Vocational education: what works?

The latest in our vocational pedagogy series looks at which teaching and learning methods achieve successful outcomes

27 June 2013 / Be the first to comment

Following on from our articles exploring what good vocational outcomes look like, this part of our series discusses the teaching and learning methods that achieve the most successful outcomes for learners and employers. 

Good vocational education requires an approach that takes into account the relationship between learning methods and outcomes, and how this relationship is affected by the needs and context of individual. The need to understand these factors and put them into practice means that vocational education can be difficult to teach.

Teaching methods naturally vary. However, more important than any specific method is the engagement of learners, whose personalities, needs and goals are as varied as teaching methods themselves. A strong, trusting relationship between teacher and learner is vital, as is an environment in which mistakes are expected and seen as a source of learning.

David Perkins’ seven principles for effective teaching and learning are well suited to both learners and teachers in the world of vocational education.
  1. Play the whole game. Use extended projects and authentic contexts
  2. Make the game worth playing. Work hard at engaging learners giving them choices wherever possible
  3. Work on the hard parts. Discover the most effective ways of practising
  4. Play out of town. Try things out in many different contexts
  5. Uncover the hidden game. Make the processes of learning as visible as possible
  6. Learn from the team and the other teams. Develop robust ways of working in groups and seek out relevant communities of practice
  7. Learn from the game of learning. Be in the driving seat as a learner, developing your own tried and tested tactics and strategies.
The report How to Teach Vocational Education: A Theory of Vocational Pedagogy by the City & Guilds Centre for Skills Development highlights different methods of learning. Each method applies to at least one type of vocational education (working with materials, working with people and working with symbols) and desired vocational outcome (routine expertise, resourcefulness, functional literacies, craftsmanship, business-like attitudes, wider skills for growth). For instance, learning by watching, imitating and competing against the clock are particularly useful for learning vocations that work with materials. Extensive practising and talking things through with peers are useful in developing routine expertise.

The most effective vocational pedagogy will be achieved by teachers using the teaching and learning methods with most relevance to their sector or specific outcome. A strong model of outcomes makes it easier to focus on working towards producing excellent vocational learners.

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