Author(s):Henriette Duch (presenting)

Conference:ECER 2017

Network:02. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)


Session Information

02 SES 05 A, Approaches to Instruction and Learning of VET teachers

Paper Session



Chair:Pekka Ilmari Kamarainen


Vocational Teacher Education and Vocational Didactics

The most recent change in vocational didactics education in Denmark can be seen as a natural consequence of the Bologna process (Duch & Rasmussen, 2016). However, a revised teacher education does not necessarily result in new didactics at vocational schools. Moreover, individual teachers assess which didactic knowledge is relevant in their local context. This paper presents an empirically based analysis of teachers’ didactic considerations during classes and during preparation, as well as the knowledge base from the teacher education that teachers refer to.

The historical roots of didactics can be traced back to Socrates. Didactics concern systematic reflection about how to organize teaching and about student development (Herrera, 2015). Hopmann defines three central elements in didactics: a commitment to Bildung, the educative difference between matter and meaning, and the autonomy of teaching and learning (Hopmann, 2007, p. 121). It is common to distinguish theoretically between an American didactics tradition called curriculum and a German tradition with emphasis on Bildung.

Conceptions of didactics can be studied in different ways. Didactics can be understood as containing practical skills, reflections about practice and ethics (Tyson, 2016). However, our empirical knowledge about didactics and VET is limited, and Herrera proposes additional research on the relation between the two (Herrera, 2015). Herrera points out that it is not important whether it is described as a special didactics (Herrera, 2015). Vocational didactics can be seen as containing core assumptions that relate to a vocation, its culture and practice as well as students’ life phases and changes in the work life (Gessler & Herrera, 2015).

Based on an understanding of didactics as a relatively autonomous task for teachers (cf. Hopmann), the individual teacher’s competences are key to the profession. The theoretical foundation of the article is Bourdieu’s sociology of education (Bourdieu, 1996). In addition, Dale’s three competence levels for the professional teacher (Dale, 1989) are applied as concepts in the analysis of teachers’ socialization to didactics. Dale builds on Schön’s understanding of time and space for reflection (Schön, 2013).

Dale talks about three competence levels, C1, C2 and C3. At C1, the teacher conducts daily teaching with focus on targeted learning, education of and care for students as well as communication with students. At C1, teachers are subjected to act. At C2, the teacher plans and evaluates the teaching, which includes the ability to “identify problems,” “conduct surveys,” and “think in concepts” (Dale, 1998, p. 211). At C2, the force to act is somewhat reduced, and the temporal distance between action and considerations is longer than at C1. C3 rests on the professional foundation, i.e., research-based theoretical knowledge, comprehension of the theory of science, systematic questions and an alienation in relation to C1 and C2, which are productive.

Since the paper has a sociological point of departure, the competence levels are used as analytical terms in relation to the vocational teachers’ didactics based on their professional post-grad teacher training. The understanding is that the training is based on knowledge from research and development projects in the profession and that the six exams `force´ the students to work at this level. In practice, however, the work consists of teaching and preparation, potentially across the competence levels. The paper asks the following question: What is the relation between teaching, preparation and competence levels for vocational teachers?


The article is based on focus group interviews with vocational teachers who are completing their post-graduate teacher training. Observations were made during the training program and at the employing schools. We have background data for the individual students regarding age, gender, education and employment period as vocational teacher as well as course of study at the teacher training program. Three cases with great variation were selected.

Expected Outcomes

Based on the three cases, we cannot draw any clear-cut conclusions about which didactic tasks are placed in situations with students, i.e., teaching, and in situations before, i.e., preparation.
As far as time and space for reflection, one teacher schedules differentiation and changes the examples used in teaching because the students’ learning outcome of the planned teaching is not optimal. Likewise, another teacher makes key choices to, e.g., adapt the material in the teaching. Both perform planning, evaluations and identification of problems in teaching, and some actions are planning during teaching.
Two of the teachers experience new conditions for their preparation that complicate relations and planning. One teacher would like more teamwork among the colleagues; another prefers processing and working based on joint planning.
The informants relate to the training program in different ways; one works didactically with differentiation; one focuses on teaching goals; one finds that detailed preparation is not a precondition for good teaching.
The three cases illustrate different ways of combining teaching, preparation and competence levels, which may be due to various vocational colleges, different vocational subjects and the fact that they are different as teachers. However, the point of this paper is that didactics and vocational schools are diverse and local despite European standardization.


Bourdieu, P. (1996). Refleksiv sociologi: mål og midler [Reflexive Sociology]. København: Hans Reitzel.
Dale, E. L. (1998). Pædagogik og professionalitet [Pedagogy and professionalism]. Århus: Klim.
Duch, H. og Rasmussen, P. (2016). Ind i rammen: beslutningsprocessen om at omlægge erhvervsskolernes pædagogikum til en diplomuddannelse [Into the framework]. Praktiske grunde nr. 1 og 2, s. 37-56.
Gessler, M & Herrera, L. M. (2015). Vocational Didactics: Core Assumptions and Approaches from Denmark, Germany, Norway, Spain and Sweden. International Journal for Research in Vocational Education and Training (IJRVET) Vol. 2, No. 3 (Special Issue): 152-160, DOI: 10.13152/IJRVET.2.3.1
Herrera, L. M. (2015). Transitions and Didactics: An exploration Searching for Implications for Vocational Education and Training. International Journal for Research in Vocational Education and Training (IJRVET) Vol. 2, No. 3 (Special Issue): 152-160, DOI: 10.13152/IJRVET.2.3.1
Hopmann, S. (2007). Restrained Teaching: The Common Core of Didaktik. European Educational Research Journal, 6(2), 109–124.
Schön, D. A. (2013). Uddannelse af den reflekterende praktiker: tiltag til en ny udformning af undervisning og læring for professionelle [Educating the Reflective Practitioner]. Århus: Klim.
Tyson, R. (2016). The didactics of vocational Bildung: how stories matter in VET research. Journal of Vocational Education & Training, 68(3), 359–377

This proposal is part of a master or doctoral thesis.

Author Information

Henriette Duch (presenting)
VIA University College/Aalborg University
Aarhus N