Satisfaction with VET overall relies strongly on satisfaction with teaching quality, which is continuously being improved by the sector. NCVER has recently released research on the opportunities and challenges for building capability and quality of teaching in the VET sector in Australia. Here’s a breakdown of the key findings.
According to NCVER, quality is generally defined as the degree to which successful outcomes are achieved against a set of desired benchmarks. In VET teaching, quality means students, employers, government, industry, stakeholders, and the broader community, are confident in the VET system. The outcome of achieving quality in VET teaching shows as workers are delivered to industry with the skills, knowledge and understanding to the levels of competence needed.
IBSA’s ‘VET Practitioner Capability Framework’ (2013) breaks down capabilities into four parts:
Quality in VET teaching needs to cover these four areas to be successful.
One issue affecting quality is the status of VET, and its flow-on implications for the status of VET teachers.
Although there’s some value in implementing mandatory registration of VET teachers in terms of potentially raising the status of VET teaching, many don’t believe it’s necessary. The benefits of mandatory registration are questionable to the majority of stakeholders due to costs being high in a heavily casualised workforce, increased barriers to industry experts’ desire to teach, and more resources being withdrawn from those areas concerned with materially improving the quality of VET teaching. Additionally, compliance is already required by the Standards for RTOs and by some industry regulator standards.
Building on the discussion around mandatory registration and the Standards, the question of whether VET teachers should have higher qualifications is also relevant. According to NCVER’s findings, managers believe a good VET teacher:
VET teachers are also expected to have up-to-date industry expertise.
Supporting these attributes, research has found that teachers with degrees in their discipline were ‘substantially more confident in their teaching and in their explanations of the various elements of courses’. For teachers with degrees in VET pedagogy, they were better able to express ‘nuances’ in their teaching and showed more empathy for learners, naturally leading to better learner evaluations.
NCVER suggests the higher education sector should re-enter the VET teacher development market using blended delivery approaches and a focus on micro-credentials or smaller skill sets that can be scaled-up to a teaching qualification. Aside from the benefit of potential partnerships between VET and higher education institutions, smaller units of learning for teachers seeking qualifications above Certificate IV and Diploma courses could support a staged approach to teacher development and increase attraction for further training.
CPD and other learning opportunities are valued by VET teachers, however the sector has fallen short in this area – especially for part-time and casual teachers. Access and participation in CPD is hindered for part-time and casual teachers compared to permanent teachers, and leadership and managerial staff. Although funding plays a substantial role in this issue, casual teachers are viewed as more ‘peripheral’, leading to less support for their CPD. Figuring out who is responsible for supporting and funding this ongoing development is a question VET needs to solve.
According to NCVER, enabling factors of successful PD systems include:
Industry expertise is highly valued in VET, however, NCVER found some VET teachers don’t have enough available time to maintain industry currency due to heavy workloads. On the other hand, the question of whether being an active VET teacher should be counted towards industry currency is an interesting one. In NCVER’s Vocational Voices podcast, Charles Sturt University researcher Linda Simon implied that if a VET teacher is working with their learners and with local industries, it should count towards their currency. Another factor is that RTOs must demonstrate to ASQA that their teachers have ‘current knowledge and skills in vocational training and learning that informs their training and assessment’. This shows that VET teachers do already maintain their industry currency, and this is regulated.
VET has experienced difficulties attracting industry professionals into teaching roles, due to heavy workloads, multiple admin duties and tabulation requirements, time-consuming compliance documentation and the cost of upgrading to the Certificate IV in TAE. Removing or reducing these burdens, and recognising that VET teachers are dual professionals – both an industry expert and a teacher – through support strategies can help to attract and build a capable VET workforce.
One important way VET can attract industry experts is through developing and maintaining close relationships with employers, however attracting industry experts from high paying occupations to lower paying teaching roles is a challenge. One way to combat this challenge is to promote the positive aspects of VET teaching, such as a good work-life balance, and the range of career path options available, including specialisations.
The funding available for teacher development has been affected by the ‘long and steady decline’ in funding for VET, particularly by states and territories. Many feel governments, RTOs and individuals should share the responsibility for improving the quality of VET teaching, and the CEOs of RTOs should drive this process.
NCVER found that well-funded CPD systems are highly regarded and need to be diversified for various industry specialisations and teaching contexts. Funding models that allow sufficient resources for RTOs to invest in teacher CPD, including in a comprehensive range of teacher support services, is needed.
VET faces many challenges, but also holds many opportunities for building capability and quality in VET teaching.
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