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Digital competence of VET teachers: illustrations from non-technological professions

Jorge Lizandra

University of Valencia, Spain,

Dr. Alicia Ros

University of Valencia, Spain,

Dr. Cristóbal Suárez

University of Valencia, Spain,

Dr. Fernando Marhuenda

University of Valencia, Spain,


Within the TaccleVET Erasmus+ KA2 project, in this paper we provide illustrations of the survey we conducted in Spain and the UK. We describe the methodology we have used, the conditions in which we conducted the interviews and the framework we used to analyse them. Given the exploratory and qualitative nature of our survey, we focus upon the extremes among the cases we have researched and we also point to commonalities and trends we have identified. We conclude by giving some hints about possibilities for motivation and fostering staff development in the domain of digital competence, while in the paper we focus upon the self-perception of teachers about their teaching abilities and the use they make of digital recources.


Interviews; self-perception; teaching competencies and digital competencies.

1        Introduction

Within the TaccleVET proposal, we have conducted interviews with VET teachers in four countries so far: Portugal, the UK, Germany and Spain.

In this paper, we will provide results and commentaries on the work conducted in the UK and Spain, as results on Germany are presented in the other paper within this ECER symposium and results from Portugal are still being handled in a way to make them comparable with the rest.

The paper concerns the following research questions:

  1. What are the digital competencies VET teachers perceive they have and they lack?
  2. What is the role of digital competencies VET teachers perceive as needed in their professional activity?
  3. What is the relation of the digital competencies VET teachers use in their classes and that demanded by the professional sectors in which they work?

In order to answer these questions, we will use examples from our interviews with VET teachers, using some excerpts and referring to the DigCompEdu framework of reference.

2        Theoretical framework

In 2017 the DigComEdu was proposed for the Joint Research Center of the European Union (Redecker, 2017). The objective of the DigCompEdu framework proposed “is to reflect on existing instruments for educators’ digital competence and to synthesize these into a coherent model that would allow educators at all levels of education to comprehensively assess and develop their pedagogical digital competence” (Redecker, 2017, 13). We find the DigCompEdu model valid to raise the analysis tools and pedagogical proposals for the development of the teaching tasks and duties in the VET sector.

Under the DigCompEdu framework, the conception of TTDC is determined by 22 specific competences organized in 6 areas (Table 1). There are also six levels of development of this competence: the first two are basic, Newcomer (A1) and Explorer (A2), the following two are intermediate, Integrator (B1) and Expert (B2) and the last two are assumed as high level of competence development, Leader (C1) and Pioneer (C2).[MOU1] 

Table 1            The six DigCompEdu areas (Redecker, 2017)

European Framework for the Digital Competence of Educators
Area 1. Professional Engagement: Using digital technologies for communication, collaboration and professional development.
Area 2. Digital Resources: Sourcing, creating and sharing digital resources.
Area 3. Teaching and Learning: Managing and orchestrating the use of digital technologies in teaching and learning.
Area 4. Assessment: Using digital technologies and strategies to enhance assessment.
Area 5. Empowering Learners: Using digital technologies to enhance inclusion, personalisation and learners’ active engagement.
Area 6. Facilitating Learners’ Digital Competence: Enabling learners to creatively and responsibly use digital technologies for information, communication, content creation, wellbeing and problem-solving.

We take as a starting point a part of this model to develop it in the VET area. However, it is not a thorough and mechanical application of the model, but a pedagogical development on digital teaching competence in a specific field of professional teacher development. Therefore, we find it necessary to point out some considerations about application we have made of this model for our purpose:

  • To consider digital competence as an aspect of the teaching role that is not specifically constrained to a technical skill. This is visible by analysing the 6 areas in which these competencies are organized.  
  • Beyond an adaptation of the digital competence of the overall citizen, given that the digital competence is not equivalent to the Digital Teaching Competence, this model suggests a set of own dimensions for this professional profile.
  • In this effort to define the professional features, this model clearly integrates the pedagogical variable as an unequivocal feature of the Digital Teaching Competence. This aspect can be appreciated in areas 2, 3, 4 and 5.
  • The model offers a complete framework including areas and levels, able to guide in a consistent way both the study and the development of digital competence.
  • Since there is the possibility of replicating this framework in different educational scenarios as in various countries of the European Union, the possibility of unifying the analysis language is broadened by assuming it as a common framework.
  • At an operational level, it is also valid for research, since this model comes to offer a series of specific indicators that allow those interested to evaluate this competence, as well as to validate and improve it.

