THINK4JOBS TRAINING: ten work-based learning scenarios
Dumitru, Dainela (Bucharest University of Economics Studies (ASE))
Christodoulou, Panagiota ( University of Western Macedonia (UOWM))
Lithoxoidou, Angeliki (University of Western Macedonia (UOWM))
Georgiadou, Triantafyllia (University of Western Macedonia (UOWM))
Pnevmatikos, Dimitrios (University of Western Macedonia (UOWM))
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The current report is the first Intellectual Output (Output 1) of the THINK4JOBS initiative, which aims at improving students’ CT skills and dispositions by promoting collaboration between Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and Labour Market Organizations (LMOs). This is the case since according to relevant research findings, LMOs seem to expect employees to acquire CT skills in order for them to successfully address the needs of their work positions. Under this rationale, partners of the two aforementioned fields have decided to redesign and ameliorate HEI curricula by blending both HEIs and LMOs’ experience, knowledge and recommendations, while instilling this evidence into students’ apprenticeships. Apprenticeships offering practice in professional skills can actively lead to students’ understanding of their working environment and simultaneously scaffold CT development with the employment of mentoring. For this reason, the THINK4JOBS initiative exploits apprenticeships as a means of CT exploration and learning through which bridging the gap between HEIs and LMOs can be attained. Therefore, it is considered that in this fashion, students will be acquainted with the concept of CT and also be in the position of transferring it into their work settings, when entering the workplace. It should be noted that partners of the THINK4JOBS project are representatives from five disciplines (teacher training, English as a foreign language – EFL, business economics, business informatics and veterinary medicine), who formed teams between HEI and LMOs for each of these disciplines in order for ideas to be pluralized and CT to be explored across a variety of domains. The current report has a twofold aim: · to trace and map the methods and/or techniques that CT is currently employed in HEIs and LMOs’ apprenticeships and apprenticeships focusing on any possible convergent or divergent points; · to thoroughly describe and suggest work-based, learning scenarios that could bridge the gap between HEIs and LMOs’ curricula and simultaneously attempt to safeguard the requirements for graduates’ CT development and improvement. Mapping the Gap Regarding the first aim of the report, three research methods (observation, focus groups and documentary analysis) were employed in combination with three instruments (observational matrix, focus group rubric and documentary analysis rubric). Each research instrument includes a set of variables, which are majorly organized in three categories: I. Pedagogical aspects of CT development (including class objectives, teaching strategies/methods, tools/materials and evaluation regarding CT) II. CT aspects (including the ways CT is nurtured, triggered and explicitly taught during instruction) III. Implementation of CT (including elements of CT presence in these disciplines) For each variable, a set of indicators, drawing on CT and pedagogical theory was also developed in order for the aforementioned research instruments to be constructed. Stakeholders (HEI students and instructors as well as LMO tutors, employers and employees) participated in the mapping process. Data were collected during the winter semester 2020-2021 and a total of 134 participants from all partner countries participated in the focus groups discussions. Regarding the other two research methods, observation was carried out in at least three apprenticeships or courses, with at least four observation sessions for each of them. As far as it concerns the documentary analysis, documents supporting the courses/apprenticeships, which were observed, were analyzed according to the relevant rubric. Findings from each research instrument were triangulated according to each discipline and are thoroughly described in the current report in separate sections. However, some general conclusions seem to derive from a holistic approach to data analysis. Initially, it was suggested that even though a definitive “gap” between HEIs and LMOs does not seem to exist, there is a different context in CT approach since universities usually employ different learning activities focusing more on career preparation with long-term goals while LMOs follow compact and short-term, learning and teaching strategies. Additionally, findings suggested that CT is a newly-added requirement for the workplace and that HEIs and LMOs do not opt for the same terminology when referring to the concept –meaning that HEIs usually select scientific terms. Another element, which is evident is that CT in HEIs is commonly expressed through a declarative manner, while in LMOs application to specific cases follows the procedural manner. Learning Scenarios Regarding the second aim of this report, each team of HEI and LMO constructed two learning scenarios according to the findings, the sets of recommendations and the already identified educational needs. From the ten work-based scenarios developed, one from every discipline was organized in a syllabus form so that it can be further utilized for the CT blended apprenticeship curricula. This information highlights the importance of the scenarios, since they will set the stage for introducing CT at programme and course levels by utilizing Intellectual Output 3 activities to design work-based curricula for each country and dynamically enhance collaboration between HEIs and LMOs. Under this rationale, this scenario includes descriptive information about the themes, concepts, aims and learning outcomes, the duration, the teaching approach, the learning environment and the evaluation regarding both domain specific and CT related elements. First Intellectual Output Impact The current report is of major importance for the continuation of the THINK4JOBS project since it sets the stage for a sequence of activities carried out during the Second and Third Intellectual Outputs aiming at the successful application of the blended apprenticeships curricula. Besides the report’s importance for the project continuation, it may also stand as a useful Toolkit for teachers, students and employers regarding the development of CT in the workplace. In general, according to research findings, HEIs and LMOs are differently goal-oriented regarding CT and the reason for this divergence lies in the very nature and general context of the two organizations. In other words, HEIs intend to prepare students for all jobs related to a domain, while LMOs aim at preparing an employee for a specific job in a specific organization. This conclusion seems to indicate a paradox: the two organizations work in parallel but they do not share common understanding. This is the reason why the First Intellectual Output may be an invaluable means in the exploration of CT through different perspectives; actively supporting HEI and LMO collaboration in the quest for common ground.
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