This paper is based on the work and emerging results of the Erasmus Plus funded Taccle 5 project: Extend European Framework for the Digital Competence of Educators for VET teachers and trainers. The paper provides a general overview of the aims of the Taccle 5 project and expected outcomes. It discusses the need to extend the EU DigiCompEdu Framework to consider the particular context and needs of Vocational Education and Training teachers and trainers. The development of digital learning materials and Open Educational Resources is seen as key in VET, given the large number of different occupational areas and, unlike in Higher education, the need for these to be available in national languages. The European perspective is seen as important in allowing the development of models and solutions which will have applicability in multiple VET contexts including in apprenticeship programmes, VET schools and in the workplace as well as in programmes for initial and continuing training of VET teachers and trainers.
Keywords: vet teachers; vet trainers; digicompedu; technology enhanced learning
This paper is based on the work and emerging results of the Erasmus Plus funded Taccle 5 project: Extend European Framework for the Digital Competence of Educators for VET teachers and trainers. It is to be presented at a workshop at the VETNET network of the European Conference on Educational Research, held in Hamburg in September 2019 as one of a series of three interlinked papers This paper provides a general overview of the aims of the Taccle 5 project and expected outcomes. It also looks at the need to extend the EU DigiCompEdu Framework to consider the particular context and needs of Vocational Education and Training teachers and trainers. The second paper by Fernando Marquenda reports on the interim findings of a qualitative survey and study carried out through the project and examining the present training and professional development of VET teachers and trainers in five countries: Spain, the UK, Greece, Germany and Portugal. The third paper by Ludger Deitmer looks in more depth at continuing professional development in the use of technology for teaching and learning for trainers in the construction industry in Germany.
2 The Changing work of Vet teachers and trainers
The work of teachers in adult and vocational education has undergone considerable change in recent years. Teachers’ roles have been expanding and the link between the quality of education in those sectors and the quality of teachers and trainers firmly established (Cedefop 2004). The European Commission (2010) says VET should be delivered by highly qualified teachers and experienced trainers who are supported through initial and continuing professional development (including digital skills and innovative teaching methods) in view of delivering high quality learning outcomes. Efforts should be targeted at increasing the attractiveness of teachers and trainers’ professions to ensure a sufficient number of qualified teachers and trainers.
The provision should be based on an appropriate/different mix of modern learning environments, including work-based learning and technology supported learning, pedagogies and tools as well as access to state of the art infrastructure.
The increasing focus on the use of technology for teaching and learning in VET is being driven by changing economies and production in different sectors and consequent skill needs, particularly in the context of digitalization and the introduction of new technologies. The European Commission’s Advisory Committee on Vocational Training ‘opinion on the future of vocational education and training post 2020’ (2018) says “VET systems need to be better adaptable to the rapidly evolving socio-economic environment, more demand-driven and open in terms of forms of provision, notably through internationalisation strategies, more transnational mobility experience, new forms of digital learning, blended learning, modules for re- an up-skilling that are offered and diversity of providers.”
A CEDEFOP (2018) study on the Changing role and nature of VET highlights some trends paving the way towards VET in the future:
VET provisions are becoming increasingly diverse. Countries with school-based VET are strengthening apprenticeships and vice versa. Work-based elements are given high priority and visibility in all VET forms. At the same time boundaries between school-workplace and vocational-general are becoming less clear cut, pointing to hybrid models. Vocationally-oriented higher education is becoming more visible and gaining in importance
Countries are reducing the number of qualifications they award while broadening their scope, as they put more emphasis on social and transversal skills and competences.
VET’s re-orientation towards learning outcomes and competences potentially allows for a more learner centred approach.
More flexibility in the time and place of learning and increased acceptance of prior learning opens up VET to broader groups of young and adult learners.
As skills-intelligence systems are becoming stronger, they highlight the need for reviewing and renewing skills and matching them more effectively to jobs.
George Herd and Alison Mead Richardson (2015) highlight five drivers for the development of ICT in Vocational Education and Training – “the requirements of a knowledge economy, the increase of ICT in the workplace, the demand to increase access to initial vocational education and training, the lack of qualified teachers and the requirement to provide opportunities for continuing professional development, re-skilling and skills upgrading.”
The growing use of robot technologies and of AI is likely to lead to large scale change in employment and occupations. While many reports have focused on job displacement, the major impact may be the changing competences required in different occupational profiles. This in turn will require continuing vocational education and training, as well as updated curricula in initial VET. In the coming years, VET teachers and trainers will be required to help shape quick and flexible responses to emerging needs, related both to the integration of thousands of refugees and migrants into the labour market and to the need to develop basic, digital and entrepreneurial skills. At the same time the world stands on the brink of a rapid transition beyond carbon (Mason, 2019), once more requiring new and changing skills and competences.
