Monday, April 29, 2013

Google glasses - first reviews

Early this year, Google put out a call for early adopters, open only topeople residing in the US of A. These users are now just receiving their google glasses andthe blogosphere and tech websites have started to post reviews and firstimpressions. For instance, engadget features a day by day user's experience along with one from techcrunch, seroundtable, Tim O'Reilley, and one on youtube.

Comprehensive post on endgadget reviewing features and usage.

myscienceacademy features a cnet report featuring pros and cons and endgadget featured the New York Times app, optimised to run on Glasses.

Detractors also abound with examples from the UKs Telegraph and mashable. Mainly revolving around issues of privacy and how having technology so easily accessible might change the way we think.

Educational use provided on emergingtech include learning new languages, creating presentations, quick websearching, building portfolio, and the technology leading to news courses, skills and careers.

From our work on point of view classes, the advantages of google glasses is their continuous connectivity and ability to access the web. A disadvantage is the high cost – 6-7  times the cost of POV glasses we are currentlyworking with.

So, will await the launch of Google glasses to the general public, although it might be 2015 before we are able to purchase in NZ. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

The boat that guy built - TV series with examples of trades / craft work

A couple of months ago, I happened on the first episode of the programme, ' The boat that Guy built' on Choice TV. It was on a very warm January Sunday (or Saturday) evening  while also recovering from a very hot day’s tramping. Otherwise, it’s usually the time I walk the dog or water the garden. I have only had access to Choice TV since putting in a Freeview box (end of November) to access digital TV channels (entire South Island goes digital end of this week). Channel surfing over the Christmas break found some interesting programmes on Choice TV, so this has been the channel to check out whenever I do sit in front of the TV with ipad on to read books or check out favourite websites and blogs.

The 2011 series was produced by BBC TV and all 6 episodes can be downloaded through the BBC site. The series revolves around the restoration of a ‘long’ canal boat in the UK by a personable presenter, Guy Martin and his friend (a carpenter), Mark Davies (aka Mave). Through the series, various notable inventions and industries from the Britain’s industrial age are introduced. The general plot is for Guy to make various necessities to get his boat going. This requires Guy to consult and learn from various craft and trades experts. Observations are made of a range of craft / trade skills usually not accessible to lay people. 

In episode one, Guy makes a tea cup (actually a wedgewoodmug) and a kettle (a pot) to make tea, a requirement for any type of work activity. Guy learns how to shape a mug on a pottery wheel and mould figures to put on to the side of his mug. He also helps to make a blast furnace to smelt iron ore to cast the pot. In each of these activities, he is ‘taught’ by experts and there are good examples of how experts ‘show’ novices their ease with the tools and materials of their craft.

Since then, I have managed to miss every episode L. Sunday evenings are just too good to ‘waste’ sitting in front of the TV. However, all not lost as all the episodes archived on the BBC site. My only challenge was to find the time to view some of them.  The opportunity arose yesterday, the first really wet weekend in about 4 months!  I watched (intermittently while minding some baking and cooking) episodes 3 (a good night’s sleep) and 4 (beans on toast).  Both suitably interesting, with episode three visiting a mattress manufacturer. One of the workers shows how to put on the layers of a mattress which required not only dexterity but attuning to the range of materials used.

Took me most of the time 'viewing' episode 3 to work out the best place in the kitchen to set up the ipad. So that I could view the programme while also chopping, stirring and keeping watch on pots on the stove and baking in the oven. Sound was also an issue so will need to see if I can get my son to work out how to hook the ipad up to a mini speaker system. Otherwise, might need to stick to catching up on podcasts (on ipod touch and earphones) when in the kitchen.

There is a follow up series in 2012 of sorts called ‘how Britain worked’. It might run on Choice TV in the future so will keep an eye out for it.The series is a good change from the run of 'reality TV' dished out on NZ public TV. The range consisting mainly of people aspiring to become chefs or people trying to lose weight or talent shows. Showing a range of real occupations,even though we only get a very small glimpse,provides the general public with a sense of the craftmanship inherent in various trades and the time and effort required to learn trade skills.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Learning through observation

Just completed a ‘first pass’ through the interview data from my latest project: Learning a trade: becoming a trade person through apprenticeship. This involved a ‘frequency analysis’ through the transcripts, to identify how apprentices responded to the question, how did you go about learning your trade?  A list of ‘ways of learning’ was taken from the ‘vocational pedagogy’ report by Lucas, B., Spencer, E. & Claxton, G. (2012). Apprentices’ responses were then coded to the various ‘ways of learning’. Firstly, to find out how apprentices perceived they learnt and also to find out if specific trades had any ‘ways of learning’ that were more specific to their trade.

The finding, that every apprentice mentioned that they learnt by observation, is not unexpected. However, almost none of our tutor / teacher training hones in on teaching students how to learn by observation. Another theme that has arisen through the interviews is that apprentices generally did not display much meta-cognition about how they went about learning trade skills. They just ‘get on and do it’ and all learn the skills required to become productive and competent trades people.

My take is that the assumption is made that we are all able to learn by observation as this is something we have been doing since we were born. We learn many life motor skills by observing our parent, siblings, peers and later, teachers. I will need to get back into Rogoff’s work on ‘apprenticeshipin thinking’ to unpack the work in this area – of how children (especially in non-Western cultures) learn family culture / skills.

Meanwhile, will revisit the work on sports and skill acquisitionon ‘learning through observation’ and do a more thorough literature search on the topic. Will need to then synthesis some of the sports psychology work on ‘learning by watching / observation’ with the literature on expertise / deliberate practice to build up some sense of where to go next.

Friday, April 12, 2013

ITF 2013 vocational education research forum DAY 2

Day two begins with a welcome from Dr. Peter Coolbear from Ako Aotearoa. Peter also thanked sponsors; provided housekeeping type announcements; provided at advertorial for a workshop exploring the integrations between education and workplace learning (August 15th in Wellington – Whare Whaka) and summarised yesterdays presentations. His take is that there is a pragmatic focus to the application of voc. Ed. Research that will make a difference; still a critical mass of people to be formed; research takes inputs of time and effort but has to lead to outputs which benefits learners.

