Pedagogical practices of lecturers in automotive mechanics in vocational training in Swaziland: three institutional case studies.
Mokoena, Musa Thabang.
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This thesis explores the pedagogical practices used by lecturers in vocational training programmes for automotive mechanic students in Swaziland. It seeks to determine the process which training institutions use to specialize students into automotive mechanics, the levels of practical abilities students acquire during training and how this can be analysed using existing theories for vocational training. The research involves case studies of three vocational institutions offering automotive mechanics as a specialization in Swaziland, with a focus on the first year of training. Evidence is obtained from semi-structured interviews with lecturers, observations of classroom and workshop activities and course documents, as well as other relevant documents, such as those from the directorate dealing with trade testing. The research is qualitative and follows the descriptive and interpretive research paradigm, using a combination of deductive and inductive reasoning to relate themes that arise from the data to existing theory and to allow new themes that emerge to be explored in their own terms. The research uses the framework for vocational pedagogy developed by Lucas, Spencer and Claxton (2012) as well as other tools found in the literature which facilitate analysis of the theoretical aspects of vocational pedagogy. Using a thematic analysis approach, the research found that lecturers typically relied on exploratory and demonstrative approaches in their lessons. Applying Lucas et al.’s (2012) conceptual framework of six desired vocational outcomes to the pedagogical practices observed in these lessons, the study found that the lecturers’ exploratory and demonstrative approaches focussed primarily on achieving the vocational outcome of routine expertise, while half of the lessons also addressed the vocational outcomes of resourcefulness and craftsmanship. Aspects of the vocational outcome of business-like attitudes were documented to a smaller extent, while the outcomes of wider skills for growth and functional literacies were not observed. The teaching methods that lecturers used most often while teaching first year automotive mechanics students, and which were embedded in their exploratory and demonstrative approaches, were learning by practicing (trial and error), learning by watching, and learning by imitation. These methods are identified in Lucas et al.’s (2012) framework as supporting education within the broader category of physical materials in which automotive mechanics falls. The core method used in the exploratory approach was learning by practicing (trial and error), while when using the demonstrative approach, the lecturers employed the methods learning by watching, learning by imitation, and learning by practicing (trial and error), which all constitute forms of demonstration. The fact that the pedagogical practices used by the lecturers in this study were focused heavily on achieving only vocational outcome – routine capacity –suggests that the lecturers’ existing repertoire of pedagogic practices is inadequate for achieving the remaining five vocational outcomes which Lucas et al (2012) argue are essential for attaining vocational competence in the 21st century. This study proposes that when all six vocational outcomes are achieved in vocational education, a student’s competence may reach the level of transversal abilities – which is only the third of five levels in a student’s epistemic ascent, as conceptualised by Winch (2014). This thus provides for the level of technique for which the first year automotive mechanics lecturer pedagogy prepares students, as well as the second level of skill as conceptualised by Winch (2014). Tied to the pedagogical practices used by lecturers were the contexts that limited their ability to achieve the six vocational outcomes in their teaching. These included the lecturers’ own backgrounds, in terms of their vocational education and exposure to research-informed pedagogies, the demographics of the learners who study automotive mechanics and the limited resources available for vocational training and lack of workplace attachment opportunities available to students.