In our research we have tried to cover all six areas through our interviews with teachers in different VET occupational domains, even though the cornerstone for your analysis in order to improve VET teachers’ digital competence is focused upon the relation between the pedagogical approach, the digital resource and assessment, a rather concrete, indivisible, articulated and significative core.

Given that learning aims and contents in VET practice are a varied, specialized and heterogeneous palette, that cannot be limited to the nature of disciplines, the educational dimensions we can identify as appropriate for a significative view of the competent use of technology are the how (pedagogy), the what (resources) and the value attached to learning (assessment).

Pedagogy, resources and assessment are at least three of the elements that interrelate to each other. From an educational perspective, they can be analyzed separately, but the three of them form a unity of basic representation that is needed in order to understand the use of technology not just as a step or technical activity, but as a wider strategy.

Due to this, instead of offering VET teachers a pedagogical solution on the one side, a list of resources on another one and a vision of assessment as separate to the previous two, we attempt to integrate all three in a holistic view.

Therefore, both the analysis of the interviews to VET teachers as well as the suggestions to improve VET teachers’ digital competence will be introduced as a unity able to provide more than just a simple technical recommendation. All three aspects, considered as a unity, are key to understand the change that teachers’ digital competence is able to produce in VET.

It is well known that teaching practice aim and content are key dimensions, although neither in VET nor in other educational levels they are enough to guarantee a significative educational experience. To the content that every VET teacher determines according to the combination of the planned curriculum and his/her professional experience, we must add the opportunity to think of technology as articulated to a pedagogical view that conditions the use of resources and defines an understanding of assessment. Pedagogy is here the guiding principle of the use of resources and assessment.

3        Method and sample

Based upon the literature survey we have conducted (Lizandra et al., 2019), we have devised an interview guideline that was discussed and agreed in the TaccleVET partnership and that we piloted in early 2019.

Our interviews were conducted between February and May 2019. 11 interviews in the region of Valencia, Spain, have been used for this report; and three interviews in Wales, UK, as well. The 3 Wales and 6 of the Spanish ones are in the professional field of personal and social care (social care, child work), while 3 are in the domain of physical activity and 2 in the domain of FOL [1].

Interviews lasted between half an hour and one hour and a half, depending on the detail that teachers wanted to go into. Most of them were recorded. Some of them happened in the VET schools while others took place in other locations and off working hours.

We used a common template to gather information on the interviews and to portray the most relevant dimensions addressed. The template was agreed at a project meeting in Valencia in early April 2019 and it focused upon three dimensions of the DigCompEdu.

Portuguese interviews have been handled in a quantitative way, and these results are also summarized in the paper, even though they have not been portrayed using the agreed template.

The features of the interviewed people are the following:

  Sex Age Occupational field Teaching experience Self-perception
Spain1 Male >50 Social care >30 Advanced
Spain2 Female >40 Child education >7 Beginner-Intermediate
Spain3 Male >50 FOL >19 Intermediate
Spain4 Male <30 Social care >3 Beginner
Spain5 Male >40 Social care >12 Mixed
Spain6 Male >50 Physical activity >28
Spain7 Male >30 Physical activity >8
Spain8 Male >50 Social care >25
Spain9 Female >30 Child education >7
Spain10 Male >40 Physical activity >18
Spain11 Male >40 FOL >10
UK1 Female >40 Early childcare >20 Beginner-Intermediate
UK2 Female >40 Social care >18 Intermediate
UK3 Female >40 Social care 20 Intermediate-advanced

The Portuguese sample included 13 teachers, 10 of them worked in the child care sector, all of them older than 35 (and three of them older than 50), 10 of them female and all with more than 10 years teaching experience.

4        Results

We present our results organized around the three dimensions we have stressed in the theoretical framework: pedagogy, resources and assessment.

It is relevant to point to the fact that, in contrast to the German sample, presented in the third paper in this symposium, the teachers we have dealt with in the UK, Spain and Portugal do work in occupational areas in which the implementation of technologies is low, as they are not productive areas but rather service provision to people and, therefore, most of the work still happens at an analogical rather than a digital level. Technologies play therefore an instrumental role rather than being part of the core of the work developed.