An ‘expert panel’ of Dr. Karen Vaughan, Dr. Nicky Murray and myself’ review the 10 years the forum has been running. Nicky begins with overview of how the research forum began and the ITO perspective. Karen provides the NZCER (NZ council for ed. Research) viewpoint and I follow up with the ITP perspective on vocational education research, it’s importance and the need to make research accessible to vocational practitioners.
Following the panel, a plenary session on ‘moving on up –what young people earn after their tertiary education with Paul Mahoney, Zaneta Park and Roger Smyth from the Ministry of Education. Presented by Zanetta and Paul. The study undertaken to provide students with more informed choice about what and where to study; help providers understand and improve students’ outcomes; help understand dynamics of the tertiary education and the labour market – for policy making and accountability; and a National govt. priority.
Dataset comes through collation of a range of data from education institutions, inland revenue dept., ministry of social development (for student loans), migration data. Several studies undertaken from this dataset, on post docs destination, comparison between women and men earnings; etc. 

Report presented looks into graduate destinations of young people who had completed tertiary programmes. Results published by qualification level in field of study. Employment outcomes as in median, lower and upper quartile incomes. As expected, higher qualifications gain higher earnings. In level 4 certificates, education, architecture/building, management commerce, natural and physical science slightly higher, evening out as the 5 year mark comes up.  Comparisons of earnings after five years also need to be compared with annual rise in earnings. Summarised in a more accessible form on the Careers NZ website – compare study options.

Future work includes maintaining and keeping updated, thecareers NZ website; exploring destinations earnings by gender and ethinicity; looking at outcomes of those who do not access tertiary ed.; explore feasibility of publishing datasets for individual proviers – to help individuals work out WHERE to study; look into what factors predict income post study; destination of persons with qualifications at level 4; and completion of industry training qualifications.

After morning tea, concurrent sessions begin. First up, I attend the session with Dr. Marion Sanders from Bethlehem Tertiary Institute (BTI) on ‘maximising learning dialogue in professional field-based experiences’ an Ako Aotearo funded project.  Provided an overview of BTI offering degrees in education (school teachers), social work and health. Based on literature – mentors and supervisors need specific training; lack of researched programmes for mentor development; an importance of discussions/dialogue; inability to share professional knowledge; foundational importance of relationship; and avenues to develop mentoring skills.
Explored if careful selection of tasks expected of student over course of field-based learning assisted. Would development of professional learning relationship and learning dialogue assist?  Project with early child hood (16) and counseling students  (11) involving 3 institutes. 4 phases – pre-intervention (questionnaire and repertory grid); intervention; post intervention (questionnaire, focus group, interview) and post intervention resource development and dissemination.
4 intervention strategies used – partnership map, belief inventory, professional article and critical incident discussion.  . Interventions assisted by providing structure, purpose, springboard for to open communication; helped unpack responses and reactions, developed shared understands, built trust and maximise learning dialogues.
Findings – professional learning relationships are the foundation for maximizing professional learning dialogue. We cannot assume mentors and students have the necessary skills to engage and work together. Tasks provided increased learning dialogue. However not the use of specific tasks but the use of A task that made the difference. – Intentionality –
Challenges in field-based mentor sessions was time and physical space restrictions, the degree of agency of students and need for institutions to expect accountability to know exactly what happens during placement. Bonuses for the research team was that the team learnt lots about working across institution; managed the challenge of the Chch. Earthquake’ effects; mentor neophyte researchers; and a contribution made to professional field based studies.
Then Keith Tyler-Smith (Learning at work) and Kris Bennett (Otago Polytechnic) on ‘degree-level work-based learning: a new paradigm invocational education’. WBL well established in UK for over 2 decades. More than 90 UK universities deliver WBL at or above degree level.
WBL is a three way partnership between employee, employer and Provider/ institution. Learning undertaken at work, through work and for work. Curriculum and assessment designed through negotiation with learner, learner’s employer and academic advisor. Best suited to experienced people who hold positions of responsibility; facing a particular challenge at work that involves new learning; are highly motivated, capable of self-management and keen for new learning, skills and knowledge; have employer support and interests; have demonstrated ability to undertake degree level learning.
Presentation of an action research project funded by Ako Aotearoa. Batchelor of Applied Management via APL (assessment of prior learning) through workplace learning. Needed to find out impact of WBL on learners (needs and aspirations); employing organisations; academic staff (practice and challenges); institution (practices and processes).
Participatory action research through phone interviews with learners, facilitators, admin staff, academic mentors, quality assurance, assessors etc. output focused mainly on institutional systems but a follow up grant now to investigate the experiences of the learners.
The WBL process: APL process to determine credit award and balance of learning requirements – measured against graduate profile (GP) criteria. Negotiate learning agreement that determines how balance of learning is met, timeframe and how it will be assessed in terms of GP. Implementation of learning agreement through project work in the workplace, regular contact with academic advisor and completion of negotiated ‘assessments’.
Review of WBL learning include the foundation of WBL as being robust and holistic. Learners are guided through a process of deep critical reflection. Curriculum designed and developed through a negotiated learning agreement, reflecting needs of learner, employer and academic requirements. Learning agreement clarifies learning goals and learning activities. Learner implements learning agreement through project work. Work undertaken according to resources, timelines and learning outcomes stipulated by agreement. Mentoring enables student to recognize strengths; develop existing and new abilities. Assessment points at review of learning assessment; learning agreement approved by sub-committee of academic board and completed through three hour presentation.
Report details the 15 principles / guidelines developed from thematic analysis.

