02 SES 10 B, Innovative Competences: Apprenticeships, Capabilities And Learning Environments
Parallel Paper Session
The European Commission promotes the concept of competence in education. The Commission calls upon the member states to create opportunities for their citizens to develop new key competences for new jobs in the 21st century. What counts for education in general is appropriate a fortiori for vocational education in Europe. Outside Europe we too observe emphasis on competence in vocational education and training.
Competence, as it plays a dominant role in VET, is not appreciated by all stakeholders in education. Some doubt the capability of students to direct their learning, some observe less attention for factual knowledge, others see a diminishing ability of students to employ basic skills. Although the concept of competence as such is widely accepted, the practical implementation is surrounded by obstacles hampering a broad appreciation.
Applying competence based education (CBE) in VET is mostly founded on an interpretation of (social) constructivism. The aim of CBE is to let students develop the ability to function effectively in real-life contexts; from a constructivist point of view students are expected to deploy an active, self-directed and self-regulated attitude towards learning. Learning outcomes are usually described in terms of “holistic” competencies integrating knowledge, skills and attitudes. Although competence is considered a comprehensive concept, the different versions of the constructivist approach focus on brain-located cognitive processes for knowledge construction more or less separated from bodily skills.
We present indications that an approach, somewhat related to constructivism but with major distinctions, called enactivism is more appropriate for VET to found CBE on. Enactivism has found that sensory behaviour and cognition are connected, if not inseparable. It starts from a conviction that physical and mental processes are one. Enactivism assumes that cognition depends on the kinds of experience that come from having a body with various sensori-motor capacities embedded in a biological, psychological and cultural context. Put bluntly, enactivism is a blend of embodied cognition and the extended mind.
Enactvism seems to be a promising arena for understanding teaching and learning and for addressing unresolved problems in educational theory and practice. Applied in VET, emphasizing the embodied-cognition, will open possibilities to treat knowledge and skills as the unity that is required in dealing with competences.
We have reasons to state that an enactivist view on VET will provide learning and teaching approaches that suit the needs of business and at the same time reflects learning manners of today’s students.
The central research question is: which indications for improving learning environments in competence based VET can be derived from the enactivist approach?
In Europe only just a few studies are touching enactvism, certainly not in VET. The mainstream originates from Canada, US and Australia. The educational aspects of enactivism draw on Dewey and Piaget, the phenomenological points of view originate from Merleau Ponty whereas the cognitive considerations are originating from Varela. Although these authors are well-known in Europe, a combination of their ideas in VET did not get much attention.
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