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

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

Network:02. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)


Session Information

02 SES 04 A, New Learning in VET

Paper Session


Room:Vet-Theatre 116

Chair:Lorenz Lassnigg


The Emerging Pedagogy Of Apprenticeship? Apprenticeships As Learning Environment In The Finnish Context

Vocational education and training is under reform in Finland and the Government programme (2015) aims at increasing work-based learning at the secondary level. In the current situation apprenticeships already offer 70 to 80 per cent of the training at the workplace. Nevertheless, apprenticeships have remained marginal, especially as an alternative option next to school-based VET for youths (Virolainen & Stenström, 2014, p. 87). A comparative review of apprenticeship education and training (Rintala, Nokelainen, & Pylväs, 2015) based on Scott’s (2001) institutional framework shows that there are distinct differences in the apprenticeship systems’ institutional structure between Germany, England and Finland. Within the Finnish context vocational education and training is highly institutionalized, and research is needed to support the development of diverse work and learning environments. The quality of apprenticeships and work-based learning gains interest also on European level (European Commission, 2016). The study aims to provide insights into learning environments, which can be utilized to support development of work-based learning and apprenticeships across different European countries.

The main objective of this study is to analyse workplaces and apprenticeships as a whole as learning environments. Learning in the workplace is often considered informal. Earlier research has proved this to be a too simple approach, while learning in the workplace can include different levels of intention to learn (eg. Eraut, 2000, 2004; Billett, 2002). Intentionality relates both to workplace affordances and learner’s participation and engagement, which together shape the participatory practices and pedagogy of workplaces (Billett, 2004). From pedagogical and organizational perspectives apprenticeships offer varying, both expansive and restrictive learning environments (Fuller & Unwin, 2003). Research has also shown that connective learning environments (Guile & Griffiths, 2001) and integrative pedagogical practices (Tynjälä, 2008) promote the development of individual vocational expertise, but also of the whole work community.


The phenomenographic study investigates and discusses how different people in a workplace understand and experience the status of an apprentice (learner, employee or both), planning and evaluation of learning, and the role of theoretical studies in an educational institution related to the learning in the workplace. The data for the study was collected 2015 by semi-structured interviews at ten workplaces, in which each an apprentice, an apprentice’s co-worker, a workplace trainer and an employer were interviewed (n=40). The study aims at representing a collective understanding of apprenticeships as learning environment.

Expected Outcomes

The preliminary results implicate that apprentices are strongly experienced as employees, which may limit their access to training, instruction and guidance at the workplace. Learning is secondary to completing the given tasks and often unplanned in practice. The theoretical studies are experienced in multiple ways: in some cases they are thought to benefit both the apprentice and the workplace; in other cases they are seen as separate and unnecessary.


Billett, S. (2002). Workplace pedagogic practices: co-participation and learning. British Journal of Educational Studies, 50(4), 457-481.

Billett, S. (2004). Workplace participatory practices: conceptualizing workplaces as learning environments. Journal of Workplace Learning, 16(6), 312-324.

Eraut, M. (2000). Non-formal learning and tacit knowledge in professional work. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 70(1), 113-136.

Eraut, M. (2004). Informal learning in the workplace. Studies in Continuing Education, 26(2), 247-273.

European Commission (2016). Highlights from the working groups 2014-2015. Education and Training 2020. Retrieved from

Fuller, A. & Unwin, L. (2003). Learning as apprentices in the contemporary UK workplace: creating and managing expansive and restrictive participation. Journal of Education and Work, 16(4), 407-426.

Government Programme (2015). Finland, a land of solutions. Strategic programme of prime minister Juha Sipilä’s Government. Government Publications, 12/2015. Retrieved from

Guile, D. & Griffiths, T. (2001). Learning through work experience. Journal of Education and Work, 14(1), 113-131.

Rintala, H., Nokelainen, P., & Pylväs, L. (2015). Katsaus oppisopimuskoulutukseen: institutionaalinen näkökulma Review of apprenticeship education and training: an institutional perspective. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Scott, W. R. (2001). Institutions and organisations. 2nd Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Tynjälä, P. (2008). Perspectives into learning at the workplace. Educational Research Review, 3(2), 130-154.

Virolainen, M. & Stenström, M-L. (2014). Finnish vocational education and training in comparison: strengths and weaknesses. International Journal for Research in Vocational Education and Training, 1(2), 81-106.

Author Information

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