Defining vocational learning is difficult as it varies across education. According to Medcalf (2010), this term needs clarification , good vocational learning is a combination of practical and theoretical concepts applying to the labour market.
What are the benefits of this form of learning? According to Medcalf (2010), it is good progression into employment , further studies particularly seen with Business and technician education council studies observed in schools :
' Vocational qualifications are accessible models of study for students with a range of learning styles . Within them is the scope to differentiate in order to develop those who need it and to stretch those who already high achiever.....'
It could be argued I have experienced this , working with many learners with learning difficulties , vocational courses accommodate styles and students- which I contend benefits the college.
My main argument is related to Professor Wolf''s report (2011), I contend she is valid in recommending how vocational courses could be improved .
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Relating this to Nescot where vocational course predominate , are they teaching learners the correct skills to enable them to achieve employment? Ideally are colleges like Nescot, recruiting and retaining the 'right' people or rather taking anyone to achieve successful retention figures?
Edge centre suggests (2010), that the lack of detailed understanding of practical and vocational learning contributes to the low esteem in which practical, vocational education is held by many people.
My argument is would it not be in the interests of the government to pay to research how vocational education works and how to improve it following on from Wolf''s recommendations (2011).
Faraday et al (2011), suggests that vocational education is more important than ever.
It could be postulated that this substantiates the impact of vocational education , this leads to an important article by the Department for education, using Professor Wolf (2011) to analyse vocational learning , she made numerous recommendations on how it could be improved . Her main concern was the relevance of vocational courses to the economy , the transparency of the qualifications system and the ease in which young people can make choices regarding places of study.
Wolf (2011), proposes that vocational courses teach important and valuable skills , offering a direct route into higher education which has been followed by many. Academic study encompasses only part of what is the labour market . She further claims that many vocational students are not following courses of a type that offers different content , skills and teaching . Resulting in a mixture of various courses offering various qualifications -where many young learners do not progress successfully into either secure employment or education.
Therefore do vocational courses for 14-19 year old serve the purpose of creating and maintaining opportunities for all young people? Wolf (2011), suggests both in academic-vocational education well meaning attempts to pretend that everything is the same as everything else.
The strengths of this report are it lays out accurately objectives of changing the value of vocational education and skills involved in enabling students to achieve progression and ultimately employment . There are numerous recommendations , it is clear and detailed, its limitations are their objectives are overwhelmed by the sheer content and information . A reader of this report could ascertain that it could have been presented more precisely by grouping concepts together .
Educational international (2009), contend that investing in a strong , vocational education and training sector must be crucial in societies . They claim that vocational education and training is essential as it enriches a person for life and provides the competencies necessary in a democracy.
This I contend is an essential argument as any government in the modern era would try to meet this outcome , however when looking at this article, it could be argued that the other factors delineate away from this noble aim.
According to Educational International (2009), they undertook a vast literature review where problems were elucidated regarding vocational education and training, the primary one was definition. According to them (2009), this task has not always been the ultimate goal for many organisations. As the others factors lead to a departure for proving excellent vocational learning and teaching.
However, its clear they recognise their limitations from the outset , they claim that there are various points that their literature review did not look into such as the place of students and trainees in the system and the quality of vocational and educational training.
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In contrast, Educational International (2009), claim that in the context of vocational learning, it might be a good route of discovery to concentrate on the process of developing a definition of what vocational and educational training is in the 'real world'. What does this analysis means? Is it that many organisations around the globe have agendas where these so called 'real world' applications do not apply rather a viewpoint where various arguments take precedence , it is difficult to comprehend what is meant by this article it leads to ambiguity and needs clarification.
According to Educational International (2009), using a direct scenario from King and Martin (2002), they purport that there is a vocational education and training fallacy, where even though many try to change the view towards vocational learning, many postulate that academic education would be wiser to achieve employment.
When analysing various literature it could be argued that there may be disparities , where prudent research on vocational learning when compared with its academic counterpart is lacking.
It could be surmised this substantiates my view that there is more research and arguments for academic endeavours whilst the vocational arena is rendered isolated, I suggest that Educational International (2009), is relevant , accurate, report on the assessment of vocational education. Although there are limitations , in my view there is too much information , it brings up pertinent ,valid arguments such as that when assessing numerous countries and the use of academic and vocational choices , they suggest that academia override any arguments for the benefits of vocational learning.
'The changing nature of skills of the UK workforce mean vocational education is more important now than ever yet despite recent improvements in provision there can be no doubt that there is room for improvement of vocational teaching/training and learning'
It could be argued that this substantiate my view, however, a full analysis of is required.
