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Estonia: Tandem training beneficial for work-based learning tutors

In January, an innovative cooperation project between Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania was concluded. The TTT4WBL project focused on a novel research-based approach in work-based learning (WBL) – tandem training – for the joint training of Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian VET teachers and company trainers involved in work-based learning (in the project, they are both called WBL tutors).

During the project, a common competence profile of work-based learning (WBL) tutors was developed, and a sample training programme based on the competence profile was piloted. Two-day tandem workshops for WBL tutors were held in each of the three Baltic countries. In Estonia, 208 WBL tutors had completed the training by the end of 2019.

In Estonia, company trainers particularly felt a great need for training. Before and after the training, participants responded to a questionnaire assessing their tutoring skills. Estonian WBL tutors were by far the most self-critical compared to their Latvian and Lithuanian colleagues. 40.4% of Estonian tutors considered their skills low, 48.1% average, and only 11.5% good. After the training, the share of WBL tutors with low-level skills had decreased significantly.

Although all three countries followed the same training programme, the training content and methods were adapted to each country’s needs and the stage of development of the WBL system. In Estonia, the training focused on active learning methods, involving participants, and offering them practical tools for their work as WBL tutors. Special attention was paid to setting goals, motivation, and feedback – three cornerstones of good tutoring. The approach proved successful and received a lot of positive feedback from participants: ‘It was good to have practical exercises rather than dry theory’; ‘The constant involvement made the training interesting’; ‘Group tasks and sharing ideas are very beneficial for my work’.

The project has had a significant policy impact in Estonia. The WBL tutor competence model will be integrated into the VET teacher occupational qualification standard. The standard gives WBL tutors an opportunity to obtain a professional qualification certificate. Based on the project methodology, guidelines for WBL tutors have been prepared and will soon be published. While previously WBL tutors from VET schools and companies were trained separately, the project experience has proven the tandem training model more useful. The same methodology will be used in future training financed from the practice systems development programme by the Ministry of Education and Research. Active networks of WBL coordinators, VET school principals, and employers have contributed to the promotion of the WBL tutor competence model and tandem training. With the expansion of WBL, tandem training continues to be in demand.

The research report ‘Does the tandem approach work? – Research on the experimentation testing the professional development models for tutors in work-based learning in the Baltic states’

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