Higher level teaching degrees and VET

So as many of you are aware there has been some new research which has come out about degree qualifications and teaching in VET.  Now it is important to note that I have not at this point had an opportunity to look over the entire study and the conclusions that it draws, however given the information which is available there are at least some questions I think are worth airing.

Firstly however a comment, I always find it interesting when academics suggest that VET needs better teaching qualifications when most academics don’t have any formal teach qualifications at all, they are simply experts (they have a PhD or similar) in their field. So I always tend to think that if University ‘teachers’ are considered to be capable because they have experience in their field, why is their this suggestion that it should be different in VET. Some if not most of the VET people who get the best outcomes for their student are those with the deepest industry experience and currency.  So with that little comment out of the way.

My first worry here is study size and knowing who it was that the survey was sent to.  570 and 360 respondents out of a supposedly 80,000 strong workforce seems a little low to me to be jumping to conclusions from.  I mean that is after all less than 1% of the total workforce.  My other initial concern is who it was sent to.  I don’t think I ever remember seeing anything about this survey anywhere or anyone at all mentioning that it was underway.  I could be wrong or my memory could be going, but if anyone out there got an invitation to respond to the survey let me know I would be really interested.  I am interested because, often these studies do not cover what could be called a definitive cross-section of the industry.  I am reminded of some research done around supporting students with disabilities which was presented a NCVER No Frills a number of years back, where it turned out that the researcher had only spoken to TAFE providers about how they dealt with disabled student and when asked why she had not contacted any non-public providers her utterly ill-informed answer was ‘private providers don’t deal with students with disabilities so there was no point in asking them’.  Now I am not saying something like that has occurred in this survey, but it would be really interesting to see if all of the parts of the sector had been able to give input and if it had covered all of the states.

Now I come to the real question I have about this paper, what is the evidence for a statement like  “Whether it was in VET pedagogy or something else, a degree or above really made a difference to things like a teacher’s professionalism, their contribution to the organisation and a deep understanding of the necessity of audit procedures.”  Is it just anecdotal or is there something more substantive.  Is it based on the response from teachers themselves saying they thought it made a difference or is there some other more shall we say robust data, or even feedback from their managers and employers about how their professionalism or contribution increased as a result of undertaking a higher degree.  I mean the cynic in me always says, if I had paid a significant sum of money for a degree and someone asked me if it was worthwhile, people are mostly going to say yes, even if it wasn’t just to appear to not appear to have made an error in judgement.

All that aside however, it is important to note that I am not against people in VET getting higher level degrees, nor am I against the concept of these degrees. I do however think that any change in policy to suggest that higher level qualifications become the standard or the entry point should be resisted wholeheartedly.  What VET needs is people who are highly experienced and appropriately qualified in their fields, who are passionate about passing that knowledge on to students and consistently ensure that they are current and well versed in industry practice.  Then we need to provide them with appropriate training qualifications to be able to effectively pass that information on and to assess the competence of students effectively.  That is what this sector needs not more people with degrees, who haven’t actually been in the industry for years because they have been to busy getting their degree.

Here’s an idea, before any more academics tell the VET sector what is good for it and that having university teaching degrees will raise the standard of teaching, how about we change university policy and force all academics who are teaching at university to have higher level teaching degrees and lets see how well that goes down.  I still remember that idiot academic last year complaining that he wasn’t being allowed to teach in the VET sector because he didn’t have a certificate IV TAE, even though he had a PhD in his field.  Just because you have  PhD in something doesn’t mean you can actually teach what you know to anyone.

Anyway that’s just my opinion.


About pauldrasmussen
Paul Rasmussen is one of Australia’s most widely read Vocational Education and Training Commentators. He provides deep, unbiased analysis and insights not only on topical issues, but also on the underlying structure and policy which supports the industry. His writing and analysis has been praised for its uncompromising and thought provoking style and its ability to focus on the issues of real importance to the sector. He has advised various government departments and ministers, training providers, public and private organisations, not for profits and small to medium enterprises on the VET sector and the issues and opportunities facing it. He is one of Australia’s most awarded learning professionals and a regular speaker at a range of conventions and forums. His extensive experience in vocational education, and learning and development coupled with formal qualifications in philosophy, ethics, business and education management allow Paul to provide a unique view of the road ahead and how to navigate it.

5 Responses to Higher level teaching degrees and VET

  1. Wayne Carney says:

    Excellent work and comments as Usual Sir well done.

  2. Michelle Kenny says:

    I have been in the industry 16 years, starting as a trainer and moving in to management. This year I enrolled in uni after encountering an slight undercurrent of prejudice because I did not have a degree, (Couple of diplomas and countless certificates obviously don’t matter). I knew my stuff and never struggled to find a job, it was just how I felt. I obtained advanced standing for a Bachelor of Training and Development, leaving me 8 subjects to do. Four subjects in, boy it is dull, I already know this stuff. Evidenced by all the High Distinctions I’ve achieved so far 🙂

    • pauldrasmussen says:

      Unfortunately Michelle, yours i a quite common story. As one moves up the food chain so to speak the pressure to have commensurate pieces of paper to indicate that you can do what it is that you do, seem to take on much greater importance, probably than they should in my opinion. So people are somewhat forced to go through stuff that they already know and already do to get a piece of paper that says that they know it. I guess the only hope is that when we do things like this we actually manage to pick up something of value along the way.

  3. Gabriel Oriti says:

    George thank you for starting a conversation regarding this article – I do agree with you that teaching qualifications as opposed to trainer qualifications have a different perspective
    Whilst I have both and have taught across primary, secondary, VET and University (albeit) guest lecturer and tutored at uni the usefulness of teaching strategies, student management, questioning and preparation of meaningful assessment pieces has become, in my opinion, slightly less significant in current trainer/assessor training programs.
    Given that qualifications are offered in increasingly more flexible modes and the emphasis for learning is being directed toward the learner (as is should) to me it seems, that having leacturers, teachers, trainers providing expert knowledge less critical to learning occuring. To me that is the question to ponder, that and the techniques that all the above need to generate interest and motivation from whomever they are involved with.
    I would welcome your thoughts
    But I would definitely like to know more details of the sample size of that survey too.
    Have a great day – gabriel

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