Vocational Teachers’ Continuing Professional Development and the Development of Teaching in VET
This study concerns the development of vocational education and training (VET), and how such development is related to the continuing professional development (CPD) of vocational teachers. The particular focus is the specific vocational subject areas in VET, and how teaching in VET is developed in relation to teachers’ CPD activities targeting the contents of their vocational subject areas. The study is situated in 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 work-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 occupation 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, our focus is how they maintain and develop their vocational competence related to the vocational subject, and in this paper particularly how this is related to the development of teaching in 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, which is part of a broader landscape of practice (Wenger-Trayner et al., 2015). In the study we investigate vocational teachers’ are involvement in CPD activities and how participation in such activities could influence their teaching and its development. Here, boundary crossings between vocational practices and the practice of school are crucial for this category of teachers to maintain and develop their vocational knowledge that is the contents of their teaching. As different vocational subjects relate to different vocational practices it is presumed there are various conditions for boundary crossing, CPD, and the development of teaching.
In this paper we analyse how Swedish vocational subject teachers relate their continuing professional development within the vocational subjects (cf. Andersson & Köpsén, 2015; Köpsén & Andersson, 2017) to their teaching in these subjects. The main questions here are:
- What types of CPD activities have influence on vocational teaching?
- What types of influence do such CPD activities have on teaching in VET?
The starting point is a logistic regression analysis based on survey data on participation in different types of CPD activities, barriers to and drivers for participation in these activities, and the perceived effects of performing these activities on teaching. The statistical analysis is followed by a qualitative analysis of interview data concerning vocational teachers’ experiences of CPD and its relation to and effects on teaching. 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. Interviews were conducted with 30 vocational subject teachers with varying backgrounds in terms of e.g. vocational programmes and geographical areas (types of municipalities where schools are situated).
The results show what types of activities that have influence on teaching, firstly according to the quantitative analysis of the survey, secondly according to the qualitative analysis of interviews. The results also show the variation in how these activities have influence on teaching, according to the teachers in the interview study. The results are discussed in terms of how CPD activities understood as boundary crossing between different communities of practice could influence teachers’ vocational subject knowledge and thus their teaching.
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.
Köpsén, S. & Andersson, P. (2017) Reformation of VET and demands on teachers’ subject knowledge – Swedish vocational teachers’ recurrent participation in a national CPD initiative. Journal of Education and Work, 30 (1), 69-83.
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.
Wenger-Trayner, E., Fenton-O’Creevy, M., Hutchinson, S., Kubiak, C., & Wenger-Trayner, B. (2015). Learning in landscapes of practice: Boundaries, identity, and knowledgeability in practice-based learning. Abingdon: Routledge.