Academic journal article International Journal of Training Research

What Makes a Good VET Teacher? Views of Australian VET Teachers and Students

Academic journal article International Journal of Training Research

What Makes a Good VET Teacher? Views of Australian VET Teachers and Students

Article excerpt


What makes good vocational education and training (VET) teaching?1 There is currently an absence in Australia, of an articulation of what constitutes VET pedagogy. While in the Australian school education sector, initial teacher education programmes, teacher registration and teacher professional development are guided by a set of multi-tiered national professional teacher standards (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership [AITSL], n.d.), there is no national equivalent in the Australian VET sector. Similarly, there are no programme standards which universities offering VET teacher education programmes are required to meet. In contrast, the English VET sector has had standards for Further Education teachers for 20 years (Tummons, 2016) and these standards are expected to inform all VET teacher-training programmes, whether offered within the VET sector itself or in higher education. For VET teachers in Australia, the closest to a national standard that exists is articulated in theVET sector qualification, the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment (Cert IV TAE2). However, this qualification is only accepted as an 'entry-level' qualification for VET teachers.

In the absence of an articulation of good VET teaching, the paper contributes to knowledge in this area, using data from a major national project to provide a picture of current understandings among teachers and learners in the sector. The paper addresses two research questions: the first is 'What are the views of VET students and VET teachers about good VET teaching?'and the second is 'How can these views inform policy interventions for improving the quality of VET teaching.

The national study on which this paper is based was motivated by an identified lack of firm data (Productivity Commission, 2011) that could provide greater insight into the relationship between qualification levels of VET teachers and the quality of teaching in the sector. The project, funded by the Australian Research Council and supported by five VET-sector industry partners, set out to find out whether and how higher-level qualifications for VET teachers would improve quality in the VET system. As an initial phase of this research, in 2015, VET teachers and learners - those at the 'chalk face' of the quality issues in VET teaching - were interviewed to elicit their views on 'what makes a good VET teacher'.The main purpose of this phase of the research was to establish whether current understandings in the sector were consistent with the published accounts of 'good teaching' in VET and therefore help to inform the study as a whole. In fact, the phase produced very valuable data in its own right.

Background and literature

The VET workforce in Australia

As in some other countries, the VET teaching workforce, in general, is diverse (Tyler & Dymock, 2017). It is a mix (Wheelahan & Moodie, 2010) of full-time 'career' teachers, part-time and casual (hourly paid) teachers who wish to make a career of the occupation but are yet to secure permanent employment, and part-time and casual staff who wish to retain their work in their occupation of origin. Some teachers work across several training providers (Productivity Commission, 2011). In this respect the workforce is similar to the higher education workforce, but different from the school-teaching workforce. It is a truism in the sector and among those who write about it, that it is almost impossible to quantify and describe the workforce (e.g. Mlotkowski & Guthrie, 2010). VET teachers may work in the public Technical and Further Education (TAFE) system; in private, industry or community Registered Training organisations (RTOs); or, more rarely, in enterprises which provide qualification-based training for their workers. The VET workforce is predominantly mature-aged (Tyler & Dymock, 2017), as people always come to the occupation as their second or subsequent career.

VET teachers' qualification levels

The Cert IV TAE (and its previous iterations) has been the minimum teaching qualification3 required of all Australian VET teachers by national policy since 1998 (Smith & Keating, 2003). …

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