After lunch, another plenary session on ‘the future of business management training in the NZ SME sector’ with Diana Sharma with Dr. Ken Simpton, Ngaire Molyneux from Unitec. Research question was ‘ what model of ITO-ITP cooperation best enhance the generic management capability of NZ SMEs? SMEs employ less than 20 employees make up 40% of NZ economy output and 31% of employment. However, SMEs are declining slightly in numbers with more having closed that starting up and this is across all sectors. Primary causes of SME failure include inadequate capital and lack of appropriate management skills. 75% of failures could be avoided if proper help available and accepted. Productivity in SMEs improve when principal starts works ON the business and not IN the business.
Project seeks to find out what industry need/wants/demands and assess potential for ITO-ITP collaborations (but also needs to include PTEs). 133 surveys – ITOs, Industry, ITPs and PTEs.
SME attitude towards vocational and generic management training finds high focus on voc. Ed. But much lower in generic management training – also reflected in results from ITOs, ITPs and PTEs.
SME needs improvements in forward planning, financial communications, communications and IT, staff management and customer management skills.
Reasons for SME lack of participation in management training – time, cost of releasing staff, value of money, relevance to business, lack of funding or incentives to participate. Qualifications are not a driver. At the moment, ITO, ITP and PTEs do not need the management training needs of SMEs – with relations between SMEs and ITOs/ITPs/ PTEs only 55% effective.
Barriers to ITO/provider collaboration include – lack of role clarity, funding and costing model, patch protection and competition, history of mistrust, lack of capability awareness.
Research progressing and formal report will be produced.
Final keynote with Professor Paul Dalziel from AERU at Lincoln University on ‘skills education in the twenty-first century’ – education and employment linkages (EEL). Provided background of EEL running between 2007 to 2012 – with Karen Vaughan (schools), Jane Higgins (regional), Hazel Philips (Maori) and Paul Dalziel (economics). In each area, explored the international context (lit. review), understand what is (mapping) and why ((interviews, survey, focus groups) it is happening, how can it be different(case studies) and integration of assessment (2 pilots of best practice, assessing pilot site and integrated results of the 4 research streams).
Example of the employer led channels –from school community / family and whanau and employers with PTEs, ITPs, wananga, universities and gap year. How is information on school to work, pathways and options communicated to individual.
From the NZ 2006 census – no. of residents in each occupational category by skill level – indicates level 4 at the ‘heart’ of the NZ economy. Labour market skills created by – individuals discovering their individual abilities + educational investment (human capital) + employment opportunities via trusted qualifications + matching strengths! If things connect, then skills occur. = discover, discipline and display.
Educational system needs to change to cope with learner diversity. Example of 15% being the long tail of struggling students in primary school (presently 60,000 a year!). And Stuart Middleton’s work on NEETs and the need to reengage students.
Recent developments indicate some movement: NZ school curriculum is being broadened; links between schools and work established (Gateway); tertiary / trade academies established; vocational pathways established – a shared project from ITF/ITO and MOE. Careers offices in schools/ITPs needs extra effort in particular to network with their communities – to help young people make linkages to possible vocational pathways ie provide career education – not career advice.
A worthwhile conference with many relevant presentations. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

ITF NZ 2013 vocational education research forum DAY 1

In Wellington for the annual NZ vocational educationresearch forum convened by the Industry Training Federation (ITF). This is the tenth year of the conference, so a momentus occasion.
Mark Oldershaw, the CE of ITF opens the conference and introduces the first key note.
Dr. Ian Hall introduces the Ministerial address by the Hon. Simon Bridges, Minister of Labour. Reinforced the importance of research in informing government, business groups, industry etc. on the vocational education sector.
Export markets, capital growth, resource use, plus skilled and safe workplaces are important strategic areas of NZ. Present govt. Recent initiative to support apprenticeships show governments commitment to skilling the workforce.
Signals several changes – more flexible work hours, greater flexibility in employment contracts, a ‘start-out’ wage for young people starting in the workforce, setting targets for safe work places to reform present legislation. A new govt. section on improving and maintaining workplace health and safety to be set up.
The Honorable Steve Maharey, now CE of Massey University, keynote is on the importance of research in informing policy.  Focus on How do we know?? As an example is the Minister of Labour’s proposal for a ‘starting wage’ for young people. How do we know this will help young people get started and are they able to actually live on the ‘starting wage’? Evidence based research still required to inform policy.
Went through brief overview of VET – prior 1992 – workbased (Gladwell- Outliers – 10,000 hours); post 1992 – industry-led, competency based, flexibility, new areas covered, PTEs (private training providers( formed. 2000 – modern apprenticeships launched, 2011 – review of ITOs (now just 21 compared to over 40 2 years ago) – with most changes made possible not based on evidence ??
Research informed practice plays a role in helping people to change their minds about long held beliefs. Evidence base needs to be context specific but also be localized / relevance. How much research is actually used? How much evidence based literacy exists? Policy-research connection needs to be closer- for example through staff exchanges between policy developers and industry / ITOs etc. Encouragement to know the audience for the research, use social media, build capacity for not only doing but understanding research findings and how they can be transferred into policy that will make a difference.  See Newman, K et al (2012) what is the evidence on evidence-informed policy making? INASP: UK uses a demand / supply framework to unpack how policy makers may use evidence.
Research on what works should be routine; practitioners should be involved in research; disseminate results; resources should enable practitioners to be critical consumers of research; remove barriers between practitioners and researchers; practitioners should drive some/all research agenda; and research needs to be relevant to the situation.
Some good recommendations and an inside view on how policies come about!
Following, an expert panel convened to discuss the implementation of Hon. Maharey’s presentation. Panel include Dr. Peter Coolbear from Ako Aotearoa and Roger Smythe from the Ministry of Education.

