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Integration of academic and vocational disciplines in simulated practice

Integration of academic and vocational disciplines in simulated practice
Martijn van Schaik
Paper presented at
Invited VOR sympososium
AERA conference 2013 San Francisco
NCOI Research Centrei
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As we walk up to the spot we are planning to film the interview, Hafid tells me he
is working nearby at a supermarket. He stopped for a while with school, earning
some money, meanwhile re-applying for a metal workers training. The Dutch
language was the problem at the school where I met him during my research. It
was not just the Dutch, I remember. There were also the problems of him taking
care of his family, since he was the eldest in the household and able to understand
The Dutch teacher, didn't she help you with your presentation in the end?
But she could not help you overcome you troubles with the language?
Yeah, a little. It is just hard.
And now you still want to become a metal worker, how are you going to manage
the Dutch at that training?
I am practicing. And have to take a test first. There not so much Dutch then.
You like to work with metal?
Yes, I really want to do that. Mr. John has learned me that.
Once the camera is set up, and Hafid and I are ready, we start the interview. Hafid
is relax, as he always was during the project at his school. He is very willing to
answer all my questions, some of which I already asked him before.
Something I still remember about the tricycle, is that you first had a one drawing
and suddenly later the drawing was totally different.
Yeah, that first drawing, I drew wrong, not drew wrong, but planned wrong.
Later I had a little help from Mr. John, got a little help from him, then I had
thinked it out, so to speak.
Yeah, thought out, welded, everything.
Martijn van Schaik | 04/27/13
In vocational education students are to be prepared to participate in communities
of practice (Maes, 2004). Hence they need technical skills as well as content
knowledge e.g. science and mathematics. Research has shown that the
instructional strategy of guided co-construction may lead to deeper
understandings within a practice (Van Schaik, Van Oers & Terwel, 2010/2011;
Snel, Terwel, Aarnoutse & Van Leeuwen, 2012). Guiding in a co-constructive way
means helping students to collaboratively reconstruct models and subject matter
knowledge through an on-going and reciprocal discursive process, focused on the
solution of task-related problems (Mercer, 1995; Hardman, 2008). This paper
focusses on students’ drawings and models and their function in a ‘web of
reasons’ (Brandom, 1994). The present research takes a cultural historical activity
theory perspective on how students (age 14-16) and their vocational and subject
matter teachers use models and other representations as tools in the process of
designing and constructing (Van Oers, 2006; Billet, 2003). We use video data
from a design based research project at schools for preparatory senior secondary
education, for which students had to design and built a prototype of a tandem
tricycle. Teachers guided the students in this process aiming at not only acquiring
technical skills, but also at an understanding of codified knowledge (Van Schaik,
et all, 2010/2011).
The present research explores how the models functioned for the students
in the simulated workplaces at school as reasons for action and how these reasons
evolve over time and through guidance of the teacher. From a body of about 10
hours of video data we selected 18 interactions of students and teachers on or over
their models and drawings from early in their design and construction process till
the end. By identifying the change of meaning and the role the representations
play in students’ web of reasons, we can explain students’ (differences in)
understanding of models and concepts of mathematics and science. The results
showed that students’ actions, tool use and products concepts and knowledge play
an important roll as object-motives (Edwards, 2010).
We propose that emphasis should be on the inferential role of concepts and
representations in order for the students to be meaningful and to be used as tools
in a practical way (Bakker & Derry, 2011). This proposition may help to bridge
the gap that exists for students and teachers in vocational education between
practical, explicit, situated knowledge and codified, general knowledge. Hence
integrating the vocational and academic disciplines. Moreover, a web of reasons
can be a pedagogical tool for teachers within a strategy of guided co-construction.
Keywords: modeling, co-construction, models, vocational education, web of
In this paper we report on a design study in pre-vocational education (VMBO)1,
which explored the process of an intervention aimed at enhancing students'
codified knowledge in mathematics and science, as well as their understanding of
modeling, while in the process of designing and constructing a tricycle.
In many educational settings knowledge is codified in subject matter textbooks
Martijn van Schaik | 04/27/13
and other curriculum tools, most of it derived from academic disciplines (Eraut,
2004). In vocational education, as well as in workplaces, codified knowledge is
also available in bodies of rules (Guile & Young, 2003) and other specific tools,
including, for example, machine manuals. Students in vocational education have
to acquire this knowledge and at the same time become skilled in relation to their
future professional practice. They are thus required to obtain competencies in
order to be prepared for future demands, including codified knowledge as well as
technical skills and attitudes (Cedefop, 2009; Commission of the European
communities, 2008). However, relatively little research has been carried out into
the type of learning environment in vocational education that is supposed to
promote this kind of learning (Koopman, Teune, & Beijaard, in press).
The abbreviation VMBO denotes the system of preparatory vocational
education at the secondary level in the Netherlands (Eurydice, 2008; Maes, 2004).
Students between 12 and 16 years old follow a general curriculum with a
vocational perspective. Work experience for students is organized both in school
workplaces and extramural apprenticeships. The students' work experiences are
used for developing generic skills and knowledge, as described in the generic
model of work experience of Guile and Griffiths (2001). However, general subject
matter is often separated from practical vocational skill teaching. In our research
project we examine the quality of the learning outcomes in educational situations
in which subject matter theory and vocational skills are integrated, following a
design-based research approach (Barab & Squire, 2004; Collins, Joseph, &
Bielaczyc, 2004; Shavelson, Phillips, Towne, & Feuer, 2003; The design based
research collective, 2003). Earlier studies showed that students can, given
practical problems in the vocational workshops2, be guided towards a theoretical
understanding of codified knowledge (Van Schaik, Van Oers & Terwel, 2010a;
2011). The studies in question demonstrated that a design and construction
assignment might be potentially knowledge-rich. We learned from follow-up
studies that explicit attention to models as tools resulted in a better understanding
of models (Van Schaik, Van Oers & Terwel, 2010b).
