Dr Stephen Billett is Professor of Adult and Vocational Education in the School of Education and Professional Studies at Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia and also an Australian Research Council Future Fellow. After a career in garment manufacturing, he has worked as a vocational educator, educational administrator, teacher educator, professional development practitioner and policy developer in the Australian vocational education system and as a teacher and researcher at Griffith University. Since 1992, he has researched learning through and for work and has published widely in fields of learning of occupations, workplace learning, work and conceptual accounts of learning for vocational purposes. His sole authored books include Learning through work: Strategies for effective practice (Allen and Unwin 2001); Work, change and workers (Springer 2006) Vocational Education (Springer 2011) and Mimetic learning at Work (2014) and Integrating Practice-based Learning in Higher Education Programs (Springer 2015). His edited books include Work, Subjectivity and Learning (Springer, 2006) Emerging Perspectives of Work and Learning (Sense 2008), Learning through practice (Springer 2010), Promoting professional learning (Springer 2011), Experiences of school transitions (Springer 2012), Promoting, assessing, recognizing and certifying Lifelong Learning (Springer 2014) and Francophone conceptions of Learning through practice (Springer 2015). He is the founding and Editor in Chief of Vocations and learning: Studies in vocational and professional education (Springer) and lead editor of the book series Professional and practice-based learning (Springer) the International Handbook of Research in Professional and Practice-based Learning (2014) with colleagues from Germany. He was a Fulbright Professional Scholar in 1999, awarded a 2009-2010 Australian Learning and Teaching Council National Teaching Fellowship that identified principles and practices to effectively integrate learning experiences in practice and academic settings. In June 2011, he commenced a four-year Australian Research Council Future Fellowship on learning through practice, which aims to develop a curriculum and pedagogy of practice. He has recently secured an Office of Learning and Teaching Development Grant examining students’ post-practicum experiences (2015-2018). In August 2013, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Jyvasksla University (Finland) for his contributions to educational science and elected Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences of Australia in 2015.
To understand, evaluate and enhance how vocational education and training (VET) contributes to individuals’ learning of their occupational capacities and workplace requirements necessitates appraising those contributions across the course of their working life. It is particularly helpful to know more about how VET assists and supports working age Australians through key worklife transitions to appraise its contributions. Here, the concept of a personal curriculum – the individual pathway comprising across working life – is introduced and evoked to capture the worklife pathways some individuals take and the contributions that VET can and should make. Drawing on a current project elaborating individuals’ worklife histories it is found that three interdependent contributions arise: the person, educational provisions (widely defined) and those from ‘community’. The concept of personal curriculum and the factors shaping it are advanced in this paper. It concludes by suggesting ways those pathways might be supported through VET provisions and processes.
Apprenticeship as a mode of learning and model of education
Apprenticeship is usually seen as a model of education combining experiences in workplaces and tertiary education institutions. However, apprenticeship has been primarily been a mode of learning (Billett, 2016). Before the advent of education provisions for occupations mainly over the last hundred years, across human history and cultures apprenticeship was primarily a process of the apprentice engaging in active and self-directed learning. This remains the case in countries that practice what is referred to as ‘traditional’ apprenticeships (ILO 2015, Marchand 2008). Given concerns about learner engagement, requirements for learning contemporary occupational knowledge, and need to develop the capacities required for learning across lengthening working lives, it is timely to revisit the original concept of apprenticeship. That is where learners are positioned to ‘apprehend’ the knowledge required for occupational practice and having responsibility for organising and optimising their learning. As in earlier times, contemporaneously, much occupational knowledge cannot be accessed by learners’ discovery efforts alone. Hence, alongside a focus on active learning, it is necessary to consider the pedagogic practices that guide and support that learning. Importantly, these practices are sometimes distinct from those designed for teaching and classroom instruction. As noted, these kinds of processes of active engagement and guidance are not just limited to the initial occupational preparation but have a key role in the ongoing development of occupational capacity across working lives. It follows, this paper will set out premises for viewing apprenticeship as a mode of learning, elaborate learner engagement qualities, briefly elaborate curriculum and pedagogic practices supporting it and conclude with potential implications for vocational education and development of occupational capacities.
