|Training of Teachers/Trainers in Technical and Vocational Education - Studies No. 11 (UNEVOC, 1997, 116 p.)|
The Commonwealth of Learning
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
This paper records a case study related to the pedagogical knowledge and the skills required by technical and vocational teachers and the means for satisfying this need, utilising distance education. It outlines how the project has developed a model to allow transferability of the programme to other regions, accommodating social, economic and cultural differences.
To better understand this initiative in Technical and Vocational Teacher Education, it would help to be aware of the context in which it was initiated. The Commonwealth of Learning, (COL), the lead organization in this project, is an International Organization founded by Commonwealth Governments in September 1987.
Member Governments have given COL a mandate to encourage the development and sharing of open learning/distance education materials, expertise, technologies and other resources. Working with and providing services to hundreds of institutions throughout the Commonwealth, COL helps to increase the capabilities of developing nations to meet the demands for improved access to quality education and training.
"Our long term goal is that any learner, anywhere in the Commonwealth, shall be able to study a distance-teaching programme available from any bona fide college or university in the Commonwealth."
In addressing all of the functions and objectives prescribed in the Memorandum of Understanding and working in all parts of the
Commonwealth, COL has consolidated its operations under two divisions - Regions and Programmes. The functions it performs within this structure includes communications technologies, materials, training, and information services. All levels and sectors of education are assisted and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) has become a firm plank in COL's field of endeavour.
In 1991 COL hosted an international conference in Hong Kong to platform the notion of Technical and Vocational Education by Distance Education. At this meeting, COL sought guidance in establishing policy and direction in relation to TVET. Significant areas of need were identified by the participants and nominated for action by COL. One of the needs that was seen as consistent across all regions of the Commonwealth was that of training technical teachers. The identification of this need by the conference was acknowledged by COL as it fitted comfortably within the mandate and it was felt that the experience gained and lessons learned would assist in the development of a model that had potential for transferability.
At a subsequent meeting of the COL Tech/Voc Reference Group, in 1991, the Caribbean was identified as the region in which this initiative should be implemented. The proposal was in line with The (Caribbean) Regional Strategy for Technical and Vocational Education and Training, 1990, which had identified technical teacher training as a critical issue in the development of this sector of education.
"Across the Region there is a need for more trained teachers for TVET. Because of the urgency of the situation, Institutions have been forced to employ teachers who may have industrial experience, but lack the pedagogical skills necessary for effective delivery of the programmes and vice versa. "
The first stage in establishing a project was a COL sponsored Regional meeting in Nassau, The Bahamas, in June 1992. This meeting brought together Technical and Vocational educators from each of the fourteen Commonwealth countries of the Caribbean as well as representation from the Caribbean Community Secretariat (CARICOM). The meeting resulted in the development of an Action Plan (Appendix 1) to produce a distance education training programme for technical and vocational teachers that addressed the core pedagogical needs of the four levels of teachers in this field.
The meeting defined a fully qualified technical/vocational teacher as one who is certified in their area of expertise, and has an appropriate level of pedagogical skill. It was further defined that being certified in an area of expertise meant demonstrating both theoretical knowledge and manipulative skill to a standard required in that area, as well as having experience in an industry to which it related.
The pedagogical and subject area training needs of technical and vocational teachers and instructors in the Caribbean region are numerous and diverse. It was soon recognised by the meeting that a successful training programme for teachers in this field should be multi-faceted and offer the opportunity for both subject area and pedagogical knowledge and skills. But the logistics of being able to offer a programme of this nature across the region, and across a plethora of subject areas, utilising distance education delivery strategies, were prohibitive, so a decision was taken that the initial phase of fulfilling this need was to address the pedagogical skills.
The reason for this decision was based on the fact that all technical and vocational teachers required this area of expertise, regardless of level or subject specialisation, and it was one area that could be offered successfully by distance education. Several countries within the region offer technical training programmes for teachers in various technical and vocational fields. It was assumed that these countries would continue to cater to those persons wishing to enter the teaching profession, and who needed subject area upgrading or qualification.
