Critical education in vocational subjects? Civic knowledge in vocational programmes, policy documents and classroom practice
This project aims to develop an understanding of how education towards critical
thinking is made available for the vocational students in the work oriented courses of VET.
Most research on civic education is in the general subjects, often focusing on social science. Research in vocational education and training (VET) programmes in upper secondary school is no exception. However, Swedish policy in vocational education goes in the direction towards more workplace-like education and most courses in the VET curriculum has a direct connection to future work.
This project aims to develop an understanding of how education towards critical thinking is made available for the vocational students in the work oriented courses of VET. The main interest concerns the possible and actual role of educational content in enabling students to an understanding of their own position in larger structures; teaching in processes of influence (argumentation, participation in associations and unions) and education towards identity development in those subjects.
The methodology rests on policy ethnography in order to generate knowledge concerning (i) the extent and nature of the learning processes that can be characterized as civic education in VET programmes (ii) what actors are involved in these activities (students, teachers, school, workplace training etcetera) (iii) how young people acquire and value the civic educative processes, and (iv) to what extent and why (i) and (iii) vary between program and school context. The projects acknowledges variables as social background, gender and knowledge traditions through the sample and choice of theory. The problem investigated is situated between, on the one hand, socialization/conformation, and, on the other hand, change/emancipation. Our attention is directed to what forms of critical thinking that are made available to the students. Thus, we seek to investigate the occurrences of a content that enables the students to become active and autonomous subjects with means to influence of their life, work-place and society. The project relies on a selective ethnographic model where the pedagogic practice is investigated through classroom observations and interviews with students and teachers in three schools and three vocational programmes (six classes), and policy investigated thought analysis of the curriculum guidelines governing these programmes. The programmes are selected due to gender since it well known that traditional gender patterns steers students choices to vocational programmes and the gender dominance of a sex seems to develop quite different pedagogic practices, which might influence the content of their civic education. Observations are made in two week periods for each class, once in year 1 and one in year 2. In year 2 we also observe the practice in a selection of work-place training positions. In year three we observe the process of the final exam project work. In connection to the observations interviews are conducted with students and teachers. The design is made with the pursuit of being able to analyze possible progression in critical thinking and the actual and potential role of critical thinking in the work-oriented parts of the curriculum for VET programmes. It is of great importance to generate knowledge of the possibilities for VET students to access and acquire
critical thinking in the work-oriented content that has come to increasingly dominate the curriculum for VET. So far this is unexplored. Without knowing how critical thinking is distributed through work-oriented subjects and practices, we have only partial understanding of civic education in upper secondary VET.