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Gamble (2013) Why formal teaching and learning are important in TVET


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The paper starts with a brief review of some of the debates about the changing nature and scope of TVET and its institutionalization. This provides a context for considering why different kinds of knowledge, rather than generic versions of skill, needs to be the basis of TVET curricula. Within this frame the paper then considers the idea of vocational pedagogy, to argue that formal teaching and learning in TVET institutions need to be strengthened if there really is to be a meaningful relation between access and equity in TVET.
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UNESCO-UNEVOC | Revisiting global trends in TVET
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Foreword v
Chapter 1 Reconceptualizing TVET and development:
a human capability and social justice approach
by Leon Tikly 1
Chapter 2 Vocationalization of secondary and higher education:
pathways to the world of work
by Rupert Maclean and Margarita Pavlova 40
Chapter 3 The attractiveness of TVET
by Christopher Winch 86
Chapter 4 Learning through practice: beyond informal and towards
a framework for learning through practice
by Stephen Billett 123
Chapter 5 Work-based learning: Why? How?
by Richard Sweet 164
Chapter 6 Why improved formal teaching and learning are important
in technical and vocational education and training (TVET)
by Jeanne Gamble 204
Chapter 7 Career guidance and orientation
by A. G. Watts 239
Chapter 8 TVET and entrepreneurship skills
by Aboubakr Abdeen Badawi 275
Chapter 9 Technical and vocational education and training,
and skills development for rural transformation
by Darol Cavanagh, Greg Shaw and Li Wang 309
Index 341
Chapter 6
Why improved formal teaching and learning
are important in technical and vocational
education and training (TVET)
Jeanne Gamble
Why improved formal teaching and learning are important in TVET
1 Introduction
2 The changing nature of TVET
3 TVET institutionalized
4 Knowledge differentiation
5 What then is vocational pedagogy?
6 Implications for teacher competence
6.1 Subject/technical knowledge base
6.2 Pedagogic knowledge base
6.3 Practical workplace experience
6.4 Is this ‘good enough’?
7 Conclusion
About the author
UNESCO-UNEVOC | Revisiting global trends in TVET
1 Introduction
he nature of the relationship between education and the economy has always been
contentious, but not so in the case of technical and vocational education (TVET).
Here the general maxim is that the closer the relation between TVET institutions
and actual workplace practices, the greater the relevance of TVET curricula and the
better the chances of graduates of becoming employable. This assumption has had a
significant impact on considerations about the nature of knowledge transmitted in
TVET curricula, as well as on the qualifications required of TVET lecturers, instructors
and trainers. However, current debates on education and training as a ‘universal good’
and especially the pressing need for access and equity on the one hand and higher-
order excellence and innovation on the other, are necessitating a reconsideration of
long-held assumptions about both the nature and quality of TVET.
The argument of this paper is that access and equity are not necessarily at the one
end of a continuum of learning and occupational progression, with higher-order
excellence and innovation at the other end. These two constructs also do not stand in
a dichotomous relation, with the one achieved at the expense of the other, as cynics
might claim. Both are crucial for human development and for building a country’s
economic base, and yet the relationship between them is more complex than is often
acknowledged. It is for this reason that the paper makes the claim that, contrary
to the common wisdom that proximity of curricula to the workplace is the ‘golden
wand’ of successful TVET, improved formal teaching and learning are as important in
TVET as they are in all other educational domains.
The paper starts with a brief review of some of the debates about the changing
nature and scope of TVET and its institutionalization. This provides a context for
considering why knowledge differentiation rather than generic versions of skill needs
to be the basis of TVET curricula. Within this frame the paper then considers the
idea of vocational pedagogy, to argue that formal teaching and learning in TVET
institutions need to be strengthened if there really is to be a meaningful relation
between various TVET objectives.
Why improved formal teaching and learning are important in TVET
2 The changing nature of TVET
VET is an ambiguous term which contains within it both a higher and lower end of
an educational hierarchy. From a British perspective, Wolf argues that vocational
Does not mean a medical or veterinary degree; or a post-graduate law school
course; or taking one’s accountancy examinations while working for one of the
big City accounting firms. It does not even mean nursing or teacher training.
‘Vocational education’, instead refers to courses for young people which are
offered as a lower-prestige alternative to academic secondary schooling and
which lead to manual craft and, more recently, secretarial jobs. ‘Technical
education’ slots into the hierarchy above vocational and below academic; and
leads in theory, to the technician jobs which increased in number during the
twentieth century.
(Wolf, 2002, p. 58)
The three-tier distinction between vocational, technical and academic education
remains firmly in place in most countries but at the same time it is claimed that the
so-called knowledge economy now requires all students to develop higher-order skills
of reasoning, conceptual problem-solving and communication, leading to what Wolf,
(2011, p. 20) describes as a more or less universal ‘aspiration to higher education’. This
requirement is expressed as:
The ability to analyse complex issues, to identify the core problem and the
means of solving it, to synthesize and integrate disparate elements, to clarify
values, to make effective use of numerical and other information, to work
co-operatively and constructively with others and, above all, perhaps, to
communicate clearly both orally and in writing.
(as cited in Ball, 1985, p. 232)
UNESCO-UNEVOC | Revisiting global trends in TVET
Somewhere near the middle of the hierarchy we could insert a more overtly vocational
prescription for what is required in the world of work of the future. Australian
research argues that work-ready students should have:
The knowledge and skills they need for work;
Adequate language, literacy and numeracy skills, and foundations skills;
‘Green’ skills needed for a sustainable economy and society;
Technological skills;
Employability skills; and
The knowledge and skills they need for further learning (Wheelahan and
Moodie, 2010, p. 15).
At the bottom end, the youth labour market that is premised on a direct transition
from school to work has all but collapsed in the last decades (Young, 2008). It is
argued that the rearrangement of labour market entry by higher levels of technology,
and shifts from manufacturing to service industries, have led to a decrease in
apprenticeships, traditionally a highly effective route into stable employment for
young people in many countries (Kraak, 2008; Wolf, 2011). It is also argued that
entry into existing apprenticeships increasingly requires higher general academic
qualifications, which are more often available to middle-class than to less advantaged
youth (Kupfer, 2009).
