Applied Learning design in an online VET Teacher Education course: A pedagogical framework that responds to the needs of mature-aged, employed students
KeywordsEducation, Specialist Studies in Education, Teacher Education and Professional Development of Educators
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Abstract<p>As one of the major contributors to the education sector in Australia, Vocational Education and Training (VET) operates within a number of contexts, including schools, private training providers and Technical and Further Education (TAFE) colleges. It takes responsibility for the continuing education of nearly two million students (from high school age to mature age) each year. Within VET there are approximately eighty thousand teachers employed, mostly on a part-time basis, delivering a wide range of courses (e.g., construction, hospitality, aged care, business, retail, tourism, arts, child-care) and catering for both employed students (e.g., apprentices) and pre-employment students. Unlike many other countries, teachers employed within the VET sector in Australia are not required to hold a degree in teaching, although a growing number are interested in pursuing a university degree in order to progress their career and professionalism.</p><p>This paper considers four aspects of VET teacher-education in Australia. Firstly, it provides an overview of the qualifications and experience required by providers of VET and identifies the opportunities universities have to offer additional professional development. As VET teachers are likely to be mature-aged, juggling work with study and been away from formal study for some time, there is a need for providers to consider how best to respond to these students. Secondly, this paper describes the approach taken by the University of Tasmania in a relatively new VET teacher-education programme, a Bachelor of Education (Applied Learning). The specialty focus of the course, applied learning, represents the desired pedagogical approach in VET settings bringing application and theory together in an integrated fashion in order to facilitate effective learning. An innovative approach was adopted to the design and development of units within the course, in order to create a learning environment that walked the talk of applied learning whilst still reflecting the academic rigor expected in a university degree course. A set of six theoretically underpinned applied learning design principles were articulated, which guided teaching staff as the course was developed, incorporating aspects such as student collaboration, integrating learning tasks with workplace roles, and ensuring that assessment tasks were authentic and applied.</p><p>The third part of this paper considers a recently completed doctoral study on the effectiveness of the design principles guiding the course. The findings led to a greater understanding of the nature, characteristics and needs of the students, including a vulnerability for self-doubt and withdrawal but also a desire to contribute altruistically and positively to the learning community. The investigation concluded that an applied learning approach that respects and integrates the students lived experience can lead to positive, even transformational outcomes for students. The study also identified ways for course designers to capitalise on the affordances of web-based technology to support geographically and characteristically diverse students.</p><p>Finally, this paper considers the future of VET teacher-education in Australia and more broadly, considering the growing demand for high quality VET education and the subsequent role for universities. Most importantly, the paper contends that providers must consider how best to ensure a relevant, engaging and rewarding Higher Education experience for a diverse and dedicated VET workforce, who are developing the next generation of workers in a wide-range of industries and professions.
TypeRefereed Conference Paper