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Becoming a construction worker: a study of vocational learning in school and work life
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Education.
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 [en]
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: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-132075ISBN: 978-91-7601-673-2 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-132075DiVA: diva2:1078398
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
List of papers
1. Vocational education in practice: a study of work-based learning in a construction programme at a Swedish upper secondary school
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Vocational education in practice: a study of work-based learning in a construction programme at a Swedish upper secondary school
2014 (English)In: Empirical Research in Vocational Education and Training, ISSN 1877-6345, Vol. 6, no 2Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In many OECD countries an apparent connection is shown between education, the local economy and the local labor market. This connection seems to be stronger and more radical in Sweden, than in other similar countries. The construction program is thereby also a part of this market. Given the needs of the building industry for competent workers and the requirements from specific course syllabuses this paper explores how project-based vocational education contributes to the student's vocational competences. The aim of this study was to describeand analyse students’ perceptions of vocational competence gained from a PBVE environment and identify how this competence is constituted. From this broad aim, the following research questions were asked: (1) What kinds of competence are the students able to develop in a PBLE? (2) In what ways do the developed competence and vocational skills relate to the specific course syllabuses? (3) How is the students’vocational competence constituted? Methods adopted for this study are observations over student action in a project-based vocational education and focus group interviews with observed students. The result indicates a gap between acquired vocational competence at the project and the related learning goals in the course syllabuses. The developed vocational competence seems more adopted to fit the demands of the building industry rather than the intended course goals. Further, the findings indicate that the relationship between learning and support from teachers are strong whereas the room for individual initiative in the learning environment is limited. This study highlights the relationship between student action and the complexity in vocational education as a project based vocational education. The project’s high complexity affects the students’ learning ability to take own decisionsin the learning environment. This also affects the students’ motivation and ability to develop competences required to fulfill goals in course syllabuses. So, if the students’ are supposed to be able to be a part of their own learning the complexity in the task should not be too high. Hence, if the task is to easy the students’ will not be challenge enough in order to develop vocational competences.

Keyword
Project-based vocational education; Learning environment; Vocational competence, Teacher guidance
National Category
Social Sciences
Research subject
educational work
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-85205 (URN)10.1186/1877-6345-6-2 (DOI)
Available from: 2014-01-30 Created: 2014-01-30 Last updated: 2017-03-03Bibliographically approved
2. Project-based vocational education and training: opportunities for teacher guidance in a Swedish upper secondary school
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Project-based vocational education and training: opportunities for teacher guidance in a Swedish upper secondary school
2015 (English)In: Journal of Vocational Education and Training, ISSN 1363-6820, E-ISSN 1747-5090, Vol. 67, no 2, 187-202 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Project-based vocational education and training (PBVET) is a way to conduct vocational education in Swedish construction programmes. The educational settings used include projects ranging from minor construction to advanced houses. Due to limited research on this kind of educational setting, it is important to further develop knowledge on affordances in a PBVET. The aim of this study is to describe and analyse teachers’ perception on opportunities for teacher guidance provided in a PBVET. From this broad aim, the following research question is addressed: how do teachers view PBVET as (a) framing possibilities for their practice, (b) affecting students’ learning and (c) presenting challenges in this learning environment? Adopted methods for this study are observations and interviews. Observations were made at a PBVET worksite, which were then used in stimulated recall interviews. The findings show that this PBVET affects both teachers’ opportunities to perform teacher guidance as well as students’ possibilities for learning. This appears to be related to the structure in this PBVET which can be seen as operating within different activity systems. Hence, an interaction between these systems is likely the most important issue that needs to be resolved when conducting vocational education as a PBVET.

Keyword
VET and development, learning in the professions, vocational education and training, vocational and educational guidance, workplace learning
National Category
Learning
Research subject
educational work
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-102810 (URN)10.1080/13636820.2014.983957 (DOI)000374507800005 ()
Available from: 2015-05-05 Created: 2015-05-05 Last updated: 2017-03-03Bibliographically approved
3. Vocational learning in a Swedish post-secondary apprenticeship
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Vocational learning in a Swedish post-secondary apprenticeship
(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
vocational education and training (VET), construction worker, guidance, woodworker
National Category
Social Sciences
Research subject
Education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-132014 (URN)
Available from: 2017-03-01 Created: 2017-03-01 Last updated: 2017-03-16
4. Learning as an apprentice in Sweden: A comparative study on affordances for vocational learning in school and work life apprentice education
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Learning as an apprentice in Sweden: A comparative study on affordances for vocational learning in school and work life apprentice education
2016 (English)In: Education + Training, ISSN 0040-0912, E-ISSN 1758-6127, Vol. 58, no 6, 629-642 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to compare, and identify both similarities and differences in, affordances for vocational learning in two contrasting education systems, for construction worker and shop salesperson apprentices, in Swedish contexts.

Design/methodology/approach - Data were collected through interviews and observations in two research projects, each addressing relevant aspects of one of the focal educational systems. A framework consisting of identified goals, activities and guidance was applied in the analysis.

Findings - The results show that the affordances for learning in the examined educational systems are dependent on the learners' access to, and participation in, workplace activities. A conclusion is that workplace demands override educational goals in both cases. Thus, the affordances for learning related to both individual and educational goals are dependent on the access to guidance during workplace activities.

Originality/value - The study highlights constraints between educational goals and workplace affordances in both apprenticeship systems, which largely develop vocational competencies related to specific workplace demands and activities. A presented model regards apprenticeships as vocational and educational training in workplaces is outlined that enable a deeper understanding of the correspondence between individual, educational and workplace goals that forms the type of activity which leads to a learning outcome.

Keyword
Work-based learning, Apprenticeship curriculum, Employed apprentices, Upper secondary apprenticeship education, Vocational education and training (VET), Workplace curriculum
National Category
Learning Pedagogy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-124524 (URN)10.1108/ET-12-2015-0113 (DOI)000379771800006 ()
External cooperation:
Available from: 2016-08-17 Created: 2016-08-15 Last updated: 2017-03-03Bibliographically approved

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Output format
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