of interest regarding other practical technical education programs, making implications about learning and teaching processes, which can be integrated in the design of education.
The theoretical framework for Learning to weld in vocational education is the combination of the two perspectives conversation analysis and variation theory. Research within the conversation analytic field stresses that participants learn and create meaning in interaction, using semiotic resources (e.g. Melander & Sahlström, 2010). Variation theory, on the other hand, emphasizes the focus on the contents of the learning situation, the object of learning (e.g. Lo, 2012; Marton, 2015). A combination of these theoretical perspectives has been used in studies prior to Learning to weld in vocational education (Emanuelsson & Sahlström 2008; Kilbrink & Asplund 2018), but in this project there is an attempt of a complete fusion into a new didactic approach – CAVTA (Conversation Analysis and Variation Theory Approach). Systematically, a bridge has been built between variation theory and the aspect of interaction brought from conversation analysis. CAVTA permeates the complete process of the study, where analytic tools deriving from the two theoretical perspectives have been used as well in the design of teaching, as in the data analysis. Over the past few decades the learning study method has been used to investigate learning processes and to develop teaching (e.g. Carlgren, 2018; Pang, 2012). Learning to weld in vocational education is inspired by the learning study method but the traditional pre- and post tests have been removed in an attempt to study if it possible to assess the students’ practical learning in the midst of their learning process. Two researchers have cooperated with vocational teachers at the industrial program. The vocational teachers have designed welding education in the welding method TIG, encouraged to implement ideas from CAVTA. The design draws heavily on the experiences of the first year of the study, but with another vocational teacher conducting three new cycles consisting of the phases planning, enacting and evaluating welding lessons. Three or four students participated in each cycle. The data consists of recorded conversations between the researchers, but also between researchers and teachers. Moreover, the data consists of the video-recorded welding lessons, and reflections written by the researchers and the researching teachers. In the analytic process, the video recordings have been scrutinized, by both the researchers and the teachers. Samples of CAVTA in practice have been gathered and highlighted in discussions. Further ways of developing the integration of the CAVTA approach into the welding education have been discussed in documented conversations.
Results from the study have already been published (e.g. Asplund & Kilbrink, 2020). They show how the teaching of the welding method TIG may be developed by the use of the theoretical perspective CAVTA. A systematic use of CAVTA, at all stages of the welding education has led to increased interaction regarding the object of learning. There are visible signs, both of the increased focus of the object of learning with its critical aspects, and the interaction in the learning situation. From a methodological point of view, the use of the learning study has proven fruitful, even without the pre- and posttests. Preliminary results of the second year of the study confirm the results of the first year (Axelsson, Kilbrink & Asplund, 2019). We have observed the impact CAVTA has had in the design of the welding lessons. Interesting observations have been made and these need to be pursued. For example, another pattern of variation called fusion has been observed. Regarding the interaction, the results from the first year highlighted both verbalization and the use of other semiotic resources, but different ways of integrating those have crystallized in the second year. The results of the second year of Learning to weld in vocational education, may contribute with knowledge in widely differing fields. The main implications concern the forms of teaching specific subject content within technical vocational education. The results may also be of interest regarding theoretical framework and methodology with its unique combination of conversation analysis and variation theory. Even the collaboration between researchers and a team of vocational teachers has been received with great interest – a chapter in an anthology about educational practices is under its way (Asplund, Kilbrink & Axelsson). Arguably, this chapter will be of interest for anyone interested in professional development.
Asplund, S.-B., & Kilbrink, N. (2020). Lessons from the welding booth: theories in practice in vocational education. Empirical Research in Vocational Education and Training, 12(1). doi:10.1186/s40461-020-0087-x Asplund, S-B., Kilbrink, N., & Axelsson, J. Being a Researching Teacher in an Action Oriented School Research Project on Welding: Perspectives, Positions and Ethical Dilemmas. Manuscript submitted for publishing in Home (Field) Work: The Ethnography of Education in Familiar Contexts. Rowman & Littlefield. Carlgren, I. (2018). Lesson and Learning Study. In I. Eriksson & Osaki, K. (Eds), School Development Through Teacher Research: Lesson and Learning Studies in Sweden and Tanzania, (pp. 7-22). Dar es Salaam: Mkuki na Nyota Publishers Ltd. Emanuelsson, J., & Sahlström, F. (2008). The Price of Participation: Teacher control versus student participation in classroom interaction. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 52(2), 205-223. doi:10.1080/00313830801915853 Kilbrink, N., & Asplund, S.-B. (2018). “This angle that we talked about” : learning how to weld in interaction. International Journal of Technology and Design Education, 30, 83-100. doi:10.1007/s10798-018-9490-z Kilbrink, N., & Asplund, S.-B. (2020). Att lägga en TIG-svets : En learning study baserad på CAVTA. Forskning om undervisning och lärande, 8(1), 29-54. Retrieved from https://forskul.se/tidskrift/volym-8-nummer-1-2020/att-lagga-en-tig-svets-en-learning-study-baserad-pa-cavta/ Lo, M. L. (2012). Variation Theory and the Improvement of Teaching and Learning. Göteborg: Acta universitatis Gothoburgensis. Lucas, B., Spencer, E., & Claxton, G. (2012). How to teach vocational education: a theory of vocational pedagogy. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.13140/2.1.3424.5928 Marton, F. (2015). Necessary condition of learning. New York: Routledge. Melander, H., & Sahlström, F. (2010). Lärande i interaktion. Stockholm: Liber. Pang, M. F., & Ling, L. M. (2012). Learning study: helping teachers to use theory, develop professionally, and produce new knowledge to be shared. Instructional Science, 40(3), 589-606. doi:10.1007/s11251-011-9191-4 Skolverket. (2019). Att utbilda nästa generation i yrket. Öhman, A. (2018). Twist and Shape: Feedback Practices within Creative Subject Content of Hairdressing Education. Vocations and Learning, 11(3), 425-448. doi:10.1007/s12186-017-9196-5
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