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 Workshop/ Summary 
Dual qualifications - an emergent debate

Lourenco Frazão, Teresa Oliveira &  Fátima Santos

Workshop of the Portuguese-Greek partnership held in Lisbon, 26 November 1999
Summary of the report
(full version of the report "National workshop – dual qualifications: an emergent debate" in the DUOQUAL folder)
(see also summary of topic study

Discussion on aspects of dual qualifications
Round table on new perspectives for dual qualification
Round table on a theoretical model of higher order learning skills
Conclusions about the acquisition and use of higher order learning skills

Reference to national case studies on dual qualifications in Greece and Portugal and to national conclusions for Portugal.


Discussion on aspects of dual qualifications 

The presentation of the DUOQUAL Project and the lecture “dual qualification – a proposal for a follow-up study”, brought up, by the Portuguese participants specially, practitioners and local written press, questions related to methodological aspects leading to the concreteness of dual qualification, able to give same positive answers to the demands of the actual and local society.
    One of the most relevant aspects raised by the participants was that the dual qualification system is not very attractive, for young people. This fact, still very present in some countries of the European Union, is related to the low social status of the vocational courses. The dual qualification integrating training program very oriented to the work market might be a limitation to the professional carrier choice that requests a more generalist training. However, it seams that for young people that finish higher education with secondary vocational courses as background it’s easier to enter in to labour market, than for the ones from general courses. This effective advantage is related with the valorisation aspect of VET, because young people have a more realistic perception of the work reality. This knowledge fosters a better definition of the personal and professional life projects, the achievement of an adequate job and a faster social-professional placement. Nowadays evident differences were made relating to the social status of VET and level of payments to the workers come from VET initial training, namely in the countries were vocational courses and professional learning systems don’t have a long tradition. 
    For Portugal and Greece it’s important to develop efforts to improve the relationship between the VET and the economic system, to raise the social status of the vocational courses, having for example the Austrian, German and United Kingdom experiences. The models and experiences developed in these countries should interest our policy makers. The possibility to establish transnacional scientific co-operation based on protocols, so that research studies could be done in order to promote discussion and further implementation of the most relevant aspects to improve the Portuguese Educational and Training System should be co-ordinated.
      Enlarging the discussion out of Europe and comparing to non-European countries, the situation in the USA and Canada was described. There, where the knowledge of the work market is considered a positive aspect, the young unemployed graduates return back to school to get their post-graduation, oriented to the work market, for a period of 2/3 years, after the higher initial training. One of an explicative possibility for this situation was the low importance given by higher education to VET initial training, which is based on the discontextualised abstraction capacities, and memorisation and repetition. These characteristics leave a very small freedom for creativity and to the development of the learning process centred in experimentation, in real and practical situations related to the work market. 
    The question of teachers/trainers training for courses related to dual qualification was equally approached. It was noticed that in countries that have more tradition in VET learning models, the teachers training starts with a training oriented to vocational courses (one to two years) and after they getting training for general courses. To the company trainers is given one year of pedagogic training (Germany and Austria).

Round table on new perspectives for dual qualifications 

The round table subordinated to the subject “New Perspectives for Dual Qualification”, allowed knowing the experience and pilot projects related to the problem of dual qualification evolution and it’s learning model. It was possible to have an enlarged point of view of what dual qualification represents in each country and the efforts developed in the different European countries leading to the improvement of dual qualification, the social valorisation of VET and of the learning system.
    The discussion between the participants clarified that the understanding of dual qualification and the related learning system have different meanings according to the reality, tradition and experience in each country. In Austria, Germany and United Kingdom where the tradition of VET is longer and research is more developed in this field, there is a larger common understanding between those countries about dual qualification. By the opposite reason, it is clear the link between Portugal and Greece, regarding the models that promote a dual qualification and its learning process. 
    To find same possible answers leading to the improvement of professional qualification, the participants reflected about the most adequate curricular structure. The possibility of the integration of VET and general subjects and the valorisation of the actual curricula contents is important, but is necessary to change the methodology of VET.
    All participants understood that learning is a process that develops throughout different contexts, it was clear that the modular system is, in curricular terms, the appropriate system for the achievement young people needs and motivations. Thus the modular learning process, including alternative training between school – enterprise seems the more adjusted to improve the own life projects of young people.
    Because it is the most open and flexible, the recent modular learning project, in which the modules correspond to credit units, is in development in the United Kingdom.
    The knowledge exchange coming from recent research, pilot projects and experiences in courses all over Europe, debated during this “National Workshop”, gave to the participants presents same important moments of debate, reflection and ideas. In our opinion, this workshop represent a significative contribute to the knowledge related with different impacts of the dual qualification problem in nowadays society.