In the discussions relating to the target group that this project might address, four levels of technical and vocational teachers were identified. These levels were identified as teachers of:
· pre-vocational courses in secondary schools
· apprentice and vocational area courses
· diploma and technician level courses
· degree level programmes.
The notion of a Core Curriculum, that could provide the basic pedagogical skills that all these levels of teachers required, and developed using a modular approach, would enable it to be utilised in each level with the optimum flexibility. It would provide for the opportunity to add more advanced modules to satisfy the needs of the specific groups, or enable the modules to be completed in any given sequence, to suit individual or institutional requirements.
The Action Plan that was developed at the initial Regional meeting outlined the processes that were required to take the notion of this training programme from the concept stage to implementation of the pilot. The Caribbean Community Secretariat (CARICOM) and COL shared the Management responsibilities. COL accepting the direct financial responsibility and the provision of a professional member of staff to be responsible for the day to day monitoring and implementation, and CARICOM, by virtue of their strong position within the Caribbean region, effected the elements of the Action Plan that needed to be initiated within the individual countries and across the region.
Establishing and agreeing on the content of the curriculum required a long consultative process. The Action Plan required that each individual country would nominate the elements they believed should be accommodated within a core pedagogical curriculum. Through the medium of National meetings, co-ordinated by CARICOM, countries submitted their identified competencies for amalgamation into a cohesive document. It was difficult to refine the mass of information that was presented as each country had volunteered almost an entire programme, including subject content. It was necessary to focus on the original intent of a core curriculum to address only the pedagogical skills.
The inclusion of Entrepreneurship was an interesting choice. From the perspective of the more developed countries that were involved in the formatting of the Core Curriculum, Entrepreneurship fell into the category of "nice to know". However, from the perspective of the Caribbean, where paid employment is limited and self employment is a significant percentage of the GNP, it was a vital inclusion. Young people being trained in technical and vocational areas have the potential to become self employed, but in the past they have not always been given the skills that would allow them to be successful in this type of initiative. The best time and place for them to acquire these skills is as they acquire the actual trade based skills. This assumes that their instructors are knowledgeable in this field and can successfully pass on these skills, but that is an assumption that cannot be made unless it is built into their training programme.
An understanding of the place in society that technical and vocational occupations, and hence the related education and training occupies, was also seen as a very relevant inclusion. If the status of TVET is to be raised, then it is important to understand what place it currently occupies, and why it does so, as only through a recognition of the background and associated problems can a step forward be taken. And this needed to be within the context of the region.
Workshop Management and Practice is particularly pertinent to technical and vocational teachers and the aspect of responsibility and legal implications is an issue not often addressed in general teacher training programmes. With the rise in litigation it would be lacking in vision to train teachers who will be operating in workshops that have a potential for significant personal physical risk, without training them to acknowledge the inherent responsibilities that this imposes and the possible legal implications.
Training in Safety was considered mandatory but also included were environmental concerns. Instructors and teachers in the technical and vocational areas have an ideal opportunity to make their students aware of the impact of their actions and train them in recycling policies and procedures and the safe disposal of materials and chemicals that impact adversely on the environment. Insistence on standards of environmental protection over an extended period of training can leave trainees acutely aware of their responsibilities in the protection of the planet and the multiplier effect of this cannot be over emphasized.
Computer awareness and basic applications operation was seen as an essential tool that teachers today should qualify with. Including this in the Core Curriculum was a unanimous decision, despite the acknowledgement that it may present logistical problems in delivery.
Educational Theory was identified as a valuable inclusion providing it related to the educational experience that teachers wished to offer their students. It was anticipated that this module would endeavour to provide strong links between the theories and the actual practices that teachers could bring to their everyday operation in the class room or workshop to improve the outcomes of their teaching.
