Future-Creating Workshop in enhancing relevant vocational and professional education
The content of Vocational education and training (VET) in Norway is under continual debate (Dahlback, Hansen, Haaland & Sylte 2011, Hiim 2013, 2015, Smedby 2015, Hansen, Hoel & Haaland 2015).
The dropout rate amongst those who begin in VET is high. The main challenge being that the education has limited relevance. Dominant in VET programs is a lack of occupational embedment in both the practical and the theoretical content. This implies that the educational content is too general, and not sufficiently specific enough to meet the requirements the industries have for qualified personnel. A lack of professional relevance is also evident in the educational programs for vocational student teachers. We also see evidence of corresponding issues in the international context (OECD 2012, Billett 2011, 2013, Schøn 1996). Students undertaking the Master in Vocational pedagogy at HiOA want to cooperate in making educational VET programs more relevant and meaningful.
This research is part of larger project “Relevant curriculum development in vocational education and training (VET)”. In this paper, I am addressing use of the research method of Future-Creating Workshop as an element in Action Research.
Research question and objectives:
How can implementation of a Future-Creating Workshop contribute to enhancing practitioner research in vocational teacher education?
The first objective is to develop our knowledge about how the students on The Master program might develop relevant content in VET through collaboration with working life. The second objective is to develop our knowledge about how we as university teachers can contribute to the students learning and developing relevant content in VET. The objectives are closely interrelated
Relevant content in VET
The Master program for vocational teachers is conducted on a part-time basis, the students being either, employed as vocational teachers in Upper secondary schools or instructors in the workplace. In the program, the students are encouraged to write their Master thesis by either conducting development work in their own workplace, or undertaking surveys to identify requirements for qualifications and education in occupations. This allows the students to be practitioner researchers and acquire considerable knowledge about developments within their own vocation and the teaching profession. It also enables them to develop an overall perspective about the profession, and gain ability in recognition and reflection, which will qualify them to participate in the leadership of educational research (Honneth 2012, Sennett 2008, Schøn 1996, Dreyfus & Dreyfus 1986, Kolb 1984). In this project, the university teachers will facilitate and develop processes for the students in their efforts to contribute to greater relevance in VET.
The Future-Creating Workshop
Developing understanding and knowledge requires research and the creative ability to discover new perspectives and connections in the fragmented images we have in everyday life. To contribute to students’ training in these processes, we have integrated a Future-Creating Workshop approach in Action Research into the study. The Austrian future scientists Robert Jungk and Norman Müllert invented this approach in the 1970'ties, (Tofteng & Husted 2014, Jungk & Mullert, 1987). Critical-Utopian Action Research (CUAR) uses a Future-Creating Workshop as a core method in the way that the utopian work makes it possible to critically reflect on existing everyday life (Bladt, & Nielsen 2013). This method is used in various arenas, i.e. working life development and research, environmental research, and within civil movements (Gunnarsson & al. 2015, Nielsen, 2010, Nielsen & al. 2010).
Methods and methodology
The aim of the workshop was to investigate the questions: “What could our world look like?” and “How would we like it to be?” (Jungk & Mullert, 1987). The intention of the workshop was to provide the participants with the experience of democratic processes to promote change, both at work, within their organization, or beyond.
The aim of creating a democratic arena is to increase awareness of values, reduce power in social relations, invent new futures, empower everyday dreams, release people’s resourcefulness, awake social imagination, stretch and open horizons and to try out new actions. In this way, it can have a lasting impact on the Master students (Nielsen 2004, Schwencke 2006).
Future-Creating Workshop is a method in Action Research emphasizing participation. This can be seen in its focusing on facilitated, participative and democratic group processes. Rules to ensure participation are built into the Future-Creating Workshop implementation procedure. The workshop develops into 3 phases; Critique phase, the utopian phase, and the realization phase; each with its own rules and settings.
We conducted the workshop at the university in October 2015. There were 40 participatory Master students and the workshop lasted for 5 hours. The overall title for the workshop was:
“The future of vocational education in Norway- with focus on relevant education embed in occupations, in cooperation between, school, university, and work life. A good life and work – what can we do and how can we work?”
Titles for the different phases were as follows: The critique phase; «What are we dissatisfied with in the way the VET programs are conducted today with regard to relevance and embedment in occupations.” The utopian phase: If we could decide for ourselves, “How do we envisage the ideal vocational education that ensures relevant and meaningful development?” The realization phase; "What do we have to do to bring our ideas to life and achieve vocational education and training as we want it to be?”
Each phase included brainstorming, short group work, and presentations through pictures or in short silent plays. The researchers and the participants will further analyze the results of the workshop during the next months.
