Learning at work in Higher Vocational Education
Keywords:vocational education, higher vocational education, learning in work life, post-secondary education, quality assessment
Higher vocational training (HVE) is a new form of post-secondary education that was introduced in 2009 in Sweden. The aim for HVE is to address the demands of a highly skilled Swedish workforce. Compared to other forms of adult and higher education it is less institutionalized and, based on Swedish standards, gives great opportunities for the provider to decide regarding the contents and design. The purpose of this study was to analyze a) the quality of the course, Learning at Work (LIA), and (b) to develop instruments and indicators to explore the quality of the student learning in working life as part of HVE. The design of research instruments was based on hypotheses to uncover the background, the learning process and effect parameters In LIA offered at 12 different HVE sites in Sweden within the areas of health care, computer science, technology and business administration. The survey data of forty-two students and thirty-six workplace supervisors were analyzed. The results of the study show that the quality of the learning at work (LIA) varies considerably between different programs and different students. In most programs, it has a significant development potential. A well-functioning LIA is characterized by adequate learning content, an open work climate between colleagues, accuracy and dedication, frequent supervisor feedback, and regular communication between the Program Director and the supervisors. It is important that the educational provider requires workplaces with capacity to offer the students relevant and qualified work content. LIA should offer qualified work content providing knowledge of breadth and depth. Knowledge gained from school-based training should be challenged and must achieve curriculum goals. An important finding is the lack of definitions and criteria for quality, and the risk of quality differences between educational providers. Another significant problem identified in the study is the unclear division of responsibilities between the educational provider and the partner from the world of work. Most of the supervisors, who were skilled workers or professionals, had a fragmentary understanding of HVE. They gave instructions, but did not stimulate their students to reflect theoretically on what they learned during LIA. Integration between school-based learning and experience of work life was limited. There was a shortage of instruments for assessing the quality of what was taught in the workplace. A large proportion (75 %) of the students was employed soon after graduation. For those who did not, their skills run the risk of rapidly becoming obsolete.
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