Vocational Education and Training: policy, pedagogy and research

Room 423b, School of Education Building R19
Social Sciences, Students, Teaching
Friday 21st March 2014 (10:30-15:30)
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Further information and to register is online at:

The BERA Post-compulsory and Lifelong Learning SIG has organised three seminars over this academic year to celebrate the 40th anniversary of BERA, focusing on Vocational Education and Training: Policy, Pedagogy and Research. The second seminar, which will take place in Birmingham, will be in association with the Centre for Higher Education Equity and Access (CHEEA).  

Keynote speakers

Professor James Avis (University of Huddersfield)

“It’s all about work”: New Times, Post-Fordism and Vocational Pedagogy

The paper brings together two sets of arguments. The first addresses particular constructions of western economies, which suggest that there is something potentially progressive in knowledge based economies. Here there is an echo with analyses developed in the 1990s, if not before, heralding ‘New Times’ and Post-Fordism, that for a brief period posited radical possibilities. The paper interrogates these arguments which in turn influence the way in which vocational pedagogies are conceived. The second set of arguments addresses the manner in which we make sense of vocational pedagogy. The paper seeks to validate disciplinary knowledge but places this in an expansive context that seeks to promote access to ‘really useful knowledge’.

Professor Ann-Marie Bathmaker (University of Birmingham)

Bringing practice back in: constructions of knowledge in vocational education. What is meant by knowledge in vocational education?

In England, concerns about the content and purposes of vocational education reached a crisis point with the publication of the Wolf Review (2011). The English context reflects a widespread policy rhetoric of a global knowledge-based economy, which places increasing importance on extended participation in education and training by young people, and the achievement of higher level skills and qualifications by all citizens. Vocational education and training are seen to play a major role in this context, and have been used in many countries to achieve policy goals of increasing participation and raising achievement. However, the purposes and content of vocational education are fraught with difficulty. Debates about whether vocational education represents diversity or diversion to accommodate students from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds highlight just some of the challenges involved in addressing ‘knowledge’ in this context.
This presentation takes up the idea that we need to ‘bring knowledge back in’ (Michael Young, 2008), and argues that insights from the micro level of practice must also inform our understandings of the constructions of knowledge in vocational education. Drawing on both previous research which has critiqued the content and purposes of vocational education in England, as well as two case examples from a recent study of the micro level of practice, the presentation explores how values and expectations about legitimate, worthwhile knowledge in vocational education are shaped in different ways by official stakeholders, teachers/trainers and learners. This research suggests that considerations of knowledge in vocational education need to engage with the insights and experiences of micro level practices, which force us to recognise the complexity and contradictions involved in the content and purposes of vocational education that have not been swept aside by constant policy reform.

We look forward to welcoming colleagues to reflect on the past, present and future of this diverse and fast changing sector and engage in debate on how we may take forward research in this field. This seminar will be of interest to practitioners, leaders, researchers and policy makers.

For further information and to register online, please visit:

Cost is £20 for BERA members and £45 for non-BERA members