For the present paper, we selected two of the four schools of an
intervention study in which there was a special focus on more explicit connections
between product design and appropriation of subject matter knowledge. Students
were asked to design and build a prototype tandem tricycle. Teachers
subsequently assisted the students in dealing with problems during the tricycle
design and production stages. The students were encouraged to use or develop
models to solve the problems they encountered in working on this 'real-life'
assignment. As we learned from the previous studies, stimulation in the practice
workshop is insufficient for the reconstruction of subject matter knowledge and
models on the basis of practical problems alone. In that light, we created a series
of 'prototype lessons', during which students were guided to move from practical
solutions and drawings to codified subject matter knowledge and models.
Theory and practice in pre-vocational education
By way of an attempt to improve the relevance of knowledge and the
effectiveness of knowledge transfer to the workplace, as is the case in other
countries a reform is taking place in Dutch pre-vocational schools (Guile &
Young, 2003; Seezink & Van der Sanden, 2005). One of the proposed reforms
envisions the teaching-learning process as an activity embodied in a simulation of
Martijn van Schaik | 04/27/13
real world practices. Students work on products for 'real' customers and in this
context they are guided by teachers to acquire knowledge and skills. The basic
assumption behind this approach is that learning of codified knowledge and
vocational skills can be integrated into authentic workshop practices. The
pedagogical approach can be characterized as what Tynjälä (2008, p. 144) calls
“integrative pedagogics”. However, working on a (practical) problem is not
enough to motivate students to learn (Guile & Young, 2003), and participating in
real life situations is insufficient to develop higher level expertise (Tynjälä, 2008,
see also Schaap, Baartman & de Bruijn, 2011). The challenge for schools is to
design assignments that are meaningful for the students and relevant to their
future jobs (Tuomi-Gröhm & Engeström, 2003; Volman, 2006). At the same time,
assignments should also result in highly qualified learning outcomes that enable
students to recontextualise their knowledge and skills from the classroom to the
workplace. In short, teaching should support students in relating practical problem
solving to codified curriculum knowledge (Guile & Young, 2003; Van der Sanden,
Terwel, & Vosniadou, 2000). From this perspective therefore, students need to be
supported when solving real life problems with “conceptual and pedagogical tools
which makes it possible for them to integrate theoretical knowledge with their
practical experiences.” (Tynjälä, 2008, p.145).
In our previous studies we investigated this process in detail (Van Schaik,
Van Oers & Terwel, 2010a/b), exploring the implementation of two assignments
and the subsequent teacher guidance at one school and testing whether or not the
learning environments had become knowledge-rich (Guile & Young, 2003). It
turned out that designing a tandem tricycle can, in fact, create opportunities in
teaching students codified knowledge and modeling. The present study builds on
those findings.
The research questions in this paper aim at finding out how the
pedagogical strategy of guided co-construction is effective in joining experience
and general knowledge. The analyses focus on students’ drawings and models and
their function in a ‘web of reasons’ (Brandom, 1994).
Models as tools
In pre-vocational education students both design and construct real products.
During the design and construction processes problems arise that need to be
solved. Models may be used to anticipate possible problems and their solutions.
Although drawings and models are important in design technology and serve to
communicate and generate ideas, MacDonald & Gustafson (2004) claim that
classroom emphasis is merely on their representational function. Students must be
able to draw correctly, while their models, including assessment, are used for
teacher diagnostics only. If students’ classroom drawings were preceded by
students' orientation towards the problem situation and the exploration of ideas,
modeling might develop into an active learning strategy which could help students
gain deeper understanding of problems and their possible solutions. This
assumption is in line with the view of Tuomi-Gröhn and Engeström (2003).
Rather than primarily having a diagnostic and explanatory function, models serve
a dual purpose:
On the one hand, the practitioners model the past and present
contradictions in their activity system in order to understand where the
causes of trouble lie and on which aspects of the activities they shall focus
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their change efforts. On the other hand, the practitioners model also a
future vision of their activity, in which they depict expansive solutions to
the contradiction.” (Tuomi-Gröhn & Engeström, 2003, p. 32).
In this article models are defined, following Van Oers’s (1988), “... as any
material, materialized (for example a graphical display) or mentally pictured
construction, built up from identifiable elements and relations, which structures
the user's action ...” (p.127). These models function as tools in orientation and
communication activities, in ways similar to those described by Tuomi-Gröhn and
Engeström. For example, a model may allow the designer to calculate angles in a
drawing in advance, so that steel may be sawn correctly in one single process,
rather than by trial and error. Here the mathematical formula functions as an
orientation tool. When, with regard to the present context, the drawing is used by
students to negotiate the design of the tricycle with others, it also becomes a tool
for communication. Hence, orientation and communication are both functions of a
model, which can consequently serve both at the same time.