As a comparison, Evidence (2009) for the research in schools sector shows that learner's attainments can be improved by using a teaching models approach but teaching models are not yet establishing in vocational learning. The teaching models approach may offer great potential for development widespread adoption .
Achieving high quality vocational education system assumes high quality and effective vocational teaching and learning. Research has told us that the quality of teaching is the key factor in improving learner achievement.
An analysis of various literatures, one study corroborates my argument that vocational education is important for the skills of England:
'The learning style offered by vocational qualifications is much better fit for students who prefer 'learn by doing' rather than just reading about it. By introducing more qualifications of this type we have increased our success rates of keeping students in school and engaged'
K Medcalf (2009)
Educational international (2009) has looked at vocational education; it highlights a number of problems with practical learning. The most existential one is a definition, for most organisations vocational learning has not always received priority. If one definition is given importance over another, this might lead to some of provision being left out or given importance than others. They further postulate that it is important to note that any choice of definition will entail a gross simplification of reality. This requires further research and if we cannot define vocational learning, how will we assess its effectiveness?
In 2009, a new framework set out the judgement that an inspection will be making in assessing an education provider, inspectors will look at levels of attainment, judged largely by qualifications, attendance, participation and learner enjoyment. (This substantiates my use of our college report.) In evaluating the 'quality of provision' a provider will be judged on whether they use interesting and appropriate teaching and learning methods , but crucially there seems to be no information about what this means in terms of the context of vocational education. To improve the quality and impact of vocational education, we need to take into account the learners' perspective.
In England, the main providers of practical vocational education are schools, colleges, universities. Colleges or schools do not always share the same perspective or interests say of employers. Thus employers, governments and providers have different goals for vocational education - they are likely to want to steer its evaluation in conflicting direction. my view is that providers such as Nescot College do not always keep the learners achievement as a priority and other bureaucratic issues can cloud their judgements. Edge centre (2010), argues this and postulates that the learners themselves have a real risk of their interests being discarded
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They also contend that motivating young learners in the practical vocational sector calls on the desire to 'grow up' and assume the responsibilities of adulthood. I believe that providers such as Nescot cater for a large proportion of the vocational market - but do they really have the learner's interest at the core of achievement.
'The lack of transfer of school or college knowledge and training to real world contexts and tasks has been widely documented'.
This quote emphasises the purpose of my enquiry, I contend that many colleges provide a departure from academic learning with hands-on, applied learning but are they really allowing for progression and high learner achievement, I suggest that numbers are more priority rather than attainment.
They further argue that it is not easy to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of practical vocational education programmes, selecting the 'right people' to be on the courses another important question. I contend that this is an essential factor in the assessment of vocational learning as if they do not recruit the correct learners; the results could be inaccurate or ineffective.
Are providers such as Nescot really selecting the correct learners for the right course or rather are they making up numbers for achieving funding and meeting target quotas.
Furthermore, retention of students continues to give cause for concern-this corroborates my standpoint, it is with foresight to discover the causes for this, why do learners not always progress and stay on courses?
Edge centre (2010), further suggests that practical vocational education has a positive impact on their well-being, as well as on the coherence , creativity of their communities. But the report suggests 'could do better' analysis. The study could have been improved by analysing how vocational education could be made better retention and what further recommendations could have been employed, it is not accurate to make statements and not back up their arguments.
Billet (2003) suggests that vocational knowledge is historically and culturally constituted and manifested in particular ways in each workplace setting. Learning this social and culturally -derived activities and access to informed social partners in a particular work practice.
Pedagogical considerations, warrant looking at participation in vocational practice. Individuals determine how they elect to engage in the practice and, therefore, what is learning through engagement. They contend that key problems for vocational education is it is often seen to demand lower, rather than differing levels and kinds of outcomes than those in compulsory and higher education.
Learning vocational knowledge (instruction) pose important questions about the goals for the processes of instruction. Among theses is the basis by which transfer should be conceptualised to account for settings and situations that comprises different derived gaols and practices e.g. classrooms versus workplaces.
From the outset I acknowledged that this is a small scale study, therefore if should be used as a platform for more research. There was a mixture of qualitative and quantitative methods employed in order to achieve a balanced assessment . These methods were employed so it correlated with my educational enquiry objectives. Using Wyse (2006), as a accurate template, I looked at sample sites, the participants employed in the analysis were accessed by making a written request to Nescot college to use data in order to benefit the college and ascertain the effectiveness of various courses.
The whole use of these findings was to use an action research assessment to elucidate what worked well in the college and what required improvements. From the outset , it was agreed that all data collated would be kept anonymous and confidential -to allow full consent of the learners and redress any issues of personal information being employed in a unfair context.
