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Proceedings of ECER 2003 Roundtable on methodological approaches in European projects


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Anja Heikkinen & Eeva Lamminpää

Culturally embedded actor-based approach to gendered core competences and deconstructive action research approach in evaluation of re-integrative action

Extracts from the authors' full paper (see VETNET ECER 2003 Proceedings)

1. Culturally embedded actor-based approach to researching gendered qualifications: Genderqual

The aim of the EU 5th framework supported research project Genderqual (2000-2002) was to explore the contribution of actual VET practices to ongoing gender segregation by enhancing gendered key (core) competences, to find out about specific key (core) competences relating to gender, to explore the conditions for the development of key (core) competences beyond gender segregation, to find out about gender specific strategies in the approach of situations of occupational change and the impact on the performance of men and women on the labour market; and to develop recommendations for transcending gender barriers and gender segregation in the European VET systems with regard to key (core) competences. 

Genderqual was a multi-national research project: how do researchers position themselves in the multitude of discourses  that co-constitute the gendered landscape of work and VET? They should identify their relation to discursive levels and fields, which are influential in their cultural context.

The commitment to culturally embedded actor approach means not to take as given the dominant, universalistic prescriptions of research discourse, i.e. the different conceptualisations and classifications of competence or skill especially as key or core competence or skill. Given the resources, we agreed on culturally embedded actor-based approach with a main focus on the practical discourse of actors, who should be given the opportunity to speak for themselves. They were to identify and define gendering in such tasks, activities and skills and with such vocabularies, for which they feel ownership. The challenge for researchers still remains, whether they are able to recognise and reflect the influence of their prejudices and assumptions, which they inevitably bring into their ways of seeing and reading. We should make transparent our perceptions and our position in the totality of work of our cultures as academic professionals.

Figure A. Cultural embeddedness of occupational growth and gender 

2. Challenges of cross-cultural action research: Re-integration

Leonardo surveys & analysis-project Re-integration started in spring 2001. The project builds on the results of previous Re-Enter research (1999-2000). The main goal of the project is to develop analytical model in order to carry out a primary evaluation of re-integration schemes. The international collaboration aims to develop a multi-level evaluation model on trans-national basis. The other goal is to assess the validity of the model developed for primary evaluation by applying it to different re-integration schemes.

In the course of the international research process it has become obvious that the definition of re-integration activity and target groups in the focus of this research include a lot of variation. Re-integration activities can be in the form of special project, educational programme, or inclusive counselling activity inside or outside formal institutions. In some countries the activity is more related to vocational education and training and in other countries it is more like social work etc. Re-integration activities are not unambiguous either at the national level. At the level of personal experiences there exists different understanding about the goals and the nature of the re-integration action. Thus, one challenge of this research is to define the nature of the activity; issues related to target groups as well as defining the re-integration activity itself are not stable and predictable.

In the course of action research we have developed a provisory analytical “model”, which is one way of constructing holistic understanding about the activity related to education and employment “systems” and to action and experiences of practitioners. It should not be a table, which is filled but a table, which is reconstructed during the evaluation process.

Figure B. Provisory analysis “model” for evaluating re-integrative activities.

When the starting-point of evaluation is re-integration activity in itself as a factual case, it is possible to use the “model” in evaluating different re-integration programmes, based on the self-understanding and goals of actors in programmes. The factual case (middle arrow) is transforming while it is developed in connection to employment and education “systems”  (upper row) as well as to experiences and action  of practitioners (lower row). The places or reasons of change are signals (critical factors related to the development of activity), which we are especially interesting in the evaluation process. The upper row can be named as “aspects of re-integration activities”. These aspects are to be constructed in every evaluation process in a new way. It is obvious that in different kinds of activities there are different aspects, which are important to consider related to critical factors found in different activity systems. These aspects are also in relation to each other in different ways.


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