Skills, Knowledge and Organisational Performance

Educational Reform in Vocational Education and Training in Germany, England and Austria: Implications for Developing Innovative Teaching and Learning Practices

This paper presents the findings from the first stage of a doctoral research project that investigates innovative pedagogic practice in full-time vocational education and training (VET) in the 16-19 age bracket. Involving Germany, England and Austria, it builds on prior comparative research, some of it within SKOPE, that calls for a stronger focus on practitioners’ perspectives. The project aims to discover teachers’ understandings and motivations for innovative practice, with a view towards improving educational policy making. This paper outlines how initial expert interviews facilitated the development of research focus as well as appropriate analytical designs, and presents the results of these interviews. In particular, it argues that a comparative, qualitative, practitioner-focused approach can capture the complexity encountered in three diverse VET systems.

The analysis of expert interviews suggested four categories for comparison in the main research phase. These relate to VET system characteristics, innovation strategies and mentality, the role of research in teacher training and practice and societal attitudes and participation in VET. The findings suggest that VET is not only much more complex than traditional academic school sectors, but also less clearly delineated. In terms of innovation cultures, experts find a significant disparity between the proclaimed importance of innovative practice and its lack of emphasis in teacher training. While experts expect that recent changes in all three countries may stimulate pedagogical innovation, it is not entirely clear how incentives from such diverse developments as increased school autonomy on the one hand, and a surge in quality management initiatives on the other, affect teachers’ self perceptions and professional conduct.

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