Participation in VET Congress 2017 with extended summary about our TBOC-model

sfivet_logoMy colleagues, Mette Allermand, Anna Brodersen, Carsten Lund Rasmussen, and I have an extended summary accepted for the SFI VET Congress 2017.  The congress takes place at the Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (SFIVET) in Bern/Zollikofen, Switzerland from March 14-16 2017. The theme of the congress is Unleashing the creative potential of VET, and Danish Professor, Lene Tanggaard Pedersen is one of the keynote speakers.

Our extended summary is entitled Technology-mediated Boundary Objects and Boundary Crossing in Vocational Education and Training – an instructional design model, and the abstract reads as follows:

In this extended summary, we propose an instructional design model aimed at using technology-mediated boundary objects and boundary crossing processes in vocational education and training. The model is based on preliminary findings from a current research project (2015-2017) on vocational teachers’ perceptions of transfer and boundary crossing and their use of information and communication technology (ICT) in relation to such processes. Theoretically the model is inspired by Akkerman & Bakker’s (2011) proposal of four dialogical learning processes, which are attributed boundary crossing potential. Empirically the model has been field validated among Danish vocational teachers attending continuing professional development courses at The Metropolitan University College in Denmark. While the instructional design model has been positively received among the vocational teachers, we still consider it to be a work-in-progress, and further research on how to scaffold the use of the model is needed.

As seen in this abstract, we aim to present an instructional design model we have developed based on findings in the first phase of our research project on ICT, transfer and boundary crossing in vocational education and training that we are currently conducting at the Metropolitan University College. Based predominantly on boundary crossing theory, but also with theoretical inspiration from Henningsen & Mogensen (2013) in relation to mediating tools, we have developed an instructional design model. Figure 1 below shows the model in its initial conception:

tboc_vers1

Figure 1. The TBOC-model version 1.0.

In figure 2 the TBOC-model is shown with examples of technologies that can be used in relation to different boundary crossing processes.

tboc_vers1_examples

Figure 2. TBOC-model with examples.

It’s important to notices that our work with the model is still very much in progress. Carsten and I have used the model in pedagogical exercises with in-service vocational teachers this fall, and we are still in the process of analyzing data from those design experiments. Furthermore, we are revisiting data from previous interviews and observations in an effort to further validate the model. In the spring of 2017, we plan to collect more data at vocational schools, and we’ll continue our work with the model – also based on new theoretical insights (e.g. this study by Marheineke).

/Mariis

References

Akkerman, S.F. & Bakker, A. (2011). Boundary crossing and boundary objects. In Review of Educational Research. June 2011, Vol. 81, No. 2, pp. 132-169

Henningsen, S.E. & Mogensen, F. (red.) (2013). Mellem teori og praksis. Om transfer i professionsuddannelser. [Between theory and praxis. On transfer in Bachelor’s Degree and Academy Profession Degree programmes. ] VIA Systime.

Challenges in designing for horizontal learning

Even though, my colleagues and I’ve presented our preliminary research results on several occasions, so far we’ve only presented in English once. In May 2016, I had the opportunity of presenting a short paper at the Designs for Learning conference in Copenhagen at AAU-CPH:

 

Our short paper can be found here (pp. 97-101)

/Mariis

For those readers who understand Danish, I’ve written a more detailed post about the conference on our Danish research blog.

ICT, transfer, and boundary crossing in VET – part 3

For the time being, this will be the third and final post describing our research project. In the first post, I wrote about the background for initiating the project, and in the the second post I zoomed in on our research questions. In this post, I focus on the design of our study.

According to Mackenzie & Knipe (2006), in the social and applied science, the exact nature of how research is defined will depend on the researcher’s personal and professional beliefs. Therefore, it is important to discern such assumptions before embarking in any research endeavour, because:

All research is interpretive: it is guided by a set of beliefs and feelings about the world and how it should be understood and studied. Some beliefs may be taken for granted, invisible, or only assumed, whereas others are highly problematic and controversial. (Denzin & Lincoln, 2011, p. 13)

