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New Approaches to Vocational Education in Europe
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Oxford Studies in Comparative Education

New Approaches to Vocational Education in Europe

the construction of complex learning-teaching arrangements


2004 paperback 188 pages, £30.00, ISBN 978-1-873927-84-7

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About the book

This book investigates issues surrounding the concept of complex learning-teaching environments. The first part provides an overview of general themes connected to complex learning-teaching environments, and sheds some light on the theoretical background of the concept. The second part demonstrates how the idea of complex learning-teaching environments influences the particular training contexts in different countries.


PART ONE: General Prospects

Robert-Jan Simons & Sanneke Bolhuis. Constructivist Learning Theories and Complex Learning Environments

Hubert Ertl & Peter F.E. Sloane. A Comparison of VET Structures in Germany and England: contexts of complex teaching-learning arrangements

Michael Eraut. Deconstructing Apprenticeship Learning: what factors affect its quality?

Regina H. Mulder. Conditions for Instructional Design and Innovation in Vocational Education: successful design and implementation of complex learning environments

H.-Hugo Kremer. New Technologies and Complex Teaching-Learning Arrangements

PART TWO: Case Studies

Franz Gramlinger. The Advantages and Disadvantages of Learning and Teaching in a Practice Firm

Michaela Trummer. Learning in Complex Environments: continuous quality improvement in Practice Firms

Susanne Weber. Teaching Intercultural Competence: a simulation

Frank Achtenhagen. Mastery Learning in and by Complex Teaching-Learning Environments

H.-Hugo Kremer. Focus Groups as an Instrument for the Implementation of Didactic Innovation: concepts and experience

Peter F.E. Sloane. The Application Transfer between Schools and Enterprises in the German Dual System: putting it into practice

Fabrice Hoff. From Business to Game

Regina H. Mulder. Design and Evaluation of Complex Learning Environments in Secondary Vocational Education


General Aspects

The chapter by Robert-Jan Simons and Sanneke Bolhuis provides an overview of theories of learning and instruction, and of the differences and connections between different theories. On this basis, conclusions for the development of complex learning-teaching arrangements are drawn.

Hubert Ertl and Peter F. E. Sloane focus on the structural perspective of training environments. They investigate training structures in Germany and England at different levels and compare the changes these structures are facing in the light of overarching social and economic developments that are similar in both national contexts. They also clarify how the training structures affect the implementation of complex learning-teaching arrangements.

Michael Eraut investigates apprenticeships in terms of their potential to initiate learning at the workplace. He identifies social conditions that influence this learning process and describes a number of factors that can support the development of vocational competence by learners in the context of apprenticeships.

Regina Mulder outlines the conditions for instructional design and innovation in training contexts. The development and implementation of complex learning-teaching arrangements are regarded as innovations of training sites. Mulder clarifies the relation between three relevant layers of innovation: the learners’ perspective, characteristics of the learning environment and the organisation of learning processes.

In the final chapter of Part 1, H.-Hugo Kremer provides a summary of the impact that IT has on learning processes. He conceptualises the new media into a number of categories and describes how IT can improve learning situations. He also investigates how this potential can be utilised for the development of complex learning-teaching arrangements.

Case StudiesIn the first case study, Franz Gramlinger introduces practice firms as a means to integrate situated learning in school-based training contexts in Austria. He discusses the advantages and disadvantages of practice firms as a particular example of complex learning-teaching arrangements.

Michaela Trummer takes the discussion of practice firms in Austria further by analysing how methods of total quality management are used to improve the ways in which practice firms simulate work situations in schools.

Susanne Weber describes how simulations can be applied in complex learning-teaching arrangements. Further, she shifts the emphasis towards learning designs that enhance the intercultural awareness and competence of trainees. She develops a theoretical framework for such designs and evaluates one particular training programme against this framework.

Frank Achtenhagen provides an overview of changes that can be observed at the workplace at the moment and describes how training structures in Germany fail to take these changes into account. For Achtenhagen, this failure is the starting point for the development of alternative models of training at vocational schools. He identifies the concept of mastery learning as one effective approach that can guide the development of complex learning-teaching arrangements and provides an example of this.

In his second contribution, H.-Hugo Kremer focuses on the organisational consequences of complex learning-teaching arrangements. He suggests the establishment of so-called focus groups responsible for the development and introduction of such arrangements. These groups consist of representatives of vocational schools and of training companies, i.e. the two partners of the German dual system of initial training. Kremer reports on his experiences of the work in the focus group which was responsible for the implementation of didactic innovations.

Peter F.E. Sloane continues the discussion of innovation and reform of German training structures by discussing the implementation of the concept of ‘areas of learning’ at vocational schools. On the basis of an overview of the idea of areas of learning, he describes the potential of the concept to establish closer connections between learning processes at school and at the workplace.

Fabrice Hoff highlights how the specific French interpretation of the notion of competence influences the way provisions of vocational preparation and training have been developed in France. He describes a model of learning that is based on cognitive theories and demonstrates how this model is reflected in the use of games in learning processes. He sheds light on some of the findings of empirical research that was undertaken to investigate the effects of games in learning-teaching arrangements.

In the final case study, Regina Mulder investigates the use and evolution of complex learning-teaching arrangements in Dutch secondary vocational education. She details the didactic assumptions of these arrangements and outlines her research on their implementation and effect.


