Guile, D. (2009). Conceptualizing the transition from education to work as vocational practice: lessons from the UK’s creative and cultural sector. British Educational Research Journal, 35 (3) , pp. 259-270.
Article focus on statement that in the context of UK, transition from education to work should be re-thought as the development of vocational practice rather than the acquisition of qualifications. There is no use if individual collects himself some certain competences according to some standard document if he has no practical skill to implement this competence.
Author claims that the UK government, like the European Union, assumes that qualifications are a proxy measure for the development of ‘vocational practice’ (i.e. mix of knowledge, skill and judgement) and that employers can match qualification outcomes un- problematically to occupational profiles. And here author tries to argument by bringing some bottle-necks.
First, despite their rhetoric about the global economy, policymakers do not appear to understand the outcomes of the change in the ‘character’ of large swathes of work in the global economy
Second, policymakers appear to be unaware that the massification of higher education has created a new post-degree ‘vocational need’ because although studying for a degree provides a grounding for new entrants to the labour market, it rarely provides an ‘expectation or understanding of what was required in vocational contexts’.
The concept of practice and its relation to learning:
1. The traditional conception of practice and its legacy in UK qualifications
2. The quasi-natural genesis of practice: intra-community mediation, where Lave and Wenger are being presented with the learning by doing and communities of practice aspect. They conceptualize practice as a triangular-mediated relation between people, tools and context that evolves as a result of tensions between ‘old timers’ and ‘newcomers’ (i.e. legitimate peripheral participants) with the result that new forms of knowing and learning are constituted.
For this possibility to be realised, newcomers require access through a ‘learning curriculum’ to the ‘technologies of practice’ (Lave & Wenger, 1991, p. 101), that is, the tools, protocols, procedures etc, that experienced members of a community use to develop the embodied forms of knowledge, skill and judgement associated with a particular practice and the requisite vocational identity and, having done so, to identify the way in which the technologies or the practices are in need of revision and work collaboratively with, or clash with, old-timers as regards the development of practice and its technologies.
Thus Billett, like Lave and Wenger, adopts an anthropological or quasi-natural perspective on learning and maintains that individuals learn as they participate in workplace practices. Where he differs from them is in making the development of personal identity more explicit and drawing attention to the continual remaking of cultural practices.
People learn as they engage with pre-given pedagogic conditions (i.e. legitimate peripheral participation) and/or perceive affordances in the environment and use collective and/or individual agentic activity to evolve practice.
3. The epistemic genesis of practice: intra-professional mediation
Knorr-Cetina makes a two-fold argument about knowledge societies and practice. First, that the transition to a knowledge society presupposes not only the presence of more experts, more technological gadgets and more specialists rather than participant interpretations, but also the existence of ‘epistemic practice’ (i.e. knowledge-generating processes). Second, that although epistemic practices have traditionally been associated with science, scientists’ knowledge-generating prac- tices, for example, the accumulation, verification and distribution of knowledge to remediate practice, are becoming a constitutive feature of other professions.
Knorr Cetina articulates a conceptualization of practice that reflects her understanding of the implications of the shift towards a knowledge-based society: practice is intentional and prospective (i.e. concerned with the here-and-now and the future) epistemically-mediated through the use of resources that are external to its context.
The epistemic genesis of practice: inter-professional mediation
In contrast to situated theorists who are concerned with meaning making and theorists in science studies such as Knorr Cetina who are concerned with the largely unknown effect of working with epistemic artifacts, Engestro ̈m (1999, 2001) writes from the perspective of activity theory. Thus, he focuses on the ‘object of activity’, that is, the mediated relation between the social purpose and organization of an activity, such as the provision of healthcare, and the individual and collective motives for engaging with, and the outcomes from, that engagement.
Professionals in modern societies and organizations (in his terms, an ‘activity system’) are, according to Engestro ̈m (2004), increasingly forced to collaborate because such systems are characterized by contradiction:
that is historically accumulating structural tensions within and between activity systems. The activity system is constantly working through tensions and contradictions within and between its elements. Contradictions manifest themselves in disturbances and innovative solutions. In this sense, an activity system is a virtual disturbance- and innovation-producing machine. (p. 150)
These contradictions emerge in activity systems as individual participants begin to question and deviate from established norms. Engestro ̈ m (2001) maintains, however, that providing members of those systems have access to forms of pedagogic support that will enable them to re-think or ‘expand’ the object of activity (p. 150), they are able, in principle, to transform an activity system.
