Orr, Kevin, Thompson, Ron, Hanley, Pam and Hepworth, Jonathan (2017) Enhancing Pedagogy in Vocational Science, Engineering and Technology: Evaluating Impact. In: British Educational Research Association (BERA) Annual Conference, 5-7 September 2017, University of Sussex, Brighton. (Unpublished)

This paper reports on the process of evaluating a current project that has researched and developed an intervention designed to enhance the subject-specialist pedagogy of trainee vocational science, engineering and technology (SET) teachers in English Further Education (FE) Colleges. Our working definition of pedagogy is that it 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 has been designed to inform SET teachers’ pedagogical decisions specific to their own vocational subject specialism. The project has sought to apply and adapt concepts and approaches that have derived from an extensive literature review of subject specialist pedagogy in order to make those concepts and approaches accessible and pertinent to SET teachers in FE colleges. This has involved the production of materials and activities to be used with trainee SET teachers on courses run through four universities around England.

Evaluation of the intervention's effect on trainee teachers has been judged in relation to other factors that may affect their development including, for example, workload, previous experience and support at work. That evaluation, which is on-going to allow assessment of longer term effect, is based on questionnaires and interviews before and after the implementation. These have also gathered biographical and contextual information. Operationalising our definition of pedagogy, analysis of the language used by the participants to explain their teaching enables inference of influence on their decision-making. Importantly, the impact of the intervention is only judged in relation to other contextual factors.

Identifying trainee vocational SET teachers has been problematic even before persuading them to make time for pedagogical development. So, we have had to develop new means to access SET teachers by other means. The major issue remains that there are not enough teachers in vocational SET subjects in FE colleges, whether or not they are pedagogically proficient. Until the working environment, pay and workload of FE teachers are improved, such interventions may only have minimal impact on SET teaching. Nevertheless, this project has shown that subject-specialist pedagogy can be made relevant to trainee SET teachers. Evaluating the longer-term impact of such an intervention on the participants is challenging when set within the wider influences on teachers in FE. That challenge is the focus of this paper.

Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email