Anthea Taylor & Gina Koczberski (2001). They give you a chance: An Evaluation of the Family of Trades VET in Schools Programme. Perth, WA: Chalkface Press. (CIE Monograph Series, No 3)World-wide changes in the structure of labour markets, rapid growth in new technologies and the decline of a number of industries have resulted in a substantial increase in unemployment and a decrease in the availability of unskilled jobs. As a result, government policy shifted towards raising the skills of the Australian workforce, and assisting those young people who were facing almost permanent exclusion from the labour market. This has resulted in a significant change in the training sector. One consequence of this has been the trend towards increasing school retention rates and the provision of vocational education and training programs in schools that aim to help young people meet the challenges of the world of work. These programs integrate school-based learning with industry training.
The cross-sectoral Building and Construction Industry Family of Trades (FOT) VET in Schools Program is one such program operating in five secondary schools in the Perth metropolitan area of Western Australia. The program involves a partnership between the South East Metropolitan Consultative Committee (SEMACC), the South East Metropolitan College of Technical and Further Education (TAFE), the secondary schools and the Building and Construction industry. Its aim is to provide Year 11 students with valuable industry experience and contacts, enable students to make informed choices, reduce attrition rates, fast forward students into apprenticeships and increase their employability.
The aptly named monograph, They Give You a Chance, by Anthea Taylor and Gina Koczberski, is an evaluation of the program during its first year of operation (March and November 1999). The name succinctly summarizes a key finding of the study - that students should be given what many of them implied was a chance to shake off the baggage of a record of anti-social behaviour and under-achievement at school and prove to themselves and others what they could do.
The study contributes important data to current debates in the VET field, namely: the status of VET in secondary schools; the relationship and articulation between VET and general secondary education; accreditation and transfer; the provision of pathways to employment and training; and duty-of-care obligations with outsourcing to RTOs. The findings support other research (Ryan, 1998) that there are significant differences in school and work, and of the attraction and benefits of a more adult environment for students. TAFE and SWL provide the chance for students to experience and respond to more adult types of relationships. What employers valued most, however, was not the acquisition of employment-relevant skills and knowledge but, rather, the students' transition to and early enculturation into the employment environment. Another important aspect to emerge was the program's capacity to provide a learning environment at a critical time in young people's lives that seemed to foster the development of maturity and employment-relevant attitudes and behaviours. Not only did the program provide the majority of students with valuable exposure to and the opportunity to build industry contacts but it also assisted them to clearly identify and establish vocationally-oriented pathways.
The report is well structured, clear and logically presented with a good introduction that sets the context of the study and what the evaluation aims to do. It clearly identifies the goals of the program and the role of the FOT program as an entry-level program within the VET system. To address the broad aims of the evaluation, both quantitative and qualitative data is collected from the five key stakeholders (students, parents, school VET coordinators, TAFE coordinators and instructors, and employers). In addition, data was sought from various other personnel responsible for VET in schools. A variety of data collection techniques was used including surveys, in-depth semi-structured interviews, and telephone interviews. Observational data from each of the four sites were also collected and triangulated with interview and survey data. A minor criticism one could make is that the theoretical perspective of the research methodology is not clearly defined. The study appears to follow a multi-site case studies approach which is generally well suited for this type of program evaluation. Another point to be made is that although the researchers state that both quantitative and qualitative methods were utilised for data collection and analysis, quantitative data is restricted to basic techniques such as percentages. Thus the methodology is located principally within the qualitative paradigm.
The researchers acknowledge that the study would have been strengthened by using a control group of non-FOT students, a comparison between different VET partnership models, greater emphasis on data-gathering with respect to students' general participation and performance, and larger parent and employer samples. However, due to constraints, these considerations were beyond the scope of the study. Notwithstanding these, the methodology appears robust. There appears to be a high degree of internal consistency, ample triangulation of data sources and methods, and a degree of fit with the literature.
All in all, this is an important and timely study which should be of interest to all stakeholders, and particularly policy makers in the VET and schools sector, to inform the current review into post-compulsory education in Western Australian secondary schools and continued reforms in entry-level vocational education and training.