Finally, through a series of regional meetings and modifications over a period of almost three years, the Core Curriculum eventually developed and was sanctioned by the Regional Advisory Committee for TVET and recommended for accreditation. The result was an eleven module curriculum, subdivided into forty two units, covering topics which were considered to be the minimum essential elements of pedagogical skill required by this group of teachers (Appendix 2). During this process it was agreed that it should be formatted in competency terms which clearly defined the learning outcomes, assessment criteria and content. This resulted in a document that can offer clear guidelines to developers of the resource materials and unambiguous statements to both teachers and students of the anticipated outcomes (Appendix 3).
The Action Plan had outlined the processes and procedures that would need to be addressed, but as often happens, other issues arose that required attention. The significant stages from conception to implementation were ultimately revealed as:
· development and approval of the Core Curriculum by stake holders;
· identification of existing resources that could be accessed to support the distance education delivery of the programme;
· development of a Style Guide to which resources would need to be modified or developed;
· contracting of modification or development of units;
· implementation of pilot;
· evaluation of pilot.
The actual implementation of the pilot involved a significant number of processes which have been addressed under that heading.
The issue of accreditation was one that was raised early in the planning and development of the Core Curriculum. As many of the countries within the Caribbean region already have on campus teacher training programmes, and some have technical teacher training programmes, the purpose of the Core Curriculum was not to try to replace these, but to compliment them. It was always anticipated that institutions that do have existing courses may utilise the programme by either adopting it in total to offer as an off campus alternative to their own course, with similar accreditation, or simply utilising the units provided to assist with the on campus delivery.
The Caribbean region has no existing machinery to accredit a regional technical or vocational programme. Processes exist in the academic field to achieve this, but to date this has not been achieved for TVET. In the negotiations that have occurred relating to accreditation between COL, CARICOM, the Regional Advisory Committee for TVET and the individual institutions involved in the pilot, the process that has been identified requires that each institution should accredit it as a programme of their own. When the regional machinery exists, it should be relatively simple to obtain the wider accreditation based on the recommendations of the institutions already involved.
In retrospect, it would have been preferable to have the accreditation issue resolved prior to the commencement of the pilot, but the lack of an existing process made this extremely difficult. In negotiating to offer the programme in the Pacific region, it is anticipated that this will be resolved prior to initiation of a pilot.
DEVELOPMENT AND RESOURCING
Although the costs of actually producing the Core Curriculum were significant, it was always understood that the most expensive element of the project would be the development of the student learning materials, both text based and alternate media. Having established, by virtue of a survey across Canada, Australia, England and New Zealand, which institutions claimed to hold materials to match the curriculum, contracts were negotiated with a number of institutions. As the COL core budget was supporting this initiative, it was a piecemeal approach to the full resourcing of the curriculum. The Regional Advisory Committee had recommended that for the pilot programme, a range of Units be used, rather than total modules. It was necessary to identify the institutions that would be asked to develop the resources and this was done on the basis of the institutions reputation and the results of the survey. To date, four institutions have been involved, on a contract basis, from Australia, Canada and Jamaica.
The Entrepreneurial Extension Centre of the University of Technology of Jamaica (UTech), then the College of Art, Science and Technology (CAST), had willingly allowed adaptation of their curriculum outlines for Entrepreneurship to become a module within the Core Curriculum. This placed them in an ideal position to be contracted to develop the supporting materials. Given that the programme was initiated in the Caribbean, it was a logical choice to utilise local expertise and experience to support it.
Module 9, Entrepreneurship, is the first total module to be completed, and wholly a product of the Caribbean. Rights to modify the videos to support it have been negotiated with UTech, to allow usage across the Caribbean and in other regions as required. The videos have a strong Jamaican influence, which is acceptable in the Caribbean, but would even benefit this area once they have been modified to be more generic.
Copyright for all resources to support the Core Curriculum rests with COL as this condition was applied to all development contracts. This allows transfer of the programme to other regions within the Commonwealth and the right to modify them to better suit the cultural context in which they are planned to be offered.
IMPLEMENTATION OF PILOT
The objectives of the pilot were to determine the:
· appropriateness of the content of the Core Curriculum;
· appropriateness of the learning materials in an actual field test;
· ability/capacity of the institutions to offer courses by distance education capacity of the teachers in this category to cope with distance education as a delivery mechanism.
