Author(s):Laura Pylväs, Petri Nokelainen, Heta Rintala (presenting)

Conference:ECER 2016, Leading Education: The Distinct Contributions of Educational Research and Researchers

Network:02. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)


Session Information

02 SES 05 B, VET and Development of Competence

Paper Session


Room:Vet-Theatre 115

Chair:Martin Mulder


Development of Vocational Expertise in Finnish Apprenticeship Training

Following the central European model, Finnish government has issued the plans for the future to reduce the number (and grow the size) of the secondary level vocational education institutions. As the new financial model increasingly rewards education that is provided outside the educational institutions, the vocational education providers have a growing pressure to bring learning closer to real-life learning environments, that is, workplaces. This study examines the development of vocational expertise within the context of Finnish apprenticeship training. Currently, apprenticeship training accounts for about 17 percent of vocational education and training in Finland (The Finnish National Board of Education, 2010). The Finnish apprenticeship training is based on a fixed-term employment contract and the apprentice is paid according to the collective agreement for the period of workplace learning. Approximately 80 percent of training is provided at the workplace with supplementing theoretical studies at vocational institution. The employer is responsible for nominating a workplace trainer with relevant vocational skills, education and work experience for the apprentice. (The Finnish National Board of Education, 1998.)

The aim of the study is to analyze the development of expertise in workplace from the four different appreticeship actors, an apprentice, co-worker, workplace trainer and employer, point of view. The initial research questions are the following: 1) What vocational characteristics are considered important in apprenticeship training?; 2) How vocational development is supported in apprenticeship training?; 3) What kind of role a work community is considered to have in an apprentice’s development of expertise?

The theoretical framework of the study utilizes the Developmental Model of Vocational and Professional Excellence (DMVE) (Nokelainen, 2015). DMVE is based on research into individual attributes and characteristics and the dimensions of intelligence, including Zimmerman’s research on self-regulation (Zimmerman, 1998, 2000, 2006), Gagné’s research on development of talent (Gagné, 2004, 2010), Ericsson’s research on development of expertise (Ericsson, Krampe, & Tesch-Römer, 1993; Ericsson, 2006), and Gardner’s research on multiple intelligences (Gardner, 1983, 1999). The model maps the development of competence in terms of cognitive skills and affective abilities (expressed as Multiple Intelligences domains), work skills, influential individuals, and factors related to self-regulation (motivation, volition, and self-reflection). 


The research data was collected using semi-structured qualitative interviews carried out in ten small or medium-sized companies, which represented technical trades and social and healthcare sectors. Four people were interviewed at each company: an employer’s representative, apprentice, workplace trainer and a co-worker. The final sample consisted of 40 interviews, conducted in 2015. The interview instrument was developed on the basis of the earlier research modeling of vocational excellence by focusing on the significance of self-regulation and cognitive and social features in vocational talent development.

The research data was analyzed by qualitative content analysis. The text data has been obtained from the transcribed semi-structured interviews and managed by Nvivo software (organising data sources, managing coding and using numerical counts when analysing the text). The coding frame consisted of the main categories and sub-subcategories that are build by following the directed (or deductive) analysis approach based on the existing theory (Hsieh & Shannon, 2005; Schreier, 2014).

Expected Outcomes

The expected research results support a recent review confirming a positive relation between self-regulated learning and learning outcomes (Dunlosky et al., 2013). When collecting empirical data from several fields of vocations, our earlier research results have emphasized particularly the importance of logical-mathematical skills, interpersonal skills, and self-regulative skills (Pylväs, Roisko, & Nokelainen, 2015; Pylväs & Nokelainen, 2016) in the development of expertise. The empirical findings have also indicated that extrinsic conditions support the development of vocational expertise and excellence. In most cases, the family background and traditions provide the structure for initial interest and work ethic in vocational field. The successful career pathways start to develop during the studies on the basis of professional networks and the learning affordances carried with it. Preliminary results have indicated that guidance in the Finnish apprenticeship training is a collective and organizational phenomenon rather than a mentoring relationship between an apprentice and individual workplace trainer. All members of the work communities, not only the nominated trainers, participate in providing guidance for the apprentice. However, the availability of guidance is dependent on the characteristics of the apprentice that may actually lead to lack of guidance.


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Ericsson, K. A. (2006). The Influence of Experience and Deliberate Practice on the Development of Superior Expert Performance. In K. A. Ericsson, N. Charness, P. J. Feltovich, & R. R. Hoffman (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance (pp. 683-703). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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Gagné, F. (2010). Motivation within the DMGT 2.0 Framework. High Ability Studies, 21(2), 81–99.

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Nokelainen, P. (2015). Modeling the Characteristics of Vocational Excellence: A Case Study with Finnish WorldSkills Competitors. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Pylväs, L., & Nokelainen, P. (2016). Pathways to Vocational Excellence: Vocational characteristics and Career Progress of Past Vocational Skills Competitors. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Pylväs, L., Nokelainen, P., & Roisko, H. (2015). The role of natural abilities, intrinsic characteristics, and extrinsic conditions in air traffic controllers’ vocational development. Journal of Workplace Learning, 27(3), 241-263.

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This proposal is part of a master or doctoral thesis.

Author Information

Laura Pylväs
University of Tampere
School of Education
Petri Nokelainen
Tampere University of Technology, Finland
Heta Rintala (presenting)
Tampere University of Technology