Orr, Kevin, Hanley, Pam, Hepworth, Jonathan and Thompson, Ron (2017) Improving Pedagogy in Vocational Teaching. In: JVET Conference, 7-9 July 2017, Worcester College, Oxford. (Unpublished)

This paper reports on an on-going project to research, develop and evaluate an intervention designed to enhance the subject-specialist pedagogy of trainee vocational science, engineering and technology (SET) teachers in English Further Education (FE) Colleges. For our project, pedagogy describes how teachers explain the decisions they make in relation to particular knowledge (in this case occupational) and in relation to a particular group of students (in this case on vocational SET courses). The intervention is designed to inform these teachers’ pedagogical decision-making specific to their own occupational subject specialism. Following desk-based research on subject specialist pedagogy, our study has sought to apply and adapt concepts and approaches to make them relevant and influential for vocational SET teachers in the form of materials and activities.

The main conceptualisations that have been adapted and applied are Shulman’s pedagogical content knowledge and signature pedagogies as well as Loughran, Berry and Mulhall’s content representation. The intervention has also conceptualised how the workplace can be connected with the college workshop or classroom. Evaluation of the intervention's impact is based on questionnaires and interviews before and after the implementation. Based on analysis of the language used by the participants to discern any difference will enable inference of influence on their decision-making. We also report on other relevant factors including support in the workplace, previous experience and level of education. The impact of the intervention is judged in relation to these other variables.

Persuading vocational teachers that pedagogy is relevant to them and then persuading them to make time for professional development when their workload is so heavy have been extremely problematic during the project. So, we have had to develop new means to access these trainee teachers using entirely on-line resources and through training of their generic teacher educators based in the FE colleges.

The major issue remains that there are not enough teachers in vocational SET subjects in FE colleges, whether or not they are pedagogically proficient. Nevertheless, this project has shown that subject-specialist pedagogy can be made relevant to trainee vocational teachers and the eventual evaluation will indicate if their decision-making benefits from the associated concepts and approaches. Until the working environment, pay and workload of FE teachers are improved, however, such interventions may only have minimal impact.

Slides presented to conference
JVET 2017 presentation.pptx

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