Peter thanked Steve for some good recommendations. Research needs to meet policy developments more than half way – how we do and promote research. Ako Aotearoa already working through any of the recommendations and continues to work to improve the process. Simple messages need to be distilled about what the evidence is telling us, what works in industry workplace training, the barriers etc. need to bring the findings together into a coherent way and disseminate to target audience.
There is research on unpacking complexity or research that leads to change in practice and improvement in outcomes of learners. Ako Aotearoa supports evidence bases that promote positive change.
Roger provided background on MOEs work to form an evidence-based focused direction. In the past, there wasn’t much work done (stuff was taken on trust). There was lots of data but no concerted effort to make meaning. Progress has been made since to understand the data on completion rates for example.  Greater emphasis on drawing out the important information presented in data collected (often from different ministries / sources) to see patterns and postulate influences / impacts. There is a will within the MOE to make the consolidated data available to the sector / public but still lots of work to be done – with limited resources.
Steve replied to reiterate the need for evidence informed policy and questions from the floor presented and answered / extended / discussed.
After morning tea, the concurrent sessions in 2 streams begin.
I chair the first session in stream A, presented by Dr. Helen Henderson from the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic on ‘how to increase student retention and success.’ Helen presented an engaging session. A need to qualify what ‘completions’ mean? How can we help students complete?  What can be changed? Students’ socio-economic matters, educational background, cultural diversity, family support and expectations of previous teachers pretty much set. But tutor’s knowledge, programme elements, institutional support and targets are things that can be worked on. Principles for institutional change include need of continuous improvement, collection and use of evidence to inform action and evaluation, accept responsibilities and boundaries and focus on strengths and student engagement.  Student cycle – programme focused approach to retention and support, identify key points of engagement and form an evidence base approach to strengthen engagement. Key points of engagement include recruitment, first contact orientation, diagnostic placements, teaching and learning, assessment tools, pastoral care/support, destination (work, further study). What evidence is available in each point of the student cycle to establish what works, how to improve, actions to take and ways to continually evaluate. Which part of the cycle needs to be worked from identified for was part of the student cycle.                                                   Detailed a trial with 18 programmes with eventual improvements in 15 programmes (2 remained the same and 1 declined in completion rates).

Reflections include the need for clear goals and requirements (institution and TEC for completions); needs to be leadership commitment; need to collect useable data on how students enroll, progress and complete / or not complete; shift to business as usual promptly once project stops; large attitude shift required from all players; share on-going success – strategies that assist with positive course / programme completions.