Round table on a theoretical model of higher order learning skills 

In the afternoon session, a round table chaired by Stamatis Paleocrassas, the subject “Exploring a Theoretical Model Required to Engage Students in Acquisition and use Higher Order Learning Skills” was discussed. More specifically the following questions were the focus of the debate:

  • What theoretical and experimental support may provide the foundation on which to structure a learning environment, for the integration and acquisitions of high order skills?
  • How do you structure an effective learning environment, through which higher order learning skills can be acquired?
  • Integration of higher order skill in the curriculum is a problem of content selection or instructional design? 
This round table had the participation of the partners involved in the DUOQUAL Project, of Austria (Monika Thum-Kraft), Germany (Werner Kusch), United Kingdom (Stuart Niven, Greece (Stamatis Paleocrassas, Stella Zacharias) and Portugal (Lourenço Frazão, Fátima Santos).
    It was discussed the theoretical content in which was reinforced the importance for learning of the articulation between academic and technical competencies, as well the role of these competencies as elements able to help students to understand that gaining knowledge is a process of building and rebuilding and permanent questioning this knowledge. 
    The cognitive psychology was approached because is a subject that to try strength and to understand the thinking structures that are influent in the human mind, and explains how to develop the ability to classify, organise, analyse and solve problems. Building and rebuilding the knowledge by the individual might be understood as a way of getting and using it’s own knowledge.
    All the participants described the problems, perspectives about dual qualification projects in development at their own countries. The teachers/trainers training, the learning process, including the interrelationship between contents and methodologies were debated.
    From confrontation of these realities arose a relevant debate based on the reflection about what could be adequate and transposed to other countries and what it was common among European countries. Same conclusions were formulated that brought up same questions, systematised by Prof. Stamatis, for a future reflection both at organisation level as well as at a knowledge building level.


Conclusions about the acquisition and use of higher order learning skills

The general conclusions about “Acquisition and Use of Higher Order Learning Skills” are:

  • Prepare for learning: Establish the importance of the topic and the connection to what has been previously learned. What do I already know about the topic? What do I need to learn? How does what I will learn relate to what I already know? What is important about what I will learn?
  • Organises learning: Show connection among new ideas and prior knowledge, and show how the new knowledge is organised and how parts are related. Call attention to key concepts and issues, and ask students to elaborate on what they are doing.
  • Control their own learning: Assist students in acquiring the capability to plan their own activity, reflect on their performance, monitor success or failure, alter responses, and take corrective action. Help students to become aware of factors that affect their own thinking, and to take control of their own thinking. Have students identify what they already know and what they need to know. Have students identify the assumptions that they are making, and engage students in self-questioning. Have students determinate what cues to look for, and how to tell if a task is satisfactorily completed.
  • Attach meaning: Ask “why” questions; Have students organise what they know into structures. Have students explain differences between their initial ideas and what actually happened, and to compare their explanation with formal explanations. Have students identify and compare their own problem-solving processes with those of an expert, or other students. Encourage generalisation to other situations.
  • Use learning: Relate what they already know to the to-be learned information; ask students to go beyond the immediate problem originally addressed to solve related problems. Move in a series of steps to problems that are different from the first problem.
This meeting was important to contribute for the VET knowledge evolution and to raise general importance questions about dual qualification models and learning development in several European countries. The conclusions might be considerate as recommendations for future investigations related with the growing importance of “Acquisition and Use of Higher Order Learning Skills” adequate to VET. 

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