Preliminary results and expected outcomes
The documentation of the workshop is a protocol with pictures and drafts for action plans that forms the collective platform for further work and helps us remember, actions, experiments, networks, and groups.
There were mainly four concerns in this Workshop. One group promoted the collaboration with the work life and authorities and wanted to create a training village, as a learning arena built and operated by school learners in collaboration with the skilled workers.
Another group was concerned about the power of the educational authorities and wanted them provide for democratic influence on the development of curricula.
A third group focused on the schools internal communications by setting requirements to the leaders about clarity, visibility and participation.
The last group wanted to arrange for teachers to visit learners in the workplace and participate in the practical work relevant to their own vocation, thus offering the teachers systematic professional updating.
These topics were the preliminary results of the workshop. Each of these ideas can improve content quality in VET. However, they may encounter resistance in everyday life, but we can see that students have broken some barriers and started to think alternatively. The question is how they can succeed in integrating this alternative thinking with their short-term changes to achieve specific results in their practical efforts and simultaneously challenge their reflections and their research.
The main expected outcome from the workshop, however, is common visions for vocational education in Norway as well as internationally. This will give perspectives and a starting point for their Master thesis and the students can use their shared knowledge to produce new strategies or solutions and make new experiments. The university teachers will use drafts for action plans from the workshop in their supervision of the individual projects.
Billett, S. (2013). The standing of vocational education: sources of its societal esteem and implications for its enactment. Journal of Vocational Education & Training Volume 66, Issue 1, 2014
Bladt, M. & Nielsen, K. Aa. (2013). Free space in the processes of action research. Action Research, 2013, Vol.11(4), pp.369-385
Dahlback, J., Hansen, K., Haaland, G. & Sylte, A.L. (2011). Yrkesdidaktisk kunnskapsutvikling og implementering av nye læreplaner (KIP). R.U. 1/2011, høgskolen i Oslo & Akershus, institutt for yrkesfaglærerutdanning.
Dreyfus, Hubert & Dreyfus, Stuart (1986). Mind over Machine. The Power of Human Intuition and Expertice in the Era of the Computer. New York: Free Press.
Gunnarsson, E., Hansen, H.P.; Nilsen, B.S. & Sriskandarajah, N. (2015) Action research for democracy: New ideas and perspectives from Scandinavia. London: Routledge
Hansen, K., Hoel, T. L. & Haaland, G. (Red.) (2015) Tett på yrkesopplæring: yrkesrelevant, tilpasset og samfunnstjenlig? Bergen: Fagbokforlaget
Hiim, Hilde (2013). Praksisbasert yrkesutdanning. Oslo: Gyldendal Akademisk.
Hiim, Hilde (2015). Kvalitet i yrkesutdanningen. Norsk Pedagogisk Tidsskrift nr.2 2015, s. 136-148.
Honneth A., (2012). The I in We: Studies in the Theory of Recognition. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press
Jungk, R. & Müllert, N. (1984). Håndbog i fremtidsværksteder. København: Politisk Revy.
Nielsen, K.Aa. (2004). Aktionsforskningens videnskabsteori. Forskning som forandring. I L. Fuglesang & P.B. Olsen (red.), Videnskabsteori i samfundsvidenskaberne. Frederiksberg: Roskilde Universitetsforlag.
Nielsen, K. Aa. (ed.) (2010). A New agenda for sustainability. Farnham: Ashgate
Nielsen, L.D., Nielsen, K.Aa., Munck-Madsen, E. & Hartmann-Petersen, K. (2010). Fleksibilitet, flygtighed og frirum – en kritisk diagnose af det senmoderne arbejdsliv. Roskilde: Roskilde Universitetsforlag.
OECD (2012). Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Lives: A strategic approach to skills policies. [Online]. Paris: OECD Publishing. Retrieved on Sep. 14, 2012, from http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264177338-en
Schwencke, E. (2006). Free Space in Action Research and in Project Oriented Traineeship. In Nielsen, K. Aa. & L. Svensson (eds.), Action and Interactive Research – a Nordic approach. Maastrischt: Shaker Publishing.
Schon D. A. (1996). Educating the Reflective Practitioner: Towards a New Design for Teaching and Learning in the Professions. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Inc.
Sennett R. (2008). The Craftsman. London: Penguin Books.
Smedby, Jens Christian (2015). Academic drift in vocational education? In J.C. Smedby & M. Suthpen (eds), From Vocational to Professional education. London: Routledge.
Tofteng, D. & Husted, M. (2014) Critical Utopian Action Research. In Coghlan, D. & Brydon-Miller, M. (Eds.) The SAGE Encyclopedia of Action Research. London: Sage