There has been limited critical debates on contextual factors, such as the influence of teacher perceptions on learning experiences and the way vocational education and training is understood and practiced.
While the teaching and learning contexts in these commercial-for-profit, private VET providers are complex, characterised by a multiplicity of views and perceptions and influenced by policy discourses, it can be argued that any pedagogy that is premised on the deficit view of international students and their learning contexts may not support learning.
by Ramos PAsu RA, PhD Candidate, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC, Australia
Pasura, Rinos. Realities of private VET practice through VET teachers’ lenses: Learning contexts for international students in private VET in Australia [online].International Journal of Training Research, The, Vol. 12, No. 1, Apr 2014: 29-44. http://bit.ly/1JCRZbP
Since the introduction off the competitive vocational education and training market model in the Australia in the 1990s, the growth and participation of international students and private providers has led to sustained debates about training standards in commercial for-proft, private registered training organisations.
Much of this debate has been negative and critical, focusing on providers seen as dodgy and international students’ permanent residence are reasons for participating in the Australian Vocational Education and Training sector (Smith, 2010, Tran and Nyland, 2013).
This article argues that this focus has limited critical debates on other contextual factors, particularly the influence of teacher perceptions on learning experiences and the way vocational education and training is understood and practised.
Questionable pedagogic practices
This study has provided insight into the perceptions held by VET teachers in the design, delivery and assessment of their courses to overseas students in a sample of commercial-for-profit, private RTOs in Melbourne. The findings suggest that a trend is emerging amongst VET teachers which negatively characterises international students and their learning contexts in commercial-for-profit, private RTOs in the two studies using the education—migration lens only. While the
scope of what is reported here is limited, the interview and written questionnaire data at least demonstrate that the issues driving teacher perspectives in these commercial-for-profit, private RTOs in the study are complex and contentious.
The key concerns cited by the teachers were inadequate teaching and learning resources, the nature of Training Packages and the CBT approach to teaching and learning, absence of workplace learning, poor level of English language
proficiency, and questionable pedagogic practices in the delivery and assessment of workplace learning, poor level of English language proficiency, and questionable pedagogic practices in the delivery and assessment of the delivery of assessment and training.
While acknowledging that conditions under which trainers delivered and assessed training in these private VET providers in the two studies were questionable, there is growing evidence in the literature `that the quality of teaching has far and away the largest influence on student achievement’ (Barber et al., 2009, p. 6). Therefore, there is merit in the argument that – notwithstanding other situated factors influencing events in the commercial for-profit, private providers – standards of teacher work, perceptions and expectations can critically impact on the quality and relevance of` their approaches to teaching and learning (Anderson et al., 2004; Barber et al.,2009; Gallagher & Anderson, 2005).
This article has shown that a pattern of critical and reflective perspectives about international students and their learning environments is emerging but is less critical of teacher pedagogic practices. The findings reflect that there are
broader ‘other-ing’ discourses in this sector about international students and their learning environments, which have the potential to influence teacher choices and ultimately international students` outcomes.
By attempting to assimilate international students into the ways things are done in the host institutions in Australia, VET teachers are focused on what the students are and not what they do. In this instance, the learning deficits presented by international students are providing teachers with a convenient, stereotypical way of` interpreting their behaviour instead of` the quality of their learning. This focus may lead us to avoid critical evaluation of the teacher`s pedagogic choices and practices.
Hence we cannot fully understand VET practices in this sector unless we acknowledge that international students in the study participate in
these courses because these activities are meaningful to themselves and their families. It can be argued that at present:
much of the debate on VET for international students has been negative and critical, focusing on RTOs seen as ‘dodgy’ or on the activities of overseas agents of education providers (Smith, 2010a, p. 1).
Indeed this focus has failed to problematise VET teachers` attitudes and perceptions. Yet, research has shown that teachers are by far the largest contributor to students` performance and, in this instance, are hugely implicated in the delivery of VET courses to overseas students in the commercial-for-profit, private RTOs in this study.
Overall, while the teaching and learning contexts in these commercial-for-profit, private VET providers are complex, characterised by a multiplicity of views and perceptions and influenced by policy discourses, it can be argued that any
pedagogy that is premised on the deficit view of international students and their learning contexts may not support learning (Biggs, 1999).
Therefore, VET teachers and indeed VET providers need to re-examine their own perceptions and critically assess their practices to ensure that they are relevant to the learning needs of international students.