Concerns about the role of critical thinking in learning is the key focus of an interview organised and hosted by Dr Anthony Leow, Assistant Director (Capability and Industry) at Republic Polytechnic, Singapore. Dr Leow pose a number of questions about what constitutes critical thinking, its relevance to contemporary work and workplaces, how it can be developed by working age Singaporeans and the ways in which that development can be supported through continuing education and training. Consistent with these concerns is how critical thinking is aligned with what is referred to as 21st-century skills, and any impacts upon work practices and adult education.
This interview was conducted on 12 May 2021. Click here to listen to the interview.
In March 2021, the following invited brief commentary was published in the newsletter of the Australian Council for Adult Literacy about how vocational has been positioned within the governmental discourse.
“This month we are pleased to include an article by Professor Stephen Billett who has been reflecting on the fantasy-like aspects of the current VET landscape. ‘Somewhere here, the lesson doesn’t seem to have been learnt that leaders require followers. And, those followers need to believe that what leadership is proposing is worthwhile, robust, responsive and actually achieves the goals that are being set out.’
To understand, evaluate and enhance how vocational education and training (VET) contributes to individuals’ development ultimately requires appraising those contributions across their life courses. How VET assists and supports them through key transitions offers a means to appraise its contributions. Here, the concept of a personal curriculum is introduced and evoked to capture the worklife pathways individuals take and the contributions that VET can and should make. Drawing on a current project elaborating individuals’ worklife history it is found that three interdependent contributions arise: the person, educational provisions (widely defined) and those from ‘community’. The concept of personal curriculum and factors shaping are advanced here.
The Service Learning Unit and Professor Stephen Billett have hosted a series of webinars focussing on the purposes of post-practicum interventions and approaches to enacting them.
You can now watch the three webinars below:
Webinar 1 – Purposes and approaches to post-practicum interventions
This webinar will focus on the purposes of post-practicum interventions and approaches to enacting them. The presentation will draw upon studies from both phases of the grant and a survey of healthcare students about the purposes for post-practicum interventions and preferences for how they are enacted. The student’s perspectives will be presented along with purposes and approaches adopted in the individual projects.
The question addressed within this webinar is: For what purposes and through what approaches would post-practicum interventions be effective for your field of teaching?
Webinar 2 – Models and processes of post-practicum interventions
This webinar draws upon the projects across the two phases of the grant to suggest ways in which post-practicum interventions can be developed and enacted. Specifically, it will focus on the models of post-practicum interventions trialed in these projects and how specific teaching and learning strategies were used to augment those experiences to promote employability. The presentation of models and processes will offer participants some bases to consider what may work in their area of teaching.
The question addressed within this webinar is: What are the qualities of models of post-practicum interventions and their enactment that would be pertinent for and effective in your field of teaching?
Across the many projects within the two phases of this grant, the issue of student engagement, particularly focused and effortful participation became an enduring concern. It seems that contemporary students are not time poor (i.e. without time), but are, instead time jealous (i.e. needing to use their time effectively because of overlapping and competing priorities). As with learning, how students come to engage in, integrate and reconcile experiences provided by both university programs and workplaces, is central to the quality and extent of the outcomes of these experiences. Superficial or reluctant participation will lead to weak educational outcomes. Consequently, it is necessary to identify how best students can come to engage in these kinds of experiences in focused and effortful ways and, through though that, optimise the learning potential of these experiences.
The question addressed within this webinar is: How can contemporary, time jealous, students be assisted to engage effortfully in post-practicum activities to achieve effective outcomes?
As a means of advancing our understandings and practices as adult educators, this webinar explores how adults’ learning can be mediated by the interrelations amongst person + education + community. Click here to register for the webinar.
Drawing upon some preliminary findings from a current study funded by the Australian Research Council, this presentation will refer to the experiences and learning of 30 Australians who comprise both male-female, Australian born, migrant and refugee migrant and from a range of educational and occupational backgrounds. Click here to access the webinar.
In this webinar, we discuss how to generate quantitative measures from qualitative data. You can click here to watch the video recording of the webinar, where we discuss ways of analysing and presenting data to extend and optimise its analysis and secure greater reliability and validity of research findings.