Second session is with Mike Hay from Trade and Commerce presenting on an Ako Aotearoa project to ‘increase student engagement andachievement through a strengths-based approach to education’.  Original rationale based on a Gallup poll that reveals on 17% people use their strengths at work. Engaged students think – I can, I should and I want. Hillary Rhodes (2007) defines engaged learners as finding education to be important; have persistence and sustained attention and attend regularly; are excited and interested in learning – with a sense of belonging’ have a preference for academic  challenge, positive self concepts. Used Mason Durie’s work on the Te Whare Tapa Wha – where the whole – mental and emotional, physical, social and spiritual wellbeing and Snyder (1996) on hope.
Many definitions of ‘strengths’ one from J. Fox (2009) as activity (energise you, you look forward to, you want); learning (learning preferences and environments) and relationship (develop effective and rewarding connections) strengths. Competency requires we be good at everything. Strengths approach involves discovering, developing and applying their strengths in their teaching activities as they help students to do the same learning and different levels.
Engagement factors include – early success and positivity; making connections between tutors and students; develop skills to identify personal strengths; take personal responsibility; strong support crew; aspirations aligned to strengths; qualifications and /or employment pathways and activities aligned to strengths; and celebrate success. A framework for strengths based delivery presented for careers in hospitality (level 2) as an example.  Involves settling in– weeks 1 and 2-(becoming part of the group, build relations between peers and tutors); discover strengths ((weeks 3 – 4) and then use strengths through the course before encouraging to ‘living with my strengths (6 weeks prior to completion).  The strengths identification and application process is also linked to unit standards and are therefore have credit values.
Challenges for students include- believe that they need to work on weaknesses; are afraid they do not have strengths; to follow their strengths they might need to change behaviours and expectations. For tutors believe in identifying students; weaknesses; but must do things differently and have to work harder to educate more than train/ teach; enjoy the power in pointing out students’ problems – so need to change beliefs and practice. For organisations – what is organisations highest priority and how much money and time is spent on student recruitment vs student engagement.
Success of the approach is based on focus on abilities; do activities together; use what you learn about the student; listen to their stories; develop an individualized plan; and measure engagement in real-time.  Carried out a project of find out if the approach worked. Compared control and trial groups and trial group showed slightly higher levels of engagement, hope, wellbeing and tutor relations with the trial group.
So implications include: how can achievement be defined? Depends on if WINZ (jobs)or TEC (qualifications)! But achievement is also about lifting engagement, aspirations, self-confidence, independence, quality of learner decision-making, and qualification achievement. Therefore, there is more to student achievement than concrete outcomes.
For the future – set up a strengths-pedia of strengths activities; develop strengths-based assessments; strength-based employee recruitment and job allocation; employee-strengths based engagement framework; roles and responsibilities based on strengths; strengths based coaching and performance reviews.
After lunch, a plenary session on student engagement in NZ PTEs (private training providers) – piloting AUSSE in the NZ PTE sector with Dr. Peter Coolbear from Ako Aotearoa. The project survey analysis completed by Ali Radloff from the Australian Council of Education Research and coordinated b Keith Heathcote (NZAPEP) with Peter providing funding, and conclusions in the presentation. AUSSE a powerful research tool but it does not provide all the answers, has a self-selected convenience sample and provides a broad brush overview.  Provided an outline of student engagement, the AUSSE itself, some of the things the survey tells us about students in the participating institutions.
Premised on the outcomes which are desirable from inputs of student effort, institution and teacher support. All of these are not independent variables.  Student engagement is about active, purposeful involvement in the learning opportunities provided in their tertiary experience.  Characteristics of engagement include appropriate levels of challenge, high expectations coupled with deep approaches to learning, quality engagement with staff, enriched learning activities and active learning approaches. Dimensions include student-centred learning perspective, includes both in and out of class activities and condition, assumption that individuals learn and develop involvement with key educational practices and activities. Based on 4 decades of research (international) and can be linked to retention and eventual student completion and success.  AUSSE is designed to start action-focused conversations about teaching and learning BUT not make judgements off a single data set. However, comparisons within institution, between other institutions and along other data. Within institutions with improvement over time, inter-disciplinary, first year to later years, specific student groups and between disciplines.
AUSSE survey can be distilled into engagement scales to measure academic challenge, active learning, staff/student interactions, enriched educational experiences, supportive learning environment and work-integrated learning. Outcome measures also in higher order thinking, general learning and development outcomes, career readiness, average overall grade, departure intentions and overall satisfaction.
In general, PTE attrition lowish but completion low (around 50%- across 8 years) and progression also low. In this pilot, 10 PTEs participated, 990 learners, mainly degree and diploma in IT, Health and Education. PTEs exhibit high support of students – supportive learning environment - when compared to other types of providers.  Overall satisfaction and support of students’ development also high.  For PTE batchelor students when compared with university, ITP and Australian university – higher academic challenge, active leanring, student staff interactions, enriched learning experiences, supportive learning environment and work integrated learning.  Outcome comparisons more even but PTE batchelor degrees still higher in general development outcomes.
ITP and PTE pilot validated to study levels 3 – 7. Best PTEs have clear strengths in supporting active learning and work integrated learning. Younger learners show higher propensity to active engagement than older learners, Maori and Pacifica learners have different needs but more work needs to be done to understand the relationship between engagement and success for Pacifica learners.
Future direction – develop a version for levels 1 -2 ? apply to workplace learning contexts?
Then, I present on the various situated technology enhancelearning (STEL) projects at CPIT with ‘ STEL: improving learning of a trade. Projects with Peter Sauer (using tablets to complete assessment naming mechanical parts of car), Katrina Fisher (learning barista skills), Debby Taylor (improving reflective learning using video of roleplays of check-in and check-out), Heather McEwan (improving digital literacy through virtual field trips to hotels) and Peter Harrison (using point of view video to learn engineering practical skills). Presenting on the pedagogical frameworks underpinning STEL as a whole and each of the projects (constructivism, deliberate practice, embodied learning etc.). Then the need to prepare students and prepare tutors before selecting technology to engage fully in the avoidances provided through STEL.
Afternoon tea followed by keynote from Dr. Rose Ryan, Heather McDonald(Heathrose Research) and Doug Pouwhare (ESITO) with their presentation on an ESITO (electricity supply ITO) project on ‘ Ultimit benefit: Women trainees in the electrical supply industry.’  Project to encourage and support women to work as line mechanics and cable jointers. Asks whether isolation and lack of peer group support limit’s womens’ recruitment and retention? Does health and industry safety model consider womens’ needs? What work related attributes and qualities support women. 
Interviews carried out over 2 years with trainees, supervisors and team leaders collecting 109 interviews. Supplemented with documents related to training and observations. Electrical supply industry has good representation with women in generation and retails. However, few in transmission and distribution. Could be due to type of work being physically demanding, hazardous, in isolated areas and mucky.
In 2008, there were 1270 apprentices in line mechanic / cable jointing but only 42 women in 5 trades. In 2013, 1566 trainees and 107 women in 37 trades.  Final report to be launched on 20th April. So interim findings are reported.
From previous learnings in another project, women were recruited and then organized into cohorts to ensure they were supported through apprenticeship. Total of 9 trainees (6 in one and 3 in another company). Selection was rigorous with opportunities for potential trainees to find out about the physical and other job requirements. Initial expectations of trainees and trainers/ supervisors was positive. Training and learning was on the job – often dependent on the team leader or supervisor leading; the attitude of the trainee (ask questions or take initiative); and trainee experiences varied between being accepted in teams to reluctance to invest in hands-on learning. Health and safety focuses were challenged – high expectations with women perceived to having higher states of awareness of risks and hazard control; issues raised including size of protective gear; reproductive health; and strength and fatigue thresholds contested. Found that relationships were important including with managers, mentors and outside support; within work teams; shared understandings of performance expectations and management; ‘getting stuck in’ was valued but what does that mean in practice; and importance of family relationships.
Concluded that the cohort effect does make a difference; health and safety issues cannot be considered separate from workforce development issues. Work culture important in determining what is valued in specific jobs – for instance strength valued but not attention to detail, ability to manage relationships with land owners etc.).
Implications – targeting recruitment for trades in women works. VET in non-traditional trades offers employers access to wider pool of labour; VET offers young women a range of career choice not previously available; organization recruiting from a non-traditional workforce to consider what they need to do to prepare their existing workforce for changes. Ultimit has a goal to increase womens’ workforce representation in traditional trades within the electric supply industry.

Day ends with a cocktail function to celebrate the 10 years of the forum.

Friday, April 05, 2013

AVETRA 2013 day 2 afternoon

After lunch, closing keynote with Dr. Gavin Moodie  from RMIT on ‘ the discourses constructing VET and VET research’. Began with proviso that individuals will process information and project on to it their own meanings. The way we view information disseminated through the popular media, is different from how they deal with information from colleagues, friends or students. This could be because of the 'status' we confer on media. Therefore, media may often influence public opinion. However, not known why public frames media information in certain ways. Media might also influence the way in which the public understands the criteria by which various policies are evaluated. So there is mutual influence between media and the public. Media and the public opinion may also impact on the way politicians operate. Interest groups may also have impact perhaps through lobbying of parliamentary committees. All the influences feed into how public policy is developed. media input, tempered or informed by political contexts eventually leads to policy adoption - fast, slow or no adoption. Introduced an example from recent PhD by Lewis on 'media communication in tertiary education' that depicts VET as meeting economic needs of individual, community and nation and conveys the manual aspect of VET. 
Encouragement for VET to organize sufficiently to made submissions to parliamentary committees. Also to communicate with relevant interest groups but tailor message to each interest group e.g. monograph series put out by the NCVER, keeping the message succinct. Also worthwhile to build up relationship with relevant journalist so that important issues have a public dissemination route. also use online methods as required. In Australia, TAFE staff may not voice opinions to the media wihout institutional permission, therefore onus on VET practitioners with privilege of being able to voice opinions (University researchers) should represent the TAFE voice where required.   Issues around the status of VET / TAFE qualifications is one area where public opinion will take time and effort to change.  