A critical review of data gathering methods used including how ethical issues were managed:
Using Wyse (2006), as a template, the main data gathering methods employed were both qualitative and quantitative to ensure accuracy and validity to all finding made.
Ethical considerations were made throughout the research, Using the British Educational Research association as the point of reference for this enquiry. I received informed consent from Nescot to use individuals, for example the learners . There was the right to withdraw from the research without prejudice, confidentiality and anonymity was sought at all times. Special care was taken when working with disadvantaged groups in this case students with different learning abilities and age range.
There was the avoidance of deception whereby no participants were mislead or their views were not misconstrued.
There was no field work employed , rather there was a preliminary use of literature and followed on using the Nescot Ofsted report , furthermore statistics were gathered from numerous vocational courses as 14 courses in the college were predominately vocationally orientated.
An analysis and discussion of the findings:
Using Wyse (2006)as a point of reference , valid findings were sought and rigorous , systematic and exhaustive analysis was made.
According to the Ofsted report (2009), Nescot College currently offers vocational courses in 14 of the 15 sector skills; the Ofsted report of 2009 agrees that it is a good college. It continues to improve the quality of education and training and outcomes for student success rates are above average for both younger and adult learners.
Standards of students work are good and students develop good practical skills which support their progression into employment or higher levels of study.
Students gain good knowledge and skills and enjoy their work, most teachers use Information technology to enhance learning . However, not all lessons address the full range of learner needs or provide challenges to move them to make progress.
Positives include productive partnerships with employer and community groups, a broader range of apprenticeships. While some students benefit from well organised work placements, there are no sufficient opportunities for all those who might benefit to take part in real work experiences.
According to the Ofsted report (2009), Nescot need to improve the effectiveness of lesson planning to ensure that activities meet the needs of all the learners, enabling the more able learners to make progress.
Nescot needs to increase the opportunities of students on all courses to participate in more real work experiences in order to enhance their vocational skills and an understanding and readiness for employment.
From their 2009-2010 course review many issues were elucidated, they do have students correctly placed on course, there was a range and benefits to learners of work-related activities, there were benefits from partnerships and links with employers.
Q. What could be improved? - College report (2009) use of Weblearn-it needs to be more accessible to learners with learning difficulties e.g. using pictorial instructions, simplified sections and more use of various fonts and colour coding of information.
95% of students were retained on the course, 100% were on track to achieve the qualification.
93.45% were the attendance rates on all the vocational courses.
There is a lot to build from and retention of learners could be an avenue to analyse.
According to Wyse (2006), I was willing to questions my views, and be open to other constructive views. I have to admit that it may appear that I have bias or prejudices towards my college, however I can contend that all this enquiry was based on improving courses and the college .
A critical evaluation and conclusion:
It is clear that Nescot college is successful in their wide variety of vocational courses, the findings made are the beginnings to addressing where they could improve in line with Wolf's recommendations (2011).
Limitations: Many could argue that maybe more raw data could have been used in this investigation and that I can concur with, with any educational research more analysis would benefit the enquiry. Some could rightly argue that I had limited amount of data, it is true that more research would benefit my College retentions levels on vocational courses, but that is true of any educational study.
I have tried throughout the study not to make generalisations on my arguments and I have tried to remain consistent with all my data and analysis and synthesis.
The conclusions that can be derived are that Nescot is working well in their vocational courses, although they could be more effective in keeping learners on courses, progression and in my opinion there needs to be a large assessment of whether they are choosing the 'right' students on these practical courses. Many learners find learning through academic routes give a emotional reaction to 'school like ' settings in an adverse way, some have argued Field (2009), that poor quality teaching in work-based settings are not geared for students. Furthermore he contends that course materials are found to be boring , repetitive and undemanding.
It could be further argued that with the high tuition fees to university , more vocational courses are more sought after. However, this could lead to the recruitment of learners who may not be the correct people for the courses to lead to progression.
Reflections on the enquiry process:
My enquiry could have been strengthened by more raw data, from more colleges in the sector,
I could have been reflective in comparing and contrasting results from various colleges.
Recommendations that could benefit the enquiry in the future:
Using Ofsted report as a benchmark (2009),
The need for more emphasis on the core academic skills of mathematics and English
The need to make sure the best vocational qualifications are recognised, that value is measured in terms of what opportunities for progression and employment provide for the learners.
The need for continued support and promotion of apprenticeships to ensure they incorporate the right skills for the workplace.
These suggestions were a major part of the Wolf's review of vocational education and training.
Furthermore I contend that there needs to be improved links between work experience and vocational subjects, prepare students and employers more effectively for work experience placements.
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