02 SES 02 C, Workplace Learning in Practice
In many OECD countries a strong connection is shown between education, economy and market. In many ways this connection is stronger and more radical in Sweden, than other similar countries (Vetenskapsrådet, 2011). This is grounded in the opening of the school market for private actors (Arreman & Holm, 2011). The local government has thereby increasing demands on the public upper secondary schools to sign up for more students. This has resulted in an expansion of the construction program in the observed school. On the basis of the demands from the building industry of having competent workers and the demands from specific course syllabuses it is central to see how Project Based Vocational Education can affect the student’s vocational competence. The aim of this study is to describe and analyze vocational competences gained in a Project Based Vocational Education and how these competences, within the related course syllabuses, actually are constituted. From this broad aim the following questions were asked: (i) what vocational knowledge are the students able to develop in a Project Based Vocational Education learning environment? (ii) In what way do the developed knowledge’s and vocational skills relate to the specific course syllabuses? (iii) What actually constitutes the students zone of proximal development (ZPD) and in what way?
This study draws on aspects from both activity theory and sociocultural perspectives. According to Berglund (2009) the basic assumption in activity theory is that individuals are formed as persons situated within particular contexts and, in continuous interaction they form their identity. From this point of view the students that are involved in Project Based Vocational Education are formed by that context. On the basis of Vygotskij (1978) thoughts of ZPD, parallels might be drawn to Project Based Vocational Education. The context of the construction project provides a field of ‘scaffolding’ possibilities of what the students can learn and achieve, while the teacher’s didactical knowledge in interaction with the students’ efforts and personal capacities shapes what vocational competence they will eventually develop. The project’s technical and theoretical knowledge potential can, according to Ellström (1996), contain flexibility or levels of freedom in the learning situation. High flexibility can provide possibilities for creative learning while lower flexibility usually promotes reproductive learning (Ellström, 1996). Following Ellström’s view on learning and Vygotskij’s (1978) thought of ZPD, the project’s context and complexity, in combination with the expertise, talent, knowledge and dispositions that individual participants bring to it, are crucial for the student’s ability to develop vocational competence. However, Engeström (1987) conceptions move the focus from the historical side represented by Vygotskij, Leontjev and Lurija into further understanding of the relationship between activity and expected development of knowledge. Vygotskij (1978) emphasizes that the complexity of understanding children’s development cannot simply be derived to the ZPD. Instead he points out that: ”Development in children never follows school learning the way a shadow follows the object that casts it.” (s. 91). To understand knowledge is therefore surrounded of interpretation and qualitative analysis.
Arreman, I. E., & Holm, A.-S. (2011). Privatisation of public education? The emergence of independent upper secondary schools in Sweden. Journal of Education Policy Volume 26(Issue 2). Atkinson, P., & Hammersley, M. (2007). Ethnography: principles in practice (3. ed.). Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon; New York: Routledge. Berglund, I. (2009). Byggarbetsplatsen som skola - eller skolan som byggarbetsplats? en studie av byggnadsarbetares yrkesutbildning. Stockholm: Institutionen för didaktik och pedagogiskt arbete, Stockholms universitet. Ellström, P.-E. (1996). Arbete och lärande: förutsättningar och hinder för lärande i dagligt arbete. Solna: Arbetslivsinstitutet. Engeström, Y. (1987). Learning by expanding: an activity-theoretical approach to developmental research. Helsinki: Orienta-konsultit. Ryen, A. (2004). Kvalitativ intervju - från vetenskapsteori till fältstudier. Malmö: Liber. Vetenskapsrådet. (2011) Resultatdialog 2011. Stockholm: Vetenskapsrådet. Vygotskij, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: the development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard U.P.
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