Following the presentation, a panel discussion convened to deliberate on Gavins' presentation.
Off to the airport after conference closes to return to Christchurch.

AVETRA 2013 day 2 morning

An early start for many after a late finish.

Professor Stephen Billett’s keynote ‘ the future of VET and VET research in Australia: informing the business of vocational education’ sets the scene for the day. Began by reiterating the importance of vocational education to develop capacities required for work, assisting individuals to identify with selected occupations etc. However, VET still suffers from low status :( His presentation centred on standing of occupations and VET, consequences of original sentiments and impact of VET systems.
Decisions and conceptions of VET have evolved without the voice of those who practice, learn and assist other to learn those occupations.
These biases have led to low standing and limited requirements of many occupations have led to them being viewed as easy to learn (short term training, low level certs), reduced preparations, measurable outcomes, hierarchical qualifications and craft work being more worthwhile.
Hierachical frameworks do not always capture the demands and complexities of work; non routine work tasks require higher cognitive demands and massiveness and extent of knowledge - a product of situational factors - not given in occupational capacities.

Purpose of VET driven by need for skilled workers, to develop employable capacities of young people, engage young people with nation state. Led to VET as addressing state interests as ordered through centralized and bureaucratic means, with an emphasis on entry level training and consultation with industry / businesses on development of VET curriculum.

But does industry understand the business of education (Billett,2004)? Data from graduate destination surveys (1997) and student satisfaction survey of almost 5000 students (2004) indicate VET educators as having relevant industry content knowledge and that students feel that VET has prepared they for their current work.

Therefore, key objects of VET - occupations and vocations- need to be defined.
Occupations arise from history, culture and circumstances - they are societal facts and practices.
Vocations arise as personal experiences and to which individuals need to assent - they are personal facts and practices.

Worthwhile VET provision focuses on securing students' vocation; engages with and gives discretion to those participation, has curriculum models and processes accommodating local needs; teachers often best placed to make educational decisions. Acknowledge the 3 forms of curriculum (intended, enacted and experienced). Present emphasis on intended needs to be tempered and informed more by the enacted and experienced. Closed the presentation with proposed research questions relevant to the current Australian context, to challenge the current role of VET.

A more eclectic range of presentations today as I pick up on the ones of interest.
First up, Elli McGavin from Deakin University with 'identity on the edge: the impact of risk, compliance and performativity on VET practitioner identity. The study examined how the management of risk is achieved through individual scrutiny, audit and review and the impact these practices have on changing VET practitioner identity. Presented preliminary analysis of interviews using grounded theory to find the nature of risk management. Framed by Ulrich Beck (1992) Risk society and Goffman (1959) on symbolic interactionism. There is a symbiotic relationship between risk , compliance and performativity and how these three impact on individual identity. preliminary findings indicate changes in student/practitioner relationships due to increased emphasis on compliance; admin and compliance disconnected from student needs; changing compliance requirements; knowledge of teachers not valued; individual student learning plans over emphasized; and tension between compliance and best practice.

After morning tea, Dr. Steven Hodge, Deakin University presents on ‘standards and diversity, or what trainers do with competencies’. presents on the differences between the required competency standards (the intended curriculum) and how the standards are interpreted and delivered by trainers / VET practitioners (the enacted curriculum). The research question is 'how do VET practitioners understand and use units of competency'? derived from the 3 curriculums four possible accounts - practitioners deliver what is in competencies; any discrepancy between enacted and intended is due to misunderstanding; any discrepancy is deliberate; and discrepancy is unavoidable due to the complex interactions of the total learning situation. qualitative approach based on 30 interviews of practitioners. Findings include some using all components, many use one or two; a few speak to other people but most work alone; most have trouble understanding the language used in competencies and most never revisited competencies. 3 participants explained units as describing key functions or roles in a particular job function or occupation. The rest were based on personal abilities, guidance for training or a regulatory framework. Some said standards represented minimum levels and some that they represented ideals. Understanding of components (elements, performance criteria, required skills and knowledge, evidence guide etc.) was diverse. practitioners acknowledged a range of factors that impact on their ability to deliver competencies. The second and third possible accounts seem to be the ones that come through the data. - discrepancies due to misunderstanding or deliberate departure - with good reasons. 

Followed by another presentation with Llandis Barratt-Pugh on ‘ the emerging profile of Australian learning and development specialists’. presents a contemporary profile of learning and development professionals. Presented work completed with Steven Hodge and Erica Smith. how as learning development developed from 1992 - 2012. Case study used to build a profile for learning and development professionals, changes in organization, practice and esteem, moved from periphery to core, physical to cognitive and detached to integrated. 790 replies to survey. Key points are change and diversity - continual change leading to diverse approaches to fit into contexts. Need of L & D practitioners to be adaptable, add value, use technologies to keep in touch, partnership approaches and need for business acumen.

Professor Philipp Gonon (University of Zurich) provides the pre lunch keynote. He presents on ‘VET issues and futures: the German and Swiss dual system as a global role model? there is a apprenticeship paradox  as in whether apprenticeship is a 'role model' as per 'German)or a 'phase out' model (as traditional apprenticeship).  defined the dual model with sites of learning as an interaction between school and workplace with communication between the stakeholders. Apprenticeship refers to a fully workplace based learning approach - and can be a  mode of learning or as a specific way of education. In 2008, 80% of German students were in dual-track VET, the other 20% in the academic - baccalurate route into higher ed. Dual VET has both pro and cons. dual VET system often used as an answer to 'social question' to provide smooth transition from school to work, ensure youth engaged. In Germany, dual system is demand driven, broadly accepted and gives access to professional careers. Used Swiss system as a case study to explain concepts of VET systems to trace the emergence and evolution of a dual model VET system. specific cultural preferences and national conditions led to establishment of specific apprenticeship systems for each country. Export of the model to another country is therefore a challenge. Prospects of VET could be VET and apprenticeship are loosing its importance due to the knowledge economy; are dying due to idea of university; and as concept will disseminate and hybridize into another system. So movement of apprenticeship from traditional to 20th century start of formalization and in 21st century merging with general education system.
Lunch followed.


