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Vocational education in practice: a study of work-based learning in a construction programme at a Swedish upper secondary school
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of applied educational science.
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.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014. Vol. 6, no 2
Keyword [en]
Project-based vocational education; Learning environment; Vocational competence, Teacher guidance
National Category
Social Sciences
Research subject
educational work
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-85205DOI: 10.1186/1877-6345-6-2OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-85205DiVA: diva2:692120
Available from: 2014-01-30 Created: 2014-01-30 Last updated: 2017-03-03Bibliographically approved
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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Magnus, Fjellström

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