Even though there has been an increase in the provision of lower-level vocational
qualifications that ostensibly offer access to job and career pathways, these are often
described as dead-ends that lead many young people in advanced industrialized
countries to ‘churn’ or ‘swirl’ between education and short-term or casual jobs in an
attempt to find educational opportunities that offer real chances of academic progress
or a stable, paid job, and often finding neither (Grubb, 2006; Wolf, 2011). In less
economically advanced countries the detrimental impact of poverty on educational
outcomes remains a critical challenge which, when linked to high unemployment
and limited economic growth, provides young people in these countries with even
fewer opportunities for work or further study (Van der Berg, 2011).
Why improved formal teaching and learning are important in TVET
It is thus not surprising that the figures for young people neither in employment nor
in education and training (NEETs, as they are called) are on the rise in all countries,
at least in part because employers tend to favour older applicants with higher-level
qualifications, in a context of rising unemployment. The Organisation for Economic
Co-operation and Development (OECD) (2010) reports, for instance that, by mid-
2010, in the twenty-six countries for which information was available, 12.5 per cent
of youth aged 1524 were NEET, up from 10.8 per cent in 2008. This represents 16.7
million young people, of whom 6.7 million were seeking work at the time and 10
million had given up looking. In a country such as South Africa, where links to the
developed world, through aspects of an advanced economy, coexist with the majority
of people having access only to the most basic infrastructure, coupled with a huge
income gap between those who live in poverty and those who live in affluence,
the figure for the 1824 NEET group is calculated as approximately 2.8 million. This
results in a dismaying figure of 42 per cent of the approximately 6.8 million young
people in this age cohort being neither in employment nor in education and training
(Cloete, 2009).
Almost conversely, both the economic ‘pull’ of higher-level qualifications and the
‘push’ into education as a result of a lack of jobs are contributing to massification
trends in higher education (Wolf 2011). In this scenario ‘access and equity in
education’ and ‘education for higher-order excellence and innovation’ become the
ends of a supposed continuum in which the space between the two ends is often
rather hazy in terms of delivery potential. Educational systems endeavour to achieve
both purposes through institutional differentiation, so we need to consider where
TVET fits into a differentiated education and training system.
3 TVET institutionalized
VET is linked to a wide range of physical institutions, such as secondary and in
some cases even primary schools, public and private further and higher education,
UNESCO-UNEVOC | Revisiting global trends in TVET
and training colleges and universities of both a general and specialist nature. It is thus
helpful to examine current debates around institutional differentiation to determine
whether it is possible to isolate distinctive features of TVET at the level of educational
institution, or whether its distinctiveness lies at the level of programme or course.
Differentiation is described as the process through which new entities in a system
emerge. Diversity is the accompanying term which denotes the variety of entities in a
system at a particular time (Van Vught, 2007, p. 1). Arguments in favour of diversified
systems point out, among other issues, that such systems open up access to students
from different educational backgrounds, allow for multiple entry and exit points,
respond more effectively to labour markets, and permit the crucial combination
of mass and elite higher education on which all countries depend (Birnbaum, as
cited in Van Vught, 2007, pp. 56). However, there are also studies that argue that,
instead of differentiation, higher-education systems are in reality characterized by
dedifferentiation and decreasing levels of diversity through ‘academic drift’, which
creates a tendency towards uniformity (Grubb, 2006; Van Vught, 2007).
Codling and Meek’s (2006) study of universities in Australia and New Zealand points
to ‘mission stretch’. This refers to two distinct if related processes, academic drift and
vocational drift, which result not in institutional diversity, but rather in institutional
convergence. Their study shows that, when these trends are generalized, the traditional
universities are exhibiting vocational drift by adopting more applied missions,
developing active partnerships with industry and the new professions, offering
more overtly vocational qualifications, generating more applied research funded
by industry, and becoming more enabling in their admission policies to encourage
non-traditional learners. Universities of technology are exhibiting academic drift by
appointing more university-trained and experienced academic staff, adjusting their
organizational cultures to be more academic, shifting enrolment patterns to include
more school leavers, broadening and increasing their research focus, and adopting
much of the symbolism and nomenclature of the traditional university (Codling and
Meek, 2006, p. 41).
The tendency towards institutional convergence is often reinforced by a requirement
of central governments that diversified systems be coordinated according to a single
set of criteria (Bleiklie, 2003). Convergence may well be advanced by the role that
Why improved formal teaching and learning are important in TVET
national qualifications frameworks (NQFs) are playing in the reform initiatives of
many countries towards greater transparency, coherence and permeability between
education and training subsystems and the removal of barriers between TVET and
higher education (CEDEFOP, 2010). There are also well-documented critiques of this
logic (Allais, 2010). The ranking of higher education institutions according to a single
set of indicators is a further contributing factor.
Referring to developments in both Europe and the United States, Scott (2006)
brings a historical perspective to the debates when he argues that institutional
stratification was the major mechanism that produced stable state -mandated
differentiation in the twentieth century; in other words, the building -up of layers
of institutions with distinctive missions. In the twenty-first century, an increased
emphasis on the ‘market’ is producing far more volatile patterns of differentiation.
This happens through mergers and acquisitions; strategic alliances and network
relations between institutions; and perhaps most commonly, through different forms
of internal differentiation. In the policy trajectories of developing countries such as
South Africa, Kraak (2001) similarly draws a distinction between a ‘hard-stratified’
route of institutional differentiation and a ‘soft-stratified’ route of programme
While many of the above debates refer mainly to the university sector, we see similar
internal differentiation developments in the college sector. Grubb (2006) provides an
overview of the ‘active transfer programs’ in the United States, between community
colleges that offer associate degrees which can replace the first two years of four -
year degree courses offered by second-tier universities (often called state colleges
or regional universities). In certain instances, universities themselves offer these
associate degrees, while in other instances colleges offer baccalaureate degrees,
which were traditionally in the university domain.
