The present text is the result of the follow-up carried out at the three Slovenian VET schools implementing the apprenticeship form of education in the time of COVID-19 lock-down (in April 2020). We prepared questions for a semi-structured interview and talked to the principals. We were interested in: how distance education for apprentices takes place (we were especially interested in the aspect of practical training with work), what goals they achieve with apprentices during distance education, how they achieve their goals and whether the goals they achieve during distance learning, will be assessed.
At all three schools, distance education takes place either in independent apprenticeship departments or together with students in the school form of education. In the teacher groups, they identified the goals that can be achieved at a distance and the goals that cannot be achieved at a distance and will be achieved (except in the final years) in different ways in the coming years. The principals divided the work with the apprentices mainly among the teachers who carry out the practical lessons, they also included the organizers of the practical training and the workshop leaders. Teachers have prepared a distance education plan, which they update every week, and they have also adjusted the assessment.
The starting point for the preparation of the text below is the actual schools practice. The text consists of three parts.
We first wrote down some criteria and principles according to which teachers can choose the goals they achieve as remote learning, followed by didactic solutions for achieving goals at a distance, which we found in schools, and finally some guidelines for assessment.
Achieving the goals in the aapprenticeships form of educational programs
In general, it is not possible to achieve all expected goals at a distance education, but it is especially difficult to achieve goals at a distance that relate to WBL, while they resuire work in company premises or school workshops and a direct interaction between a teacher (or mentor) and an apprentice. The schools where the interviews were conducted had no difficulty in identifying the goals that could be achieved remotely.
In selecting the objectives, they proceeded from the catalogues of knowledge of the professional modules and took into account already achived learning objectives. Thus, they organized for apprentices the teaching of general education subjects and professional modules, which takes place either together with students who are in school form, or only for apprentices. At one of the schools, apprentices, who should be undergoing WBL at company during this period, learn the objectives of the open curriculum as part of distance education (otherwise this would be implemented in companies). Apprentices in all three schools learn and strenghten the theoretical aspects of learning units in different ways, as mastering the theory is a good basis for acquiring practical skills that they will upgrade when apprentices return to either schools or companies.
When distance education takes place, it is also necessary to pay attention to the fact that goals that will not be achieved "live", but through independent assignments of apprentices, will not be achieved in the same time interval as if the training took place in the classroom or in workshop. For classical classroom education, it is somehow true that 1/3 of what is planned for one hour of classroom instruction can be achieved at a distance. Although online discussion takes more time, research shows that live discussion (synchronous discussion) is more useful for encouraging social interaction, while online forum discussion (asynchronous discussion) is more useful for discussions focused on effective performing tasks (Im and Lee, 2004).
In planning or achieving goals related to WBL as remote learning, it would make sense, if this option exists, for the teacher to include mentors from companies as well. Involving mentors in the direct implementation of goals (ie in lessons) can increase the motivation of apprentices.
Ways to achieve goals
Apprentices achieving the goals which were seen for the WBL in companies is a considerable challenge in the adapted form of distance education. Methods and ways of working in the classroom or school workshops are mostly not appropriate, but with modifications and adjustments, part of WBL goals can still be achieved. The following describes the ways in which schools are already implementing it and some additional possible ways of implementing distance education.
1. Distance teaching (using applications such as Zoom, MS Teams, Arnes Vox, Skype ...)
Face-to-face distance teaching is considered to be the best approximation of teaching that would otherwise take place in the classroom or in company and can be relatively easily compared to such activities even in terms of the time we need to achieve the objectives.
The activity designed in this way is also important from the point of view of maintaining (pedagogical) contact between the teacher and the apprentices, as well as between the apprentices themselves. When the teacher plans to perform a live explanation, he informs the apprentices in advance. We recommend that the teacher agrees with the apprentices on a fixed weekly schedule when the live teaching will take place (eg every week on the same day, at the same time) or a joint plan for all teachers is made for the week.
Apprentices who do not respond to assignments in other forms (sent via e-mail, virtual classrooms, etc.) can also be involved in education more quickly and efficiently through live teaching. When teaching, the teacher (when the application allows the use of a camera) finds it easier to follow the activities and activities of the apprentices, and they have the opportunity to ask the teacher or ask for additional explanations as soon as they do not understand something.
2. Recorded explanation or demonstration…
The teacher records the explanation, or demonstration ... and publishes the video in the virtual environment . The teacher can also provide the apprentices with an explanation (demonstration, ...) of another teacher (of course, if the teacher who recorded the activity agrees with the publication). Recorded explanation or demonstration can be part of achieving goals, followed by apprentice activity. Only this can the teacher plan in different forms. Apprentices can:
a) after watching the video, answer questions prepared in advance by the teacher,
b) solve a task prepared by the teacher,
c) complete the logbook,
d) draw a workshop drawing,
e) look online for practical examples of what is explained (in the form of videos, finished products that can be made with, for example, a certain way of sawing, sawing ...).
Meaningful activities for apprentices are prepared by the teacher in accordance with the set goals, and it is very important that the apprentices have some time to complete the assignment (determined by the teacher and inform the apprentices about it) and that the assignment is passed on to the teacher. , only he looks at it and gives them feedback on what was sent (either in writing, live ...).
3. Use of video material
As a supplement to the explanation, the teacher can also provide the apprentices with a recording with a practical presentation of a task or activity. These are recordings that are already available online and have been prepared by e.g. manufacturers of individual devices, machines ... When using such recordings, which can be a very good illustration, the teacher must take into account the fact that in principle they are not recordings that would be prepared for learning purposes, so viewing such a recording should be supported by other activities, either by explanation or by preparing various tasks or assignments that students can perform after the tour and pass on to the teacher (who gives his / her feedback).
