Author(s):Lars Heinemann (presenting), Ludger Deitmer (presenting), Werner Müller

Conference:ECER 2017

Network:02. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)


Session Information

02 SES 04 B, Making Sense of Workplace Learning

Paper Session



Chair:Vibe Aarkrog


Why Is It So Hard To Change The World - Enhancing Competences Through Digital Media In The Construction Sector

While this year's ECER conference is focusing on changing educational practices induced by pressure of international rankings and competence measurement, we want to relate the theme to the attempt to reforming VET practices via the help of new media, focusing on individual and institutional conditions enabling and constraining these change processes. In a recently finished European as well as in an ongoing German national project, we tried to foster vocational learning in the construction sector - for initial VET as well as for further training.

In the construction sector, we witness a considerable restructuration in terms of new digital technology rapidly acquiring a prominent place in planning as well as the actual building measures (e.g. BIM, use of sensors in drilling).

Thus, in a European project (2012-2017) we developed digital tools aiming at enabling learners to make use of such data as well as enriching vocational learning via the possibility of using and sharing context data in various formats (audio, video, etc.). These were mainly used in a setting of a VET provider where part of the apprenticeship is carried out. Here, training is centred around practical work and learning tasks that were enriched by digital tools.

Additionally in 2012, in Germany the examination of further vocational education leading to different grades of general foreman in construction was heavily reformed. Now, the acquisition of knowledge relating to the process of construction is a cornerstone. Examination is carried out via a project that is part of the foreman’s work at the company and expert discussions focusing on complex tasks taken from the world of work (Niethammer et al. 2013, Meyser 2013,). The rationale behind these reforms is to foster the acquisition of relevant work process knowledge (Boreham/Fischer 2009) in the realms of construction technique, construction process, and personnel management. The knowledge acquired in the courses leading to those examinations shall be stronger related to concrete problems in the different sectors of civil engineering (underground and above ground level).
The actual way of carrying out the courses leading to the different grades of foreman (Vorarbeiter, Werkpolier, geprüfter Polier) that take place at various VET providers, though, is dominated by different external lecturers providing knowledge about their respective fields of specialisation. This structure is in some tension to the targeted results of the reform.
One cornerstone is to structure the knowledge imparted by the lecturers around complex work tasks that are taken from the foremen’s occupational reality (see e.g. Rauner/Bremer 2004). Digital tools help the lecturers to reorganise the materials according to these tasks (Deitmer/Heinemann 2015).
The paper will first present a short description of the current system in its strengths and weaknesses from the points of view of research, lecturers and participants. Then we will present the attempted changes from a vocational pedagogical point of view and describe the digital tools used to foster them. Finally, we will discuss the conditions enabling and constraining these change processes on participant, lecturer and institutional level, presenting different approaches that worked well to different degrees.


The methods used were accompanying research in the two cases (group discussions and workshops), enriched by various surveys for learners and teachers/trainers.

Expected Outcomes

The main outcomes of the two projects hint at considerably problems of introducing new forms of learning and teaching via digital media, even if the tools used aim at fostering existing practices. Here, challenges are at individual as well as institutional levels. Teachers and trainers are in need of sufficient media competence to be able to successful use digital media as part of their pedagogical practice. Unlike often stated, new media per se does not change the trainers' role enabling a more communicative practice. This mainly, because such practices are already in place. Furthermore, the use of these tools must have a clear advantage over existing practices.
On institutional level, the challenges often are simple problems with the existing ICT infrastructre that are often difficult to overcome as they require investments and a commitment of the organisation as a whole.
Finally, attempts at using such tools for the aim of deeper intelinking different learning venues have to balance different interests of learners, teachers, trainers and companies and schools.


Boreham, N. und M. Fischer (2009): “The mutual shaping of work, vocational competence and work-process knowledge” in: Maclean, R. und D.N. Wilson (Hg.) International Handbook of Education for the Changing World of Work, S. 1593-1609, Dordrecht: Springer.

Deitmer, L. und Heinemann, L. (2015): Arbeitsplatzbezogenes Lernen mit Hilfe mobiler Geräte und digitaler Medien, in: berufsbildung 1/2015, eusl, Paderborn.

Meyser, Johannes 2013: Die Neuordnung des Fortbildungsberufs "Geprüfter Polier" und die Feststellung beruflicher Handlungskompetenz. In: Becker, Mathias; Grimm, Axel; Petersen, A. Willi; Schlausch, Reiner (Hrsg.): Kompetenzorientierung und Strukturen gewerblich-technischer Berufsbildung. Berufsbiografien, Fachkräftemangel, Lehrerbildung. Berlin: LiT, S. 54 – 74.

Niethammer, M./ Schmidt, D./ Schweder, M. (2013): Ausbilderschulungen in der Aufstiegsfortbildung (Vorarbeiter/Werkpolier/Geprüfter Polier). In: bwp@Spezial 6 – Hochschultage Berufliche Bildung 2013, Fachtagung 03, S. 1-16.

Rauner, F./ Bremer R. 2004 Bildung im Medium beruflicher Arbeitsprozesse. Die berufspädagogische Entschlüsselung beruflicher Kompetenzen im Konflikt zwischen bildungstheoretischer Normierung und Praxisaffirmation. In: Bildung im Medium beruflicher Arbeit. Sonderdruck. In: ZfPäd 50,2 149-161.

Author Information

Lars Heinemann (presenting)
Bremen University
Ludger Deitmer (presenting)
University of Bremen
Institute Technik & Bildung (ITB)
Werner Müller
Bremen University, Germany