CEDEFOP has said that providing teachers and trainers with access to quality professional development and support is essential to ensuring that both their technical competences and pedagogical skills are up the highest standards (2018). The EU report ion Developing skills for the labour Market: the Riga Conclusions (2015) has put renewed emphasis on the issue, calling for systematic approaches to and opportunities for initial and continuing professional development (CPD) of VET teachers, trainers and mentors. Cooperation and partnerships among stakeholders are seen as a way to support this.
Despite the role that technology in playing in reshaping the workplace and leading to new and changed occupational profiles, and there is at least a perception that VET teachers and trainers have fallen behind in using technology for teaching and learning. However, this may be fast changing. A nationally-agreed vision for post-16 digital skills in Wales, up to the year 2030, has been adopted by the Welsh government. This includes clear aims and objectives relating to key areas such as leadership and management, curriculum delivery, assessment, and staff development. The initiative, Digital 2030, is an extension of the Digital Competence Framework already available to schools throughout Wales.
The UK Jisc (Smith, McKean and Knight, 2017) report that learners now enter vocational education and training with “increased experience of technology, and have the expectation that technology will feature in their learning journey in some way.”
Jisc acknowledges, however, that staff and students have different levels of digital literacy skills and many do not have a clear understanding of how courses could or should use technology to support learning.
They say that “Embedding digital activities and assessment opportunities as part of the curriculum sets the expectation that students will use technology throughout their studies. And with responsive support from the college or provider, such expectations establish a base line of digital literacy and confidence that can become the norm in learning and teaching practice over time.”
A series of different studies and reports in different European projects have shown that VET teachers and trainers in general recognise the importance of digitalisation to occupational learning and competence and the potential of ICT for teaching and learning (see, for example Attwell, Garcia and Molina, 2017). Yet they also often feel that they lack modern technology, especially within vocational schools, and lack opportunities of continuing professional development. This may be exacerbated by the structure of VET, with many teachers and trainers working part time, or combining the role of trainer with that of a skilled worker. While there is a lack of statistical research in the numbers of Vet teachers who have received training in the use of ICT for VET, there have been a number of surveys and reports into those in general education (and it is probable that in VET there has been less professional development). A survey, funded by the European Commission Directorate General Information Society and Media and undertaken by European Schoolnet and the University of Liège, found that only 40% of pupils in EU member states are taught by teachers who have engaged in any pedagogical training on the use of ICT (European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2015). The backlog is huge – for example, in Italy the MOE Digital School Plan foresaw training for 157,000 teachers in 2018, France estimated 300,000. The OECD’s Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) Teachers’ Professional Development in Europe (2013) estimated that 2 million teachers will have received little or no training in using and teaching digital technologies.
This provides the background to the Taccle 5 project which is both looking at Frameworks for Teacher development in the use of technology for teaching and learning in VET and examining different models for the delivery of such profession development. In the next section fo this paper we will outline the European JSC DigiCompEdu Framework.
3 The DigiCompEdu Framework for teachers and trainers in using technology for learning
Both the European Commission and UNESCO have developed frameworks for teacher development in the use of technology for teaching and learning. The frameworks are designed to be flexible, to be capable of adoption in different national policies and for different contexts.
There are considerable similarities between the frameworks, both of which are intended to be applicable for vocational education and training as well as for general school teachers.
The DigCompEdu Framework aims to capture and describe educator-specific digital competences by proposing 22 elementary competences organised in 6 areas. Area 1 is directed at the broader professional environment, i.e. educators’ use of digital technologies in professional interactions with colleagues, learners, parents and other interested parties, for their own individual professional development and for the collective good of the organisation. Area 2 looks at the competences needed to effectively and responsibly use, create and share digital resources for learning. Area 3 is dedicated to managing and orchestrating the use of digital technologies in teaching and learning. Area 4 addresses the use of digital strategies to enhance assessment. Area 5 focuses on the potential of digital technologies for learner-centred teaching and learning strategies. Areas 6 details the specific pedagogic competences required to facilitate students’ digital competence. For each competence, a title and a short description are provided, which serve as the main point of reference.
The Framework also proposes a progression model to help educators assess and develop their digital competence. It outlines six different stages through which an educator’s digital competence typically develops, so as to help educators identify and decide on the specific steps to take to boost their competence at the stage they are currently at. At the first two stages, Newcomer (A1) and Explorer (A2), educators assimilate new information and develop basic digital practices; at the following two stages, Integrator (B1) and Expert (B2), they apply, further expand and structure on their digital practices; at the highest stages, Leader (C1) and Pioneer (C2), they pass on their knowledge, critique existing practice and develop new practices. As stated earlier the DigiCompEdu Framework is designed to be used in all sector of education.
A major aim of the project is to extend the framework for the specific context of Vocational Education and Training. VET takes place in different contexts, in the workplace as well as in the schools. VET also integrates practice based and often informal learning. Importantly technology plays a dual role for VET teachers. On the one hand technology forms the subject of much vocational education and training in its use in different occupational areas. On the other hand, technology is a means of delivering VET.