4.1   Pedagogy

Pedagogy consists oft he notions on teaching and learning a teacher has and that therefore provide a nest of conditions to foster, stimulate and define learning activities relying upon the use of technologies. Technology relies upon pedagogy to be able to haven an educational impact

(Suárez-Guerrero, Lloret-Catalá, & Mengual, 2016).

Educational innovation comes through a pedagogical approach (Gros, 2016) and implies an articulation of disciplinary knowledge and technological knowledge within a pedagogical knowledge (Misrha and Koehler, 2006). The pedagogical decisions the teacher has to take are to do with the educational vision and have an impact upon resources and assessment. In a way, pedagogical innovation does not rely upon technology but preceeds it, in such a way that we may speak about four broad dimensions (figure 1): teaching with ICT, individual learning, collaborative learning and students’ self learning.

Figure 1: Four main domains of digital competency in VET (Lizandra et al., 2019)

These four possibilities imply, foster and hinder any teaching proposal in the classroom and will have an effect upon the resources chose and the assessment conducted. Let us see what results we have found in our interviews. In most of them, particularly with the most experienced teachers, we have found that technology is embedded in their teaching practice in a way that digital competence, no matter to what extension has been developed, is a part of the wider teaching competence.

They do so by instructing students in selection of relevant information available online, encouraging active participation of students which in the occupations studied is also part of the vocational profile; assisting in the selection of content (therefore searching for accuracy, relevance, ethics and appropriateness) and, in certain ways, bringing a non-digital approach to digital media, addressing issues such as authorship acknowledgment; or the combination of audiovisual media with written text, hence considering reading as a key competence no matter what. It is customary to bring to the classroom the technologies and tools used in professional practice and collaborative learning is enhanced as it is inherent to the vocational field in social and child care.

As case UK1 holds, «the students love my facebook pages since the materials I provide …They actively use it as an extension of the classroom. The lower level students seek assessment guidance actively through yammer because they can get an immediate response from myself which allows them to make informed decisions regarding their own learning needs and helps them submit their tasks on time. Some students lack confidence in asking face to face for help but the tool of yammer means they can do this remotely.»

4.2   Resources

There is a huge array of digital resources available to VET teachers, and this is both varied and changing. There are some prospective essays listing these regularly (Adams et al., 2017), ranging from smartboards to social networks, open resources or databases, smartphones or augmented reality, blogs, wikis and so on. Of course, the technologies employed in the companies in the professional sector can also be used as teaching and learning resources. Open Educational Resources, as defined by Butcher (2015) are also part of these, and they may lead to a wider understanding of education (Ricaurte, 2016).

VET teachers in the field of physical activity hold that Internet and social networks can be very useful; and they also make frequent use of the mobile phone even if students have very limited search capacity, so teachers try to help them to have better competence and autonomy. Selection of appropriate and accurate content is the main problem they face. Youtube tutorials, professional websites and podcasts are also used. In some cases, digital resources are fully embedded in a digital pedagogy, like is the case of Spain7: «All the contents are structured in OneNote and the Microsoft Teams applications…We use the “Miniprofes360” for learning anatomy… They create all the contents, respecting the original authorship… We use personalised learning or Flipped classroom. Students have access to the net whenever and wherever. Then we provide online lessons through skype … Students can contact at any time with teachers and classmates. The chat gives us higher possibilities for feedback … Students create contents collaborating each other Moreover, they use traditional office tools in a collaborative way.» 

However, in the area of resources we have also found teachers reluctant to their use. Again, we refere to case UK1: «I am a bit of a techno phobe and need lots of support with new technologies and I do lack confidence in trying new resources in case they go wrong. I rely on technical support from staff to support me and I shy away from volunteering to trial new technologies that the college may introduce… It is also more appropriate for this generation to work with technology since at schools they are already learning about ICt and digital communication as part of the secondary curriculum… The creativity of lessons that technology can bring is very important  especially since tutors are having to differentiate widely in their delivery more so these days with the rise of learners who have dyslexia and other learning needs. Simplicity though is important for me because If something goes wrong with the digital technology then my lesson will be ruined due to my insufficient expertise.»

4.3   Assessment

Assessement with the support of digital technologies may be a different assessment to traditional one or it may also consist of the traditional assessment stressed through the use of technological resources; hence facing the same dilemmas of learning assessment (Crisp, 2011). We can consider which (technological) tool we may use to assess students’ learning, or rather take into account that technologies may be used to assess for the sake of learning instead of just to check how far it has gone, keeping in mind that digital tools can ease the automatization and management of information that is part of assessment (Benson and Brack, 2010).

