VET Teachers’ Practices of Integration for Migrant and Refugee Students
This paper uses a practice theory lens aiming to understand vocational education teachers’ practices in supporting integration between the educational institution and the workplace for migrant and refugee vocational education and training (VET) students. As the diversity of VET student populations continues to expand, especially with new cohorts of migrant and refugee arrivals, work-related experiences that complement VET provisions in educational institutions becomes a necessary means for developing ‘work-ready graduates’, that is, those who can easily transition into work. This requires VET teachers to continue learning about specific educational needs of these groups of students to enact specific pedagogies for integration of what is learnt in educational institutions, workplaces and any other sites.
Integration for migrant and refugee students here extends to assimilating and participating in the world of work through actual employment. Svensson, Ellström and Åberg (2004) describe the notion of integration as the “intellectualisation of work associated with modern, integrated production systems” (p. 479). The process is not without challenges. How well students integrate learning at educational sites with that in the workplaces is influenced and shaped by what Kemmis, Edwards-Groves, Wilkinson and Hardy (2012) describe as practice ‘architectures’, prefigured by three types of arrangements: ‘cultural-discursive’, ‘material-economic’ and ‘social-political’. These form the essence of practice theory, a theory we have used to understand the phenomenon of integration in particular practice settings, and the challenges experienced by VET teachers delivering courses to refugee and migrant students.
The task of the VET teachers is two-fold. On the one hand they are charged with educating students to meet the high vocational standards of an occupation. On the other hand, the education they provide needs to equip students with specific cultural competences that help them navigate into their new occupation and transcend thresholds into the labour market. This creates a challenge for teachers when there are tensions between organisational imperatives, vocational ideals and the needs of the students (Wärvik, 2013). Hence, there is a need to find creative pedagogical practices as interventions that recognise and accommodate the students’ backgrounds and enhance the ‘experienced curriculum’ for integration, and promote the social inclusion of these students who tend to be on the margins (Onsando & Billett, 2009). The issues outlined above are common to teachers in Europe, Australia and many other countries experiencing large influx of refugees and migrants. Yet VET teachers and systems in these countries are not adequately prepared for the challenges presented by these groups of learners.
Our aim was to investigate how best VET teachers’ practices can assist integrating migrant and refugee students’ learning in educational institutions and workplaces, thereby inform a curriculum for teachers’ professional development. The following three research questions were used to collect data.
i) What arrangements in VET teachers’ practice architecture enable and constrain the process of integration for migrant and refugee students?
ii) What types of arrangements and strategies will enable VET teachers to better facilitate integration for their students?
iii) What competencies are necessary in a curriculum for professional development of VET teachers to better facilitate integration for migrant and refugee students?
The findings are used to inform the curriculum for professional development of VET teachers as current training programs do not include any specific strategies to support integration for migrant and refugee students. This paper will only report the findings for the first two questions.
This exploratory pilot study used a case study approach in aged care programs delivered by VET adult education institutions in South East Queensland, Australia and in a municipality in Gothenburg, Sweden. Data for the study was collected from an in-depth interview with 10 teachers in Australia and10 from Sweden.
The interviews aimed to gain an understanding of teachers’ current practices and challenges with integration of learning for migrant and refugee students and types of arrangements and strategies that will enable VET teachers to better facilitate integration for their students. The interviews lasted approximately 45 minutes. The conversations were digitally recorded and transcribed. All data transcripts were de-identifed to maintain confidentiality.
Interview data was analysed to establish the enablers and constraints of integration. The findings provided an understanding of VET teachers’ practices with integration specifically for the migrant and refugee cohorts in aged care programs. It identified the practice architecture that enable or constrain teachers’ practice and ways they attempt to mediate better arrangements to facilitate integration.
The findings will be used to compose a set of principles to apply when integrating learning for migrant and refugee students studying VET programs. The principles will also inform types of competencies to be included in a curriculum for professional development of VET teachers who arrange and facilitate integration for migrant and refugee students.
Kemmis, S. Edwards-Groves, C. Wilkinson, J. and Hardy, I. (2012). Ecologies of practices: Learning practices. In P. Hager, A. Lee & A. Reich (Eds.). Practice, learning and change. pp. 33–49. London: Springer.
Onsando, G. & Billett, S. (2009). African students from refugee backgrounds in Australian TAFE institutes: A case for transformative learning goals and processes. International Journal of Training Research 7(2). pp. 80–94.
Svensson, L., Ellström P-E. and Åberg, C. (2004). Integrating formal and informal learning at work. The Journal of Workplace Learning 16(8), pp.479–491.
Wärvik, G-B. (2013). The reconfiguration of adult education VET teachers: Tensions amongst organisational imperatives, vocational ideals and the needs of the students. International Journal of Training Research. 11(2). pp. 122–134.