Green and Lucas (1999) describe a blurring of boundaries between further and higher
education in the United Kingdom. In South Africa, Stumpf and colleagues (2009)
offer proposals for increasing the mandate of further education and training (FET)
colleges through universities franchising colleges to offer certain higher-education
programmes on their behalf, or through colleges being able to offer certain higher-
education programmes in their own right.
UNESCO-UNEVOC | Revisiting global trends in TVET
4 Knowledge differentiation
he ‘soft-stratified’ route of programme differentiation is no less complex.
Apprenticeship, for centuries the main source of formal vocational training for
crafts and trades (Wolf, 2002, p. 58), was the forerunner of formal TVET programmes.
TVET, in its turn, took on different forms which coincided with the timing and pace
of industrialization in different countries (Deissinger, 1994; Green, 1995). Referring
specifically to nineteenth-century England, Green argues for instance that:
Technical education had been cast in a mould that subsequent legislation
would find hard to break. Growing up as an extension of the apprenticeship
system and reliant on employer initiatives, it developed in a fragmented
and improvised manner: perennially low in status, conservatively rooted in
workshop practice and hostile to theoretical knowledge, publicly funded
technical education became normatively part-time and institutionally
marooned between the workplace and mainstream education. A century later
we have still not overcome the deep divisions between theory and practice
and between academic knowledge and vocational learning which were first
entrenched in these nineteenth-century institutional structures. Nor, would it
seem have we quite outgrown the voluntarist reflex which gave rise to them.
(Green, 1995, p. 139)
Much of what Green describes as indicative of nineteenth-century technical
education remains today. What has changed in the twenty-first century, however, is
the relationship between theoretical knowledge and work.
The knowledge society means that each occupation and its attendant
knowledge base will increasingly be under pressure to augment its quantum
of conceptual knowledge, to become at least partly mental. This is because
generalisable innovation relies on conceptual knowledge and it is this kind
of innovation that the global economy prizes most at all levels of the division
of labour.
(Muller, 2009, p. 16)
Why improved formal teaching and learning are important in TVET
A conceptual knowledge base may be the new requirement for TVET, but technical,
vocational and professional education always face ‘both ways’ (Barnett, 2006);
towards the non-empirical world of ideas and concepts as well as towards the empirical
world of practice and experience. In these educational fields the curriculum thus
always transmits knowledge-based practice, even though this relationship is often
obscured by the reduction of all types of knowledge to skill sets. Such reductionism
is characteristic of the ideological shifts towards outcomes-based education that are
favoured by progressivists in schools as well as by advocates of NQFs (Allais, 2006;
Muller, 2001). In ‘skills’ approaches, knowledge becomes invisible and fundamental
epistemological issues are ignored. Young (2006) goes so far as to argue that this has
happened throughout the history of TVET.
At the level of programme differentiation, the epistemic logic of the curriculum,
which refers to ‘requirements for teaching and learning posed by the form of the
knowledge to be transmitted’ (Gamble, 2004a, p. 176), requires consideration of the
knowledge base on which qualifications are premised. In order to do so, we briefly
consider the work of a number of theorists in this field.
Bernstein (1996, 2000) distinguishes between three forms of knowledge which,
according to their focus and social organization, provide the basis for performance-
based curricula and pedagogies. He refers to these forms of knowledge as ‘singulars’,
or what is commonly known as disciplinary knowledge, such as physics, chemistry,
history, economics and psychology; ‘regions’, where disciplines combine to respond
to a particular field of external practice, most commonly in professional fields such as
engineering, medicine and architecture; and generic modes, produced by a functional
analysis of ‘what is taken to be the underlying features necessary to the performance
of a skill, task, practice or even an area of work’ (Bernstein, 2000, p. 53). Beck and
Young (2005) argue that it is this last category, which they term ‘genericism’, that
is driving curricula in many fields ever closer to the concreteness of ‘the world’, or
what Sohn-Rethel (1978) refers to as a ‘context of human action’ where meanings
derive from concrete events or experiences that have actually happened in a specific
time and place. This means, by definition, that curricula also tend to be driven
farther away from a ‘context of thought’ (Sohn-Rethel’s corresponding term), where
meanings exist only in abstract or symbolic form, independent of the time space
context of their production.
UNESCO-UNEVOC | Revisiting global trends in TVET
Schein (1972) identifies three separate but related elements of the knowledge base of
various professions, which are related to Bernstein’s concept of disciplinary regions.
He argues that all professional practice rests on an underlying disciplinary base,
in which the disciplines may be more or less convergent. Anatomy, biochemistry,
physics and mathematics are convergent disciplines in medicine, for instance, while
professional fields such as social work or teaching rest on more divergent disciplines
such as various branches of psychology, history, philosophy, anthropology and
sociology. A professional field also has an applied theoretical component, from which
many of the day-to-day diagnostic procedures and problem solutions are derived.
Third, a professional field has a skills and attitudinal component (the ‘practicum’ or
‘work-integrated learning’ component of the curriculum). These three components
vary in terms of their form, sequence and timing, but they are all present in some
form in the curricula of professional fields.
Using the above vocabulary, the schematic diagram (Figure 1) shows various types
of relation between a knowledge base and a form of practicum in curriculum. The
various forms of curriculum knowledge (CK) are labelled CK1 to CK4, to signal that a
particular curricular type should not be associated with a particular kind of institution,
or with a particular professional, technical or occupational field of practice. To do so
would be misleading, as we have already noted the permeability that currently exists
between the types of programmes offered by different institutions. Fields of practice
also have stronger or weaker disciplinary foundations which predispose them to a
certain type of curriculum. Moreover, any one field of practice contains a range
of professional, paraprofessional, technical, skilled and semi-skilled occupations,
which bring the forms CK1 to CK3 into play at different levels of specialization. It
is only in type CK4, usually associated with academic schooling and with formative
undergraduate and academic postgraduate studies, where the conceptual base of
the curriculum operates on its own without direct reference to a form of empirical
What the four types have in common is that the knowledge base in each operates
at a higher level of generality than the specificity of a particular instantiation of
practice in the everyday world of professions and occupations.
