Effects of Vocational Teachers’ Continuing Professional Development
This study concerns the continuing professional development (CPD) of vocational teachers, within their vocational subject areas. The particular focus is perceived effects of participation in different types of more or less formal CPD activities. The study puts focus on teachers in vocational education (VET) on upper secondary level in Sweden. Here, VET on this level is part of upper secondary school, or equivalent formal adult education. VET in this context is normally situated mainly at school, where vocational subject teachers have the main responsibility for vocational teaching and training. In addition to this, part of the training takes place in workplaces, and the three-year VET programmes in upper secondary school should include at least 15 weeks of “workplace-based learning”. It should also be noted that there are two main groups of teachers in Swedish VET programmes. This study concerns the vocational subject teachers, who normally have a background in the vocation for which they teach. There are also general subject teachers, teaching e.g. maths, Swedish, and English, subjects that are also part of the programmes, but this category of teachers is not included in the study. The vocational subject teachers normally work full-time as teachers and thus, they have ”left” their former occupation such as e.g. carpenter, truck driver, or hairdresser. In so, the question how they maintain and develop their vocational competence related to the vocational subject, in which they teach, is crucial according to teachers’ competence and thereby the quality of VET.
Theoretically, the study draws on a socio-cultural perspective on practice, identity and learning. Fundamental here is the situated character of knowledge, where to be knowledgeable means having developed an identity for full membership and participation in a specific community of practice (e.g. Lave & Wenger, 1991; Wenger, 1998). Hence, the knowledge and skills related to the vocational subject in school are situated in a specific community of practice, a vocational practice. In the study we investigate the perceived effects of boundary crossings between vocational practices and the practice of school, which are crucial for this category of teachers to maintain and develop their vocational/professional knowledge and identity. As different vocational subjects relate to different vocational practices it is presumed there are various conditions for boundary crossing and teachers’ CPD. Furthermore, the study is related to research and theory concerning adults’ participation in education, which is relevant when it comes to conditions for learning and identity formation among vocational subject teachers. A hypothesis is that situational and institutional factors as well as individual dispositions could influence teachers’ participation in and effects of CPD activities (cf. Cross, 1981).
In this paper we analyse the participation among Swedish vocational subject teachers in different types of activities that are expected to contribute to the continuing professional development within the vocational subjects (cf. Andersson & Köpsén, 2015; Köpsén & Andersson, 2015). These activities in different ways give teachers the opportunity to participate in the vocational, work-life community of practice of their teaching subject, or in other ways be part of some sort of boundary crossing in relation to this work-life community of practice. The main questions here are:
- What are the perceived effects of the CPD activities?
- What factors can explain the variation in perceived effects?
The multiple regression analysis is based on survey data on participation in different types of CPD activities, barriers to and momentum for participation in these activities, and the perceived effects of the activities in terms of professional development. The survey data is supplemented by register data concerning the teachers’ background. The survey was distributed through Statistics Sweden to a sample of 2,000 Swedish vocational teachers (out of a population of about 9,850 vocational subject teachers). The surveys were handled at Statistics Sweden, where the data were supplemented with the register data and anonymized before the researchers’ analysis.
The results are discussed in terms of varying effects of participation and boundary crossing between different communities of practice, reasons for variations in perceived effects, and the consequences of participation for the development of teachers’ professional identity. The effects that are considered in the survey covers the teachers’ vocational subject competence, their teaching, and their work-life networks. The effects of participation could be influenced by for example institutional factors (e.g. teaching in public or private schools, different vocational areas), situational factors (life situation could depend on e.g. age, sex, geographical location), and dispositional factors (e.g. expected consequences of different activities), and the interaction between these factors will be discussed in the paper.
Andersson, P. & Köpsén, S. (2015) Continuing professional development of vocational teachers: participation in a Swedish national initiative. Empirical Research in Vocational Education and Training, 7 (7), 1-20, doi. 10.1186/s40461-015-0019-3
Cross, K.P. (1981) Adults as learners. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Köpsén, S. & Andersson, P. (2015) Reformation of VET and demands on teachers’ subject knowledge – Swedish vocational teachers’ recurrent participation in a national CPD initiative. Journal of Education and Work. Published online, December 2015. Doi: 10.1080/13639080.2015.1119259
Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Wenger, E. (1998) Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.