Coherence between learning in school and workplaces for apprentices in the Media industry in Norway
Previous research on media education generally focuses on the concept of media literacy or digital competence as general knowledge (Buckingham, 2003; Erstad & Amdam, 2013). Almost no research focuses on the vocational media education. Those studies that have been conducted have looked into the school-based part of the education (Erstad, Gilje, & de Lange, 2007; Persson Thunqvist & Axelsson, 2012). There is a lack of research in this field, and no studies have looked into the relevance of the school-based training compared with the needs for qualifications in different media enterprises.
The model for VET (vocational education and training) differs between European countries. However there seem to be many similar challenges concerning a lack of coherence between what is learned in school and the need for qualifications in workplaces (European Commision, 2012). The objective of this project is to generate knowledge about to what extent the school-based part of the curriculum in Norwegian vocational media education has provided students with relevant qualifications for an apprenticeship in various media enterprises, and look into possible mismatches. The research question is:
In what way has the education in school provided the apprentices with relevant vocational qualifications required in different media enterprises, and what coherence is there between learning in school and in the workplace?
The standard model for VET at upper secondary level in Norway is often called the 2+2-model. This refers to a dual school system divided into two years of school-based training followed by two years of apprenticeship in an enterprise. There is a national curriculum for the enterprise-based training period, and there is a Journeyman´s Certificate.
The few studies that have looked into the media program in upper secondary school in Norway show that the education is mainly practical, that the students learn relevant vocational competence through practical work with real media productions, and that the way the students work with the media productions are similar to ways of work with productions that are common in different media workplaces (Erstad et al., 2007). The way of organizing the education seems to have much in common with learning in a «reflective practicum» (Schön, 1987).
However, The Norwegian National Survey of Apprentices´ Learning for both 2013 and 2014 found that the apprentices within the media program are the least satisfied with school-based training as preparation for the apprenticeship period (Caspersen, Garvik, & Wendelborg, 2014). Thus, it is crucial to look into what might be the reason for this deficiency of coherence between the curriculum in school and the requirements of qualifications in media enterprises.
The theoretical framework of the study is aimed at understanding the issues of coherence and transfer in VET curriculum from various angles. According to Eraut (2009), it can be difficult to transfer knowledge from a school based setting to a workplace because of differences in context, culture, and modes of learning. There can be differences in schools and workplaces regarding what is seen as valuable knowledge and good practice (Tanggaard, 2007). Different stakeholders in the VET system have various interests (Billett, 2011; Young, 2004). Workplaces want WET-students with specific skills according to their tasks while the teachers and school leaders are concerned about the school subjects and the results for exams.
The concept of situated learning (Lave & Wenger, 1991) looks upon learning as strongly embedded in participation in communities of practice. Even if the school-based education is organized as a reflective practicum (Schön, 1987), the school is a specific community of practice with specific values of what is regarded as valuable, i.e. doing well at exams.
This presentation is based on the first part of a Ph.D. project examining the coherence between learning in school and workplaces in the Media Program. Further, important questions for the project are how young apprentices within different media enterprises can develop vocational competence and identity, and what kind of vocational competence is robust and transferable.
To develop an in-depth, detailed understanding of the research questions, the methodological approach is qualitative (Creswell, 2013), and draws upon multiple sources, such as semi-structured interviews (Brinkmann & Kvale, 2015), observations and document analysis. In order to get a holistic understanding of what is crucial for the development of vocational media competence, the study includes apprentices, teachers in the Media program in different schools and instructors in various Media enterprises.
The main study will follow six apprentices during their first year of apprenticeship in media enterprises. The printing industry has long traditions of apprenticeship, and today there are apprentices also in film and multimedia enterprises. To ensure relevance to the research question, the sampling of media enterprises is purposive (Bryman, 2012) so that the selected workplaces cover a broad field of media productions.
The first interviews with the apprentices were conducted at the time when they had achieved the contract of apprenticeship with the enterprises. In addition, interviews were conducted with media teachers from the schools where the apprentices had undertaken the school-based training. The main focus of the interviews was to discover how the school-based learning had been organized.
Moreover, these interviews are followed by interviews with the apprentices and instructors, in the workplace, during observation days in the different enterprises. The main focus of the first of these interviews is the coherence of learning in school and workplaces. Whereas, the main focus of the subsequent interviews is the organizing of learning and production in the workplaces.
My background as a typographer and vocational teacher in the Media program helped me get access to both the schools and the workplaces. The interviews, in combination with observations from workplaces I'm familiar with, make it easier to understand learning and development of vocational competence in different Media enterprises.
The analyzes of data from the first part of the study have just started, and it is not possible to draw any conclusions so far. It seems, however, that some factors might be of particular importance for demonstrating coherence between learning in the Media program in school and in different workplaces.
• If there is cooperation between school and workplaces, or if the students are given the opportunity to work with real media productions for clients
• The vocational background of the teachers in schools, and whether they have practical experience of Media production
• How the teachers understand the national curriculum vs. the competence requirements in different workplaces
• To what extent possibilities exists for choosing among different tasks in the final exam after the second year in school
• In the workplaces, the apprentices are part of the community of practice and take part in real media productions. They consider their tasks as meaningful beyond the evaluation from the teachers.
At the time of the ECER conference in August, it will be possible to present the results of the study.
In the Media industry workers are supposed to continuously develop their vocational competence. The study might contribute to the understanding of what kind of vocational competences are robust and transferable in a complex, changing world.
The Media Program in upper secondary education in Norway will undergo changes during the next years, and there will be a new national curriculum for vocational media education. Also, for this reason, it is important to develop knowledge about the coherence of learning in school and workplaces in the existing apprenticeship program, and how the coherence may be improved.
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This proposal is part of a master or doctoral thesis.