In order to bring vocational training into line with new technological and educational challenges,
more and more vocational training centres are embarking on action research programmes,
involving teachers and companies. An initiative, that is called whose results have meanwhile a national audience
Who would have imagined in 2012 that the potential of a private initiative from a handful of vocational training centres could be so large?
They were working on the use of social media in education, but this experience quickly found an echo in other institutions. Over the years, it has become a reference on how to develop training courses in line with the new expectations of the labour market and the development of technology. All this is done in a participatory and cooperative way. The results of this work are widely shared, so that each vocational training centre can draw inspiration from what has already been done by others. An impression of the dynamic currently at work: in 2021, 60 institutions had already joined the movement. “In two years’ time, we will even have passed the 100 mark,” says Jorick Scheerens, who is one of the key players in the foundation launched in 2015 to encourage more and more
vocational training centres to commit themselves in this direction.
An initiative in the hands of the institutions
In concrete terms, this approach, called Practoraat (practiceship), involves a group of volunteer teachers (sometimes with the presence of pupils or students). Supervised by a “practor” a ‘leader’ with expertise in a given topic, they conduct research to find solutions for a certain problem with the obligation for these solutions, to be designed in such a way that it can be put into practice immediately”, continues the manager. We are available to help interested institutions to identify a subject or to find a practor, but the foundation does not have the role of making a choice for them. But once the subject has been determined, we have a committee in charge of ensuring the quality of the project, he adds. Often, these “leaders” are already present in the training centres. They are, for example, teachers who have developed special knowledge in a particular field. “We also find researchers from neighbouring universities, or professionals from the business world with whom the training centres have already forged strong links, Jorick Scheerens explained.
As for the subjects, they fall into two main categories: one half is concerned with educational issues. For example, a project on media literacy which led to the creation of content on fake news, cyber news, cyber-bullying and digital identity. The other half of the projects relate to the evolution of jobs and skills by employers in sectors that have been heavily involved in transformations through the use of digital technology. Such as for example the Health and Care sector. (see box).
A model that could become a model for others
The conduct and organisation of these research-actions is also left to the institutions. Each institution defines its own schedule with an average duration of three years. Or sometimes for a period that is not defined, as a first project can lead to a second one to explore further on a particularly interesting result. There is no standard timetable either. The teams can work on days set aside for this purpose, during which teachers are released from classes, in order to enable them to have appointments with resource persons who feed the team’s thinking.
This flexibility is not unrelated to the success of the initiative, like its contribution, over the course of 10 years to a vast network of vocational training centres – including those that have not launched projects – where people can find inspiration for building their own “Practoraat’. The approach has already gained a following outside vocational education. “We are currently working with academics to see how we can adapt it for use in primary and secondary education,” says Jorick Scheerens, with pride in his voice.