Formation of a web of reasons
Using models as tools in the vocational education practice workshops can serve
both students' technical codified knowledge and the more general knowledge in
subjects such as mathematics and science. When models as well as the
accompanying planning solutions are used as means for orientation and
communication in relation to present and future problems students' disciplined
perception may develop (Stevens and Hall, 1998). This implies that students
become familiar with the modes of thought that prevail in the discipline. In pre-
vocational education the disciplines comprise both general curriculum subjects
(derived from academic disciplines such as mathematics and science) and
vocational disciplines, in our case those in the technical and technological
domains. Students should be supported to “... gain a greater awareness and
appreciation of the discourse repertoire … and how it is used to create knowledge
and to get things done” (Mercer, 2002, p. 147). They are therefore required to
actively construct knowledge and information, applying the system of artifacts
used in the practice of the discipline (cf. Beach, 2007). However, according to
Stevens and Hall, “disciplined” also implies that “learning to participate in
disciplinary practices does not depend solely on 'instruction and
exercise'...”(p.109). Therefore, a simulation of a actual vocational practice may
help students to become 'disciplined'. That is, students become trained in the
discipline(s) and can participate using the language and tools of the discipline(s).
Subsequently, students' reasoning evolves in a similar way: “they learn to
make connections between the different concepts and techniques, so as to form an
integrated whole” (Bakker & Akkerman, submitted, p.x). In other words, that they
become aware of the web of reasons of the discipline(s). This web refers “to the
complex of interconnected reasons, premises and implications, causes and effects,
motives for action and activity, and utility of tools for particular purposes that are
at stake in particular situations” (ibid). In our previous studies we have found that
often students actions are determined by mostly practical reasons, for example the
dimensions of the tricycle by availability of specific parts of steel instead of the
length of the users. Also their original plans as represented in their drawings fade
into the background. We also found that the drawings could be used to direct the
students to the disciplinary knowledge in the drawings and models. Hence, when
Martijn van Schaik | 04/27/13
the teachers use the students' plans, drawings and models and the knowledge
involved in their guidance, the students can be supported, in a integrative way, to
develop a disciplined perception. Meanwhile the students reasons for action may
become more theory laden.
Guided co-construction
In the above light, using models should become a strategy to solve problems, with
teachers assisting students in their attempts to understand the potential problem
solving function of models; in other words, assisting students in understanding the
orientation and communication function of models, as opposed to their mere
representational function. Drawings and models should not only be viewed as
subtasks without any relation to the final goal of designing.
By collaboratively reflecting on and improving the production process,
participants learn to understand the often tacit rules and codes of the workplace
and the knowledge underlying them (see also Lave & Wenger, 2005). As tools for
communication and orientation models may assist students in thinking ahead and
reflecting on their own process and product. Students' understanding may increase
as a result. On this view the teacher's role is to support reflection on the models
and thus to discursively guide the students in their process of (re)constructing the
appropriate models that optimally serve both functions for the task in hand.
Guiding in a co-constructive way thus means helping students to collaboratively
reconstruct models and subject matter knowledge through an on-going and
reciprocal discursive process, focused on the solution of task-related problems. It
is the teacher's role to “ … maintain connections between the curriculum-based
goals of activity and a learner's existing knowledge, capabilities and motivations”
(Mercer, 2002, p. 143). Research has shown that the instructional strategy of
guided co-construction may lead to a better understanding of mathematics and
modeling than a strategy based on models that only provide (Doorman, 2005;
Terwel, Van Oers, Van Dijk, & Van Eeden, 2009; Van Dijk, Van Oers, & Terwel,
2003). Mercer (2002) summarizes the characteristics of teachers who were
successful in supporting pupils in their development of mathematical problem
solving and reading comprehension. Above all, such teachers use questions “not
just to test knowledge, but also to guide the development” (Mercer, 2002, p.144).
Secondly, the teachers taught more than subject content. They also assisted
students in understanding the problem-solving strategies and making sense of
their experiences. Finally, “they treated learning as a social, communicative
process” (ibid.). All of these characteristics are elements of what we call guided
In one of our previous studies, which comprised interventions at two
schools, a program based on the tricycle assignment was designed and teachers
were trained to guide the students either in a co-constructive way or in a providing
way (Van Schaik, Van Oers & Terwel, 2010b). It turned out that the students in the
co-construction conditions produced better product models.
To summarize: when students are guided in a co-constructive way during a
design and production process, their understanding of the disciplines may be
supported if the models are used as tools in a web of reasons. Therefore our
research question is: how do models function for students in simulated workplaces
at school as reasons for action and how do these reasons evolve over time and
through guidance of the teacher?
Martijn van Schaik | 04/27/13
The present research takes a cultural historical activity theory perspective on how
8 students (age 14-16) and their vocational and subject matter teachers (n=2) use
models and other representations as tools in the process of designing and
constructing (Van Oers, 2006; Billet, 2003). We use video data from a design
based research project in which, during an intervention at schools for preparatory
senior secondary education, students had to design and built a prototype of a
tandem tricycle. Teachers guided the students in this process aiming at not only
acquiring technical skills, but also at an understanding of codified knowledge
(Van Schaik, et all, 2010a/b/2011).
This paper explores how the models functioned for the students in the
simulated workplaces at school as reasons for action and how these reasons
evolve over time and through guidance of the teacher. From a body of about 10
hours of video data we selected 18 interactions of students and teachers over their
models and drawings from early in their design and construction process till the
The methodological approach can be characterized as a 'whole to part'
approach meaning that analyses started with reviewing and labelling video at
school level, after which a microanalyses of student-teacher and student-student
interactions was performed at classroom level (Erickson, 2006).