Thursday, April 04, 2013

AVETRA 2013 day 1 afternoon

After lunch, the keynote is with Colleen Hayward on ‘training and work from an indigenous perspective'. Colleen presented on the many complex challenges in indigenous education and some of the initiatives designed to address them. Both the education and employment environments have been complex, multi-layered and difficult to navigate for indigenous people. In comparison to the broader Australian demographic, indigenous peoples are more likely to be poorer, less educated, under-employed and have poorer physical and health. Of importance is the younger demographical population, hence the need to work at engagement with education to lead to better life outcomes. Some goals to 'close the gap' include ensuring indigenous pre-schoolers receive pre-school opportunities, school completion moving closer to the main population norm etc. Government can legislate but the work still requires whole community focus.
need to understand that causes are multifarious and one challenge impacts on another, exacerbating the challenge. An example is how poor housing leads to poor health in indigenous students. Continuous poor health may lead to continual hearing infections, impacting on students' learning at school. Poor attendance caused by poor health then makes it difficult to catch up.
Strategies to meet the challenges also need to be innovative and recognize the many impacts. For instance, providing tutorial assistance at tertiary level, along with opportunities for supported 'cadetship' leads to support during study both academically and financially. Cadetships also may lead to later employment.
Again, I stay in the VET practice stream – with Christine Liveris from Central Institute of Technology, Perth presenting on ‘practical strategies to facilitate self-regulated learning in vocational education and training business students'. based on an MPhil study of 8 students in a business programme suggests students engaged in a writing activity have little 'recursive activity'. a set of practical strategies to improve students' self-regulation used to improve teaching and learning. Self regulation has many definitions, including goal setting, time management, learning strategies, self evaluation, self attributes, seeking help or information and self motivational beliefs including self-efficacy and intrinsic task interest.  Good students often have self-regulatory characteristics. Phenomenological study to find out students perception of their own self-regulation - students wrote a short report two weeks before interviews carried out. Relationship between ways feedback is used to self-regulated learning. Cognitive strategies used included knowledge of task, positive self-efficacy statements, elaboration strategies (note taking, paraphrasing, summarizing and creating analogies) and some assessment tasks encourage surface rather than deep learning. good writers use recursive problem solving so metacognitive strategies of planning and evaluation are present. Therefore students need to be encouraged to interpret tasks in terms of existing knowledge and self-beliefs; set proximal goals, have authentic writing skills, have models for self regulatory skills, be in environment that supports  self-efficacy. Feedback, both internal and external, is a prime determiner of self-regulatory processes. Use feedback strategies that give learners a more central and active role in the feedback process.

Next up, Kenneth Meyer from CSU, Wagga with ‘ improving imagination skills in order to assist abstractive learning'. positive interventions used to improve students' learning of difficult abstract concepts - physics concepts applicable to electrical trades. Electrical physics is non-sensory therefore difficult to 'experience' with lots of jargon, algebra, abstraction and symbols. Understanding involves creation of idiosyncratic mental model. Improving imagination, mental modeling, abstraction abilities leads to improvement in learning electrical physics. A side effect is improvement in individual motivation. Participatory action research over three semesters with one cohort of students. Strategies included playing imagination and strategy games. Analysed narrative data through activity and tension field (Illeris) learning theories. Findings include that learning electrical physics requires the building of mental models, imagination assist with complexies of abstraction, creating space to problem solve in new ways, imagination illuminates new ways of knowing.
After afternoon tea, I move across to the ‘Teachers and PD’ stream to attend Teresa O’Brien’s (C.Y. O'Connor Institute) presentation ‘ technology pedagogy and content knowledge in action: perspectives of Vocational and training teachers from a regional western Australian institute’. reports on parts of a PhD project, using a mixed method approach, to find out VET teachers' epistemic beliefs about the use of technology to support teaching. Great need to use technology in sparsely populated areas of NW Australia, a key being the capability of TAFE tutors. Study uses a social constructivist perspective positing that technology can provide social, cognitive and emotional support to enable communication and connectivity between learners. technology skills become another requirement of VET teachers who already have to maintain currency in industry expertise and demonstrate teaching expertise. TPACK framework represents knowledge constructed from intersection of technology, pedagogy and content (Koehler & Mishra, 2008). Intersections indicates technology integration. Study added the extra influence of teachers' epistemic beliefs to ensure that TPACK integration occurs. Teacher's beliefs found to be content transmission based. Therefore a mismatch between TPACK framework principles and teachers' beliefs. Need to have PD for teachers that covers all components of TPACK framework.
Last presentation of the day also in the same stream – Melanie William’s (timeFUTURE) presentation on ‘engaging in mixed sector scholarly practice’. Examines the scholarship of teaching and learning (Boyer, 1990) in one Victorian public mixed sector institution in an effort to find out what contributes to 'quality scholarship'. The functions of scholarship include discovery, integration, teaching and application. In Australian context, regulatory requires scholarship but there is no clear definition. Transplanting university understandings to VET problematic. engagement in applied research is one method. Definition of engagement by Boyer (1990, 1996) involves scholarly service; dynamic interaction between theory and practice; tied directly to scholars' professional field; applies and contributes to human knowledge; applied to avoid irrelevance and be useful. Rice (2002) challenged by suggesting that engagement had to involve pedagogy, be community based and collaborative. Method was to commission 3 narratives on scholarly engagement accompanied by reflective commentary. Analysed using grounded theory and emergent themes compared and contrasted. How is scholarly engagement practiced? what makes it distinctive? Three narratives include winery, cookery book development and professional textbook (open source software as topic) writing. All 3 cases involved elements of discovery, integration and/or teaching as well as engagement. Distinctive aspects included the research financed and justified through teaching; scholarship conducted outside professional environment; some funding through crowdsourcing, self publishing on the internet and internet/social media used to make scholarship accessible to the public. Peer review key mechanism for ensuring quality but understood differently from universities. dialogue and collaboration occurred, work was rooted in the literature. Findings include Boyer's framework more useful as analytical than categorical mechanism; scholarly engagement in these cases highly innovative; democratization of the knowledge production process; consideration given to what constitutes quality scholarly practice; and consists of systematic processes of inquiry coupled with scholarly work.
AVETRA AGM followed by conference dinner makes for a long by eventful day.