            Furthermore, digital competencies allow us to think of new assessment domains or objects, such as online communicative skills, management of uncertainties in the learning processes due to amount of information at hand of the student, or the online chances to increase cooperation in learning activities (Williams, 2017). It will therefore be relevant to check whether assessment is part of the digital pedagogical model of the teacher, whether it is product or process oriented and whether it makes use of digital tools to handle evaluation.

     Here is how Spain1, an expert in the incorporation of digital tools to teaching processes, well acknowledged in the region and him being the most experienced teacher in our sample, deals with assessment: «No on-line assessment, though I am able to do I do not want to… The blog produced by students in groups of 4 is used to assess students learning; prior to that I myself write a blog so the students can have it as a reference… Formative assessment is often used, for finding out previous knowledge of students, also their ideas and expectations, and also used for follow-up, but not for final assessment. However, moodle is the platform where students have to upload their products to be assessed, but I use it as a repository, not an evaluation tool. Nevertheless, transversal skills can be taught and assessed thanks to technologies, where more than one skill is behind almost every task.»

A different view is held by case UK3, also an experienced teacher and with expert use of digital tools: «Technologies are used for both continuous and final assessment of students, as well as to explore previous knowledge they may have. Referring to these tools allows me to gain information from activities performed by students, to adapt planning of the teaching and learning processes and to introduce new aspects of the occupational domain. I have created assessment tools to provide specific feedback to students.»

5        Preliminary conclusions

Even if we have provided just a few excerpts from our interviews to try and illustrate the three areas upon which we have focused, pedagogy, resources and assessment, where pedagogy is the core dimension around which all other are integrated, and even if our study is still under progress, we may already identify some issues that despite initially shocking may provide suggestive reflections.

First, to our surprise, the most experienced teachers are and, therefore, the older they are, the more open, less reluctant they show themselves in incorporating digital competencies to their teaching and learning practices, even though these are part of a wider and better developed understanding of what pedagogical knowledge and practice is. The overall pedagogical understanding of their trade is the relevant aspect that gives meaning and sense to the incorporation of a digital perspective. We have of course found some example of younger less experienced teachers with a similar holistic approach to digital competencies, but that has been the case among those whose training was embedded in a digital pedagogy view and with much specific training behind it, as was the case Spain7.

Second, the use of resources is a support from which teachers feel enriched but it is the lease relevant one among the different dimensions we have studied. Even if it may seem the most updated one, rapid change makes it vulnerable and teachers stick to their preferred tools and resources, particularly those who want to have an approach to them as producers and not just consumers: these are the teachers that want to foster their students’ creativity and ability to handle the tools instead of being subject to a limited use. In this sense, some tools prove to be powerful while others become less relevant for their restrictions in use. All teachers in our sample were also clear that resources are resources and that they must obey the interest of an overarching pedagogy, without which tools may become useless.

As for assessment, it is probably the least developed area among our teachers and one dimension that needs to address both technical and ethical issues. Most teachers rely upon assessment criteria among which digital dimensions are not so present. However, most of the teachers in our sample reckon there is wide room for a better understanding of assessment as an educational practice rather than a punitive one, a vision that using digital tools may enhance.


Adams Becker, S., Cummins, M., Davis, A., Freeman, A., Hall Giesinger, C., & Ananthanarayanan, V. (2017). NMC Horizon Report: 2017 Higher Education Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Benson, R.; Brack, C. (2010). Online Learning and Assessemnt in Higher Education. A planning guide. Oxford, UK: Chandos Publishing.

Butcher, N. (2015). A basic guide to open educational resources (OER). Commonwealth of Learning (COL).

Crisp, G. (2011). Teacher’s Handbook on e-Assessment. Disponible en: for_teachers.pdf

Gros, B. (2016). The Dialogue Between Emerging Pedagogies and Emerging Technologies. Springer Berlin Heidelberg. Available in

Lizandra, J.; Suárez, C.; Ros, A. and Marhuenda, F. (2019). Report on extension of European Reference Framework. TaccleVET report, Intellectual Output 1.

Marhuenda, F. (ed.)(2019). The school-based vocational education and training system in Spain. Dordrecht: Springer.