The intervention design was primarily based on experiences from the preceding
studies (Van Schaik, Van Oers & Terwel, 2010a/b; 2011), which revealed that
designing and building a tandem tricycle may evoke the use of models and
technical knowledge, and that guided co-construction in this process improves the
quality of student models. The four schools involved were allowed to effect local
adjustments in order to maintain their school culture, thus keeping the ecology as
authentic as possible. We agree with Lemke and Sabelli when they point out on
the basis of complex systems theory that “Adaptation of models for system reform
to local conditions matters more than efforts to replicate success elsewhere”
(2008, p. 125). Although our intervention is not a system reform, we acknowledge
that the design used in previous studies needs to be adaptive to the local
conditions of the schools in this study. In effecting local adjustments the agency of
the participants was respected and, as a result, the program changed when used as
a tool by the participants. An appropriate way to characterize our method would
be to place it in the tradition of formative intervention (Engeström 2007; 2009).
The complexities involved in studying different school practices were also
acknowledged (Goodlad, Klein, & Tye, 1979). We therefore follow Downing-
Wilson, Lecusay & Cole (in press) in that, on the basis of joint activity with the
teachers, the intervention was interpreted and changed by all parties involved.
Since we analyzed the “design as implemented” (Ruthven, Laborde, Leach, &
Tiberghien, 2009, p. 341) and adopted the “enactment perspective” to examine the
implementation (Snyder, Bolin, & Zumwalt, 1992, p. 418), the intervention itself
evolved as a result of our research interactions (see 'implementation').
The intervention consisted of a student assignment (see below) plus an
Martijn van Schaik | 04/27/13
educational instrument for the teachers. It consisted of a series of embedded
prototype lessons and examples of problems that students might encounter in
design and construction processes. The teachers were supposed to pay explicit
attention to the way students' situated knowledge was related to more general
knowledge; moving from practical problems to modeling by the use of
mathematical and scientific concepts. The prototype lessons were the instructional
moments for reflection on the practical problems and their underlying principles.
Participants and setting
The intervention was implemented at four schools for preparatory senior
secondary education (VMBO). VMBO educate students with a dual perspective:
general-theoretical and vocational (Cedefop, 2009; Maes, 2004). Students are
between 12 and 16 years old and are prepared for secondary vocational education
in both general subjects as mathematics and languages as well as vocational
disciplines such as mechanical engineering. The two schools in this study were
selected out of the four from the total intervention, because they were the better
performing ones, as found in previous analyses (Van Schaik, Terwel & Van Oers,
in press).
School 1: Orthen Technical School This school had 15 students working in five
groups of three. The workshop space was large and had recently been refurbished.
Computers and a separate instruction space were available. Students were guided
by two practice teachers and one teacher who taught the prototype lessons and
normally functioned as a welding teacher but who used to be a mathematics and
physics teacher. Computers with 2D-CAD software were used for the drawings.
Prototype lessons (three out of five) were taught separately to the whole group.
This school scored above the sample mean on two of the three pre-measures.
School 2: Technical College Oldenhave At Technical college Oldenhave four
groups of four students out of a class of 24 chose to work on the assignment (two
other groups worked on other authentic assignments). Students worked in two
spaces: one, their 'own', with computers and some technical equipment, and one
reserved for metal working (i.e. grinding, sawing metal and welding). A team of
four teachers guided the students; both subject matter and practice teachers.
Students used subject matter classes for their ' theoretical' problems. The content
of the prototype lessons was taught in situ. Students used computers with 2D and
3D Computer Aided Design (CAD) software for their drawings. The project ended
with a presentation to their peers. The mean scores of the students on all pre-
measures were higher than those for the other schools.
At both of the schools one subgroup of four students was selected for the present
analyses. The groups were the winners of the competition at their schools.
Student assignment
The students’ assignment was the following:
Design and build a prototype of a tandem tricycle for children aged 4-7 in such a
way that the children have to cooperate.
The assignment was placed in the context of a competition.
Martijn van Schaik | 04/27/13
The students were asked to design and build the tandem tricycle in ten weeks.
During that period they worked at least two hours a day in the workshop setting
and in open classrooms, where computers were available. Teachers were available
for questions and guidance in both spaces. The design process was reflected on
during workshop hours and in lessons or sessions separate from the workshop and
the construction process (the prototype lessons). During workshop practice mainly
practical problems encountered were most of the time solved directly or redirected
to separate lessons, in which teachers guided the students in problem solving by
using their designs as well as relevant science and mathematics subject matter.
For the students the process s started with an introduction by the researchers, who
explained the purpose of the assignment, which was to build a prototype to win a
competition. The students started designing during the first week (see figure 1 for
an example) after which they moved on to construction in the weeks following.
The competition ended initially with the selection of the two best prototypes at
every school, which was followed by a final session during which a jury decided
which prototype was the best (figure 2).
Figure 1: Students' design at school 1 condition (video still)
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Figure 2: The winner tricycle of the competition chosen by the jury of experts.
Teachers’ educational instrument
A teacher instrument was developed which consisted of a series of embedded
prototype lessons and examples of problems that students might encounter during
the design and construction processes. The instrument differed according to the
way the students in the two conditions had to be guided. For the experimental
condition the instrument consisted of a 'toolkit' with possible content for prototype
lessons and templates for ad hoc lessons and instruction. The toolkit was intended
as a reference base for the teachers. For the control condition the instrument
consisted in a detailed lesson plan for the teachers to follow.
