Dual-T – Phase II: Project 6 – Collaborative writing to learn procedures

Considering that vocational training involves mastering numerous professional procedures, in order to carry on a procedure accurately, a practitioner should not only master the sequence of steps, the 'How’s', but also the 'Why’s' (Broudy, 1977, Bonner et Walker, 1994). Our conjecture is that apprentices will reach a high mastery of professional procedures through individual or collaborative writing activities that engage them in deeper cognitive processing.

Rido / Fotolia

A second thread of this project concerns e-portfolios as the sum of digital productions made by apprentices in relation to their professional experiences. Productions can be collaborative-and-public, individual-and-public or private.

More specifically, the project will address the following research questions:

  • Do collaborative writing activities promote learning practice-related knowledge, and particularly deep comprehension of the why’s underlying the execution of procedures? This question investigates the processes involved in writing and the role of error analysis.
  • Under which conditions do collaborative writing activities promote deep learning? Conditions here refer to the design of the learning activity and accordingly of functionalities at the computer support level. Particularly, we will investigate the role of scaffolding and collaboration modality (e.g., co-writing vs. peer commenting) and the corresponding computer support.
  • Can e-portfolios foster the apprentices’ professional development, identity and motivation to learn? Particularly, we will investigate whether e-portfolio writing engages students in reflection about their professional skills and development. On a practical side, the project will examine the conditions under which e-portfolios can be effectively integrated in vocational training, and how they allow one to link workplace experience with the competences to be acquired during training.

We worked in the field of commerce with commercial employees. The methodology comprised targeted interventions in selected vocational schools accompanied by regular surveys in addition to targeted measures. Participants responded to a set of questions concerning their experience with a set of new learning activities. The interventions were designed together with teachers and apprenticeship trainers.

First of all, the quality of writing was analysed, in particular the final description of the procedure, comparing to determine whether the writing activities outperformed non-writing activities.

Secondly, we aimed at understanding further the role of an error-based analysis of worked-out examples (Van Merriënboer, 1997; Renkl, 2002; Mwangi and Sweller, 1998) versus an analysis of correct elements as an instructional measure. The writing task was kept as a standard feature.

Thirdly, learning activities on longitudinal collaborative reflexive writing activities over a whole school-year were conducted in different settings developed within an online learning environment called ELGG and specific for portfolio development (Blogs and wiki environments).

Finally, a new e-LLD platform (electronische Lern- und Leistungs-Dokumentation) was structured taking stock of the experiences collected in the first research phase. It is organised as an environment where apprentices write about their professional experiences at the workplace and reflect on that.

Questionnaires were regularly submitted to assess apprentices’ perceived ease of use of the technology, its usefulness and individuals’ satisfaction with the learning activities. In addition, we included items about professional identity and reflective attitude development (e.g. Kember et al., 2000).

Boldrini, E., & Cattaneo, A. (2013). Procedural learning in VET through written identification of errors. Paper presented at the Vocational Education and Training Research: Supporting Teachers, Practitioners and Policy Makers. 3rd Congress on Research in Vocational Education and Training in Switzerland, Zollikofen. Best Paper Award 2013, 1st place.

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