Frank Achtenhagen is university professor and Director of the Institute for Business and Economic Education and Management Training, Georg-August-University Göttingen. His main research interests are vocational and occupational education and training with all aspects of teaching/training and learning as well as institutional and political conditions and influences. Correspondence: Professor Dr. Frank Achtenhagen, Seminar für Wirtschaftspädagogik, Universität Göttingen, Platz der Göttinger Sieben 5, 37073 Göttingen, Germany.

Sanneke Bolhuis is a specialist in the learning and teaching of adults. She works half-time as a researcher in the Department for Research and Development of Medical Education, University Medical Centre, Nijmegen, and half-time as a professor of Professional Education at the Teachers’ Education Institute of Fontys, Tilburg, both in the Netherlands. Her research focuses on learning strategies and multiprofessional learning, and she has published mainly on adult learning, adult education, work-related learning and teaching for self-directed lifelong learning. Correspondence: Dr S.M. Bolhuis, University Medical Centre Nijmegen, PO Box 9101, KTC224, 6500 HB Nijmegen, Netherlands.

Michael Eraut has been Professor of Education at the University of Sussex since 1986. His research is in the areas of professional knowledge, tacit knowledge, professional and vocational education and learning in the workplace. Correspondence: Professor Michael Eraut, Sussex School of Education, The Sussex Institute, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton BN1 9QQ, United Kingdom.

Hubert Ertl works as a researcher and lecturer at the Institute of Vocational Education and Business Studies, University of Paderborn. His research is mainly based within the fields of comparative and international education, EU educational policies, modularisation in vocational education, and training structures in England and Wales. Correspondence: Dr. Hubert Ertl, Lehrstuhl für Wirtschaftspädagogik, University of Paderborn, Warburger Str. 100, 33100 Paderborn, Germany.

Franz Gramlinger has worked as assistant professor at the University of Hamburg, Institute of Vocational and Business Education, since October 2000. He completed his doctoral studies at the Univeristy of Linz in Austria. His main research topics are Internet-based learning in business education, learning and teaching by using networks, computer supported collaborative learning, and new approaches to teacher training. Correspondence: Dr. Franz Gramlinger, Uni Hamburg, IBW, Sedanstraße 19, 20146 Hamburg, Germany.

Fabrice Hoff works as a lecturer and researcher at IUFM (Institute for Vocational Training of Teachers), University of Montpellier III. His research interests include implicit learning through games and evaluation. Correspondence: Fabrice Hoff, Social and Organizational Psychologist, Department of Psychology and Department of Educational Sciences, University of Montpellier III, 5 Rue de l’Aiglon, 34090 Montpellier, France.

H.-Hugo Kremer is a professor of Economics, Business and Vocational Education in the Department of Economics at the University of Konstanz. His research topics are eLearning in vocational education, implementation of educational change, professional career choice of young adults. Correspondence: Prof. Dr. H.-Hugo Kremer, Department of Economics, University of Konstanz, Universitätsstr. 10, 78457 Konstanz, Germany.

Regina H. Mulder is a professor of Pedagogy (on the design, analysis and evolution of learning environments for VET) at the University of Regensburg. She was Vice Director of RISBO (Rotterdam Institute of Social Policy Research) at the Erasmus University of Rotterdam. Her research focuses on themes such as evaluation of learning and instruction (on- and off-the-job), instructional design (for instance, problem-based learning), matters of drop-out, relevant factors in relation to school careers, and discrepancies between education and the labour market. Correspondence: Prof. Dr. Regina H. Mulder, Philosophische Fakultät, University of Regensburg, Universitätsstrasse 31, 93053 Regensburg, Germany.

Robert-Jan Simons is the Director of the Centre for ICT in Education at Utrecht University. His main research interests are on-the-job learning, constructivist learning theories and computer supported collaborative learning. Correspondence: Robert-Jan Simons, Centre for ICT in Education, Department of Education IVLOS, Utrecht University, PO Box 80127, 3508 TC Utrecht, Netherlands.

Peter F.E. Sloane is Director of the Institute of Vocational Education and Business Studies at the University of Paderborn. His research interests include institutional structures of training systems, didactics of vocational education, in-company training, and theories of school-based training contexts. Correspondence: Professor Dr. Peter F.E. Sloane, Lehrstuhl für Wirtschaftspädagogik, University of Paderborn, Warburger Str. 100, 33100 Paderborn, Germany.

Michaela Trummer is an associate professor at the Department of Business Education, Karl-Franzens-University Graz, Austria. Her areas of specialisations are business education and organisational learning, multidimensional teaching and learning forms, training firms, and comprehensive quality management in the education sector. Correspondence: Professor Dr. Michaela Trummer, Department of Business Education, Karl-Franzens-University Graz, Universitaetsstrasse 15, 8010 Graz, Austria.

Susanne Weber is a researcher at the Institute for Business and Economic Education and Management Training, Georg-August-University Göttingen. Her main research interests are learning and development in vocational schools and at the workplace, intercultural learning and development. Correspondence: Dr. Susanne Weber, Seminar für Wirtschaftspädagogik, Universität Göttingen, Platz der Göttinger Sieben 5, 37073 Göttingen, Germany.

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