Academic journal article International Journal of Training Research

Experiences of Educational Content in Swedish Technical Vocational Education: Examples from the Energy and Industry Programmes

Academic journal article International Journal of Training Research

Experiences of Educational Content in Swedish Technical Vocational Education: Examples from the Energy and Industry Programmes

Article excerpt


In relation to technical vocational education there are different interests and expectations concerning the content of the education. The various stakeholders such as future workplaces, students, schools and society can have different perspectives and different learning arenas. For example, schools and workplaces offer different kinds of learning (Aarkrog, 2005; Gulikers, Baartman, & Biemans, 2010; Iannelli, & Raffe, 2007; Johansson, 2009). It has also been stated that there is a gap between learning at school and the workplace that needs to be bridged (e.g., Illeris, 2009).

In Sweden, a trial apprenticeship scheme was run between 2008 and 2011 in order to bridge the gap between school and workplace learning. In this trial, the upper secondary vocational pro- grammes were conducted in both learning arenas, that is, both school and the workplace. During the three year education, vocational students spent half the time at school and half the time at a workplace under supervision from other workers at the workplace (Sveriges Riksdag, 2009). In 2011, new syllabi came in in Sweden; since then, this dual system has been fully implemented as an eligible alternative to the traditional programmes, which include only 15 weeks in the workplace (Regeringskansliet, 2008).

The teachers and workplace supervisors in this study taught in two different vocational programmes, known in Swedish as energiprogrammet ('the Energy programme') and industriprogrammet ('the Industry programme') and were involved in creating opportunities for learning. This study aims to broaden understanding about what these educators choose to emphasize as regards learning content and what they consider needs to be thought and learnt in vocational education. The research question in this study is:

* What do teachers and supervisors experience as important to teach and learn in these two technical vocational programmes?

The study was part of a three-year project called the LISA study (Learning In Several Arenas), where experiences of teaching and learning in the energy and industry programmes in a Swedish upper-secondary school were in focus.

Educational content

Today's society is changing and technological development is moving rapidly. It is important to discuss the content of technical vocational education in order to offer well-functioning and relevant educational programmes. Learning in the workplace often includes more than what is stated in the syllabi; the focus is on learning for life in general and for working life in particular (Baartman & de Bruijn, 2011; Berglund, 2009; Lindberg, 2003). Fejes and Berglund (2009) discuss the concept of employability from different perspectives and writes that making students employable is an important aspect of planning vocational programmes. Johansson (2009) also emphasises the connection between learning and usability in vocational education. Furthermore, Johansson mentions the general lack of teaching material, which gives the vocational teachers an important role in choosing course content. Previous research has also addressed the issue of assessment, looking at what should be assessed in vocational education, and how to ensure a comparable education among schools and countries (Gulikers et ah, 2010).

Previous research also stated that different learning arenas offer learning of different kinds of knowledge (Aarkrogh, 2005; Illeris, 2009). Illeris writes that the mixed school/apprenticeship model offers opportunities for socialisation and practical learning in the workplace in addition to the more theoretical learning and generic skills that can be developed at school. Furthermore, Illeris writes about different learning and knowledge types in vocational education and argues that even if some learning processes and knowledge types are more complex and demanding, they should not be seen as better than other types of knowledge; instead, they should be seen as complementary. …

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