4. Teacher does the basic part of the explanation, the rest is prepared by the apprentices
This type of work involves the teacher completing the basic part of the explanation (the part that is crucial for achieving the goal), and planning other parts of the education by preparing them and presenting them to the apprentices during the lesson.
Apprentices can prepare:
a) a practical demonstration (eg of the use of the explanation), by searching the internet for relevant recordings of the practical demonstration of what the content of the explanation was,
b) a practical demonstration, where the apprentice (if he has the opportunity at home to do so safely), prepares and records the practical demonstration himself, or records a practical demonstration e.g. a parent who performs the demonstration in a home workshop (this is possible if the parents of the apprentices have a workshop or a company that performs an activity for which the apprentice is also trained). Apprentices can for e.g. use the free Fligrid tool https://info.flipgrid.com/;
c) prepare assignments or questions (quiz) for classmates to solidify the teacher's explanation;
d) prepare and lead a discussion in which they discuss various aspects of the goal (practical applications, other topics that touch on the goal indirectly: environmental impacts, safety at work, ...) and in this way carry out the training phase…
The content of the apprentices' activities, of course, depends on the set goals. It is important for the teacher to judge what he can give to the apprentices as an assignment, and the process that takes place before the apprentice's presentation is also crucial. This one goes something like this:
- The teacher introduces the apprentices to the possibility of participating in the implementation of part of the distance education. Apprentices can be invited to participate (whereby the motivation of those who choose to participate is certainly higher than if such participation is mandatory for all apprentices), or it can be decided that participation is mandatory for apprentices. The teacher also decides whether one or more apprentices will participate in the individual implementation of this type of work (they can also prepare presentations in pairs).
- In the next step, the teacher and the apprentice define the way in which the apprentice will supplement the teacher's explanation. After that, the teacher gives the apprentice clear instructions related to the content of the presentation.
- The apprentice prepares a draft (which can contain the structure of the presentation, basic resources, web links, ...) and sends it to the teacher. Teacher gives apprentice gives feedback on suitability, guidelines, instructions (can be live, can be in writing).
- The apprentice, following the teacher's instructions, prepares the final version, the teacher checks, comments, explains the details together with the apprentice and when the teacher judges that the product (task, demonstration) is appropriate, includes it in the lesson. The teacher and the apprentice conduct the planned lesson together.
One of the shortcomings of the described method of work is that the teacher has to plan the training in advance (approx. 2 to 3 weeks), as the apprentice must have enough time to prepare the assignment, as well as to correct and prepare the final version, and the teacher has enough time to readily review and provide feedback.
5. Presentations / tasks related to indirect procedures
A good addition to the explanation, or an independent didactic phase (exercises, exercises) can also be that the apprentices prepare tasks that are with e.g. performing an individual activity related indirectly. Thus, e.g. while the teacher explains the processes related e.g. with sawing, apprentices prepare presentations, discussion, tasks related to other procedures that take place during sawing (preparation for sawing, safety at work, environmental issues, possible end products made with this type of sawing process, use of ICT ...) . The activity can be planned and carried out by the teacher in the way described in point 4, ie. by including such presentations in the lesson, or as a supplement to the teaching that the accustomed to do according to the presented explanation.
The apprentices' activities presented above can take place as an independent work of each individual, and the apprentices can also perform their duties in pairs or small groups.
Working in pairs or groups strengthens peer learning assistance and encourages apprentice participation. At the same time, it also enables a kind of socializing, which is extremely important for young people and is now considerably reduced due to the necessary physical distance.
How to evaluate goals that have been achieved remotely
In addition to the guidelines for distance assessment prepared by the Center of the Republic of Slovenia for Vocational Education and Training (link), we would also like to draw attention to the following:
If the teacher decides to assess the goals he has achieved in any of the ways described above, we recommend:
1. The teacher should evaluate those goals that have been achieved through quality implementation of distance learning (some options are also offered in this document).
2. In assessment, teachers should not be limited to minimum standards: the assessment depends mainly on the actual possibilities for achieving and the importance of the standards from the point of view of further education and / or the acquisition of quality professional qualifications.
3. The subject of assessment can also be an apprentice's independent activity or a prepared task, or. assignment. However, the apprentice must be informed that what he / she is preparing will be assessed before the preparation of the activity, task or assignment. The apprentice should also be introduced to the appraisal criteria before starting the preparation. Criteria (and also evaluation) can also be presented through the use of t.i. "Assessment schemes" or sections. It is a scheme that is quite useful for assessing problem-based tasks or activities, in which the teacher defines in advance both the areas of assessment and the criteria. The assessment of the achievement of the level of a certain criterion within an individual task is determined by the teacher in advance and with different criteria and possible levels of achievement of the criterion. More about this method of assessment is written in the book, which is available at the link below (p. 135) https://www.acs.si/digitalna-bralnica/e-izobrazevanje-za-digitalno-druzbo/ .
4. Assignments prepared by apprentices in pairs or small groups may also be subject to assessment. The principle is that the contribution of the individual who participated in the preparation (what each in a pair or group prepares) must be clearly visible. The contribution of an individual is well illustrated if apprentices e.g. they prepare a written task using a wiki in the Moodle web environment, or using online google documents, and in a word document an individual's activity is evident if all apprentices have the "follow changes" function enabled when preparing the document.
If it is an activity where the individual's contribution cannot be verified or understood, the teacher should rather evaluate other activities / assignments.
Prepared by CPI