The Taccle 5 project is working across different sectors of VET. This reflects the focus on pedagogy and the development of digital learning materials as key aims for the project. In terms of the pedagogical focus, the project is looking at occupational and workplace learning as well as the classroom based learning which predominates in general school education. The development of digital learning materials and Open Educational Resources is seen as key in VET, given the large number of different occupational areas and, unlike in Higher education, the need for these to be available in national languages. In the next section we will look at the methodology, ongoing activities and outcomes being developed through the Taccle 5 project.
4 Methodology and outcomes
The research and development work is being carried out over a two year time period, commencing in autumn 2018, with a major objective of extending the European Reference Framework in the areas of digital pedagogy and the development of digital Open Educational Resources for VET teachers and trainers in school and workplace settings.
The first period of activity has focused on undertaking a survey of Vocational Education and Training practitioners in the five European countries, to explore their present access to training, support and professional development opportunities and their current use of ICT in teaching and learning practice. The sectors include Building and Construction, Teaching Assistants, Tourism, Agriculture and Wellness and Sports. The findings from the survey will be used to develop learning scenarios for different sectors in VET and create a model using learning scenarios for training VET teachers in how to develop and use their own digital resources.
The survey will be used to produce a report on the Extension of the European Reference Framework in the two key areas of Digital pedagogy and Digital resources. The report will combine a literature review, desk research and a survey (based on a semi structured questionnaire and interviews) to identify all the competences and skills needed by a VET teacher or trainer for sourcing, creating and sharing digital resources and for applying digital pedagogies in school and workplace settings.
The taxonomy used in DigiCompEdu will be extended in school and workplace settings and the descriptors of the progression model and the CEFR levels will be harmonized with the VET context.
The project will produce six learning scenarios for different sectors, and will create a model for using learning scenarios for training VET teachers and trainers on how to develop and use their own digital resources. These scenarios will provide trainers with practical guidelines for learning approaches, activities and content when designing their own lesson plans. The scenarios will be also used as a model to inspire trainers to develop their own resources for different contexts, situations and learner groups. The learning scenarios will refer to a given learning situation, will describe the learning and the support activities, the roles, the target users, the prerequisites, the objectives, as well as the tools and the resources necessary for the accomplishment of activities.
Learning Scenarios will be delivered as a publication that will serve as additional dissemination tool for VET providers and any other related stakeholders. The outputs will also include a model for the development of new learning scenarios.
A further outcome will be a repository of learning materials and best practice exemplars The repository of learning materials and best practice exemplars will includes the development of 12 Open Educational Resources (OERs) with teaching, learning and research materials in digital format based on the learning scenarios. The main aim is to provide access to quality learning and teaching material to VET trainers to positively impact in use of technology for teaching and training in VET in school and workplace settings. The OER development will be subject to an ongoing Quality Assurance process to be developed for the project and will include self-assessment procedures and rating systems.
A fourth area of work will be research leading to a report on innovative online and face to face learning opportunities for professional development for teachers and trainers in the use of technology in VET. The report will focus on innovative strategies for professional development for VET teachers and trainers on applying digital pedagogy and develop digital Open Educational Resources in school and workplace settings. It will develop a methodology for empowerment and self-discovery through the expansion of personal learning networks, and the ability to blend in voices, concepts and tools from different sources. The methodology will describe and analyse the non-formal activities, working methods and tools that VET teachers and trainers will be able to use for professional development (including MOOCs, blended learning and peer based learning) as well as face to face workshops and courses. The project will research and develop different models for providing access to professional development in the use of technology for VET teaching and learning for all VET teachers and trainers including part time teachers and work based trainers. Each project partner will work with a VET organisation in piloting one of the models and methodologies and report on its use.
The fifth area of work is the development of an online Community of Practice for VET teachers and trainers in the use of technology for teaching and training in VET. The Community of Practice will support the needs for communication, resource exchange, collaboration, and relationship building. The Community of Practice is designed to facilitate the exchange of open educational resources. Project partners and trainers will be encouraged to share other resources such as instructional materials, policy documents, videos illustrating techniques, or examples of their work.
5 The European perspective
We recognise that the project cannot, by itself, resolve the challenges VET faces in this area. Through the activities of the project we can develop models and exemplars which can be transferred to a wide range of different actors, including policy makers, planners, school and workplace providers and establish a community of practitioners as the basis for taking forward the project post the period of European funding. The European perspective is important in allowing us to develop models and solutions which will have applicability in multiple VET contexts including in apprenticeship programmes, VET schools and in the workplace as well as in programmes for initial and continuing training of VET teachers and trainers.
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Welsh Government (2019). Digital2030 A strategic framework for post-16 digital learning in Wales. Retrieved from https://gov.wales/sites/default/files/publications/2019-06/digital-2030-a-strategic-framework-for-post-16-digital-learning-in-wales.pdf
Graham Attwell is Director of the Wales based research organisation, Pontydysgu. His research interests include the training of teachers and trainers in Vocational Education and Training, changing occupations and qualifications in the labour market and the use of technology for teaching and learning.