Academic journal article International Journal of Training Research

Using Videos and Multimodal Discourse Analysis to Study How Students Learn a Trade

Academic journal article International Journal of Training Research

Using Videos and Multimodal Discourse Analysis to Study How Students Learn a Trade

Article excerpt


The use of video to collect data for research purposes is not new (Heath & Hindmarsh, 2002). Examples of video data collection can be found in investigations of classroom learning (Nuthall, 2007), sports skill acquisition (Summers, 2004) and the learning sciences (Derry et al., 2010). In education, a common use of video is to record and improve teachers' classroom practice (Beck, King & Marshall, 2002). There are now also instances of video use in vocational education to explore vocational teacher/student and employer/trainee interactions (de St George & Filliettaz, 2008; Filliettaz, 2010) and student peer activity (Chan & Leijten, 2012). However, using videos to collect data and processes for video data analysis can be complicated by logistical, technical and ethical considerations. As such, capability building is required to capitalise fully on the advantages of using videos to collect data of vocational students' learning activities. It is therefore timely to evaluate the use of videos and the accompanying multimodal discourse analysis methodology. Through presentation of an example from a recent research study with welding students, this article discusses the benefits and challenges, adapted from generalised educational research, for undertaking vocational research using videos.

As practical skills attainment in vocational education is still poorly understood (Silver & Forrest, 2007), careful examination of video data may reveal aspects of trade skills learning not easily obtainable by other data collection methods. Under-researched aspects of skill/practice attainment include nuances, skill elements or tacit knowledge that are not easily articulated by experts (Gamble, 2001; Sennett, 2008); the non-vocal language components of inter-personal interactions between, for instance, learners/trainers, supervisors/ workers and peers (Burgoon, 1994); the interplay of non-vocal communications requiring the learning of 'embodied cognition' (Marchand, 2010); and access to studying and understanding haptic skills (Minogue & Jone, 2006).

Multimodal discourse analysis is a relatively new but skill-intensive form of research (Erickson, 2006), useful for studying and understanding students' learning. Multimodal discourse refers to the study of the various methods used by humans to communicate (the discourse) including using voice, writing and 'body language' (the multimodalities). Multimodal discourse analysis is one method used to scrutinise video data by studying the context and participants' communications and interactions with others (both verbal and non-verbal). Findings from the combination of using videos for data gathering and multimodal discourse analysis may then form the basis for evidence-derived recommendations to help enhance learning opportunities for trade students or workplace-based learners.


Learning a trade

Many aspects of becoming a trade worker include the acquisition of tacit knowledge (Gamble, 2001; Sennett, 2008). Examples include: learning maxims or 'tricks of the trade' (Farrar & Trorey, 2008); attaining the nuances of specific occupations exampled by acquiring 'pit sense' for miners (Somerville & Abrahamsson, 2003) or 'reading the fish' for salmon farmers (Lee & Roth, 2005); acquiring dispositions of a 'duty for care' through working with the aged (Somerville, 2006); securing specialised communication techniques or intersubjective understanding required in occupations like aircraftpilots (Hutchins & Klausen, 1998); and achieving and integrating the wide range of competencies and dispositions through 'learning by becoming' (Hodkinson, Biesta & James, 2008).

Billett (2011) uses the terms intended curriculum, enacted curriculum and experienced curriculum to represent the different ways vocational education objectives are realised. The intended curriculum is exampled by current competencybased qualification frameworks and systems characterising much of vocational education. …

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