Overview of topics
Integrated learning processes
DE + NO + SE + FR
Integrated learning processes (ILP)

Lillian Larsen (ed.), Anne Lazar and Göran Årman

Topic summary - April 2000
(Original topic study of 1997 in DUOQUAL folder)

The learning arena
Relevance as a pedagogical quality
Construction of Self, Role and Identity
Teachers’ ownership to methods
Summing up

Reference to national case studies on dual qualifications in France, Germany, Norway and Sweden


 "INTEQUAL" and "DUOQUAL" partnerships focus on educational systems preparing for work and study qualifications. A central focus has been development of learning outcomes termed as "higher order skills", "general qualifications", "general skills", "core qualifications", "core competencies" etc. We conceptualise these outcomes to have special qualities, and we assume an internal connection between qualitative aspects of the learning situation and the learning outcomes. 
    In the INTEQUAL phase the "ILP-Team” accomplished a study with the aim to identify obstacles to, and strategies facilitating integrated learning. Examples from the national contexts of the team-partners were mapped and analysed . A wide range of possible obstacles and strategies, conveying categories of curricular, pedagogical /didactical, organisational, social and other dimensions were identified. DUOQUAL partnership brought new and interesting perspectives to the discussion. 
    Here we concentrate on certain categories related to findings and theories from material provided in the DUOQUAL partnership. The scope of this presentation is to trace some possible integrative “powers” assumed to generate integrated learning. To the degree induction is made, it is of a tentative character.

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The learning arena

How does a “dual arena” of work and general knowledge-based learning tasks and strategies of innovative and integrative learning methods looks like? Different approaches to this problem field have been looked into.
    “Learning by doing”, “action learning” and "problem- and action oriented teaching methods"  have been discussed as possible strategies for generating and integrating the targeted broad competence. We connect “action learning” and “action competence” to qualities like innovative learning strategies, self-reliant learning and entrepreneurship, saying something about qualitative sides applied to the learning process. 
    The connotation of  “Action learning” is dynamic pedagogic, involving “learning-through action, to act and to take action (“action competence”). As a learning strategy it may involve processes very close to “real-life learning”. How close they are to “real-work learning” depends on the learning tasks and the organisation of the learning situation; to the degree of resemblance to professional working-life tasks and organisation. This brings us into vocational didactics.
    In school contexts workshop learning and project work have been studied and assessed as learning arenas for integrative processes. Students reported experiences  of  “being in charge” and “learning about working life” as positive outcomes of project work. These are feelings and experiences related to the individual self and role development, and may contribute to creating holistic learning arenas where work-specific and general skills merge into personal competence. 
    How work place training can be integrated in a dual oriented curriculum is of special interest. This has been studied by German partners in pilot projects (Bremer; Kusch: case/conclusion/papers) where theory/practice integration takes place in a combined workplace and school-setting. The  didactic aims to develop broad qualifications and are problem-orientation, action-orientation and with holistic (not subject-specific) criteria grouped subject matter . 
   A French paper (Lazar: summary) draws attention to the viewpoint that good knowledge of the company seems to be a precondition for creating inventive learning possibilities. It points to research on the link between work and learning/instruction as dependent on the best knowledge of the context, its contributions and its possibilities for training. Also it is important to study the formative nature of work.
    It may be profitable to study if and how workplace relevance in curriculum and learning tasks may influence learning successes. 

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Relevance as a pedagogical quality 

“Workplace relevance” here  means work based learning tasks that develop competencies relevant in working life. Most students who choose vocational tracks need to recognise this relevance. For some students recognition is a prerequisite for motivation. From this perspective “relevance” may, for certain students, be a basic prerequisite for successful learning processes. Maybe also for integrating general and vocational subjects into one education - which underlines the change of focus from an academic knowledge tradition to a broader and more work and experiential based concept of knowledge and competence. 
    Relevance is a contextual phenomenon as related to the outer world. For the individual self it is a feeling or experience of relationship between the outer and own world. For the individual learner the recognition of relevance as a professional and /or personal experience, may empower and motivate. If we use the search model  and apply “the map” as a tool for own reflections about the age group of 16-17 years (vocational foundation year), we may find that fields of working life skills are little developed and loosely or not connected to personal feelings of identity. 
    Development of social skills is a targeted learning outcome in schools and working life. Team works and reflections about own learning are seen as ways to capitalise both social skills and development of personal work related competence. Such activities require both non-verbal and verbal communication, and some level of common references as a basic coding platform. Questions about the written word, conceptual and cognitive articulation and recognition of cultural aspects of the vocational field (see Lazar: summary) are important to explore. 
    We have pointed to the need for students to recognise working life relevance  in their learning tasks. Reflections about the work relevance of learning tasks may be a precondition for turning learning experiences into personal skills (basic, comprehensive or specific).