Mackenzie & Knipe (2006) suggest four sets of underlying assumptions or paradigms: 1) Positivist/postpositivist, 2) Interpretivist/constructivist, 3) Transformative, and 4) Pragmatic. It is the choice of paradigm that sets down the intent, motivation and expectation for the research,  and I would say that our project mainly is situated within an interpretivist line of thinking in which the intention of the research is to understand the world by trying to make sense of the experiences and attributed meanings others have about the world. Researchers focus on the processes of interaction among individuals and on the specific contexts in which individuals live and work. Further, proponents of this paradigm recognize that the researchers’ own background impact the research and their interpretation hereof. Initially we wanted to design our project as a transformative study building on a Design based Research approach, but our local research leader advised against this assuming the VET schools would be too busy to get involved in a significant manner.

Consequently, we ended up designing our project as a multiple case study (Yin, 2009) with interviews and observations as primary methods to generate and collect data in different phases of the project.

In the preliminary research phase of the project we conducted six ethnographic interviews with VET teachers, which we have written about in a short paper presented at the Designs for Learning 2016 conference (Riis et al, 2016). Building on Spradley’s (1979) ideas of descriptive questioning, and questions loosely structured around the elements in a third generation activity system, we interviewed six vocational teachers from the three dominant strands of the Danish VET system (technical, business and social- and health schools). As stated by Spradley (1979), descriptive questioning aims at uncovering the informant’s personal experience with the practice and phenomenon under study by way of having the informant elaborate through thick descriptions and examples, often times by repeating and rephrasing questions. The data generated in this initial phase was mainly targeted at answering our first sub-question regarding VET teachers’ understanding and practice concerning the concepts of boundary crossing and continuity. In brief, we found that the interviewed VET teachers predominantly think in terms of vertical learning processes and one-time and one-directional transfer, rather than horizontal processes, continuity, and boundary crossing.

In the second phase of the project (Spring 2016), we conducted classroom observations combined with further interviews (with VET students and trainers as well), and we are still in the process of analyzing the data.

Due to organizational changes in our department, which led to a reduction from five to three people in the research group (with one being a newcomer to the project), we decided not to interact directly with VET schools this fall. Instead we have focused on analyzing data and on field validating some of our pedagogic-didactic materials that we have developed, and this we have done in our teaching at the Diploma for VET teachers.

Based on our findings so far, it has become obvious that we need to focus on observing teachers and students acting with technology in the future in order to better understand the phenomenon of ICT-based artefacts and their role in boundary crossing. When looking at the different types of ICT that participants in our study actually use, it seems fruitful to focus on the use of video and learning management systems, and we are hoping to interact with VET schools in this regard beginning 2017.

/Mariis

References

Denzin, N.K. & Lincoln, Y.S. (2011). The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research. SAGE

Mackenzie, N. & Knipe, S. (2006). Research dilemmas: Paradigms, methods and methodologyIssues In Educational Research, Vol 16, 2006.

Riis, M., Bergstedt, P., Jørgensen, C.B., Koch, H.H. & Rasmussen, C.L. (2016). Challenges in designing for horizontal learning – in the Danish VET system. Short paper accepted for Designs for Learning conference, May 18.-20., 2016 in Copenhagen, Denmark at Aalborg University, http://www.designsforlearning2016.aau.dk/

Spradley, J.P. (1979). The Ethnographic Interview. Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Yin, R. K. (2009). Case Study Research. Design and methods. 4th edition. SAGE.

ICT, transfer, and boundary crossing in VET – part 2

As I explained in a previous post, in our current research project my colleagues and I are interested in studying why and how vocational teachers understand and design for boundary crossing through the use of ICT-based artefacts. The research project is guided by the following two main research questions (RQs):

RQ1: In what ways and why do VET teachers use ICT-based artefacts as boundary objects to design for boundary crossing and continuity in and across different contexts?

RQ2: What didactic and pedagogic recommendations can support VET schools’ future work with establishing enhanced school-workplace interaction through the use of ICT?

A couple of important points should be made regarding these RQs. First of all, at the Metropolitan University College, we are obligated to conduct “applied research”, which means that besides generating new knowledge, the research must be directed towards “a specific practical aim or objective” (cf. OECD’s Frascati manual). This obligation influences both the identification and formulation of RQs, and as seen in RQ2, we have to conclude our research with concrete recommendations for practice, and ideally these recommendations should be “field validated” by practitioners through our research. In our case, we develop didactic and pedagogic materials (models, cases, exercises etc.) the in-service VET teachers can use when they participate in our educational programme*, and hopefully also when they’re back in their schools.

