02 SES 04 B, Perspectives on Learning at the Workplace - Employers, Training Providers, Apprentices
This paper will provide an account of an approach to work-based learning, specifically apprenticeships for young people aged 16-19, involving training providers in England. It will draw comparisons between this approach to work-based learning and other European apprenticeship systems.
The focus of the paper is predominantly institutional with the training providers as the main unit of analysis. Training providers are commercial or voluntary/charitable organisations. They provide training across a wide range of vocational sectors. They vary considerably in size between large national providers training many hundreds of young people across several sectors and small, specialised local providers with small numbers of learners. They work in different ways with employers and others institutions through partnerships and sub-contracting relationships. Despite the important role which training providers play in work-based learning in England very little is known in detail about how they carry out their roles, specifically about what they teach, how they teach and how they assess students. We also know little about training providers as organisations, for example, the values, experiences and careers aspirations of tutors.
This paper is based upon research funded by the Leverhulme Trust. The research examines in detail curriculum practice in training providers and seeks to understand the influences upon this practice.
The project has three aims:
(i) To explore and analyse curriculum practice in different occupational sectors in a range of training providers;
(ii) To understand the factors which influence curriculum practice in the selected training providers;
(iii) To begin to theorise curriculum practice in training providers.
At the heart of the research is thus an exploration of the relationship between curriculum practice and institutional context in training providers. This involves not only analysis of the relationships between skills, knowledge, values and attitudes, pedagogy and assessment but the ways in which these are shaped by a wide range of national, regional, local, institutional and individual factors.
Two main theoretical concepts are deployed in the paper. The first of these concerns the mediation of curriculum by the training providers. This refers to the ways in which the providers translate the apprenticeship frameworks laid down by the government and sectoral organisations into specific teaching, learning and assessment practices. This mediation is filtered through the second theoretical concept deployed which is that of institutional habitus. This describes the internal cultures of the providers including the ways this is shaped by the vocational beliefs, values, experiences and practices of the tutors and the structural position of the providers as mediating institutions standing between state requirements, employer expectations for apprenticeships and the attitudes, experiences and capabilities of the learners.
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