The Regional Advisory Committee for TVET nominated the four countries that were to be involved in the pilot, and the Ministries of Education or other appropriate body nominated the Institutions within those countries. This resulted in the following institutions being involved:
Bahamas - the Bahamas Hotel Training College
Barbados - Erdiston Teachers' Training College
Jamaica - the Vocational Training and Development Institute
St. Lucia - Sir Arthur Lewis Community College.
This selection offered an opportunity to trial the programme in four different types of institutions, with the strong possibility of a spread of students from different backgrounds across the target group. The Coordinators were encouraged to enrol students from the private sector as well as from public institutions, as it was seen as another opportunity to establish closer links with that sector.
The staff recommended by COL to service the pilot were one Coordinator and one Tutor from each institution. This was on the basis that only ten students would be enrolled at each site, and this decision was made to restrict the pilot to a manageable size, given the lack of experience in the delivery of distance education and also in an endeavour to contain the costs. The criteria for the selection of the Tutors recommended that they be an experienced teacher, fully qualified in both their subject area and in the pedagogical skills. Although being a qualified teacher was not mandatory for the Co-ordinator, all sites selected a qualified teacher for this position. The quality of the staff nominated contributed significantly to the smooth running of the pilot and the high motivation of the students.
Training in Management of Distance Education
A workshop was conducted to train the nominated staff in the delivery and administration requirements of the pilot. The areas covered in the workshop included a general introduction to the concept of distance education, the major requirements that would allow an institution to offer a distance education programme, the roles and competencies essential to the distance offerings, and the role, functions and characteristics of good Co-ordinators and Tutors. The course ware was also presented to enable the participants to become familiar with the materials. These were still considered to be in draft format as they had not been field tested. Inconsistencies had been identified, particularly in relation to the amount of student input required to complete each unit. As the units were developed by different institutions, there was a lack of conformity with the number of assignments and the work involved. In retrospect it was found that the Style Guide had not adequately addressed the issue of assignments, either in number or in work involved.
Participants were issued with hard copy masters of the learning units for duplication for students. Some sites found it quite expensive to have the duplication done in country, but as this would be a requirement should the programme be continue to be offered after completion of the pilot, it allowed for a real estimation of the potential costs.
The group cohesion that developed during the five day workshop boded well for continued liaison between the sites. To foster this local support network, monthly teleconferences were initiated between the four sites, COL and CARICOM. This enabled regular status reports from each site, discussion of issues related to either the materials, assignments or delivery, exchange of administration pro formas as well as the more personal problems that were experienced by the group as members of their institutions operating in a special project. To date six teleconferences have been held and most have been technically effective. One occasion resulted in individual calls being made to each site.
Seminars for the enrolled students were scheduled to coincide with the return of the first assignment. Whereas in a full offering of a programme, the frequency of seminars would be left to the discretion of the host college, for the pilot, it was necessary to keep each site parallel in the service and support it offered students. As well as the regular mid unit seminars, an Orientation Seminar was held and one additional seminar added for a larger unit.
In the initial stages of the pilot there was little problem with either student attendance at the seminars, or in prompt assignment return. Some sites have been particularly good in motivating and holding their students, and to date the retention rate is 100%. However, as the programme proceeds, this result is requiring more effort from the
Tutors. Apart from the mid unit seminars, Tutors keep close contact with their students via personal telephone calls. Teleconferencing with students has not been utilised as the cost of this to most institutions is prohibitive.
To date the full cost of this project has been borne by COL. This is from the initial Regional Workshop in The Bahamas in 1992 to the development of the Core Curriculum and the associated meetings, the final formatting of the document, the survey to determine the availability of existing materials, development of the Style Guide and the subsequent contracting for the development of the student learning materials.