Another point has to do with our use of the term “didactic”. In a Scandinavian or German academic tradition, our a study would be situated within the field of Didactics. However, according to Hamilton (1999), in the Anglo-American mind, the term “didactic” may have very negative connotations implying a moralizing and heavily teacher driven approach to teaching and learning. Professor emeritus, Karsten Schnack from the Danish School of Education (Aarhus University) therefore recommends Danish scholars to avoid using the term when communicating in English (Schnack, 2000). While we don’t subscribe to a moralizing and teacher driven approach, we do recognize this aspect, and so in general when we present our research outside a Scandinavian context, we use the more neutral concept of “design for learning” (cf. Wenger, 1998).

To further guide our research, we have some additional sub-RQs as well:

  1. How and why is boundary crossing and continuity understood and practiced?
  2. How and why are boundary objects understood, designed and used as mediating artefacts?
  3. What types of ict-based artefacts can be identified as boundary objects, and what didactic and pedagogic pros and cons can be attributed to these?
  4. What types of ict-mediated boundary crossing can be identified, and what didactic and pedagogic pros and cons can be attributed to these?

As the reader will notice, we are using the concept “boundary crossing” and not “transfer” in our RQs, even though our project in Danish is entitled “ICT and transfer in VET”. According to Akkerman & Bakker (2012):

Boundary crossing is a concept that has been proposed as an enriched notion of transfer (Tuomi-Gröhn et al., 2003), but differs from transfer in various ways. First of all, whereas transfer is mostly about one-time and one-directional transitions, primarily affecting an individual who moves from one context of learning (e.g. school) to one of application (e.g. work), the notion of boundary crossing includes ongoing, two-sided actions and interactions between practices (Säljö, 2003). Second, whereas transfer emphasizes the need for similarities between practices, boundary crossing is about finding productive ways of relating intersecting dissimilar practices. (Akkerman & Bakker, 2012, s. 155 – my emphasis)

In a Danish VET practitioner context, however, the concept of boundary crossing is unknown and our research dean therefore recommended that we use the more traditional transfer concept. We have, nonetheless started to use boundary crossing and boundary objects in our teaching.

Further, as already stated in the above mentioned first post on our project, we are constantly challenged by the similarities and differences between the concepts.

/Mariis

*) In Denmark, VET teachers are obligated to attend in-service further education, and at the Metropolitan University College we offer such programmes.

References

Akkerman, S.F. & Bakker, A. (2012). Crossing boundaries between school and work during apprenticeship. Vocations and Learning. 5:153-173

Hamilton, D. (1999). The Pedagogic Paradox (or Why No Didactics in England?). Pedagogy, Culture & Society. Vol. 7, No. 1. pp. 135-152.

Schnack, K. (2000). Er didaktik og curriculum det samme? Danmarks Lærerhøjskole.

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of Practice. Learning, Meaning, and Identity. Cambridge University Press.

ICT, transfer, and boundary crossing in VET – part 1

In May 2015, colleagues from the Metropolitan University College and I started a research project on ICT, transfer, and boundary crossing in the Danish VET system. In a short series of blog posts I will elaborate on different aspects of the research project to set the scene. The following text is slightly revised from a paper we wrote for the Designs for Learning conference in Copenhagen, 2016 (Riis et al., 2016).

Background
In the Danish dual VET system, students oscillate between school and workplace periods throughout their education. Making sense and use of learning in and from different contexts and experiencing continuity between school and work has long been considered a major pedagogic-didactic challenge in Danish VET research resulting in a continuous focus on the transfer phenomenon (Aarkrog, 2010). Based on a pre-study of vocational teachers’ use of ICT conducted in 2014 (Riis, Bergstedt, Rasmussen, unpublished), we noticed how the teachers attributed a transfer (and sometimes boundary crossing) potential to the use of ICT in teaching and learning processes across different contexts, leading to our current research project. The main research question investigates why and how vocational teachers understand and design for boundary crossing through the use of ICT-based artefacts.

