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Vocational learning in a Swedish post-secondary apprenticeship
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Education.
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Background: In Sweden, some occupations require a post-secondary apprenticeship (e.g. construction workers), while some do not (e.g. business and administration workers). Available research on post-secondary apprenticeship is sparse. To address vocational learning in post-secondary apprenticeships, this explorative study focuses on apprentices in the construction industry. The aim of this study is to identify how vocational learning is constituted within workplace activities.

Methods: This study aimed to follow up on a study of a former class of construction students who participated in project-based vocational education (Fjellström 2014). The study included 11 semi-structured interviews, which lasted 35-55 minutes, and a survey that related to 64 stated learning goals.

Result: The findings show that vocational learning involves performing tasks that challenge the apprentices to think and solve problems. This approach to the performance of tasks enhances productive learning where the payroll system appears to trigger a wide range of action. Furthermore, this study shows that, despite differences in the activities that are carried out at different workplaces, the learning outcomes are dependent on personal goals as well as indirect and direct guidance.

Conclusion: Although stated learning goals are highly valued, the apprentices have problems relating to them. Instead, interaction and guidance from more experienced co-workers leads to the development of learning outcomes. As described herein, vocational learning outcomes of post-secondary apprenticeships are complex and can be understood as being related to individual goals and workplace activities that interact and constitute vocational learning. Thus, this explorative study has identified four main standpoints that afford vocational learning in post-secondary apprenticeship: (a) the importance of guidance in the workplace, (b) the possibility of performing complex tasks, (c) the encouragement to develop new methods, and (d) the possibility of being a part of the building process.

Keyword [en]
vocational education and training (VET), construction worker, guidance, woodworker
National Category
Social Sciences
Research subject
Education
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-132014OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-132014DiVA: diva2:1077883
Available from: 2017-03-01 Created: 2017-03-01 Last updated: 2017-03-16
In thesis
1. Becoming a construction worker: a study of vocational learning in school and work life
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Becoming a construction worker: a study of vocational learning in school and work life
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis describes and analyses vocational learning in school and workplaces, particularly the vocational learning involved in becoming a construction worker in Sweden. This includes learning the trade in upper secondary school education and a subsequent apprenticeship. An underlying argument is that activities in these contexts enable a diverse vocational learning outcome. However, there are potential tensions and contradictions, especially between production- and education-oriented aspects of the learning activities in these settings. To address these and associated issues, two research questions were posed. First, how do work-based activities enable vocational learning? Second, what forms of learning are enabled in school and work life settings and how are these forms of learning constituted? These questions were addressed using information drawn from observations, interviews and a survey. Analyses of the data, using a theoretical framework based on activity and forms of learning theory, show that the school and workplace settings enable different types of learning that form a joint constructed object. Further, the contexts provide diverse tasks that, with guidance from more experienced persons, can enhance the learning outcomes. So, vocational learning is enabled through tensions in the activity systems that form a learning outcome. In project-based vocational education and training (PBVET) provided in upper secondary school, vocational learning is enabled through basic training and opportunities to learn key techniques. In subsequent apprenticeships, the transformation of basic knowledge into specialized knowledge is enabled through close guidance and by the apprentices performing complex tasks. There are also clear differences in the freedom allowed in the performance of tasks between the PBVET and apprenticeships. The PBVET does not allow students to develop and apply their own solutions, while apprentices are encouraged to discover and implement solutions that enhance the performance of tasks. So, different forms of learning are enabled in the two contexts; the PBVET largely promotes reproductive learning and the apprenticeships largely promote productive learning. Scope for improvement was detected, as the PBVET does not appear to provide knowledge that fully meets criteria in the syllabuses, and the apprenticeship does not fully meet the learners’ educational needs. However, the settings provide complementary vocational learning opportunities. Thus, tensions and contradictions can be identified in the activity systems in the school and workplace settings that collectively form the boundaries of a learning outcome that largely corresponds to what the learners need to know and (hence) become construction workers.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå University, 2017. 53 p.
Series
Akademiska avhandlingar vid Pedagogiska institutionen, Umeå universitet, ISSN 0281-6768 ; 122
Keyword
Vocational education and training (VET), upper secondary school, post-secondary apprenticeship, activity theory, levels of learning, apprenticeship curriculum, woodworker, construction programme
National Category
Educational Sciences
Research subject
Education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-132075 (URN)978-91-7601-673-2 (ISBN)
Public defence
2017-04-07, Hörsal E, Humanisthuset, Umeå, 10:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2017-03-17 Created: 2017-03-03 Last updated: 2017-03-30Bibliographically approved

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Citation style
  • apa
  • harvard1
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
  • vancouver
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  • de-DE
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  • Other locale
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Output format
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