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Looking at the logs that were kept by the researchers during the school
implementation part of the project, we found that schools differed in how well
they followed the teachers' educational instrument; that is, how the intervention
was carried out compared to how it was originally designed. In addition, from the
interviews with the students and teachers we learned the extent to which the
project differed from the way assignments were normally carried out. At School 1
in this study the main difference lay in the fact that students normally work alone.
For the tricycle assignment students could make their own decisions on how to
proceed with the design, whereas they would normally follow a fixed procedure
for other assignments. In the words of one student: “You couldn't do anything
wrong … you simply could choose whatever you wanted [on how to construct].”
At School 1 students were used to having a drawing provided and constructed
only smaller components, instead of something that, in the words of one student,
“will really be used.” The only difference with regular practice at School 2 was
that this time the assignment was not for a 'real' client, but for a competition. In
their regular practice students also have a client, an assignment and a budget, and
proceed from there in their subgroups.
From interviews it also became clear that at a subject-matter teacher was
involved when students worked in the workshop. Of the teachers at School 2 who
guided the students, two also taught mathematics or physics, although not to
students in the project. At school 1 the teacher who taught the prototype lessons
had formerly been a mathematics and physics teacher and normally taught
Video procedure
The reason to use a video approach is that we wanted to analyze both the micro-
genetic learning trajectory of the students and the development of the intervention
(cf. Mercer, 2008). Using video, next to other forms of data, it was possible to
identify “the changing participation of the students in group interaction”
(Erickson, 2006, p. 181).
Collecting the observation data, we looked for interactions on how
students used knowledge and mathematical models and how the teachers helped
them to use those, when solving the problems they encountered. We had three
cameras in the classroom: two overall cameras and one hand-held camera. The
two fixed cameras were continuously recording and one of the fixed cameras also
recorded the audio that was captured by means of a wireless microphone attached
to the teacher. The third hand held camera was operated by one of the researchers
(always the same person) and captured those interactions in which students and
teachers together, or students by themselves were solving problem (for a more
detailed description see van Schaik et al., 2010a; Van Schaik, 2009). In addition,
we video recorded the interviews with students and teachers we held shortly after
each observation.
The selection of the video sections for analyses was based on the
assumption that manifestation of the students' reasons for action could be found in
interaction with each other or with the teacher. The additional criterium was the
presence of drawings or models.
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Video analyses
Video analyses were conducted using TAMSS analyzer (Weinstein, 2006). First
interactions over drawings and models were labelled, next those the utterances in
those interactions were coded using Bakker and Akkerman's operationalization of
the level of integration of types of knowledge (Bakker & Akkerman, submitted).
Table 1 shows the four levels. 'Statistical-mathematical' in the original is replaced
with scientific-mathematical/vocational as the two kinds of disciplines established
in the theoretical framework above.
Table 1
Levels of knowledge integration used as codes in the data analysis (derived from Bakker &
Akkerman, submitted)
Level Characterization
1Statement about something scientific-mathematical/vocational or work-related but
without explanation or reasoning
2Reasoning or explanation with only scientific-mathematical/vocational or only
work-related (non-theoretical) knowledge.
3Statement in which a scientific-mathematical/vocational fact and a work-related
fact are combined.
4Reasoning with both scientific-mathematical/vocational and work-related
At every school we observed four lessons, all practice lessons. At school 1 we also
observed a prototype lesson. At school 2 there were no separate prototype lessons;
the subject-matter teachers at that school were present during the regular practice
periods and the content of the prototype lessons was taught in the context of those
practice lessons. All together we gathered almost 12 hours of video data (see table
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Table 2
Video data and number of representations
When we look at the number of presentations (drawings and models) during the
observations we can see that school 1 had six more in total. However at school 2
representations were still present at the end of the process, whereas at school 1 as
the process evolved the representations disappeared. This is in line with our
previous findings (Van Schaik et al., in press).
18 episodes were selected in which the students we followed for this study were
present. Most of those were around the episodes in which representations were
visible. In two episodes there were no representations.
In all episodes and in an interviews we code the utterances to the level of
integration (table 3). As with the representations, at school 1the prevalence of
utterances with some level of knowledge decreased towards the end of the
process. At school 2 however, in the final presentations students still showed
integration of knowledge. Another difference between the schools is the level of
integration. At school 1 only level 1 and level 2 utterances were found, whereas at
school 2 also level 3 integration was coded. No level 4 was found in the
Table 3
Level of integration in utterances
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School 1 School 2
Lesson type Lesson type
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3 Practice 1:09:09 4
Week 4 1:08:13 6
Week 5
Week 6 Practice 1:46:46 7 Practice 1:53:05 3
Week 7 Practice 0:57:07 5
P-lesson 0:31:21 1
Week 8
Week 9
Week 10 Practice 2:13:39 0 Practice 1:25:48 3
Week 11 Interview
Later 0:52:05 3
Total 6:37:06 19 5:20:07 13
duration of
video obs.
number of
duration of
video obs.
number of
School 1 School 2
week 4 week 6 week 7 week 3 week 6
Level 1 8 8 4 4 4 1 2
Level 2 1 1 3 1
Level 3 4 2 2
Level 4
Levels of
Analyses of student use of representations and reasoning
The analyses of the prevalence of the utterances over the process shows that it
resembles the appearance of representations. As found in earlier studies,
representations, as tools during the design and production process, tend to
dissapear towards the end of the process. This seems also the case for utterances
that have a level of knowledge in them. Only at school 2 both drawings and
utterances with knowledge remain present in the end of the process. The turning
point in this study seems to be week 6. The majority of the representaions as well
as the utterances at all levels decreases from there.
