Reflections On Vocational Bildung Didactics In Vocational Teacher Education: Two Case Studies
Vocational education and training (VET) is a matter of teaching skills and the knowledge needed to perform vocational tasks. However, it is also about educating reflective practitioners (Schön 1983, 1987), supporting moral development and vocational ethics (Tyson 2015a, Corsten & Lempert 1997) and educating for the development of competences or key-qualifications (Rauner & Bremer 2004). These latter issues have been repeatedly argued on a philosophical or policy level and it has been established that the major part of this takes place in conjunction with skill-training and cannot be separated off from it (Rauner and Bremer 2004). There has been less work devoted to examining how such educational processes are encouraged and enacted, ie. their didactical aspects.
In previous research (Tyson 2015a, 2015b), part of which was presented at last years ECER/VET-NET (Didactical narratives as part of educating for vocational excellence: articulating relationships between techne and phronesis),I have argued that these issues can be conceptualized as vocational Bildung and explored empirically as a form of practical didactical knowledge narratively articulated as stories of vocational Bildung-experiences and affordances.
The aim of this presentation is to continue on the same line of inquiry with a presentation of further empirical research. This research is an attempt to take the concept of narratively articulated vocational Bildung didactics and introduce it into two academically based vocational teacher education programs (one focusing on nursing teachers and one encompassing a multitude of different vocational teachers). This is a way of exploring how the conceptual framework developed can be brought back to practitioners and also to examine the ways in which this kind of inquiry changes as it transforms from an extensive single biographical case study into two less elaborate multiple case studies.
The theoretical framework for this is located in the field of phronetic social science (Flyvbjerg 2001, Schram 2012) where the focus is not foremost to produce theory but to contribute to phronesis/practical wisdom in both social practice and social science. The conceptual framework for narratively articulated vocational Bildung didactics consists of the techne/phronesis distinction (Biesta 2013, Dunne 1993, Kinsella & Pitmann 2012), narratives as articulated practice (Clandinin & Connelly 1995, Gallagher 2010, McDrury & Alterio 2002, McEwan & Egan 1995, Moon 2010, Tyson 2015a), didactics (Uljens 1997) as an entwined practice of techne and phronesis, and finally, pedagogical imagination as the central concept in mediating between general ideas and particular practice, drawing on Schön’s (1987) idea that skilled practitioners have a repertoire of previous experiences that they reinterpret to enrich their confrontation with new situations. This can be contextualized as part of a field of research closely related to both Bildungsgangdidaktik (Gessler 1988, Meyer 2009, Trautmann 2004) and reflective practice (Schön 1983, 1987).
The two case studies were designed around slightly different questions relating to vocational Bildung didactics. In the first one connected to students in a vocational teacher program, the task given was to write about a didactically relevant vocational Bildung experience from their own vocational education. In the second one connected to students in a nursing teacher program the task given was to write about a didactically relevant existential vocational Bildung experience from their own practice given that a significant part of care-professions is dealing wisely with the pain and suffering of those under care. Both groups were given a short description of the concepts of narratively articulated vocational Bildung didactics together with some examples of narratives that fit these descriptions.
The research design consists of two multiple case studies where each narrative can be viewed as a case. In both the documentation has been made as a form of written assignment within the context of vocational teacher education. As such it has the strength of being comparatively easy to give to a larger number of people but with the drawback that the narratives become shallower and less reflective than they can be when the documentation method is interviewing.
Each case can contribute to several different viewpoints. As argued by Flyvbjerg (2001), Larsson (2009) and Thomas (2010) there are black swan cases, paradigmatic cases, critical cases, cases that reveal patterns and information gathering cases that all hold relevance in the present context in relation to the five contributions enumerated initially. In the context of narratively articulated practical knowledge relating to the value-laden concept of Bildung, the central condition, given to the students, has been that the narratives be of unusual success or richness (cf. eg. Kelchtermans 2015). This is in line with a phronetic perspective where social science research should contribute to the development of practice (Schram 2012), but also a matter of ensuring that the narratives can function as the case forms listed above. All of them share the common attribute of being more likely to yield new and interesting knowledge/perspectives to the extent that they deviate from the norm and the expected.
The ethical ramifications of such narratives are comparatively limited given that they focus on situations of human flourishing. To the extent that they risk exposing someone to harm they need to be adequately anonymized and care still must be taken when deciding if a narrative should be published or not. However, it is a point in itself to be clear that the stories one chooses to tell are ones that one would be comfortable telling also in a public environment. Each participant has been given the opportunity to not have their narrative included in the study and special care was taken regarding the existential Bildung narratives to ensure that these principles were followed given the more sensitive nature that many such stories have.
The concluding reflections will center around what kinds of vocational Bildung didactical knowledge that can be found articulated in the narratives and how this can contribute to further research and to the effort to bring academic teacher education and practice into closer proximity. As such they represent a way of surfacing ‘the wisdom of practice’ that Shulman (2004) writes of.
They will also discuss the various ways in which these initial case studies contribute practical knowledge to creative ways in which to enhance the reflective practice and pedagogical imagination of vocational teacher students.
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This proposal is part of a master or doctoral thesis.