It is difficult, if not impossible, in these circumstances to establish a boundary- crossing laboratory because work is distributed over a mix of ‘traditional’ (i.e. offices) and ‘new’ (i.e. coffee shop) sites. Nevertheless, the concept of the object of activity can be used to analyze the formulation (i.e. figuring out) and instantiation (i.e. negotiating the work process) of new artefacts and practice in this type of work context.
Reconceptualizing vocational practice
New conceptions of vocational practice
Based on the above discussion it is possible to derive a number of new conceptions of vocational practice that are analytically distinct from one another, because each one rests on a different idea about the generative basis of practice, yet related because they are predicated on an acceptance of the embodied, relational and situated character of practice.
Transition as vocational practice: issues for research and policy
In addition to providing a new language of description—evolutionary, laterally- branching and envisioning—for practice that allows us to distinguish between different expressions of creativity within, resources for, and outcomes from practice, the new conceptions also have significant implications for research into and policy for transition into the labour market.
Although the paper accepts Hager’s premise that the context of work has changed and that people can learn valuable aspects of practice in the workplace that can never be replicated in formal education, it does not abandon the notion of an occupation, occupational identity and occupationally-specific knowledge and skill. From this perspective, generic skills such as team working are not context-free skills (i.e. occupationally non-specific), rather they are rooted in accordance with the normative conventions that underpin the styles of thinking, reasoning and acting associated with a particular vocational field. Thus it follows that although academic and vocational programmes of study at any level can provide a grounding and inspiration for learners, they are unlikely to provide the conditions to develop vocational practice. This requires opportunities to work in a commercial environment with vocational communities who laterally branch out or re-envision their practice.
To enact the implications of this shift in focus, it will be necessary for policymakers to:
acknowledge the different contributions that accredited, industry-recognized and networked strands of activity make to the development of vocational practice; and
devolve for funding these strands of activity to regional stakeholders so they can design bespoke solutions for their skill needs
In conclusion, author points out that the transition from education to work should no longer be conceived as the accumulation of qualifications and, instead, should be re-thought as the develop- ment of vocational practice. Second, that re-thinking transition as the development of vocational practice presupposes the replacement of routinised with a more multi- faceted conception of vocational practice in UK educational policy. To this effect, the paper has: formulated a new language of description for vocational practice— evolutionary, laterally-branching and envisioning; argued that these new conceptions capture the different modalities of practice and the forms of working and learning required to develop them; and identified a number of strategies to support aspiring entrants to develop these different modes of vocational practice.
Author believes that the re-thinking of the relationship between vocational practice, qualifications and transition into the labour market is particularly timely. The introduction of the European Qualification Framework has resulted in educational institutions attempting to standardize qualifications throughout Europe through the use of programme specifications and learning outcomes. This development is likely to re- affirm the idea pan-Europe that qualifications constitute a proxy measure for vocational practice. This is deeply worrying because, as Richard Sennett (2008b) has most eloquently argued, the knowledge associated with any ‘craft’ (i.e. field of vocational practice) is always broader than any qualification and requires opportunities for people to ‘conduct inquiries’ and not ‘rehearse procedures’.
Lahn, Leif (in press): Professional learning as epistemic trajectories. In S. Ludvigsen, A. Lund, I. Rasmussen & R. Säljö (eds.), Learning across sites: New tools, infrastructures and practices.
Authors want to make a theoretical exploration into the concept “learning trajectory”, they will restrict themselves to the literature on professional learning and development where it has become more and more common to talk about that concept.
This state of the art is understandable for several reasons. First it reflects a more common discontent in many fields of research with static notions like “competence”, “expertise”. Secondly, to speak of trajectories rather than a developmental process makes the diversity and multidimensionality of learning processes more salient. And thirdly this term points to the embeddedness of trajectories in systems that varies along temporal and spatial dimensions. Professionals are members of a range of different institutions at the same time, and these may work together to provide very distinct learning opportunities.
For our purpose it may be useful to make a rough classification of “learning trajectories” into three categories: Educational learning trajectories, informal learning trajectories and organisational learning trajectories.