At school 2 more level 2 utterances are found and only at that school
statements that contain both practical and subject-matter/vocational knowledge
arre found. This may be due to the fact that students at that school had to present
there final prototype, including the drawing and reflection on the process, to their
peers. In this presentation students still made statements at level 3. In the next
paragraph examples of the utterances are shown.
Examples of level 1 statements
Most utterances found in the observations are at level one. The statement vary
from very short ones about tasks, dimensions, materials, or measures as example 1
shows, to statements on what students do and have done in example 2.
Three of the four students of the subgroup are together and looking at their design.
One of them is playing with measurement tape.
Example 1
School 1 week 4
Utterance Remarks
Student These are far to small dimensions. While looking at the
measurement tape
In the final presentation for peers at school 2 the subgroup presents the prototype
and reflects on their process. One of them explaines why their design drawing is
not finished. That is, the drawing does not accurately reflects the actual product
they constructed. There is not much more than that.
Example 2
School 2 peer-presentation session
Utterance Remarks
Student So, this is the design drawing as actually built, but
it is not finished yet.
Peers are laughing and
comparing the drawing
with a map.
Examples of level 2 explanations/reasoning
There were three instances of level 2 reasoning. The examples here are typical for
the explanations at both schools when students are asked to explain the reasons
for their design an prototype. It shows that most reasons are practical or at least
are not connected to knowledge.
Martijn van Schaik | 04/27/13
Example 3
school 2 week 6
Utterance Remarks
Student When you that that, then the chair also has to
come further like this. Otherwise we can not attach
Moving around with parts
of a chair for the tricycle
on the workbench.
Example 4
school 1 week 4
Utterance Remarks
Student Sir, we were thinking that, if the wheels are right
here, then there is 'lost space'. So we were thinking
to put here another chair and then on the other side
as well. That way two guys could sit on it.
Referring and pointing to a
drawing on the computer
screen in AutoCad.
Examples of level 3 statements
Only at school 2 level 3 statements were found. Most (4) were in week 6, in the
final presentation, there were 2. In week 6 the subgroup is discussing their plans
for the construction. The talk what can be done, by whom. One of the students
states something about the rear of their design by which he uses mathematical
issues in the design that first have to be solved before the practical tasks at hand
can be carried out.
Example 5
school 2 week 6
Utterance Remarks
Student At the rear we need a triangle. I still have to decide
on the degrees to see how big the triangle will be.
While the subgroup is
sitting around the
computer with the printed
drawing in front of them.
In the same presentation as in example 4, an other student of the subgroup
explicitly refers to their drawing as a tool. With this statement he shows that he
knows what the rules for a technical design drawing are, but that theirs does not
comply to those. In other words, he shows an understanding of vocational
Example 6
School 2 peer-presentation session
Utterance Remarks
Student Coming back to our drawing, we were mainly
busy with our product, so the drawing has suffered
as a result. So it isn't right yet.
Referring to their design
drawing at the screen.
Martijn van Schaik | 04/27/13
Example of teacher guidance toward theoretical reasoning
In order to see how the teachers help the students to improve their knowledge
development and integration on theory and practice, we also need to look at the
teacher guidance. For every school there is one example of an interaction which
characterizes the pedagogical approach of the teacher in question.
The first example is one from school 1 in week 4 in which the teacher announces
an ad hoc instruction for the next day after a discussion with students.
Example 7
school 1 week 4
Utterance Remarks
Teacher … and then there is the the fact that we also need
to calculate this length
Pointing at the drawing on
the screen
Student Sir, we were thinking that, if the wheels are right
here, then there is 'lost space'. So we were thinking
to put here another chair and then on the other side
as well. That way two guys could sit on it.
Referring and pointing to
a drawing on the computer
screen in AutoCad.
Teacher You can always try that. You can sketch that. But
let me come back to what I just said. This length
needs to be calculated at some point. How would
you do that?
Pointing at the diagonal
lines in the drawing of the
Student We have those here.. Looking for the papers
with the sketches
Teacher In the drawing? But can I also calculate those
using maths?
Student But its on scale [the drawing], then you only have
Teacher Jaahhh, but you can't just draw everything at scale.
Suppose that I have to make a big contruction of a
Interrupting the student
Student That has to be on scale, otherwise if you do
something wrong it collapses
Teacher But, is that on a scale of 1:2000 or of 1:200? I can
calculate that. Help me remember, then we can
discuss it next time [during a prototypelesson].
Because with Pythagoras' theorem... We will
calculate it next time, because it's calculatable.
This interaction shows that the teacher points the students to the role of
mathematics in their drawing. He asks questions an thus tries to have the student
come to mathematical operations. Subsequently he postpones the theoretical
explanation to a moment when the whole group is present.
The second example of teacher guidance was observed at the end of the
design process at school 2, when students are actually building the tricycle. In the
example a student is busy drawing angles at a piece of wood the the help of the
metal tubes that must be connected to each other. He is trying to draw, but cannot
find a way to do it.
Example 8
School 2 week 6
Utterance Remarks
Martijn van Schaik | 04/27/13
Teacher I should not need to explain this. You need to go to
the mathematics teacher.