Transfer and boundary crossing
Both in research (Lobato, 2006; Engle, 2012) and among practitioners transfer is a contested concept. In on research project, we adopt Engeström and colleagues’ concepts of vertical and horizontal learning, polycontextuality, and boundary crossing (Engeström, Engeström & Kärkkäinen, 1995; Tuomi-Gröhn, Engeström & Young, 2003), as a way of challenging the traditional notion of transfer understood mainly as a one-time and one-directional transition between a context of acquisition and that of application. As stated by Engeström et al. (ibid.), learning can be conceptualized as both a vertical and a horizontal process. In the former, focus is on learning in a single social system (e.g. in a school) often times based on a narrow, hierarchical view of knowledge and expertise. Conversely, in the latter perspective, learning is based on a broader, multidimensional view of knowledge and expertise and focus is on transitions or crossings in and between multiple social systems (e.g. in and between school and workplace). A horizontal view on learning and transfer understood as boundary crossing, seeks to find productive ways of relating intersecting dissimilar practices (Akkerman & Bakker, 2012), potentially accommodating the inherent contradictions of a dual education system.

According to Akkerman & Bakker “(…) a boundary can be seen as a sociocultural difference leading to discontinuity in action or interaction.” (2011, p. 133), and boundary crossing generally refers to an individual’s transitions and interactions across different contexts. Although discontinuity may be perceived negatively at a glance, in the third generation of CHAT, boundaries understood as contradictions in and between elements and systems, are seen as carrying potential for learning, change, and development. In any activity system, activity is object-oriented, and artefacts (signs or tools) are attributed mediating properties. Whether a mediating artefact functions as a boundary object depends on the purpose and use. In order to function as a boundary object, the artefact needs to inhabit and bridge intersecting practices (Star, 2010), which is not necessarily the case for all mediating signs and tools.

The differences and similarities between the concepts of transfer and boundary crossing are constantly challenging us, so this is something I’ll return to on several occasions.

/Mariis

References

Akkerman, S.F. & Bakker, A. (2012). Crossing boundaries between school and work during apprenticeship. Vocations and Learning. 5:153-173

Akkerman, S.F. & Bakker, A. (2011). Boundary crossing and boundary objects. Review of Educational Research. June 2011, Vol. 81, No. 2, pp. 132-169

Engle, R.A. (2012). The resurgence of research into transfer: an introduction to the final articles of the transfer stand. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 21:3, 347-352.

Engeström, Y., Engeström, R. & Kärkkäinen, M. (1995). Polycontextuality and boundary crossing in expert cognition: Learning and problem solving in complex work activities. Learning and Instruction, Vol. 5. pp. 219-336.

Lobato, J. (2006). Alternative perspectives on the transfer of learning. History, issues, and challenges for future research. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 15(4), 431-449.

Riis, M., Bergstedt, P., Jørgensen, C.B., Koch, H.H. & Rasmussen, C.L. (2016). Challenges in designing for horizontal learning – in the Danish VET system. Short paper accepted for Designs for Learning conference, May 18.-20., 2016 in Copenhagen, Denmark at Aalborg University, http://www.designsforlearning2016.aau.dk/

Riis, M., Bergstedt, P. & Rasmussen, C.L. (unpublished). Undervisningsdifferentiering og it i de erhvervsrettede uddannelser – en eksploartiv forundersøgelse. Intern rapport udarbejdet 2014.

Star, S.L. (2010), This is not a boundary object; Reflections on the origin of the concept. Science, Technology, and Human Values, 25(5), 601-617.

Tuomi-Gröhn, T. Engeström, Y., & Young, M. (2003). From transfer to boundary crossing between school and work as a tool for developing vocational education: An introduction. In T. Tuomi-Gröhn & Y. Engeström (Eds.), Between school and work: New perspectives on transfer and boundary-crossing pp. 1–18. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Pergamon.

Aarkrog, V. (2010). Erhvervsuddannelsesforskningen i Danmark. In Størner, T. & Hansen, J.A. (red.) Erhvervspædagogik – mål, temaer og vilkår i eud’s verden. s. 73-82. Erhvervsskolernes Forlag.