A Study of Tutors' and Students' Perceptions and Experiences of Full-time College Courses and Apprenticeships in Plumbing
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
There has been an increasing amount of interest shown in vocational education and apprenticeships in the early twenty-first century by successive governments and other parties connected with occupational training. However, the English further education sector has been described as ‘chronically under-researched’ (James and Biesta, 2007: 7), particularly in regard to narrative accounts of college education and pedagogy (Richardson, 2007) and there has been very little empirical research on pathways into the plumbing profession. This study explored teachers’ and students’ perceptions and experiences of both full-time college courses and apprenticeships in plumbing in order to deepen understanding of these particular types of vocational preparation. It also endeavoured to investigate whether the two different routes into plumbing appeared fit for purpose. Within an interpretive framework, data were collected using two main research methods. Ethnographic snapshot observations were recorded during lessons in three further education colleges and at the workplaces of five plumbing students and formal 1:1 semi-structured interviews were conducted with 15 tutors and 14 students. The data were thematically analysed. From the many issues relating to the opportunities offered and the challenges posed by the different pathways into plumbing that this study identified, three key findings emerged. First, there was strong evidence of a dislocation between theory and practical learning, both within the college setting for full-time students and between the workplace and college settings for apprenticed learners. This had implications for both the quality of learning and the learners’ levels of motivation. Second, the study revealed the importance of supervised work experience that was centred on long-term acquisition of knowledge and relationship development for apprentices with support from their college tutors and co-workers. Finally, the findings showed the importance of authentic assessment. It was found that simulations in college could not adequately replicate the experience of doing the job in the real world. Given the inherent risks and problems regularly encountered in the plumbing profession, this signalled significant health and safety implications.
PhD in Education