Why improved formal teaching and learning are important in TVET
Figure 1. Curriculum types in the knowledge-practice curriculum
Source: Gamble (2011).
The dotted lines between the different curriculum types indicate that there is no
natural progression between curriculum types. A student who achieves success in
CK1 is not necessarily going to achieve success in CK2, CK3 or CK4. Neither is it
a foregone conclusion that success in CK4 means that students will automatically
achieve success when they cross over to a practice-oriented curriculum. Educational
progression from one curriculum type to the next is thus not just a question of
formal institutional access; it is crucially dependent on epistemological access. As
Morrow put it succinctly:
Formal access is a matter of access to the institutions of learning, and it
depends on factors such as admission rules, personal finances and so on;
epistemological access, on the other hand, is access to knowledge. While
formal access is important epistemological access is what the game is about.
(Morrow, 2007, p. 2)
To show the differences between knowledge bases, we turn to some examples of NQF-
based qualifications. The knowledge base of a CK1 curriculum type can be illustrated
by an extract from a vocational qualification in Clothing, Textiles, Footwear and
UNESCO-UNEVOC | Revisiting global trends in TVET
Leather (CTFL) Mechanician Processes, registered as a certificate on the South African
NQF (at level 4). Exit level outcomes include the following:
Table 1. A qualification with a general procedural knowledge base, at NQF level 4
On achieving this qualification, a learner is able to:
Monitor the use of raw materials, lubricants and chemicals when
maintaining machines and equipment, interpreting data, evaluating
information, keeping records and solving under and over use problems
related to materials.
Maintain and use a range of hand or power tools understanding the
technology related to such tools and adapting to situations that occur during
maintenance and repair procedures.
Record quality matters and maintain a quality system as it applies to
maintenance recognising areas of poor quality and then communicating
action to rectify areas of poor quality.
Monitor waste and record waste related statistics.
Source: This is an extract from a full unit standard
In this qualification the ‘monitoring’, ‘maintaining’ and ‘recording’ activities are of a
procedural nature, and they take their sequential or stepwise logic from the empirical
domain of actual workplace practice. External ‘adequacy-to-context’ (Muller, 2009,
p. 216) is the main selection principle, and there is a close relation between the
general procedures stated in the qualification and specific everyday practice. The
knowledge component is not stated explicitly but is assumed to be embedded in the
competence to be achieved. As Allais argues in her critique of this type of curriculum
The emphasis is on competence statements in the learning outcomes;
knowledge is relegated to a category called ‘essential embedded knowledge’,
which is supposed to mean knowledge that underpins the particular
competence that has been specified in the learning outcome. Knowledge
cannot, in this approach, be the starting point; the ‘essential embedded
knowledge’ is derived from the outcome’, and not stipulated as part of a
Why improved formal teaching and learning are important in TVET
body of knowledge worth mastering …. Learning programmes should not be
designed based on the internal requirements or logic of a knowledge area;
instead knowledge areas should be selected on the basis that they can lead to
the competence in question, or that they ‘underpin’ it.
(Allais, 2006, p. 25)
When we move to CK2, CK3 and CK4, the knowledge bases look very different. Table
2 compares extracts from two South African curricula in physical science which were
developed prior to the introduction of the South African NQF but were deemed to
be equivalent at NQF level 4. Physical Science Higher Grade (Curriculum A) is the
culmination of three years of study in a senior secondary school. Engineering Science
N3 (Curriculum B) refers to an eleven-week (or trimester) technical/vocational
course offered by a South African FET college as part of the apprenticeship system.
The example makes it clear how distinctions between ‘pure’ and ‘applied’ theory
are achieved through differences in selection and sequencing of content, level of
cognitive demand in examination questions and time allocated to instruction.
Table 2. Comparison of content coverage in two NQF level 4 science courses
Curriculum A. Physical Science (Higher Grade)
Curriculum B. Engineering Science N3
Bodies in Motion: Newton’s 1st law of motion,
Newton’s 2nd law of motion, Newton’s 3rd law of
Bodies in Motion: Newton’s 2nd law of motion
Newton’s Law of Universal gravitation, projectile
motion (up and down)
Concept of friction
Friction: Static & kinetic friction, horizontal and
inclined planes
Moments: Turning moment for constant motion,
levers and lamina, beams
(Heat: specific heat capacity, transfer of heat
covered in Grade 10)
Heat: specific heat capacity, transfer of heat, heat
value of a fuel, efficiency, expansion and steam
Hydraulics: hydraulic presses, work done against
a pressure
Electrostatics: electricity at rest, force between
charges, electric fields, quantization of charge
UNESCO-UNEVOC | Revisiting global trends in TVET
Curriculum A. Physical Science (HG)
Curriculum B. Engineering Science N3
(Covered in Grade 10)
Elements: constituents of matter, periodic table,
metals and non-metals, structure of the atom
Reaction rates and chemical equilibrium, energy
of reactions, dynamic equilibrium, equilibrium
constant, change of state of equilibrium,
equilibrium in solutions, some industrial and other
Acids and bases: dissociation of water, pH
(quantitative), models for acid and base, acid-base
Redox reactions: definition in terms of gain or loss
of electrons, identifying oxidising and reducing
Redox reactions (brief introduction) and corrosion
Electrochemical cells: copper-zinc cell, electrolysis
and electroplating
Electron transfer: formation of ions, brief
definition of electrolysis and electroplating
Half-cell potentials: table of redox half-reactions
and applications, selection of reference electrode,
calculations of potential difference
Organic chemistry: definition, structure,
nomenclature, hydrocarbons, alkyl-halides,
alcohols, carboxylic acids
[This is an extract from the full table presented in Umalusi, 2006, 53 55.]