Marhuenda, F. (2018). The education of VET teachers in Spain. The proposal of UVEG. In T. Deissigner & V. Braun (Eds.), Improving teacher education for applied learning in the field of VET (pp. 73–100). Münster: Waxmann.

Marhuenda, F., & Ros, A. (2015). What sense can we make of the possibility of vocational didactics? International Journal for Research in Vocational Education & Training, 2(3), 170–181. doi:

Mishra, P. y Koehler, M. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A Framework for Teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054.

Redecker, C. (2017). European framework for the digital competence of educators: DigCompEdu (No. JRC107466). Joint Research Centre.

Ricaurte, P. (2016). Pedagogies for the open knowledge society. International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, 13(1), 32.

Suárez-Guerrero, C., Lloret-Catalá, C. & Mengual, S. (2016). Teachers’ Perceptions of the Digital Transformation of the Classroom through the Use of Tablets: A Study in Spain. [Percepción docente sobre la transformación digital del aula a través de tabletas: un estudio en el contexto español]. Comunicar, 49, 81-89.

Williams, P. (2017). Assessing collaborative learning: big data, analytics and university futures. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 42(6), 978-989.

Biographical notes

Dr. Jorge Lizandra, Dr. Cristóbal Suárez and Dr. Alicia Ros work at the University of Valencia, Spain; where they lecture in Teacher Education. Dr. Lizandra and Suárez research interests cover the domain of digital competence of teachers; while Dr. Ros research interest covers is about the education of VET teachers.

Prof. Dr. Fernando Marhuenda works at the University of Valencia, Spain, where he lectures on Social Education. Current coordinator of the research group Transitions, education-work relations and the development of VET in relation to social inclusion.

[1] FOL stands for ‘Formación y Orientación Laboral’, a compulsory subject in all formal VET qualifications which content consists in health and safety issues, labour relations and its legal arrangements and search for employment (see Marhuenda, 2018).

Research Papers

Professional development in the use of technology for teaching and learning in the construction sector

Deitmer Ludger

University of Bremen, Institute Technology and Education, ITB


This paper studies developments in the German building and construction sector under the perspective of current changes in industrial and craft trade occupations: What kind of skill changes are needed to improve teaching, learning and working through the use of digital media technology? By using data from a survey of apprentices and nine interviews With Vocational Education and Training teachers and trainers it provides a first picture of the state of art in this occupational domain. It attempts to systemize and cluster the challenges for high quality apprenticeships and for their teachers to support work related learning processes different learning and working venues, including VET schools, industrial training centres and the building and construction companies themselves.

Keywords: building and construction industry and craft trade; digital tools and media; initial and further vocational training and education; mixed method approach

1        Introduction

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 looks at continuing professional development in the use of technology for teaching and learning for trainers in the construction industry in Germany. The paper by Graham Attwell (2019) 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 third paper by Fernando Marhuenda Fluixa (2019) 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.

2        The importance of the building and construction sector for the labour market and the number of apprentices in different occupations

The construction sector is one of the largest in Europe with an average of over 9 % of the GDP in the European states and provides 18 million direct jobs. It is not surprising that this sector is of structural importance for the labour market and the economy.

In Germany there are about 1.8 million people employed in the sector as architects, civil engineers, technicians, foremen, general foremen and a high number of skilled workers in more than 60 occupations. The occupations include road construction; pipe fitting and welding; well builders; specialised ground workers, and industrial and private house building with skilled occupation including masons, concreters, scaffolders; carpenters and finishing and completion trades with occupations within sanitation, heating and regenerative energy.

The sector recruits most of its workers through a three and a half year apprenticeship either in craft trade companies or in the construction industry and supplier and vendor companies including the production and maintenance of vehicles, machinery, and also building materials including stone and cement and prefabricated building sections – stairs, walls, roofs etc.

The apprentice rate is high comprising about 8,4 % employees in the industry and differing slightly throughout the different building occupations. The constant need for investment in the road infrastructure and house building as well as industrial building results in a constant demand for skilled employees especially at skilled worker and foremen level! It is a struggle to recruit sufficient young school leavers to undertakeapprenticeships. The VET system covers three learning arenas: large and small companies, regional training centres and local VET schools.

