What happens to a person who leaves a vocation to enter the teaching profession? How are teacher competences developed? These and other related issues that summarising research on VET-teachers are highlighted in a study published in 2019 by the Swedish National Agency for Education.

The daily routine of a VET teacher combines the teaching profession with practical vocational skills. Research shows that the role of VET teacher is not only dual, but multidimensional: vocational teachers are expected to possess knowledge of the vocation itself, and to be able to pass this knowledge on to a new generation; they should also be able to build bridges between education and working life, and be structured and systematic in teaching and assessing skills.

Many VET teachers are employed without having undergone any teacher training; this means that training and continuous professional development for these teachers will predominantly be in the field of pedagogy, focusing on teaching skills. The study emphasises the importance of providing VET teachers with the conditions to maintain and develop both their vocational identity and their teaching ability, so they can meet the needs and expectations of both the learners and the world of work.

Through teacher training, the teaching profession is strengthened by an academically sound, research-based education. However, vocational teachers also need to continue developing their vocational knowledge, skills and competences: their legitimacy as teachers – for both the world of work and learners – depends on this. Challenges for vocational teachers around the world include teaching skills that prepare learners for new technologies and a changing labour market, and as such contributing to their employability. Research shows that working life today – and in the future – requires that learners develop skills to handle processes rather than achieving delimited learning outcomes. It is therefore crucial for VET teachers to combine updated vocational competence with appropriate teaching skills.

The study was developed by­ the National Agency for Education in cooperation professor Per Andersson (1), to include both Swedish and international research focusing on the dual identities and roles of vocational teachers. It shows that research on vocational teachers and on vocational training in general is still limited: more research is needed to understand the many facets and changing nature of the VET teaching profession. Present and future research should, together with the experience of all VET teachers, be the basis for the future VET, and the future of training prospective VET teachers.

The study is part of the publication series Research for education that summarises research and knowledge systematically generated in other ways in selected areas. Previous publications in the series have focused on areas such as entrepreneurship, assessment, and digitalisation. The series is designed to facilitate dissemination of research on education and is written with a clear target group in mind and in jargon-free language.

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Att utbilda nästa generation i yrket [Educating a new generation of VET teachers]

(1) Per Andersson is Profes­sor of Education in the Department of behaviour­al sciences and learning at Linköping University, Sweden. Professor Anderson's research focuses on validation, vocational didactics and VET teachers.