Both types of curriculum in Table 2 are ‘theoretical’, but Curriculum A represents
what could be called ‘pure’ theory, selected and arranged in terms of an internal
‘adequacy-of-sequence’ logic (Muller, 2009, p. 219) which has a certain necessary
congruence with the vertical spine of the parent discipline (Muller, 2009, p. 16); in
this case the parent disciplines are physics and chemistry.
Curriculum B also represents conceptual knowledge, but the selection and sequencing
of knowledge are driven purposively and pragmatically by a direct relation to aspects
of engineering practice (‘applied’ theory). In Curriculum B certain content areas
are omitted entirely. Where there is content similarity with Curriculum A, there are
notable differences in both depth and range. Curriculum B, however, covers a greater
number of specifically industrial applications. The sub-report (undated) on research
comparing these curricula on which the overall report is based (Umalusi, 2006),
warns that the dearth of chemistry-related content in Curriculum B will catch up
Why improved formal teaching and learning are important in TVET
with students should they attempt to study further in a science direction at higher
education level.
The difference between the two types of curricula is even more pronounced in the
categories and levels of cognitive challenge encoded in the examination questions
(see Figure 2).
Figure 2: Curriculum A - Physics Higher Grade examination mark breakdown
Source, Umalusi (n.d., p. 6).>
In Curriculum A, 82 per cent of the questions required medium and challenging levels
of understanding and problem solving, with only 7 per cent of questions requiring
simple or medium factual recall.
When we turn to Curriculum B the situation looks entirely different: see Figure 3.
The N3 Engineering Science examination contained no questions which probed
understanding of concepts or principles. All questions fell into either the factual
recall or problem-solving categories. The examination contained no questions in
the problem-solving category at level 3 (the challenging level). The exam mostly
tested application of procedures (level 1). Of the examination marks, 60 per cent
UNESCO-UNEVOC | Revisiting global trends in TVET
were allocated to questions at cognitive level 1 (simple), with the remaining 40 per
cent at level 2 (medium).1
Figure 3. Curriculum B - N3 Engineering Science examination mark breakdown
Source, Umalusi (n.d., p. 6).
These three examples were chosen not because they are representative of types
of curricula in all countries, but because they mark out the curriculum terrain we
commonly describe as TVET. In terms of the typology presented earlier, they illustrate
what is possibly the knowledge base of lower and middle-level vocational education
at the access and equity end, and at the other end, the technical and professional
knowledge base required for further study that will lead to higher-order excellence
and innovation. In terms of accreditation parity, all three curricula are pegged at
level 4 of the South African NQF. What is clear, however, is that their knowledge
bases inform practice in very different ways, so that one form of knowledge does
When the author discussed this graph with college lecturers they conceded that many of the questions
under ‘problem-solving’ actually belonged in the ‘factual recall’ category, in that the problem-solving
questions referenced rehearsed solutions which students had practised many times in class. The
examination thus appears to call for novel problem-solving but the responses given are routinized and
procedural in nature.
Why improved formal teaching and learning are important in TVET
not automatically lay the foundation for the next level, in terms of the CK1 to CK4
knowledge types shown in Figure 1.
This is the dilemma of teaching and learning in TVET; a dilemma that is masked by
the ubiquitous ‘skills’ discourse.
5 What then is vocational pedagogy?
‘Learning by doing’ is characteristically the way in which vocational pedagogy is
described, but such a simplistic understanding obscures the fact that there is no one
definitive notion of vocational pedagogy, just as there is no one idealized notion of
a TVET teacher (Wheelahan, 2010).
In order to think about TVET teaching, we again need to turn to the masterapprentice
relationship,2 which provided apprentices with an opportunity to work under the
close supervision of an artisan or journeyman, in all facets of a trade, as the first
prototype for what could be called a vocational pedagogy. It is also this pedagogy that
is often described as a ‘mystery’ (Donnelly, 1993, pp. 4243) or a ‘secret’ (Singleton,
1989, p. 29), to indicate a modelling pedagogy without discursive elaboration. A good
example is Nielsen and Kvale’s (1997, p. 134) description of a master car mechanic in
North Jutland who was known for two things: that his apprentices became the best
car mechanics in the region and that he hardly ever said a word to them. Gamble’s
(2004b) study of craft pedagogy in cabinet-making describes the ‘teaching’ observed
as a largely unpedagogized form of modelling which takes its logic from the relation
between purposeful activity and its organization (work), materials and tools (as
originally described by Marx, 18656/1976, p. 284). It is this interrelationship that
constitutes the context of specialization, both at the point of production in the
workplace itself and at the point of in-job craft reproduction practices. Artisans hold
the knowledge of their trade as an integral part of a collective craft identity, so that
initiation into a craft or trade is as much a social identity formation process as it is a
process of building technical capability.
The terms ‘master’ and ‘journeyman’ are used here in a non-gender-specific way.
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The history of industrial development shows how, in the late nineteenth century when
technology started to draw more strongly on general scientific principles (Layton,
1984), a knowledge base that was deemed a ‘mystery’ was no longer considered
adequate for the preparation of artisans. Increased mechanization resulted in a
more specialized technical division of labour which often deprived apprentices of
exposure to all aspects of a trade. In order to establish a basis for understanding the
scientific basis of technology, it became necessary to introduce mathematics and
science into the apprenticeship curriculum, especially for the engineering trades.
From this time onwards we find traditional work-based apprenticeships shifting to
a ‘theory–practice’ combination, with technical institutions, as the forerunner of
technical colleges, offering theoretical instruction in mathematics and science on
a day- or block-release basis or through evening classes to apprentices indentured
under formal contracts of apprenticeship. Referring to the United Kingdom, Young
(2006) terms this a knowledge-based or discipline-based approach to vocational
preparation. It was assumed that a scientifically grounded knowledge base would
enable apprentices to engage in the kind of problem-solving required by more
advanced levels of technology, in combination with tacit knowledge and competence
that could only be acquired through practical work. The French trade schools of the
nineteenth century offered a combination of theoretical and practical training, as it
was not assumed that years of serving as an apprentice, very often doing the same
thing over and over, was an adequate proxy for systematic practical training (Green,
1995, p. 137).
