There is a general recognition of the need for training and professional development for vocational teachers in the use of digital technologies for teaching and learning. There is less agreement on how this might be achieved and what are the most effective forms of training and CPD. In part four of our review of literature and projects we look at some of the ideas in this debate before going on in the next sessions to look at emergent forms and sources of CPD.

Daly, Pachler and Pelletier (2009) argue that “the literature provides evidence that many effective approaches to ICT CPD are in place, but they remain localised.” CPD is fragmented – unlike initial training, it is not a homogenous model and interesting small scale developments may not be widely disseminated. What ICT CPD lacks in coherence, it makes up for in innovation but this is difficult to capture. As Daly, Pachler and Pelletier (2009) note, it is “a very varied provision which has grown ahead of a comparable rate of research into its effects.”

in looking at research into effective practices in ICT CPD in order to draw out what appear to be critical success factors, it is hard to isolate “CPD issues which are specific to ICT CPD [as opposed to those] which are linked to wider approaches to the effective professional development of teachers.” (Daly, Pachler and Pelletier, 2009).

Twining, Raffaghelli, Albion and Knezek (2013) introduced the main outcomes of discussions at the EDUsummIT 2011 by the Technical Working Group on Teacher Professional Development (TWG3). The focus was to explore how professional development of teachers may ensure that teachers are better prepared to use information and communication technology (ICT) to promote 21st century learning. The broad topics considered there were teacher learning for pedagogical innovation, benchmarks for teacher education relative to pedagogical use of ICT, factors affecting teachers’ use of ICT, models for teacher education related to ICT, multimedia cases in teacher education, communities of practice (CoPs) for teacher professional development, and teacher learning for educational renewal with ICT.

A systematic review on professional development found that there are some key features of professional development linked to better achievement by students which may transfer to vocational education and training. These were:

  • Observation of teaching;
  • Feedback to teachers;
  • The use of external expertise linked to school‐based activities;
  • Scope for teachers to identify their own CPD focus;
  • An emphasis on peer support;
  • Processes to encourage, extend and structure professional dialogue; and
  • Processes for sustaining CPD over time to enable teachers to embed practice in their classrooms.

(Cordingly et al, 2003).

There is also convincing evidence that collaborative professional development is more strongly associated with improvements in teaching and learning (DfE, 2010, p. 10).

Attwell and Hughes (2010) say that the literature around the training of Vocational teacher and trainers in the use of technology for teaching and learning identifies two distinct trajectories; “the digital literacy approach with the focus on developing teachers’ technical skills and a pedagogic approach with the emphasis on new teaching and learning opportunities afforded by the technology.”

Some of the literature has adopted a critical stance or been supportive of one or the other.

For example Daly, Pachler and Pelletier (2009) claimed that there was

“An over-emphasis on skills training in itself at the expense of deep understanding and application of skills to developing learning and teaching. This is linked to a perceived need to address a skills ‘deficit’ in teachers, rather than to develop a focus on pedagogy.”

Programme designers need to consider readiness for change when promoting unfamiliar pedagogical approaches. In this endeavour, there is a need for benchmarks in relation to policy development and assessment using ICT as well as for pedagogical use (Kirschner, Wubbels, & Brekelmans, 2008).

Twining (2013) says that pedagogical transformation occurs when teachers move beyond simple applications of ICT to use it for planning instruction and collaborating beyond the classroom, supporting learning by creating structure, providing advice and monitoring progress.

Wei-Wei Marinda Chang (2016) has written a thesis on ‘Digital Competence and Professional Development of Vocational Education and Training Teachers in Queensland.’

She identifies four elements of different kinds of knowledge in teachers’ use of technology for teaching and training which she calls the TPCK model: “Technological (TK), Technological Pedagogical Knowledge (TPK), Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPCK) and Technological Content Knowledge (TCK).” She says “the digital competency of Queensland VET teachers and trainers can be characterised as not very strong. It was clear that teachers felt the most confident in TCK and felt that TPCK was their weakest capability. As the most complex skill in TPCK, this indicates that Professional Development should target TPCK in particular.

