Kever 2/2003, ISSN 1796-8283

Artikkelit ja puheenvuorot
Developmental transitions in network - Construction of the Research and Collaboration Network for Vocational Learning

Pirjo Lambert
Merja Helle
Raija Reunanen

    The main focus of this research project is to develop a new model of a research and collaboration network for vocational education. An experimental collaboration forum is built within the teacher-education programme in Helsinki Business Polytechnic (Lambert, 2002; 2003). The forum is constructed between teacher education, vocational training institutes, and the university, the shared object being directed to the development of vocational education and learning. Student teachers take an active part in the research groups of the different organizations through the method of horizontal working (Lambert, 2002; 2003).

    The networked activity raises a question of learning and transfer. How is the knowledge being transferred between different cultural contexts? The idea of developmental transfer (Engeström, 2001; Tuomi-Gröhn & Engeström, 2003; Konkola, Tuomi-Gröhn, Lambert & Ludvigsen, 2003), based on cultural-historical activity theory, expresses the idea that meaningful transfer of learning takes place through interaction between collective activity systems, taking the form of negotiation and an exchange between different cultures. What is transfered is the ways to produce new knowledge collaboratively, and the theoretically based new practices created through this collaboration.

    Research questions and methodology

    From the point of developmental transfer the horizontal dimension of expansive learning (Engeström, 2003) becomes important. Especially the transitions that emerge in the network will be the central focus of this research.

    Our main question is, how to produce developmental transitions (Lambert, 2003) that exceed the idea of transfer based on individual learning processes (e.g. Beach, 1999), and make it possible to create jointly new knowledge and change in the networked communities. The methodology is interventionist (Vygotsky, 1978): the development is purposefully pushed forward by the researchers in order to bring out the upper limits of the development.

    Research design and outcomes

    In this research, transitions are examined 1)between the teacher education and the university, 2)between vocational training institutes (where student teachers work as teachers) and the university, and 3)between the teacher education and work organizations (connected to training institutes).

    Transitions between the teacher education and the university

    During the teacher education programme, student teachers participate with their trainer in a doctoral research group of the University of Helsinki. Transition between the different communites is dual transition (Bronfenbrenner, 1979), the teacher´s being the catalytic power in the seminar discussions. Can such kinds of dual transitions produce developmental transfer in the network? The analysis of video-recorded seminar sessions (Lambert, 2003) shows that dual transitions can produce horizontal and dialogical learning (Engeström, 2002) that creates new modes of boundary-crossing interaction and cooperation between different communities.

    Sideways movement between various activity systems can take the form of boundary-crossing actions (Engeström, 2003). These are two-way interactions and to be expansive, such actions need to be characterized by mutual engagement and commitment to change in practices. What kind of boundary-crossing actions between the university research group and the teacher education produce developmental transfer? The results show the importance of questioning, challenging and rejecting existing practices across the boundaries as crucial actions for producing change (Lambert, 2003).

    Transitions between vocational training institutes and the university

    Participating the university research group student teachers can contribute educational experience and practical vocational application to the research group. The research focuses on the content of these narratives and the way they are used in the research group. The classification of the analysis of the narratives is based on Bruner’s (1986) view of two types of cognition: paradigmatic i.e. logical-scientific thought and narrative thought.

    The analysis of the video-recorded seminar sessions shows that the student teachers contributed only few narratives from working life. The seminar manuscript consisted mainly of the presentation of research report, and the logical-scientific argumentation on the research (Reunanen, 2003). There was, however, one seminar session during which the manuscript of traditional seminar practice was broken. The student teachers took active part with their narratives in the dialogue. Instead of the research report, a new shared object of developing the vocational education begun to emerge (Reunanen, 2003).

    Transitions between the teacher education and work organizations

    In the school setting the tools for learning and development are also textual, like research reports, task lists, curriculum plans etc. Miller (1994, 31) describes different kinds of genres as "typified rhetorical actions based in recurrent situations”. For Russell (1997) the alignment and coordination of social worlds demands dynamic writing genres.

    The student teachers were well versed in different types of writing and they could master different genre repertoires (Orlikowsky & Yates, 1994) and the separate genre systems (Yates & Orlikowsky, 1992) in the different settings and timelines of their life. But how to cross the border between the writing genres of the teacher education and the work organizations and their genre systems - to gain acceptance, understanding and sustainability for the new ways of teaching and learning?

    The development reports made by student teachers seem to be written in the research genre and according to the instructions set by the teacher education. There was not any attention or encouragement to develop the writing genre to include, for example, texts written for the workplace during the planning and implementation of the development efforts (Helle, 2003). However, the student teachers wrote many texts for the workplaces, both on paper or, for example, for the intranet to plan and implement the developmental projects in cooperation with the workplaces or schools. These written texts are also analyzed and discussed as potential textual tools for embedding developmental transfer (Helle, 2003).

    Significance of the research

    In this research we have described learning and transfer in the research and collaboration network of vocational education. The findings indicate that the boundary-crossing actions, dual transitions, narrative transitions, and writing transitions have potential to transform into developmental transitions that create new knowledge and change in networked communities.

    Pirjo Lambert, Helia Business Polytechnic, University of Helsinki,
    Merja Helle, University of Helsinki,
    Raija Reunanen, Turku Vocational Adult Educational Centre,

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