Investigating educational issues across Europe (ACROSS Base)
Round table
Proceedings of ECER 2004 round table on 'action research' and a VET framework of innovation


Access by 
> theme
> approach
> method

Index of
> projects
> experts
> references


Round table

'Action research' and a VET framework of innovation


Elly De Bruijn

Aim and significance

The relationship between educational research and practice is of continuing concern. In a recent study the OECD states, ‘…educational R&D was seen as fragmented, politicised, irrelevant, and too distant from practice.(. ) Furthermore, the research was sometimes perceived as provincial and too little based on international experience.(… ) Such a critique is still strong today… This is not to say that educational researchers have not produced new insights, but they have, in general, been less successful in synthesising this knowledge for application and action by practitioners and policy-makers.’ (OECD, 2003, p.10). 
    Although the OECD-report might reflect accurately the mainstream of educational research, there are promising, and perhaps neglected, examples of research projects in which educational practice gains from educational theory and research. In the proposed round table, we would focus on examples from the field of VET research and their implications for practice.

Theoretical framework

A central objective of the research projects to be discussed is the linking of theory and practice. Usually, innovation in vocational education and training involves implementing a particular concept in educational practice. Actors within schools and other training institutions may be inspired by a concept but act on the basis of their own interpretations. A systematic relationship between ‘the concept’ and the linked development of educational practice is lacking. Methodological approaches which genuinely link conceptual developments to innovating educational practice are, however, based upon this relationship. 
    The key issue in such approaches is that knowledge is seen as a multidimensional concept which has different ‘shapes’ and different ‘functions’. In modelling this multidimensional aspect and the relation between ‘concept’ and ‘practice’, a number of philosophical sources may be drawn upon. We refer to the work of Gibbons et al (1994), Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) and Pickstone (2001) which address the issue from a ‘functional’ (i.e. epistemological) perspective. The multidimensionality of knowledge and the process of creating knowledge also presuppose an ‘actor’ approach in which for example the work of Gustavson (2001) on action research is relevant. In exploring the impact of research on innovation in practice, the position and function of the various actors involved in the process of knowledge creation is crucial (eg. Manske, Moon, Ruth and Deitmer, 2002). 

Case studies > see Contributions

Organisation and discussion

The contributors to the round table would present short summaries of their methodological approach and reflections on their experiences. The following discussion would concentrate on three questions:

  • Which roles and actors can we define in such methodological approaches, in particular with respect to the role and task of the researcher?
  • To what extent and under what conditions could these methodological approaches lead to accumulation of conceptual knowledge?
  • To what extent and under what conditions could these methodological approaches contribute to innovation in VET? 


Covoseco (2004) Final report for the COVOSECO thematic network project (ITB, and partners: ISEOR, FEB, HU, IAGO) within European IHP-STRATA programme: Improving the European Knowledge Base through Formative and Participative Evaluation of Science & Industry Liaisons.
Fetterman, D.M., Kaftarian,S.J. & Wandersman, A. (eds.) (1996). Empowerment Evaluation. Knowledge and Tools for Self-Assessment & Accountability, Thousand Oakes CA (Sage.)
Gibbons, M., Limoges, C., Nowotny, H., Schwartzman, S., Scott, P. & Trow, M. (1994) The New Production of Knowledge. The Dynamics of Science and Research in Contemporary societies, SAGE Publications, London.
Gustavsen, B. (2001) ‘Theory and Practice: the Mediating Discourse’ in Reason, P. and Bradbury, H., Handbook of Action Research, SAGE Publications, London.
Pekka Kämaräinen, Graham Attwell and Alan Brown (eds.) (2002) Transformation of learning in education and training. Key qualifications revisited. Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, European Centre for the development of Vocational Training, Cedefop Luxemburg
Manske, F., Moon, Y., Ruth, K., Deitmer, L. (2002): Ein prozess- und akteurorientiertes Evaluationsverfahren als Reflexionsmedium und Selbststeuerungsinstrument für Innovationsprozesse. In: Zeitschrift für Evaluation. 2, 245 ff.
Nonaka, I. and Takeuchi, H. (1995) The knowledge creating Company,. New York: Oxford University. 
OECD (2003). New challenges for educational research. Paris: OECD.
Nyhan, B., Attwell, G.&  Deitmer, L. (1999). Education and Regional Innovation in the European Union and the United States. Thessaloniki: CEDEFOP.
Pickstone, J.V. (2001) Ways of Knowing, a New History of Science, Technology and Medicine, The University of Chicago Press.

Top of the page