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A more deliberate approach to boosting VET teacher capability needed: thesis

Examples of good teaching in the VET sector are largely borne out of personal commitment, rather than systematic professional development.

That was one of the findings of thesis work by Flinders University PhD graduate Anne Dening.

Dening, who has more than 30 years’ VET experience and worked as a lecturer and program manager at TAFE SA, investigated the currency of VET teachers’ pedagogical knowledge for effective student learning outcomes.

While the teachers and managers who Dening interviewed spoke passionately about their roles and the importance of ensuring successful outcomes for VET learners, she noted: “[It] would appear that teacher capability development remains accidental rather than deliberate.”

Dening said it’s difficult for VET teachers to balance pedagogical skills with the need to maintain vocational currency in their industry, and added there are multiple challenges in developing a pedagogically capable teaching workforce in the VET sector.

For one, she said, most VET teachers come to the role from industry or business.

“While their knowledge and experience in their job role may be extensive, they will not necessarily have any preparation for their role as teachers.”

Another challenge Dening identified is that VET students often come to their learning with “problematic preconditions”.

“Some lack success in compulsory education and, as a result, they have a poor concept of themselves as learners,” she explained.

“As a consequence of these challenges, it is essential for the VET sector to provide VET teachers with support and practical strategies to enable them to learn the craft of teaching.”

Dening said the study underscored the need for system-wide, effective and intentionally planned and executed teacher development.

“The quality of teaching, training and assessment needs to be raised, and unless this happens, quality will continue to be VET’s main weakness,” Dening wrote in her thesis. “An educative narrative and vision, focused on the deliberate development of the skills and knowledge and competence of VET teachers, must be attained soon.”

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