Benefits and purposes of Vocational Education and Training: a severe conceptual evidence gap

benefit

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Intellectual Property of Dr. Bruce D. Watson, DEd Melbourne and attributed authors as noted.

For Private individual use. All rights reserved.

Published: www.academia.edu

Extract from (slightly adapted): “Handbook of Technical and Vocational Education and Training Research”, edited by Felix Rauner, Rupert Macleanhttp://www.springer.com/gp/book/9781402083464

(Quote) – Theory and evidence that links education and vocational education and training to economic returns is much more developed than the links between vocational education and training and wider outcomes.

The benefits and purposes of learning, however, go beyond the enhancement of individual and national economic productivity as they generate valuable assets for the society and individuals “to enrich their lives- make them better citizens” (Wiess I995). Identity and social capital have been introduced as important mechanisms by which wider benefits are generated.

Both these kinds of capital are different from human capital and are not reducible to it. Therefore, conceptual models of wider benefits are necessarily more complex and require an inter-disciplinary approach, including such disciplines or traditions as education, economics, developmental psychology and sociology. Insights and analyses from all of these disciplines are necessary to conceptualise and empirically assess the wider benefits of education and general and vocational education and training particular.

Research suggests that the wider benefits of learning are wide-ranging – multilevel, spanning health, wellbeing, crime, social mobility, parenting and social cohesion. This has important implications for pedagogy, curricula, selection processes. teacher training, professionalisation, advice and guidance and the interventions of different policies.

Although the recognition of these wider benefits of learning is long-standing, the evidence for such benefits has been insufficiently precise to offer clear guidance to researchers and policy makers. While public expenditure – investments should, where possible, be supported by robust quantitative evidence, not all outcomes of value can be measured to the same extent. Research on the wider benefits of learning therefore needs to broaden the modelling and measurement of the benefits of learning so that the wider outcomes of education can he added to the evaluation picture.

Although there is recognition that the wider benefits may be important, they have often been rather vaguely specified, Underlying the evidence gap is a conceptual gap that has severely limited the capacity for measurement and hence evaluation,

The productivity benefits of education are relatively well understood and clear disciplinary foundations exist for their analysis and quantification. The research domains of the wider benefits of learning by contrast are less mapped out and the appropriate techniques are more inter-disciplinary and less well established.

More conceptual work is therefore needed to provide and consolidate the foundations for the development of clear, testable hypotheses.

On the empirical side (Empirical research is a way of gaining knowledge by means of direct and indirect observation or experience. Empirical evidence (the record of one’s direct observations or experiences) can be analysed…

…quantitatively (quantitative research tends to involve a wide range of types of experimentation, measurement and model building but within the direct context of theories, laws and norms in the way of the natural sciences which emphasise validity, reliability and objectivity)….

…or qualitatively (Qualitative research tends to describe and interpret, hence, practitioners are often referred to as “interpretivists”).

Both quantitative and qualitative methods are useful tools to estimate the wider effects and to test conceptual frameworks. (Unquote)

Research is not a  dirty word.

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