Student He is not there now.
Teacher Why don't you do it in AutoCad?
Student AutoCAD isn't working (at the computer),
otherwise I would have done it already.
Student walks out of the classroom and returns a little later. He is still busy measuring the
angles for sawing the tubes of steal at the right angle.
Student Sir, I measured the ange and it was....
Teacher That's what I already thought, because it was
Pointing at the angles that
together form the
complementary angles in a
Student Aahh, then you could have said that right away!
Teacher Certainly not.
The teacher takes the ruler from the table on which the tubes of metal are sitting.
Teacher If you look at it from this point of view, I see
Student Yes.
Teacher So, that's what you have to learn to see.
The teacher here is connecting estimation of angles to the mathematics that goes
with that. It is about integrating subject matter knowledge to vocational
The present research explores how the models functioned for the students in the
simulated workplaces at school as reasons for action and how these reasons
evolve over time and through guidance of the teacher. Teachers guided the
students in a co-constructive way, assisting students in the reconstruction of
collaborative models and subject matter knowledge by means of an on-going and
reciprocal process. In contrast to a more traditional form teaching, in which
knowledge, concepts and models are provided in the form of ready-made
solutions, guided co-construction may lead to a better understanding of modeling.
The research question was: how do models function for students in simulated
workplaces at school as reasons for action and how do these reasons evolve over
time and through guidance of the teacher?
It was found that models were used by students to plan further activities
and by teachers to guide them during this process. Although it was observered that
teachers tried to connect knowledge from academic discplines as mathematics and
science as well as vocational knowledge to the practical design and construction
process, students did express this in at a level that showed integrated reasoning .
Most utterances that could be found were practical, some contained reasoning, but
only a few utterances combined practical with theory and no utterances were
found that showed reasoning with integration of subject-matter or vocational
knowledge with practice. It was at school 2, where students presented their
prototype for their peers, that utterances were found that contained both
knowledge and practice.
Martijn van Schaik | 04/27/13
Student reasons for action tend to become more practical toward the end of
the process. This resembles what was found in earlier studies (Van Schaik et al.,
2010b), that models dissapear in the process of desiging. It can be concluded that
most reasoning in a design and construction process can be found around the time
that studenst move from drawing to actually constructing. After that, the
construction, not the desiging, is the core activity, thus students focus on practical
issues. Only when aftward the students are asked to reflect on the process, as with
the presentation at school 2, they again reason and explain and express their
We agree with Gresalfi (2009) that collaborative practices and the meaning-
creating opportunities they afford are important for learning. However, Dutch pre-
vocational education differs from other systems in that it has a dual focus, directed
towards vocational knowledge and skills as well as on general codified knowledge
derived from the academic disciplines. According to this view collaboration on
authentic assignments alone is insufficient to integrate skills and disciplinary
knowledge. The missing collaborative factor is the teacher, who is required to
support students in relating practical problem solving to codified curriculum
knowledge (Guile & Young, 2003; Van der Sanden, Terwel, & Vosniadou, 2000).
The fact that workplace teachers at the schools in this study had backgrounds in
the relevant academic disciplines might be taken to suggest that teachers in those
classrooms used conceptual and pedagogical tools to integrate subject matter
theory (Tynjälä, 2008). Also, students at the two schools used CAD software for
their drawings. This software forces the students to model like designers, in ways
similar to normal practice in their future occupations. In other words, with the
support of academically trained teachers, the students’ disciplined perception may
have been enhanced, in the following two ways (Stevens & Hall, 1998). First,
students assumed the role of workers in their discipline (vocation). Second, they
learned to see the connection between practice and theory: they not only practised
their vocational skills in the workplace, but were, in addition, trained to use the
models as tools for problem solving both in vocational practice and in the
academic disciplines that were reflected in the curriculum subjects. Further
research will have to focus on the micro level to examine the enhancing effect of
CAD software use on discipline perception.
Further research might confirm the teacher characteristics that Mercer
(2002) found at well-performing primary schools. We refer here specifically to the
assistance given by the teachers by which students are given greater insight into
disciplinary problem-solving strategies. We have found that the teachers do try to
integrate the subject-matter/vocational knowledge and the practice of designing
and constructing a tandem tricycle. However, that did not lead to student
utterances at level 4 and only at school 2 to utterances at level 3. The guidance of
teacher may have to be both even more explicit toward subject-matter knowlegde,
like the teacher at school one, meanwhile students may need to be pushed to also
present their theoretical reasoning in a final presentation, like at school 2. That
kind of teacher guidance may help students make sense of their experiences in
relation to the knowledge codified in subject matter and in the practical domain.
In combination with student reflection at a more theoretical level on their process,
might therefore be instrumental in attempts to overcome the gap between theory
and practice in vocational education (Bakker & Akkerman, submitted). A hybrid
Martijn van Schaik | 04/27/13
learning environment may be the form that connects student experience to
codified knowledge (Huisman, De Bruijn, Baartman, Zitter, and Aalsma 2010;
Zitter, De Bruijn, Simons, and Ten Cate 2011).
The present study suggests two factors that may improve student’s
reasoning and understanding of models: explicit attention for integration of
knowlegde and practice by the teachers; reflection on the design process at the
end. Further research will be required to examine the nature of teacher-student
micro-processes and the tools used in problem-solving processes.
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1In this article pre-vocational education will be used to refer to the Dutch
preparatory senior secondary vocational education,VMBO.
