Mucking In and Mucking Out: Vocational Learning in Animal Care

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The paper draws upon empirical material from a two year qualitative research project called Learning and Working in Further Education Colleges in Wales. The paper briefly outlines the key research questions, research design and data collection strategies. The following sections draw on observational, interview and journal data from the learning sites and the teachers and students who work and learn in them are used to show how college based learning (CBL) is also work based learning (WBL) . We argue that to differentiate between CBL and WBL in this particular case is unhelpful and three separate contexts are identified to show where learning typically occurs for students of animal care. The discussion draws upon Lave and Wenger’s (1991) ‘communities of practice’ and Fuller and Unwin’s (2004) notion of ‘expansive learning environments’ to illustrate the ways in which full time students of animal care undertake valuable real work (albeit mostly unwaged) on farms, in stables and in reptile houses. Characteristics of communities of practice, namely, recognition of distributed expertise, inclusive language and interactions, ways of communicating about animals and nurturing teacher-student and student- student relations are identified.

We differentiate situated learning for vocational students and more fully acknowledge the work based learning which actually occurs in college. The consensual, inclusive language identified in the two departments is briefly explored with examples of anthropomorphism used to illustrate the indexical way staff and students talk about animals. ‘Communities of practice’ is a useful metaphor for thinking about the particular learning cultures of the animal care departments. Both departments are characterised by an ethic of care and staff go to great lengths to ‘look after the whole student’. What unites the students and their teachers is a real passion for animals. This is a prerequisite for winning a place on an Animal Care course.


Keywords: Communities of Practice, Expansive Learning Environments, Vocational Education and Training
Stream: Curriculum and Pedagogy; Student Learning, Learner Experiences, Learner Diversity
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Dr Jane Salisbury

Senior Lecturer in Sociology of Education and Educational Policy, School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University
cardiff, Wales, UK

Jane Salisbury is a Senior lecturer at Cardiff University School of Social Sciences. where she teaches sociology of education, education policy and qualitative research methods to undergraduate and postgraduates. Her research interests centre around post -16 education and training, gender and attainment, the occupational socialisation of teachers and welsh education policy. She has undertaken ethnographic research in adult education programmes, schools, professional training contexts and more recently further education colleges funded by the ESRC as one of the TLRP research projects in Wales. Publications include "Gender, Policy and Educational Change: shifting Agendas in the UK and Europe" (2000)London, Routledge with S. Riddell; ‘ Clients ,Claimants, Learners? The New Deal for 18-24 year olds,’(2004).Journal of Education Policy vol. 19. and “FE teachers talking about learning.”(2008) Research Papers in Education with M. Jephcote.

Dr. Martin Jephcote

Senior Lecturer In Education, School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University
Cardiff, Wales, UK

Martin Jephcote’s work is informed by a social constructionist perspective which underpins his understanding of and research into the construction of knowledge, the processes of learning and education and training policies and practices. He is interested in the contested and evolutionary nature of the construction of pedagogic discourse and the ways in which policies are made and
implemented. In this vein, he drew on and contributed to the area of school subject histories and was the first to make a substantial contribution in the field of school economics. In 'Recontextualising Discourse: Exploring the Workings of the Meso-Level' (2004), he pointed to the functions of the under-researched meso-level in mediating policy and, in 'School Subjects, Subject
Communities and Curriculum Change: the Social Construction of Economics in the School Curriculum' (2007) further illustrated the interplay of power and control. He was principal applicant in an ESRC/TLRP research project called Learning and Working in Further Education in Wales. This research project followed the real-time learning journeys of teachers and students both to provide a contemporary account of further education and to better understand the processes that give rise to learning outcomes of all kinds. He was also a co-researcher in the ESRC/TLRP Learning to Teach in Post-Devolution UK project. This comparative study focused on the processes at work that, since devolution, are giving different shape to initial and early years teacher education across the UK in response to ‘local’ social, economic, cultural, and political circumstances.

Ref: L09P1531