This project is about how to ensure and improve teacher professional learning
The story of the New skills for VET teachers project started at the Network of Networks annual meeting in Bilbao, Spain in October 2018. Salpaus Further education presented the idea of mapping out new competences teachers need for delivering and creating 21st century education and training, and also develop how we can implement them within our own organisations. In September 2019 the project started with five partners from three different countries. Four of the partners are members of the Network of the Networks: Salpaus Further Education, Finland, as the project coordinator; South Eastern Regional College, Northern Ireland UK; Stichting Albeda, the Netherlands; and the Glasgow Kelvin College, Scotland UK. From Finland, also HAMK University of Applied Sciences, School of professional teacher education joined the project team.
The project will incorporate 3 workshops with each workshop addressing a specific issue related to teacher professional skills development. Planned topics for the workshops include lifelong learning; interaction between companies and educational organisations; dealing with changes in work life and how to respond in a flexible way; and adapting to student diversity. The outputs from each workshop will be collated and presented in the form of articles, digital tools and knowledge bases and uploaded to an on-line tool kit. The first workshop was arranged as a hybrid model right in the beginning of the Europe locking down; some partners came to Lahti, Finland, where as some partners attended on-line on March 10-12.2019.
The result of the project will be that the participants will gain new ideas on how to ensure and improve teacher professional learning. VET providers will have found ways to ensure that teachers’ skills meet the needs of working life now and in the future and new ways to improve teacher professional learning. Participants will have shared knowledge of the education challenges and phenomena across Europe. It is anticipated that the workshops will support project partners to carry out testing and implementation in order to develop their own methodology for staff training and development.
Teaching and learning in the future
The profession of vocational education is in continuous transformation as we begin to understand what is required to equip teaching staff with skills fit for the 21st Century. The skill set and role of VET teachers is being outpaced by developments of working life across industry. Employers need “work ready” students that are equipped with technical as well as those all-important transversal skills. Education has a responsibility to respond by providing opportunities for students to collaborate, develop critical-thinking skills and effective communication skills. These are the skills that will help students to flourish in an increasingly complex and uncertain world. Therefore, the teaching and learning model for education needs to focus on developing lifelong learning skills rather than simply gaining a qualification or frontloading skills that may become redundant over time. Just as industry and the economy is evolving so too must education.
A job role no longer remains constant throughout the employee’s entire career and will evolve and change as the economic landscape changes. Employees, must therefore, take ownership of and responsibility for their own continuous professional development as their careers unfold. Equally, employers must approach professional development at a strategic level to facilitate their staff’s lifelong learning needs. This can be achieved by working with vocational education providers who can be flexible and quickly adapt to industry need. VET educators work very closely with companies and other professional organisations to identify skills gaps and have the capacity to respond quickly to changing needs by developing bespoke training programmes.
Creating effective teaching and learning models for the future is more a question of developing innovative approaches to improve existing teaching models, so they become more efficient, effective and most importantly fit with the needs of all stakeholders: VET teachers, corporate staff, College management and employers. We believe that there are three critical aspects to be considered when developing a professional development strategy: personalisation, modularisation and digitalisation.
However, before any change to staff development processes are implemented, due regard must be paid to the impact of these changes on staff wellbeing. Change in working life is often cited as a key source of stress and anxiety, so organisations must meet their duty of care to their employees and ensure that support for mental wellbeing is in place and effective at times of change. Staff development strategies and wellbeing strategies should run simultaneously and be cross-referenced, where appropriate.
A key focus of the New skills for VET Teachers project is to share knowledge of the education challenges and phenomena across Europe. So far, we have written five articles related to this theme and plan to publish a further ten articles in which we will share our findings from the future planned workshops. Like many other projects we have received a year’s extension. During this time to keep the momentum of the project alive the project team has decided to participate in and have our own mini-webinars. In the first mini-webinar we discussed how current circumstances have fast-tracked on-line education and digital technology. This helped all partners to see that the challenges and the solutions which we have come up with, are surprisingly similar but there were still many new ideas which we could all benefit from. Also, participating the Network of Networks webinars give the project team a chance to join wider discussions within the Network and share and implement ideas between projects.
To find more information about the project, read the articles and learn about the workshops visit the NSVETT website. Or post your comments on Twitter @nsvett1.
Elaine McKeown, South Eastern Regional College, Northern Ireland,
Craig Donald and Sannakaisa Raatikainen from Salpaus Further Education, Finland