Chang goes on to say VET educators need to be treated as adult learners “who, through research, are understood to be “generally autonomous and self-directed, goal-oriented, relevancy-orientated, practical and seek recognition and respect for their prior experiences and knowledge” (Knowles, 1973, cited in Tafel, 2008, p. 25). Yet she says “the majority of PD offered to educators is generic and classroom based (Tafel, 2008), is delivered by the institution administrators with little regard for the personalised requirements of the teachers (Borthwick & Risberg, 2008) and offers little to no on-going support and follow up (Perkins, 2009).” She concludes that “the effectiveness of PD can be widely debated within the VET sector (Harris, Simons, Hill, Smith, Pearce, Blakeley, Choy & Snewin, 2001).”

Writing from a Higher Education perspective, Davis and Fill (2007) found that:

“A good approach has been to allow the academics to specify their needs, then to show them technological solutions that might meet those requirements, rather than start with the technology.”

[“Thus, when the idea of a ‘nugget’ emerged from the early meetings that sought to establish common ground, the learning technologists did not initially rush to replace it with the term ‘learning object’, nor to expose the academics to emerging interoperability standards and metadata theories.”]

Conversely, Westerman and Graham-Matheson (2008), cited in Vogel (2010), identified digital literacy as key. Their claim was based on action research in Canterbury Christchurch’s Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit to build digital literacy among academics.

“Twenty five volunteer participants selected six digital tools from a suite of institutional and Web 2.0 tools assembled by the LTEU … and devised their own personal development plans for the coming year. The LTEU provided group workshops or demonstrations, with homework and a follow-up session. All but the most experienced self-reported significant gains in digital literacy and many reported easily applying what they learnt to their practice.”

Some authors advocated an integration of the two. The Management of E-Learning (CAMEL) project (Higher Education Funding Council for England and JISC InfoNet, 2006) rejected European Computer Driving Licence-type training in favour of “small chunks that relate to something they are actually doing”, and suggested that requests for technical support should be taken as “new opportunities to disseminate new ideas, give pointers and engage staff further every time you interact with them”. The technical needs here are viewed as an opportunity to start a conversation about pedagogy.

Attwell and Hughes (2010) say that in terms of practice, the technical skills approach seems to predominate although most of the rhetoric advocates concentrating on the pedagogy.

Through a series of case studies, the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) found that adult literacy educators needed to fully understand the realities of modern ICT, and that, due to a lack of funding, access to ICT in a timely and appropriate fashion was an obstacle, even though having a centralised repository of shared resources would have been invaluable. Of particular importance, the study found that educators differed in their ability and willingness to use ICT. Most described their existing skills as self-taught, and preferred to learn this way and only seeking help when absolutely necessary (2005, p.10). In addition, the majority of adult educators felt that the rapid changes to technology meant they would always be in a state of requiring technical skills development. They also concluded that any PD program designed to target ICT capabilities required institutional ICT policies to support it if it were to have a chance at success, and that these policies should clearly identify financial implications and consequences to existing Information Technology (IT) infrastructures (NCVER, 2005).

Jane Hart produces an annual survey of the Top Tools for Learning compiled by  from2,951 votes from 52 countries in the 12th Annual Digital Learning Tools Survey. She has also categorised the tools into 30 different areas, and produced 3 sub-lists that provide some context to how the tools are being including for Personal and Professional Development for Workplace Learning (WPL100): the digital tools used to design, deliver, enable and/or support learning in the workplace and for Education (EDU100): the digital tools used by educators and students in schools, colleges, universities, adult education etc.

In her commentary on the results she say that Web resources still dominate (Youtube is number 1), Some social networks are up, some down and Web courses are increasing in popularity with Coursera the most popular web course platform. She also draws attention to  a subtle shift from course development to content development and says that Learning at work is becoming personal and continuous. Team collaboration tools support the real social learning at work are also growing in popularity while video conferencing is eclipsing conference calls and “audience engagement has become a big thing.” It is notable that traditional Virtial Learning Environments and ed-tech tools are not generally popular.

Lack of funding for CPD is a recurrent theme in the literature: a study focused on the introduction of apprenticeship in Valencia, Spain found that vocational school directors and staff alike were aware of the need for the increased use of technology both as part of the curriculum and for teaching and learning but were frustrated by financial restrictions on access to technology and to opportunities for CPD (Attwell, Garcia and Molina, 2017).

References and Footnotes

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