Inherent contradictions of the dual VET system Challenge that has been researched since the 1960’s in the dual education system in Denmark
Challenges in designing for horizontal learning - in the Danish VET system
Challenges in designing
for horizontal learning
- in the Danish VET system
Marianne Riis, Palle Bergstedt, Claus. B. Jørgensen,
Hans H. Koch & Carsten L. Rasmussen
National Centre for Vocational Pedagogy
Designs for Learning – 5th International conference, AAU-CPH, May 19th, 2016
Research purpose and RQs
Vertical and horizontal learning in the dual VET
Boundary crossing and boundary objects
Case study, ethnographic interviews, CHAT
■ Preliminary findings
■ Future research
Apprentices often experience trade
vocational school and trade practice as
very dissimilar contexts with different
norms and guidelines for action.
Tanggaard (2007, p. 453)
Research purpose and RQs
1. In what ways and why do VET teachers use ICT-
based artefacts as boundary objects to design
for boundary crossing and continuity in and
across different contexts?
2. What didactic and pedagogic recommendations can
support VET schools' future work with establishing
enhanced school-workplace interaction through the
use of ICT?
VET teacher-students (diploma – NQF 6)
Vertical and horizontal learning
Focus on learning in an single system
Narrow, hierarchical view of knowledge and
Transfer is the dominant metaphor
Focus on learning in and across multiple systems
Broad, multidimensional view of knowledge and
Transition/crossing is the dominant metaphor
Note! Both approaches are necessary
Engeström et al. (1995), Tuomi-Grön et al. (2003)
Boundary crossing and
Boundaries can lead to discontinuity in action or interaction
Boundary crossing is a concept that has been proposed as an
enriched notion of transfer
Boundary crossing includes ongoing, two-sided actions and
interactions in and across practices
Boundary crossing acknowledges conflicts and contradictions as
potential for learning and development
Boundary objects refer to artefacts bridging/mediating the
crossing – analog or digital
Boundary crossing is about finding productive ways of relating
intersecting dissimilar practices
(Akkerman & Bakker, 2012 & 2011)
Multiple case study
Three dominant strands: Technical*, Business and Social & Health
4 schools – teachers, students/apprentices and trainers
Interviews (different types), observations and design experiments
Six ethnographic interviews (inspired by Spradley, 1979)
Purpose: gain insight into the VET teachers’ experiences and
vocabulary regarding boundary crossing and their use of boundary
objects and ICT
*) Includes both ”Technology, construction and transportation” and ”Food, farming and experiences”
Sociocultural CHAT inspired
Cultural Historical Activity Theory (3rd gen. ) - as framework for
interviews and subsequent analysis
Analytical unit: minimum of two systems, focus on all elements,
incl. boundary objects contradictions
Predominant focus on and design for transfer as
part of a vertical learning process (individual, tasks
and identical elements)
All interviewed VET teachers use ICT
Mediating tools within the educational/school
Video differs as preferred tool regarding the
The digital ”Student plan” – administrative tool,
not a boundary object
Horizontal learning and boundary crossing is
perceived as a didactic design challenge
“Our job is to give them
[the students] theory,
and then the companies
will give them the
“You know: the companies
aren’t educational institutions
– they want to make money
off an apprentice. But that
also means that they’re
interested in getting good
“We [the teachers] have no
influence on the learning
goals in the apprenticeship
“Unfortunately, when I let
the students go on
Friday [last day of the
school period], I don’t
necessarily meet them
The VET student perspective
(… ) apprentices do not, per se, perceive any gap
between theory and practice. Rather, the
difference (...) concerns the seemingly conflicting
emphasis on what makes theoretical sense at
trade vocational school and what makes practical
sense in the workplace.
Tanggaard, 2007, p. 453-454
How can we move (the teachers) beyond one-
time, one-directional transfer conceptions?
How can we support the teachers’ work with
transforming contradictions into teaching and
For whom is boundary crossing and/or
discontinuity a challenge – (how) is it a
If ICT is the solution – what was the
Analysis of ICTs as boundary
objects (cf. Carlile, 2002 & 2004)
Interviews with VET students
Interviews with VET trainers
Focus on sociomateriality
Interviews with and observations of
VET teachers and VET students
acting with technology!
Inspired by Dirckinck-Holmfeld (2006)
If transfer or rather boundary crossing in VET is
based on ongoing, two-sided actions and interactions
in and across practices, then perhaps it should be seen
as a guiding didactic design principle for all teaching
and learning processes
– and not just an occasional phenomenon?!
– follow the project (in Danish)
References – cited in the paper
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and Learning. 5:153-173
Akkerman, S.F. & Bakker, A. (2011). Boundary crossing and boundary objects. Review of Educational Research. June
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- for this presentation
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