AVETRA 2013 day one morning

In Perth this week to attend and present at the annual Australian Vocational Education and Training Training Research  (AVETRA) Conference. Conference is at the Esplanade Hotel in Fremantle, the cooler sea breezes temper the hot 30’C plus temperatures Perth has had over the week. Wifi seems to be working, so should be able to post through the conference.
Day one opens with a welcome from AVETRA president, Dr. Michelle Simons along with a welcome to country.

The first keynote is from Dr.EtienneWenger, who speaks on ‘Learning in and across landscapes of practice – developments in social learning theory and implications of VET’.
Wenger’s approach is to view learning as occurring across all aspects of everyday life and is social in nature. Therefore, the ‘body of knowledge’ of a specialist area is reflected in the practices of various communities of practice. Learning occupational skills is a journey across the various practice communities leading to individual’s vocational identity formation. His presentation provided background on his original work with Jean Lave, how the study evolved. Their premises were founded on Jean’s ethnographical studies on apprenticeship with learning viewed as a trajectory into a community of practice (the legitimate peripheral participation). Through learning, apprentices eventually belong to a community, through engaging in practice, producing meaning from the experience and attaining identity (becoming). Thus, the learning trajectory can be traced through changes in identity as learners progress. However, communities of practices cannot be designed as they arise organically through practitioners’ engagement and interaction. The ‘curriculum’ shifts to align with social, political and organisational imperatives in unpredictable / idiosyncratic ways.

Approaches?? Competence is defined within a COP – claims to competence negotiated in the politics of community formation. Knowledgeability – defined in relation to a landscape of practice – claims knowledgeabiliy negotiated in the politics of landscapes of practice. So there needs to be a negotiation of identity in a complex landscape connecting the individual to professional body, training, research in disciplines, colleagues, clients, workplace and regulatory bodies. Not all of these influences will be in congruence! Mechanisms include informal curriculums, institutes, NGOs, bloggers, COPs, informal communities, personal networks, twitter, google etc. becoming knowledgeable includes the need to modulation across the many influences and mechanisms. Learning is still interface between individual and the social contributions. Need to be shift from ‘curriculum’ to skills to negotiate through. Within the landscape of practice building the trajectory needs to include imagination (seeing the future, locating oneself); engagement (crossing boundaries, being creative, going deep); and alignment (making a difference, seeing a future).  Learning is therefore the need to ask regularly – who am I becoming?  For VET practitioners – how can theory and practice help learners and educators address the learning challenge of on-going becoming /identity transformation.

After morning tea, concurrent sessions begin (7 streams!) so as usual, will summarise the ones I attended and catch up on the others (refereed papers) when I get back to NZ.

My presentation ‘ enhancing deliberate reflective practice using situated technology enhanced learning with tablets’ is a summary of work with Debby Taylor. Improving the learning of hotel front of house receptionists’ check-in and check out processes. Writing the paper for this conference has helped to make more concrete, some of the learning we have gained. The final report, which includes 2 more sub-projects, has now been recently submitted to Ako Aotearoa for peer review.

I stay in the same stream ‘VET practice and attend Hugh Guthrie’s presentation on ‘institutionally based research and evaluation to advise practice: messages and lessons from three projects’. Based on Hugh’s work at the University of Victoria in Melbourne. The projects were to introduce a new approach to trades training - TradeApps; study of youth strategy programme for students who had not completed year 12; and a pilot trade experience programme for people to try out trades – Victoria govt. funded project . Methodologies for these studies are evaluated.  Issues included significance of these evaluations, institutional climate, change and politics, the evaluation approaches and methods, outcomes and utility of the evaluators and the effective planning of the evaluations themselves – shared objectives between evaluators and organisations.

Learning include: Evaluations need to be strategic and significant; evaluators must immerse themselves in the prevailing climate and culture not only to understand what is going on, but also to take what actions are possible to ensure the evaluation gathers the best possible information; and evaluators must spend the time to get ‘buy-in’ from key individuals and groups – at wide levels to unlock more and better sources of information; evaluators must validate the information gathered carefully using multiple sources to ensure veracity. Need to be aware of the limits of the evaluation methodologies and data sources used and what can reasonably be concluded based on the quality of info. collected. Evaluators need to be sensitive to organisational climate and climax. Evaluators need to work closely with their client to ensure that forms of reporting and their timeliness are fit for purpose. Effective institutional evaluation requires careful initial planning, leading to credibility and ability to effect real change.
Therefore, there is a need to have skilled and arms-length evaluative and research capability within VET providers.

Then Berwyn Clayton on ‘Keeping up with the Joneses: updating professionals in knowledge leading organisations’.
Berwyn’s presentation reports on a project examining industry views on the management and maintenance of industry currency on VET practitioners. Study included fields of science, health, engineering, and human resources. Not only need to establish importance of currency but to establish structures to support – including organisational strategies, collaborative undertakings, monitoring and review. Follow up on a NCVTR project on knowledge and professional obsolescence.
The presented project focused on what ways organisations may manage professional obsolescence and what can approaches to these problems drawn from industry and the professions be applied strategically in VET organisations? Approaches to updating professional practice include learning in and through work; collaborative learning; networking; problem-based and project-driven learning; shadowing, peer review and programmed knowledge exchange - eg. weekly seminars to share learning.

Lunch follows with opportunity to catch up with familiar faces and meet up with new researchers.