Vocational educators: Understanding practice at work.
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This chapter uses sociohistorical and sociocultural theory to propose a means to understand and identify what comprises competence in vocational educators' practice. In doing so it does not aim to be prescriptive. Only when the perspectives that contribute to a view of what comprises the occupational practice in the particular cultural setting (e.g. nation, state, educational system) and the situational requirements arising from the particular manifestation of practice have been accounted for can the requirements for competent performance be understood fully. Accordingly, this chapter aims to describe a means by which these requirements can be identified and described. The conceptual basis is founded within what has been described as cultural-historical activity theory (Cole 1998) or what Wertsch (1991) refers to as the sociocultural approach. An analysis based on two lines of social development are deployed in this account; one informing the occupational view and one the situational requirements. The culturally determined need for vocational educators is found in sociohistorical and sociocultural sources. Together, these sources provide the goals for, procedures and conceptions of vocational educators' practice and inform how they have evolved into a particular sociocultural practice or occupation (Scribner 1985). The delineation of the occupation permits an understanding of how vocational educators' practice is distinct from those in other educational sectors (e.g. compulsory or higher education). Moreover, it explains also how the occupational practice, and therefore what is required for performance, differs across countries according to their cultural needs. The occupational conception is typically that which is used as a basis for identifying the content and intents of courses that prepare or develop further vocational educators, or as a basis for understanding their work for employment and promotional purposes within a cultural setting (e.g. nation, state). However, this conception is unlikely to be singular or uniformly agreed up. Instead, within the cultural setting, different interests may well have distinct views about what comprises the occupation role and should constitute its primary focus. So the conception of the occupation is likely to be contested. However, while deeply informative and purposeful in its own right, this historically and culturally constructed conception of vocational educators' work is an ideal that is disembedded from actual practice, yet is prescriptive. Only when occupational practice is manifested (embedded) in particular circumstances is it possible to identify the actual requirement for performance at work. This is because situational requirements shape the basis by which work has to be conducted and judgements made about performance (Billett 1998). What may be deemed competent performance in one setting may be quite inappropriate in another. Accordingly, it is not possible to advance a view about what comprises vocational educators' practice and performance without accounting for these situational requirements.
International Perspectives on Competence in the Workplace: Research Policy and Practice
Copyright Springer-Verlag 2001. The attached file is reproduced here in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. The original publication is available at www.springerlink.com