The first category could also be referred to as didactic. It describes the formal stages in a school subject when these are constructed on the basis of an understanding of the students’ learning processes. The second is better known through labels like “lifetime learning trajectories”, “learning careers” and is used within adult education and life course research as terms that underlines informal and multi-linear processes of personal development. The third, that we have called “organizational learning trajectories”, is a generic term that includes both ladders in occupational careers and more horizontal moves that turn newcomers into proficient professionals.
The term “educational learning trajectories” includes two research traditions that have a legacy in cognitive psychology. The first has coined “hypothetical learning trajectories” (HLT) and is a conceptual framework and methodology for studying the steps taken by students to become proficient in a knowledge domain, for example mathematics. The second tradition is closely associated with the research on expertise and is more relevant when we are dealing with professional learning.
When using methods for mapping educational learning trajectories, one should be attentive to the framing of the target behaviour and the sampling of time and spaces. This last point reminds us that professional performance and learning events may take the shape of shorter or longer cycles. For example, when we contrast the surgical work and training episodes of medical doctors and nurses with the defence of a lawyer and the familiarization of students in legal argumentation. Clearly these situations differ in formats – in terms of “body language” on the first and formalised language in the second. In addition the expert surgeon may provide personal experiences of cases, whereas the law students often are offered a written material to work on.
Biographies and Lifetime Learning Trajectories
The term “learning trajectories” is widely circulated within the research literature on adult and lifelong learning and has been defined in a number of ways. For our purpose one could distinguish between an autobiographical and life-course-oriented approach and a historical and work-oriented approach. The former is for examplerepresented by different texts on “lifetime learning trajectories”– sometimes implying that earlier stages in life have a determining influence on later.
Community Participation as Trajectories
From the booming literature on social constructivist approaches to learning, the theoretical frameworks of Jean Lave, Etienne Wenger, John Seely Brown and others seem the most relevant ones when we study professional learning – since they take their empirical evidence from expert communities in working life. One of the main conceptual pillars in the edifice of Lave and Wenger (1991) is “legitimate peripheral participation”.
Wenger vacillates between different understandings of the term “trajectory”. In the following extract it is not clear whether he refers to subjective (individual/collective) patterns of identity formation or structural attributes of communities and work organizations: “Identities are defined with respect to the interaction of multiple convergent and divergent trajectories” (Wenger, 1998, p. 154). The later interpretation is strengthened by the many references that are made in his texts to different types of transitions within and across professional communities. Wenger introduce a series of so called “boundary crossing” devices that facilitate these movements, like structures for negotiation and brokering of knowledge and skills, foroverlapping membership and multiple commitments like in project organizations.
The three types elaborated above, the educational, the lifelong and the cultural, lean on different academic traditions. They could be compared and contrasted along some key dimensions. The first revolves around the dichotomy of “subjective” and “objective” where trajectories are constructions of the individual mind, human interactions or the cultural mind on one side and structural or systemic characteristics on the other. The second source of variation is the different time scales that are used withinthe research traditions that we have reviewed. A trajectory ranges from students’ performance on school tasks to life course transitions or cultural typifications of collective experiences. A third dimension that is related to both analytical levels and spatio-temporal scaling is content. Do trajectories refer to cycles of individual problem solving, learning processes, paths of participation, cultural / institutional patterns? As pointed out several times above, it is far from clear what is learned – and thus what is put on a trajectory. In both the life history and the community approach the concept of learning is quite open – or diluted.
Artikkel nr 3
Billett, S., Smith, R., & Barker, M. (2005). Understanding work, learning and the remaking of cultural practices. Studies in Continuing Education, 27(3), pp. 219-237.
Understanding how both learning and remaking of the cultural practices that comprise work occurs in workplaces has important practical and conceptual purposes. Practically, at a time when the requirements for work are in constant change and turmoil, there is a need to understand how individuals can best learn these changing requirements through work and throughout their working life. It seems reasonable to propose that the most likely and accessible environment to assist this learning will be workplaces themselves. The possibilities and capacities of providing effective and ongoing skill development in vocational education systems or universities can only be partial, at best. The evidence suggests that workplaces can be generative of much of the knowledge required for work performance. However, they also have significant limitations in terms of the distribution of opportunities for learning, the prospects of securing effective learning experiences and the issue of recognition of that learning.