2The vocational workshops are the practice classes in which the skills and
attitudes are practiced.
3 In VMBO students are divided among four 'learning tracks.' They differ in the
theoretical level of the subject matter. The four levels are 'basic level' (lowest
theoretical level), 'Staff level' (second theoretical level), 'mixed level'
(intermediate level) and 'theoretical level'(highest theoretical level).
Martijn van Schaik | 04/27/13
NCOI – Brief introduction
NCOI is the largest private provider of governmentally accredited, high quality and easy accessible
education programs in the Netherlands. The company was founded in 1996 and has become the
Dutch market leader in providing professional education programs and training courses.
NCOI offers a comprehensive and growing portfolio of over 1,000 programs: i) accredited and
certified education programs, ii) non-accredited education programs and iii) traditional subject-
oriented skill training courses.
Over the last three years, the product offering was further broadened and strengthened by
complementary acquisitions; Scheidegger (primary focus on MBO (intermediate vocational
education) for private individuals), Compu’Train, Twice and Broekhuis (all ICT segment),
completed with Vergouwen Overduin (high-end training institute) in the summer of 2012.
̴ NCOI provides education and training programs with a focus on professionals, mainly
consisting of (accredited) open line MBO, MHBO, HBO (Bachelor) (higher vocational
education) and Master programs;
̴ Scheidegger primarily focuses on private individuals, mainly serviced through accredited
open line programs at intermediate vocational education level (‘MBO’);
̴ ICT Group provides vendor certified ICT training courses, primarily business-to-business;
̴ EVC provides assessment and recognition of prior experience by means of officially
recognized certificates;
̴ Concept Uitgeefgroep and Broekhuis Publishing are publishers of educational books for
both internal and external use;
̴ BCN operates multi-functional, high quality conference centers, facilitating NCOI and third
party education and training programs.
̴ The education and training programs are basically marketed through two distinctive sales
̴ Open line subscription; education or training programs offered on individual basis to
professionals who meet official education requirements
̴ InCompany program (corporate accounts); any of the existing (open line) programs and/or
‘made to measure’ programs offered on an in-house basis to a group of employees selected
by the customer
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Full-text available
This paper explores a contrast between two strategies of intervention research. The first strategy, referred to as design experimentation, came to prominence through the writing of Ann Brown and Allan Collins. Design experiments were described as attempts to engineer innovative learning environments and simultaneously understand salient aspects of human cognition and learning. The core of the method is to place a version of a learning design into the world and iteratively revise the design in light of results from each implementation. The second strategy is referred to as mutual appropriation, a term used by Newman, Griffin, and Cole to describe teaching/ learning processes in classrooms, but subsequently introduced into the intervention literature by Brown and Campione to describe an intervention process in which the nature of the intervention is not pre-specified, but negotiated among participants over time. We endeavor to show that a mutual appropriation approach can help the field create interventions which are themselves developmental in their fundamental methodology.
Full-text available
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The term "design experiments" was introduced in 1992, in articles by Ann Brown (1992) and Allan Collins (1992). Design experiments were developed as a way to carry out formative research to test and refine educational designs based on principles derived from prior research. More recently the term design research has been applied to this kind of work. In this article, we outline the goals of design research and how it is related to other methodologies. We illustrate how design research is carried out with two very different examples. And we provide guidelines for how design research can best be carried out in the future.
In a previous attempt to outline the challenges facing cultural-historical activity theory, I observed two opposite tendencies in our field: One force pulls researchers toward individual applications and separate variations of certain general, often vague ideas. The other force pulls researchers toward learning from each other, questioning and contesting each other's ideas and applications, making explicit claims about the theoretical core of the activity approach. (Engeström, 1999a, p. 20) This volume is a welcome example of the second tendency. I see it as a formative intervention, a virtual Change Laboratory (Engeström, 2007e), attended by a diverse group of scholars interested in pushing forward the development of activity theory. Looking at this effort through Vygotsky's (1997b) idea of double stimulation, the first stimulus or “problem space” for the contributors was the body of research and theorizing I have produced over the years. The second stimulus consisted of the critical reviews written by other authors and colleagues. However, the resulting chapters are not merely commentaries on my work. Double stimulation is an expansive method. It pushes the subject to go beyond the problem initially given, to open up and expand on an object behind the problem. In this case, the object is activity theory, embedded in its relations to other theories and to the societal reality it tries to grasp and change.
This article provides an overview of an open source qualitative coding and analysis program called TAMS Analyzer, where TAMS stands for Text Analysis Mark-up System. The article reviews the history and design of this software. This history focuses on transformations in the software that have allowed it to work with larger scale projects, more abstract analytic categories, and wider varieties of media. In examining the software design, the article reflects variously on the value of software-assisted qualitative research, issues of openness with respect to software standards and licensing, and transparency to the user. It concludes by looking at some future directions for software-assisted qualitative research and by noting contradictions in the qualitative marketplace that will likely shape what will be available to qualitative researchers.
European programs of design research have developed distinctive types of apparatus to structure and support the process of didactical design. This article illustrates how intermediate frameworks and design tools serve to mediate the contribution of grand theories to the design process, by coordinating and contextualizing theoretical insights on the epistemological and cognitive dimensions of a knowledge domain for the particular purposes of designing teaching sequences and studying their operation. The development and analysis of intermediate frameworks and design tools of these types provides a promising approach to establishing a public repertoire of theoretically informed apparatus for didactical design.