We therefore see a shift from the master-artisan as trainer at the point of production,
to a combination of teacher in a classroom and instructor in a college-based
While these systems continue in many countries, especially in technical education,
in an increasing number of countries there has been a shift to competency-
based modular training (CBMT), or what Young (2006) terms a standards-based or
outcomes-based approach to vocational qualifications. Standards-based vocational
preparation is premised on a detailed specification of learning outcomes. Learning
materials include practical exercises as well as interim competency tests. Trainees
work at their own pace, and when trainees are confident that they have reached
the required standard, they approach the assessor for assessment, which proceeds
Why improved formal teaching and learning are important in TVET
on a ‘competent’/’not yet competent’ basis (Gamble, 2000, p. 30). In a CBMT system
the role of the technical trainer changes from instructor to coach or facilitator of
learning and, most importantly, to assessor.
While standard-based curriculum approaches consistently favour ‘learning as
outcome’ over ‘learning as content’, they simultaneously foreground ‘learning as
process’ and a deeper understanding of individual and group learning. Theoretical
justification for the elision of two seemingly dichotomous educational positions
was found, among other places, in the influential work of Lave and Wenger (1991),
who emphasized a ‘learning curriculum’ over a ‘teaching curriculum’. A learning
curriculum is described as ‘a field of learning resources in everyday practice viewed
from the perspective of learners’ (1991, p. 97). The focus is on ‘situated activity’
within a ‘community of practice’ (Lave, 1993). The workplace is regarded as the prime
site of learning, but the role of the ‘master as pedagogue’ is ‘decentered’ (Lave and
Wenger, 1991, p. 94). The work of Engestrom and Vygotsky, under the broad banner
of sociocultural activity theory, was also used to argue for a refocusing of attention
on learning within active processes of knowledge construction, in an attempt to
broaden the narrow focus of standards-based approaches to learning (Guile and
Young, 1998, 1999).
Over time, initial endorsement of the potential of social practice theories began
to give way to a questioning of the implications of radical shifts to a ‘learning
curriculum’. While generally recognizing the value of learner-centred approaches,
Fuller and Unwin (1998, p. 159), for instance, raised concerns about the downplaying
of the teacher’s role. Young (2000) similarly criticized the model of curriculum that
results when all knowledge is treated as embedded in specific contexts. In Young’s
view, such a model privileges the meanings that people create for themselves and
ignores the fact that many of the meanings that need to be acquired have already
been ‘pre-constructed’ elsewhere (Young, 2000, p. 10). In later work, Young (2002,
2006, 2008) has argued consistently for the continued importance of knowledge
in curricula, and has cautioned designers of vocational programmes to ‘take the
question of knowledge seriously’ (2008, p. 171).
Such critiques are a long way from our initial formulation of vocational pedagogy as
‘learning by doing’. In TVET ‘doing’ will always retain centrality, but what we have seen
UNESCO-UNEVOC | Revisiting global trends in TVET
is that an adequate knowledge base on which rest ‘doing’, ‘making’, and ‘creating’,
as different forms of practice (Gamble, 2009), has become a crucial curriculum
requirement hence the call for improved teaching and learning in TVET. It is within
this complex understanding of what vocational pedagogy entails that we examine
some of the implications for teacher competence.
6 Implications for teacher competence
ebates around teacher competence in TVET indicate trends towards greater
professionalization of the teaching cadre (Cort et al., 2004; Skills Commission,
2010; Young, 2008). It is argued that TVET teaching is becoming increasingly diverse
and that workplace or industry experience, while a necessary and important criterion
for VET teaching, is no longer sufficient on its own. The deepening of the knowledge
base on which TVET teaching rests in terms of both content engagement and
pedagogic engagement is the basis for moves towards increased professionalization.
In simple form, the basis of TVET teaching can be schematized as the interrelation
between three foundational dimensions:
Formal subject or technical knowledge,
Pedagogic expertise,
Practical workplace experience.
Despite moves towards professional standards in many countries, there is no uniform
developmental trajectory to ensure that all three dimensiosn are in place and inter-
connected. We briefly review current developments.
Why improved formal teaching and learning are important in TVET
6.1 Subject/technical knowledge base
There is a marked lack of international consensus about what counts as an entry-
level academic or subject specialization qualification. In most countries there are
different qualification pathways for the teachers of vocational subjects in TVET
institutions, with the requirement of a bachelor’s degree as the main distinguishing
feature between the different tracks. Teachers of general subjects in TVET institutions
tend to follow the same degree qualification pathway as teachers in academic
schools. However, teachers of vocational subjects are not necessarily required to be
qualified at degree or higher-diploma level in their subject specializations. A recent
United Kingdom enquiry into teacher training in vocational education recognized
that vocational lecturers have been, and continue to be, considered ‘second class’ in
relation to school teachers, and this despite policy-makers now considering vocational
teaching to be a core profession’ in the knowledge society (Skills Commission, 2010,
p. 8). The key conclusion of this enquiry points to the ‘need to converge the two
separate teacher training regimes that currently exist for teachers of academic
subjects in schools and those of vocational subjects in further education and the
post-compulsory sector’ (2010, p. 9).
In contrast to this, a European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training
(CEDEFOP) report, based on ten case studies which each describe a single ‘case of good
practice’ in six different countries (Denmark, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway
and Portugal), concluded that ‘in many countries in Europe initial qualification
as a vocational teacher requires a higher education degree followed by teacher
training that is regulated at national level. In some countries a nationally-recognised
vocational qualification is recognised in place of a higher education degree’ (Cort et
al., 2004, p. 23).
Compensation for unevenness of regulation of formal subject matter qualification
requirements in vocational subjects is, to some extent, sought in an increasing
requirement for some form of pedagogic qualification.
