The Relation between Student Outcomes and Teacher Teams’ Team Learning in Competence Based Education
Competence-based education (CBE) is an educational innovation which aims to improve the transition between school and the workplace by focusing on knowledge skills and attitudes. CBE has been implemented in many European countries (Brockmann, Clarke, Méhaut & Winch, 2008; Mulder, Weigel & Collins, 2007), specifically in vocational education. In the Netherlands, CBE was introduced in senior secondary vocational education around a decade ago and it became compulsory in 2012.
The need for CBE arose because most educational programs were found to insufficiently prepare students for the workplace they would encounter after graduation (van der Klink, Boon & Schlusmans, 2007). There are various ways of characterising CBE. Wesselink, Biemans, Mulder & van der Elsen (2007) give a list of characteristics which are 1) the definition of competences and vocational core problems, 2) assessment before, during and after learning 3) use of authentic situations, 4) the integration of knowledge, skills and attitudes 5) the stimulation of reflection and responsibility among students 6) the teachers’ role as coach and expert and 7) the establishment of a basis for lifelong learning (Wesselink, Biemans, Mulder & van der Elsen, 2007).
Although the introduction of CBE was planned in a top-down manner by the Dutch Ministry of Education, schools were given considerable leeway in how they implemented CBE. This left the responsibility for the implementation of this educational innovation to the teams of teachers responsible for a particular educational track. So teacher teams were responsible to change the curriculum to comply with the new standards and to learn the skills that are necessary to, for instance, function as a coach and expert. To function as real teams, team learning is considered an important aspect (Decupyer, Dochy & Van den Bossche, 2010). Various activities are associated with team learning within teacher teams such as the acquisition of information concerning educational information, the processing of such information and the storage and retrieval of what has been discussed and learned among the teachers (van Offenbeek, 2001; van de Bossche, Gijselaers, Segers & Kirschner, 2006). Wijnia, Kunst, van Woerkom, Poell (2016) found that the more a team was involved in these team learning activities, the more its members perceived the education they offered to their students as competence based.
CBE has so far been mainly researched in small scale settings, mostly in single educational tracks (Wesselink et al, 2017). Furthermore these studies are mostly evaluative and focus on ‘what’ was taught instead of ‘how’ it was taught and whether students actually became more competent employees after graduation due to CBE (Wesselink et al, 2017). What is still unknown is to what extent competence-based programs also lead to more favourable student outcomes. Answering this question is crucial for understanding whether CBE, an educational innovation that has been introduced in many European countries, has actually delivered on its promises.
In the current paper we aim to answer the following research question: to what extent do teacher team learning activities in the context of CBE implementation lead to better skilled students, greater success in internships and increased student satisfaction concerning classes? We aim to do so with the combined results of two different questionnaires, one completed by over 700 teachers within 46 teacher teams and one completed by the students involved in the educational tracks these teachers are held responsible for.
A questionnaire on CBE implementation and team learning was completed by 795 teachers within 46 teams in senior secondary vocational education. We strived for a good representation of Dutch senior secondary vocational education. The teams were situated all over the country and involved in all educational sectors (health and care, economics, green, technology). CBE implementation was measured with 13 items such as ‘in the educational track for which my team is responsible, the guidance of students is tailored to the learning needs of students’ (Wijnia et al., 2016). Factor analysis (oblimin rotation) revealed that all 13 items belonged to a single factor for which Cronbach’s alpha was .90. Team learning was measured with four different scales. For information processing, a 10 item scale was used (Cronbach’s alpha=.91) (van den Bossche, 2006; van Offenbeek, 2001) and for storage and retrieval a 5 item scale was used (Cronbach’s alpha=.83) (van Offenbeek, 2001). The gathering of information for learning was measured with two scales one for acquiring information within the team named information acquisition (5 items, Cronbach’s alpha=.66) (van Offenbeek, 2001) and one for boundary crossing, the process in which members of a team gather information outside the team (4 items, Cronbach’s alpha=.79) (Wong, 2004). Values for intraclass coefficients, measures for the variance that can be explained by group membership and the reliability of group means, were low for information acquisition (ICC1=.03, ICC2=.36) and boundary crossing (ICC1=.04, ICC=.40) but acceptable for information processing (ICC1=.15, ICC2=.75), storage and retrieval (ICC1=.11, ICC2=.69) and competence based education (ICC1=.11, ICC2=.68) (Bliese, 2000).
The biennial student questionnaire was developed by the Organisation for Youths in Vocational Education and was completed by over 50% of all students in senior secondary education. For each team, scores were calculated on basis of the respondents in the educational tracks for which the team was responsible. The questionnaire contained questions about skills learned during classes, satisfaction about the received education and the success of the internships. Sample questions about skills include ‘in this educational track, do you learn to assess yourself and your own work? Cronbach’s alpha for skills (8 items) was .90. Cronbach’s alphas for quality of education (7 items) was .80 and .84 for internships (9 items).
Multilevel structural equation modelling was used to investigate how teacher team learning processes, teacher perceptions of CBE and student skills, student satisfaction and internship success are related to one another.
This study is in its initial stages and the final analyses have not yet been carried out. However, the data has been collected and there is ample time for analysis before the ECER conference in August. In initial analyses, it was found that there were small but significant positive correlations between CBE as perceived by teachers and student satisfaction, learned skills and internship success. There were similar significant correlations between information processing and student skills and student satisfaction but no significant correlations with other forms of team learning. However, in initial structural equation models, no significant effect for teacher perceptions of CBE on skills learned by students, student satisfaction or the success of internships was found.
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