The pilot has also been funded by COL and the costs associated with this have been the:
· workshop for the training of Tutors and Co-ordinators, which included:
· airfares and accommodation for participants in Barbados
· workshop materials
· facilitator expenses
· production and dispatch of print based masters to sites
· copying and dispatching of supporting videos
· tutor honorarium
· seminar costs including student travel
· institution administration
· teleconferencing costs
· continued mailing
COL has also provided a professional officer to manage the project, and covered the costs associated with that, as well as providing for the above direct costs. Although the financial commitment to the project has been significant, The Commonwealth of Learning will ultimately own a fully resourced Technical Teacher Training programme that is free of copyright implication, and has been trialed across a region. Up front development costs are always high in distance education programmes, but the cost effectiveness becomes evident once a programme is fully resourced and can accommodate an expanded student enrolment, impacting positively on the initial development investment.
COL is interested in piloting the programme in other regions and to date interest has been expressed by Papua New Guinea and the wider Pacific, Namibia and South Africa. For it to be implemented successfully in either of these areas, it will be necessary for local educationalists to modify the Core Curriculum to better reflect the needs of the region, and then to modify the learning materials to reflect any changes made in the Curriculum. However, with the initial curriculum and materials produced and trialed, it will be quicker and more cost effective to identify and incorporate any changes required, than to develop a programme without this base.
The flexibility of the materials, in that they can be utilised in existing on campus programmes to support teacher centred delivery, or used for home study elements within an on campus course, will assist institutions that do not wish to offer the entire programme. The individual units are well placed to be utilised in Staff Development programmes that address particular aspects of technical teaching or are also applicable to teacher training programmes other than those specifically for technical teachers.
RESPONSE TO BROADER ISSUES
The issues identified in the Position Paper give cause to reflect on the implementation of the Core Curriculum and how it can or does responds to these issues, As it was developed to meet a need identified as being very generic across the Commonwealth it accommodated some of the concerns raised in the paper.
As discussed in the Position Paper, there is an increasing tendency to "transplant' programmes and course ware into cultures for which they were not originally intended. COL is very involved in the transfer of courseware and materials and in the process offers assistance to recipient countries to gain expertise in the modification and adaptation process.
In developing the Core Curriculum, it was designed specifically to meet the needs of technical teachers in the Caribbean. But because COL saw the potential for transfer to other regions, the modular approach and competency based format were seen as being conducive to this process. The notion of competency has caused concern in the delivery of the programme, as neither the students nor the Tutors and Co-ordinators were experienced in this form of assessment. But as it is a concept that industry is embracing, the Regional Advisory Committee deemed that it was an opportunity to allow trainee teachers to experience this system by being actively involved in it.
The structure of the course also allows for additional or alternate modules to be incorporated to keep abreast of new developments that might occur, or might be particularly pertinent to either a specific country or institution within that country. It is not seen as a static document, but one that is dynamic and can be re-structured to accommodate political and cultural diversity.
Given that the Core Curriculum relates to the pedagogical skills only, the impact of new technologies is not as severe as in the actual subject area qualification of a teacher. But technological changes will effect its relevance, particularly in the areas of workshop management and safety. With the modular structure, it is hoped that significant developments can be accommodated and maintain the integrity of the Core Curriculum as a base qualification for technical and vocational teachers.
The module devoted to Entrepreneurship will go some way to addressing the problems changes in the world of work has created. As cited in the Position Paper, the precarious nature of employment evidenced by the extent of both unemployment and the lack of availability of jobs to match the unemployed pool, means that entrepreneurship skills, combined with technical skills, do offer some options for those fortunate enough to posses both.
Life long learning has never been as critical an issue as it is now, but it will become even more essential as technological advances, socio economic developments and globalization impact on the workforce. Traditional education methods will not be appropriate to cope with the educational and training needs of a population requiring continued upgrading and retraining. Distance education is an alternative, and one that has not been exploited in the technical and vocational fields. It is hoped that this small experiment in the offering of a training programme for technical and vocational teachers, utilising distance education as a delivery mechanism, will not only allow a cost effective alternative to the upgrading of technical teachers, but also be seen as a model for delivery that could be extended into at least the theoretical aspects of many technical and vocational training programmes.