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6.2 Pedagogic knowledge base
Specifications for the pedagogic knowledge base of TVET teaching are highly varied.
Although acknowledging that, especially at instructor level, educational knowledge
is lacking in terms of linking theoretical knowledge to operational expertise
(CEDEFOP, 1990, pp. 78), the literature tends to be dominated by discussions about
increasing role diversification and role expansion in terms of new sub-specializations
such as learning needs analysis; the planning and management of learning systems
at operational and strategic level; learning design; distance learning; multimedia
teaching; counselling and specialized learning support; integrated communication
technology (ICT); inclusive education; ecological awareness; evaluation, audit and
quality assurance; labour market analysis; partnership creation and networking
to name but a few. In addition the target groups of TVET are growing increasingly
diverse in language, age, employment status, educational background and learning
preparedness, which similarly leads to educational role specialization (Cort et al.,
2004; Grootings and Nielsen, 2005; ILO, 2010; Skills Commission 2010; Wheelahan
and Moodie, 2010; Young and Guile, 1997,).
A range of entry teaching qualifications are described by the sources cited above,
ranging from postgraduate teaching qualifications and associate degrees to
various levels of certificates and diplomas. There is a tendency, especially in certain
Anglophone countries, to base mandatory teaching entry requirements on low-level,
standards-based qualifications in order to attract industry experts to VET teaching.
In other countries, the initial entry bar is being raised. Cort and colleagues (2004, p.
40) note, for instance that in many European countries, reform of TVET systems is
changing the ways in which teaching is organized, with the result that some teachers
are no longer formally qualified to teach with their existing teaching qualifications.
Where VET teacher professionalization is taking place, initial entry into VET teaching
is often undertaken by technical universities/universities of technology that can offer
the technical subjects which will be taught; or, as in the United Kingdom, premised
on universitycollege partnerships or on teacher development provision offered by
colleges themselves. In both the latter instances specialist vocational pedagogy is the
remit of colleges.
Why improved formal teaching and learning are important in TVET
At academic universities, postgraduate study in education for TVET teachers and
those who provide curriculum and academic leadership focuses on various forms
of research, comparative policy analysis and deepening of theoretical bases for
understanding curriculum and pedagogy. Moos and colleagues (2006) also argue that
that the general 3+2+3 structure of higher education introduced by the Bologna
process (that is, three years for a bachelor’s degree, two additional years for a
Master’s degree and three years for a Ph.D.) has facilitated the integration of TVET
teacher education into the general system of education in many countries.
6.3 Practical workplace experience
‘Loss of qualification’ as a result of remoteness from the workplace is an ongoing
lament in the literature consulted. This relates both to those who acquired their
specialism through tertiary education and those who entered VET with considerable
prior work experience but who eventually became out of touch because they did
not have regular contact with the world of work. Regular contact between TVET
institutions and workplaces, ‘twinning’ arrangements, involving industry and unions
more closely in defining teachers’ future roles, work placements, internships and
practical training periods in companies are among the recommendations most
frequently cited.
6.4 Is this ‘good enough’?
Of the above three components of expertise, practical workplace experience
continues to dominate as the central tenet of the TVET teacher’s repertoire, and
it is perhaps a retrospective yearning for operational expertise gained at the point
of production in work itself as the basis for vocational teaching and learning,
that foregrounds the need for practical workplace experience. In this regard, the
spectre of the ‘master-artisan as pedagogue’ who ‘initiated apprentices into the
theory and practice and other mysteries associated with a particular occupation’
(Aldrich, 1999, p. 15) clearly still looms large over our understanding of TVET teacher
competence. There is, however, one big difference. While it was noted earlier
that craft pedagogy is largely unpedagogized and transmitted through modelling
UNESCO-UNEVOC | Revisiting global trends in TVET
practices rather than through instruction informed explicitly by educational theories,
we see in contemporary prescriptions for TVET teaching what could almost be termed
as an over-compensation for the tacit modelling aspect of craft pedagogy. This is
evidenced by an insistence that workplace experience should be amplified by the use
of ‘cutting-edge’ technology and every available form of educational innovation in
teaching methods.
In addition, the drive towards the corporatization of TVET-oriented institutions
through management by quality assurance indicators undoubtedly promotes
‘generic’ forms of teaching that can be captured by a single set of indicators across all
subject areas. Under these conditions, references to systematic scientific knowledge
being the basis of teacher competence are more often about parity of esteem and
remuneration between vocational and academic teachers than about qualifications
being viewed as binding on all teaching, whether at the ‘access’ or the innovation’
end of TVET objectives.
This is not to say that there is not a concern about improving teaching through
professionalization based on formal teaching qualifications. Learner diversity in
contemporary TVET institutions is clearly a long way from the homogeneous relations
of socialization into craft of days gone by, and teaching is recognized as crucial for
enhancing learning for all students. The theoretical justification for this emanates
from different versions of progressivist and constructivist learning theory, prompted
by a ‘practice to theory’ rationale (Bird, 2010; Mjelde, 1997; and, as described by
Egan, 2002).
The problem is that there is simply no easy fit between formal systematic, scientific
knowledge and practical activity. Teachers would dearly like it to be so, since it would
make the job of teaching principled knowledge much easier, and mathematics and
science would not pose the challenges that they do for all students, not only for
those who enter formal learning with an educational disadvantage. Unfortunately,
as Layton argues, ‘the “problems” which people construct from their experiences do
not map neatly onto existing scientific disciplines and pedagogical organisation of
knowledge’(1993, p. 11). For Pye it is the ‘prepared mind’ that is able to ‘abstract a
class of result from particular objects and to see the analogies between results’ (1978,
60). A decentring of the teacher may provide us with a semblance of democratic,
Why improved formal teaching and learning are important in TVET
learner-centred, experientially driven, outcomes-based pedagogy, but it evades the
knowledge question. Without access to knowledge in all types of TVET curricula, the
ideal of a learning progression continuum that leads to career advancement and
mobility will remain elusive.