3        Changes in work and technology in building and construction

Compared to other factory industries, for example car and vehicle production, machinery or electrical devices, the use of digital media for learning and work has developed quite smoothly over the last 5 years starting from a low level but now more and more increasing. Quality standards and installation techniques in the construction industry are becoming ever more sophisticated. This is demonstrated above all by recent developments in construction equipment, including devices as well as a rich variety of new construction materials. For instance, in underground engineering, new processes for horizontal drilling technology (HDD) are applied today. They demand higher standards of technical and social qualification for the underground workers; as well as new geological skills in advance planning and machine safety control. Altogether, this leads to entirely new requirements for work processes performed by the workers and foremen involved, with increased demands for specialist skills and process expertise. Both in initial training and in further education, new training contents must be taught as well as translated didactically into practically-oriented vocational training in construction covering different knowledge domains.

The advantage of using digital media is it could help to enhance the image of this sector as well as to help make work less stressful and safer. But the media competence of the professionals is not yet developed at the same level as it should be. Continuing vocational training and apprenticeship still lacks well proven media concepts at an organisational as well at a personal level. This leaves big gaps in introducing sufficient and innovative digital media.

4        Use of digital media

A survey of more than 700 apprentices in the construction industry revealed a generally high use of smartphones and tablets, including to obtain work-related information and to solve concrete problems. However, the respondents were only partly aware of specific apps for construction professions. Even those that were known were rarely used. Simultaneously, the survey showed a high level of interest in the general use of mobile technologies in the work process (Deitmer, Heinemann 2017).

5        Feedback from nine interviews with VET teachers and trainers

Interviews with vocational teachers and trainers undertaken through the Taccle 5 project included those with professional backgrounds as carpenters, car mechatronics, pipe fitters, road builders, media occupations and vocational inclusion. The teachers and trainers discussed different issues of their work including teaching and learning, digital resources and empowering and facilitating learners as well as assessment.

The interviewees stated that many of the existing apps were simply not suitable for solving problems that arise in the work process and professions. The many apps analysed often more or less successfully provide information and data but are produced by vendors and not accessible by the training institution. They do not promote mobile learning by apprentices, and especially fail to support informal learning in practice work place (Deitmer et. al. 2018).

COMMON GROUND All trainers have a high level of professional competence and commitment. Critically, the high work load restricts time for professional development in digital media: finding out about digital tools is time consuming and may require training in their use in the teaching and learning process. At present the assessment of media applications and their use by students for learning is not very systematic.

COOPERATION:Some trainers work in close cooperation with training companies but other do not find time for intense cooperation on integrated projects. Digitisation helps better cooperation between teachers and trainers in different learning venues and at least allows them to know what the is being done at different learning places.

CONTINUING TEACHER TRAINING: those interviewed stressed the importance of collaborative learning with VET colleagues; they favoured internal school based continuing training measures (SCHILF: school internal teacher further education). Most of the teachers and trainers interviewed assessed themselves as having intermediate media expertise; very few felt that were at an advanced level (see Table 1, below).

CONCEPTS ON DIGITAL MEDIA DEVELOPMENT: some schools have a clear-cut media agenda including addressing the issue of digital resources. In some schools there was overall coordination of the use of digital media coordination’ in others this was non-existent.

CRITICAL: the creation and discovery of sufficient high-quality digital resources for supporting learning is a major challenge for all teachers and trainers. Didactical expertise is diverse and uneven among those interviewed. It is still very unclear in which direction the digital media infrastructure in the VET schools will develop: for example, the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) approach or the provision of tablets or computers by the schools. Further research, development and discussion is needed. Bandwidth and connectivity are often still a problem.

How would you classify yourself?  nine selected trainer and teachers in construction occupations
Six areas of educators professional expertise (Redeker et. al 2017) beginner intermediate advanced
Professional competence: using Digital media for communication and collaboration   1 8
Digital resources: sourcing and creating digital resources 2 3 4
Digital pedagogy: orchestrating use of digital media in teaching and learning   6 1
Assessment: using digital media to enhance formative assessments   8 1
Empowering learners: to enhance inclusion and learners active engagement     9
Facilitating learners digital competence: enable them to creatively use digital media for information, communication, content creation, well being and problem saving.   7 1

Table 1:         Self-assessment of competence in digital media by VET trainer and teachers

Most teachers and trainers assessed their occupational identity as well as their professional competence as very strong and robust. However, this was less so for producing digital resources. Equally ‘Facilitating learner digital competencewas seen this as a big challenge within VET school teams and organisations. Assessment is presently informal and not undertaken systematically.