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Construction of Self, Role and Identity 

Knowledge relevant in work and for mastering social and cultural realities is subject of fast transformations in modern and post-modern societies. Most students in upper secondary are young persons with limited experiences and in rapid development and change. They are working on their self- and role construction as advancing into the grown up world. “Competence” as grown up job takers is part of this task. 
    Learning about Self as a person in interaction with others in school, working life and society is, as all learning, an individual process, carried out in processes of cultural and social realities. Today production work is more or less disappeared as “activities of daily living” at homes and neighbourhoods. Daily life of children and young people seems quite tapped for relevant experiences generating real images of working roles. If we again use the search model for mapping basic personal skills in this age group (16-17), we may find little of relevance for vocational trade and professional  skill - beside new technology for those interested in technology. 
    And if we still apply the search model mapping this age group, a large proportion may show the field of  “basic working life related skills” to be rather meagre, tentative or filled with images of “dream-stuff “. Society provides them with little relevant experiences, and young people face life tasks asking them to become innovative, communicative and competent entrepreneurs and to construct a self to fill in with this role description. In the meantime they spend their time sitting at a desk in a classroom. 
    With vocational schools and workplaces divided in time and space, images, knowledge and skills that schools present as relevant for a specific vocational area may not be recognised as such, and students may not identify themselves with it. One challenge faced when students enter a vocational track may be to provide for authentic relevance, both cognitive and emotional. If not, loss of motivation and lack of feeling of relevance may become the least problematic outcome. 
    But then, some students know what they want, recognise the school content as fairly commensurable with this, or as instrumental but necessary preconditions to obtain their image. 

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Teachers’ ownership to methods 

In Sweden and Norway teachers have had great freedom to choose their teaching methods. In the Swedish INTEQUAL and DUOQUAL material (Arman: case/conclusions) pilot-school teachers participating in the study, expressed as a fairly common view that teachers’ change of methods must build on voluntarism. They pointed to development and change of teaching strategies as a relative long process. The research schools were selected because of teachers’ interest and motivation and supportive school leaders. 
    In Norway the evaluation reports (Larsen et al: case/conclusions/paper) found teachers to be fairly positive to the reform and able to identify themselves with it. But little changes in the everyday school life, like co-operative relations between teacher /students and teacher /teacher were found. With the demand for "Self-reliant learning", more responsibility is given to students which affects the role structure, requiring teachers to perceive their roles in new ways. 
    If we apply the search model mapping the vocational teachers' skills and relate it to their self perception, vocational working life dimension may be important for their personal identity. Team and self reliant work methods are quite usual in qualified working life today, and vocational teachers are accustomed to it. In school as an institution these kind of skills have no high esteem compared to the status of academic subjects and general teaching, which on the other hand groups of students choosing vocational tracks does not see as relevant. In this collision of work and learning cultures the work-based competence, traditions and identity are overruled. 
    The upper secondary teaching tradition is not an innovative or fast changing tradition. Even if teachers seem to accept the ideas of new methods, we may ask if they own it or possess the needed competence.  Teachers may need time and feeling of safety to experience, reflect, accept and develop the new teaching role. 
    School culture and role of school leaders: School leaders are seen as critical factors in any particular school. Without interested, supportive school leaders, teachers find it difficult to change their teaching. In the Swedish material (Arman: case/conclusions) teachers stated the necessity of supportive school leaders  as a prerequisite for changes. 
    In Norway the White Paper (Larsen et al: case/conclusions/paper) calls upon teachers and school leaders to modernise structure and culture of today’s school system in order to develop the qualities needed to meet requirements and demands for a changing world. 

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Summing up 

The Norwegian White Paper (Larsen et al: case/conclusions/paper) declares competence to be about “the will and power to use your knowledge: to employ it in specific situations as the base of action, creativity, intuition, ethical based considerations, and for best judgement” (translation by LL). The term is given a broad and dynamic content. It focuses on self and identity related processes and persons’ subjectivity and relates to the notion of  “integrated human being” (Norwegian Core Curriculum). 
    If we ask students what they need for working self-reliant, being innovative, responsible and whatever - to develop the targeted competence, what do they answer? In a study  following students during project work periods,  answers were about “support, trust, room for being different, for experiencing, experimenting and failing, open communication and democratic processes, time to discuss and reflect, guidance when needed”. Answers the teachers also think as important when it comes to developing own part of the required role system: being a tutor, work leader and grown up guide for students self-reliant processes. 
    It may be an idea to ask more questions about the role of learning cultures, identity formation and self-actualisation, roles and experiences as basic integrative forces for development of action competence and holistic learning. 

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 First set up 03/05/2000
Latest update: 03/05/2000
 Contact: Sabine Manning