The L H Martin Institute has just released another paper in its series of policy discussion papers, which were highlighted in the last edition of this newsletter.

This one, by Hugh Guthrie and Anne Jones, examines the issue of VET teacher education and professional development. It focuses on VET teaching qualifications and how they can be improved.

Broadening the qualification base

VET teachers are the sector’s most valuable asset. The quality of the service provided to learners is entirely dependent on the quality and performance of its teachers. The beginning of 2016 saw the broadening of the mandated VET teacher qualifications to include the Certificate IV, or a diploma or higher-level qualifications in adult education. April 2019 will see further changes.

The authors point out that:

“The range of qualifications undertaken by vocational education teachers and the impact of these on the quality of teaching and learning in the sector have been contested amongst vocational educators, teacher unions, teacher educators, government, industry and other stakeholders for over fifty years; long before the Certificate IV appeared.”

The paper tries to put these changes in perspective and chart their course over time. At the end it proposes a number of ways forward.

Where to go with VET teacher education?

First, they argue there is no ‘silver bullet’ solution. Rather they propose “sustained, comprehensive and well supported actions.” The paper asks:

“Do we need an authoritative taskforce with considerable powers and influence to look at the issues directly related to, and surrounding, VET teacher education and development to propose a comprehensive set of actions which will actually be implemented?”

Another focus of the paper suggested a hard look at the teacher education programs offered at higher levels. Lack of time and cost have been put forward as reasons why VET teachers don’t participate in such programs. However, the current structure and approach to delivery of these qualifications was also seen by the authors as problematic. So, what might change?

The authors suggest providers of such programs, which could be offered by universities or VET institutions individually or working in partnership, need to:

“…break away from a focus on qualifications and develop programs and other offerings that are both ‘tactical’ and ‘strategic’. By this we mean their offerings are focused on areas of key and immediate interest to VET teachers and their institutions. In this way what they offer addresses relevant topic areas in a specific and timely manner; utilising integrated programs of micro credentials and qualifications as needed. On the other hand, they are strategic in that these tactical offerings could be accumulated towards the attainment of a substantive qualification.”

They also believe that the current AQF review may facilitate learning experiences that could better support multi-directional learning pathways for VET’s teachers rather than simple hierarchical ones and explore ways to give credit for ‘non-standard’ learning experiences, including appropriate professional development.