6        Conclusion

VET in Germany is diverse and includes a broad range of work tasks and sectors. Until now digitisation had a limited impact on the way apprentices develop their skills. There is still a controversial debate over the best future path regarding the development of learning opportunities in the work place, training companies, VET schools and t cross company training centres.

7        Bibliography

Attwell, G., Heinemann, L., Deitmer, L., & Kämäräinen, P.. (2013). Developing PLEs to support work practice based learning. In: eLearning Papers #35, Nov. 2013.

Boreham, N., & Fischer. M. (2009): “The mutual shaping of work, vocational competence and work-process knowledge” in: Maclean, R. und D.N. Wilson (Hg.) International Handbook of Education for the Changing World of Work, S. 1593-1609, Dordrecht: Springer.

Deitmer, L. & Heinemann, L. (2017) New teaching methods and learning methods in further VET for general foremen in the German Construction sector. In: Kaiser, F., Krugmann, S. (Eds.): Social Dimension and Participation in Vocational Education and Training, Proceedings of the 2nd conference “Crossing Boundaries in VET”, University of Rostock

Deitmer, L., Heinemann, L., & Müller, W. (2018) New Forms of Learning and Teaching and Organisational Change In: Christian Nägele, Barbara Stalder (ED.) Conference Proceedings VETNET, European Conference of Educational Research, University of Bozen

Deitmer, L., & Attwell, G. (2013) Developing work based Learning Environments in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in European construction sector. In: Michael Gessler, Ludger Deitmer, Marg Malloch (Eds.) VETNET Proceedings: European Conference of Educational Research, Istanbul,

Gann, M., & David, Innovation in Construction Sector, In: Mark Dodgson, Roy Rothell (eds.), The Handbook of Industrial Innovation, Cheltenham, Edgar Elgar 1994, p. 202-212

Meyser, J., & Uhe, E. (2008) Construction In : Felix Rauner, Rupert Mac Lean (ED.) Handbook of Technical and Vocational Education and Training Research, Dordrecht, Springer International, pp. 214-221

Niethammer, M., Schmidt, D., & Schweder, M. (2013): Ausbilderschulungen in der Aufstiegsfortbildung (Vorarbeiter/Werkpolier/Geprüfter Polier). In: bwp@Spezial 6 – Hochschultage Berufliche Bildung 2013, Fachtagung 03, S. 1-16.

Biographical note

Dr. Ludger Deitmer works since many years as a Senior Researcher and Lecturer at the Institute Technology and Education (ITB), University of Bremen. He coordinated a variety of different regional, national and international pilot projects in which work process skills, personal learning environments and organisational measures are researched and developed.

Research Papers

The Training and Professional development of teachers in use of digital technologies in Vocational education and training

Attwell Graham



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

1        Introduction
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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Cedefop (2004) ‘Towards a history of vocational education and training (VET) in Europe in a comparative perspective: Proceedings of the first international conference’, Volume I: The rise of national VET systems in a comparative perspective, October 2002, Florence. Cedefop panorama series 103, Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities,

Cedefop (2018). The changing nature and role of VET. Retrieved from http://www.cedefop.europa.

European Commission (2010). The Bruges Communique on Enhanced European Cooperation on Vocational Education and Training. Retrieved from

European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice (2015). Appendix to the Teaching Profession in Europe: Practices, Perceptions, and Policies. Eurydice Report. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

European Commision (2015). Riga conclusions on VET. Retrieved from

European Commission (2018) Advisory Committee on Vocational Training: Opinion on the future of vocational education and training post 2020. Retrieved from

Herd G and Mead Richardson A (2015). UNESCO World Report, ICT in VET, Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from

Mason, P. (2019) Time for postcapitalism, Social Europe. Retrieved from

OECD: TALIS 2013 Results. An International Perspective on Teaching and Learning, TALIS. OECD Publication, Paris (2014). Smith, R. Mc Kean, P. and Knight, S. (2017). The evolution of FELTAG: a glimpse at effective practice in UK further education and skills, JISC,

REDECKER C., & Yves P., (2017) European Framework for the Digital Competence of Educators: DigCompEdu. Retrieved from

Welsh Government (2019). Digital2030 A strategic framework for post-16 digital learning in Wales. Retrieved from

Biographical notes

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.

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