When the knowledge question is taken seriously we would do well to consider
Shulman’s (1986) theorization of the knowledge base of teaching. Taking content
knowledge in teaching as one domain,3 Shulman describes it in terms of the categories
of subject matter content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge and curricular
knowledge, thereby positioning subject matter knowledge as the central axle around
which all other forms of teacher knowledge revolve. Pedagogic content knowledge
refers to ways of formulating and representing the subject to make it comprehensible
to others. A further distinction is made between lateral curricular knowledge, which
involves being familiar with the curriculum materials being studied by students in
other subjects they are studying at the same time, and vertical curricular knowledge,
which refers to familiarity with the curricular materials taught in the same subject in
preceding and later years in school (Shulman, 1986, 10).
When TVET teachers understand their subjects or fields of expertise in general
procedural terms, they teach procedurally. When they understand their subject or
field of expertise as based on its disciplinary antecedents, its applied knowledge base
and its repertoire of skills and dispositions, they teach in the manner attributed
to the established professions, as discussed by Schein earlier. Paradoxically, when
they do so, their practice most likely resembles that of the old ‘master-artisans as
pedagogues’. The crucial difference is that their teaching expertise is no longer based
on tacit or uncodified versions of practice, but on a codified, scientifically grounded
knowledge base that informs practice.
There is enough evidence in different fields of educational practice for us to
understand that learning does not happen in the absence of teacher expertis e in
what to teach and how to teach it (e.g. Hodson, 1992; Layton, 1984; Morais and
Neves, 2001; Muller and Gamble, 2010; Schmittau, 2005). Strong formal teaching
Other domains mentioned are individual differences among students, generic methods of classroom
organization and management, history and philosophy of education, and finance and administration
(Shulman, 1986, p. 10).
UNESCO-UNEVOC | Revisiting global trends in TVET
and learning, aided by various educational technologies and premised on an up-to-
date understanding of the vocational, technical and professional field of practice is
what is ‘good enough’ for TVET. Nothing less will do to ensure that we fill in the hazy
spaces’ between equitable access and excellent innovation to achieve a continuum
of learning progression that serves all young people and not just the ‘privileged’ few.
7 Conclusion
he argument put forward in this paper has been that a deepened understanding
of knowledge differentiation in curricula necessitates a reconsideration of the
competence base of TVET teaching, and by implication, of its capacity to bring about
successful learning and further learning progression. TVET teachers need to have
subject knowledge, and they need to know how to teach that subject and how to
construct a curriculum. This has to be the ‘core’ of TVET and not the ‘periphery’. But
in order to replace educational knowledge as ‘generic’ with a stronger understanding
of the relation between a particular form of knowledge and its pedagogy, we
need to move away from the broad-brush ways in which we often use the terms
‘knowledge’ and ‘practice’ so that we grasp the constitutive effect that different
forms of knowledge have on what counts as practice. Only then will we be able to
conceptualize education in general and TVET in particular in ways that avoid ‘low
quality education as poverty trap’ (Van der Berg, 2011) as the endpoint destination of
many young people in different countries. And only then will we meet the knowledge
demands of innovation and higher-order excellence.
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UNESCO-UNEVOC | Revisiting global trends in TVET
About the author
eanne Gamble is a Senior Lecturer in the Higher and Adult Education Studies
Development Unit of the University of Cape Town. Her theoretical and research
interests focus on the formal relation between knowledge and practice in curriculum,
particularly on the forms taken by this curricular combination in vocational and
professional education.
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Technical Report
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The sociology of education is concerned, either explicitly or implicitly, with the study of social reproduction. Some strands study how education reproduces external power relations (such as class, race, gender, age, and religion); others study power and control relations within education itself. This article discusses the latter strand, focusing particularly on two components of the theoretical work of the British sociologist, Basil Bernstein, as well as on research that uses his conceptual schema. Code theory shows why it is that middle-class children tend to succeed better in formal school settings than working-class children. The theory of knowledge structure distinguishes between different classes of knowledge and their coherence relations in curriculum. Research in both areas points to directions in curriculum and pedagogy that enable all children to perform successfully.
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This report describes the results of a research project entitled ‘Professionalisation of VET teachers for the future’ (PROFF). The project was jointly coordinated by TTnet Denmark and TTnet Finland. The Dutch, French, Italian, Norwegian and Portuguese TTnets were partners. PROFF is based on previous work done within the TTnet and builds on findings and results presented at the TTnet workshop in Helsinki in 2001. The aim of this workshop was to identify current and future challenges for VET teachers. The challenges identified during the proceedings included: the need to provide vocational education to new target groups; changing paradigms in educational theory and the trend towards student centred approaches, the increasing role of information and communication technology (ICT) as an educational and a management tool, new developments in labour markets, changes in national VET legislation and in the way VET is organised and the impact of internationalisation. In this setting, the goal of PROFF is to look at the way in which these challenges are being met in the EU Member States, to identify ‘cases of good practice and to disseminate and discuss these cases at European level via the national TT-networks’.
Original allemand : Geistige und Körperliche Arbeit, Zur Theorie der gesellschaftlichen Synthesis, Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am Main, 1970, traduction anglaise par Martin Sohn-Rethel, Humanities Press, Atlantic Highlands, N. J., 1978, 216 p., ISBN 0-391-02905-3.
Many approaches to learning rely on behaviourist and individualist assumptions, are dependent on transmission pedagogies or are associated with cognitive science accounts of expertise. Drawing upon recent developments in activity theory that have resulted in learning new interpretations of the ‘zone of proximal development’ and the emergence of the idea of ‘learning as a form of social practice’, this paper proposes an entirely different perspective on learning. It argues that the idea of apprenticeship can be reconceptualised to provide the basis for a more inclusive social theory of learning. It explores how far new pedagogic criteria will have to be developed that might constitute the basis for such a theory of ‘reflexive learning’, and identifies the possible implications of this approach to learning for a number of current concerns in vocational education and training, for example, lifelong learning, collaborative/transformative learning and knowledge production.