Constructions of knowledge through practice in general vocational education in England

Ann-Marie Bathmaker

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

    1 Citation (Scopus)


    General vocational education for young people has been overshadowed by high profile policy interest in apprenticeship and participation in higher education in England under recent governments. Nevertheless, though not at the centre of public attention, the quality, content and purpose of vocational education has been subject to major national review and reform in the past five years. In 2011 the Wolf Report was published, whose purpose was 'To consider how we can improve vocational education for 14-19 year olds and thereby promote successful progression into the labour market and into higher level education and training routes.' (Wolf, 2011:19). In 2015, the UK's Department of Business, Innovation and Skills announced that the 'Technical and professional education revolution continues', with plans to introduce twenty new professional and technical routes, following a review led by Lord Sainsbury reporting in 2016 . These reviews draw attention to the question of what knowledge should form part of general vocational qualifications, and how it is decided. This chapter looks at this question, by examining how knowledge is constructed in and through the practices of teaching and learning in general vocational education in England. The term general vocational education is used to refer to qualifications that are associated with a broad vocational area, that are intended to be applied or practice-oriented, but which primarily take place in educational settings.

    The chapter is based on the Knowledge in Vocational Education project, a one year research project (2010-2011) funded by Edexcel, one of the main qualifications awarding bodies in England. The aim of the project was to investigate what is meant by 'knowledge' in general vocational education qualifications in England, who defines knowledge in this context, and how this is translated into practice. The project involved two phases. The first phase focused on the role of stakeholders in defining knowledge in general vocational education at levels 2 and 3 (equivalent to levels 4 and 5 in the European qualifications framework2), while the second phase examined how teachers construct knowledge, and translate their constructions into everyday teaching and learning practices. A previous paper based on phase 1 of the project showed how there was confusion amongst a range of different stakeholders over what constituted knowledge in general vocational qualifications, and who defines it (Bathmaker, 2013). This chapter is based on phase 2 of the project, and considers how the re­contextualisation of knowledge through the practices of teaching and learning contributes to constructions of knowledge (Evans et al., 2010), and is strongly influenced by perceptions of the needs and capabilities of the students participating in these pathways.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationVocationalism in further and higher education
    Subtitle of host publicationPolicy, programmes and pedagogy
    EditorsSai Loo, Jill Jameson
    ISBN (Print)978-1138947047
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016


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