Elsewhere in the world, they talk about pedagogy when discussing vocational education (or, as they might say, Technical and Vocational Education and Training).
Here in the UK, it is little talked of. Arguably it was not until the Commission on Adult Vocational Training and Learning (CAVTL) report into adult teaching and learning in 2013 that FE began seriously to look at the art, science and craft of teaching and learning.
And our research – How to teach vocational education: a theory of vocational pedagogy – commended by CAVTL, has reintroduced this important topic into the discourse of FE leaders, teachers, researchers and policy-makers.
But before we can begin to think about pedagogy in FE and the wider skills sectors, we need to stop and ponder much more deeply about the wider goals of vocational education.
What are they? How are they impacted by the nature of the particular subject or vocational pathway or shaped by the particular needs of learners? What do we know about the best mix of learning and teaching methods to achieve these wider goals in the real world of busy colleges or training providers or workplaces? And is there a sense in which there might be a signature pedagogy or most appropriate ‘blend’ of methods for particular occupations?
Thinking like this is just the beginning of a longer process of pedagogical exploration.
With my colleagues at the Centre for Real-World Learning I have argued that there are six important outcomes of vocational education which have to be considered before we can start to think about the methods of learning and teaching which we choose to select for students:
- routine expertise
- functional literacies
- business-like attitudes
- wider skills.
Once this broader set of desired outcomes is agreed it becomes much easier to think about the range of learning and teaching methods required. It’s a long list which includes these methods:
- by watching
- by imitating
- by listening, transcribing and remembering
- through trial and error, experimentation or discovery
- through deliberate practice
- by making
- by drafting and sketching
- using assessment for learning approaches
- by teaching, explaining and helping
- through conversation
- by reflecting
- by being coached
- by being mentored
- by real world problem solving
- through personal or collaborative enquiry
- by thinking critically and producing knowledge
- by competing
- through simulation and role play
- through games
- through virtual environments
- seamlessly by blending virtual with face-to-face
- on the fly.
It’s at this level of detailed discussion that we need to spend time and thought and care, drawing on research and practices to help us as we do so.
Professor Bill Lucas is director of the Centre for Real-World Learning at the University of Winchester.
His most recent book, with Guy Claxton, Educating Ruby: what our children really need to learn, speaks directly to all those who work in FE and understand Ruby’s dilemma.