Dean, John Curtin College of the Arts, Perth, WA
Ron Chalmers & Tom O'Donoghue. (2001). Inclusivity, the disabled child and teacher strategies: The development of a theory. Perth, WA: Chalkface Press. (CIE Monograph Series, Number 4)The purpose of the research reported in this monograph was to develop a substantive theory of how teachers in rural Western Australia 'manage' the inclusion of a child with severe or profound intellectual disability in their classroom. Early in the monograph, the authors note that "the extensive body of literature extolling the value of 'inclusion' is not complemented by a corresponding body of empirical research literature". In seeking to address this issue, the research has not only made a significant contribution to the research literature pertaining to inclusion. It has also affirmed the value of qualitative methodologies (such as Grounded Theory) as underutilised research techniques in the field of special education.
The monograph describes how a Grounded Theory approach was utilised in the development of a theory of 'selective adaptation' which models the "basic social-psychological process by which regular classroom teachers manage their classroom work when one member of their class has a severe or profound intellectual disability". The theory was based on data that were obtained through a series of classroom observations and semi-structured interviews that were conducted with 11 classroom teachers who were teaching in government primary schools in rural Western Australia. It should be acknowledged however, that of the 11 teachers interviewed in the study, 10 were female, and that five of the teachers had been in their current school for fewer than two years.
The results obtained indicated that these teachers tended not to make radical changes or transformations to their classroom organization, teaching methods or curriculum content when responding to the challenges of managing their classroom work in an 'inclusive' classroom. Rather, where changes are made, they tend to be carefully considered modifications of existing teaching practices (i.e., selective adaptation). The theory developed refers to five stages by which teachers manage their work in an inclusive classroom, namely: Receiving, Accepting, Committing, Adjusting and Appraising.
In the initial stage, teachers become aware that they will be teaching a student with an intellectual disability in their class and begin to gather information about inclusion. The second stage sees teachers consider the implications of inclusion for themselves and for others. In the third stage, teachers develop a consistent point-of-view about inclusion. The fourth stage involves the selection of aspects of their classroom work that will be modified in reaction to their experiences, or through pre-emptive initiation. The final stage, 'Appraising' involves the teacher evaluating the effectiveness of the adjustments that were made in order to manage the inclusion process.
The development of such a theory is essential for further understanding and facilitating the inclusion process and clearly has important implications for both regular and special educators, school psychologists and other professionals involved in the education of children with special needs. In developing a substantive theory of "selective adaptation" the authors have not only added significantly to the empirical research literature on inclusion, but also addressed the apparent bias toward quantitative methodology in special education research. Thus the present research would appear to address what would seems to be a major omission from the special education literature. While the existing body of literature pertaining to special education is extensive, much of this literature would appear to be dominated by a focus on quantitative methodology, often to the exclusion of alternate methodologies, which the present research has clearly demonstrated, are equally appropriate to the study of special education.
Dr John West
The University of Western Australia
A new series of monographs from the Centre for Inclusive Education located within the Graduate School of Education at The University of Western Australia. The series aims to publish seminal papers and research reports within the broad context of education on topics that highlight aspects of inclusivity and showcase research design.
Monograph Number 1 ($25)
Dimensions of diversity: Lectures in the 1999 CIE Distinguished visitors programme
Reaching out to all learners: Some opportunities and challenges, Mel Ainscow, University of Manchester
Emotional geographies of teaching, Andy Hargreaves, University of Toronto
New youth, new economies, new inequalities! Stephen J. Ball, King's College, London
Disability, empowerment and the struggle for inclusion, Len Barton, University of Sheffield
Monograph Number 2 ($22.50)
'Up the hill and over the back fence': A case study of the literacy and numeracy needs and priorities of university oriented regional TAFE students. Anne Chapman, The University of Western Australia & David Pyvis, Curtin University of Technology
Others in the series ($22.50 ea)
'They give you a chance': An evaluation of the family of trades VET in schools programme, Anthea Taylor & Gina Koczberski ($22.50)
Inclusivity, the disabled child and teacher strategies: The development of a theory, Ron Chalmers & Tom O'Donoghue ($22.50)