VET teachers’ informal professional learning practices in international education

Year: 2016

Author: Tran, Ly, Le, Truc

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In recent years, the VET sector in Australia has undergone several significant changes which are likely to influence the nature of VET teachers’ work. International students constitute a rapidly growing proportion of the student population. In addition, globalisation has promoted and facilitated transnational mobility for students, both international and local, in their search for employment upon graduation. Australian government’s recent policy on Asia engagement also implies the need for the development of Asia-related capabilities for graduates. Despite these changed background conditions, there is little empirical research and literature available on VET teachers’ perceptions of the professional support they need in order to meet the new demands of their professional tasks. This research responds to the critical need to examine teachers’ professional learning needs and practices in the context of internationalization. This paper is based on a research project funded by the Australian Research Council that includes semi-structured interviews and observations of professional practices of teachers and staff involved in international education. With the growing presence of international students and pressure to prepare students to work globally, VET teachers face an increasing demand to utilize a range of pedagogies, skills and capacities beyond their traditional expertise and experience to perform their work roles. However, currently professional development activities to help VET teachers to develop such knowledge and skills are limited. The paper explores the teachers’ current informal professional learning practices to gain expertise to perform their professional roles under the impact of the internationalisation of the VET sector. Findings from interviews with the VET teachers reveal two most common informal practices of the teachers under investigation: reciprocal learning from immediate colleagues and self-directed professional learning through informal networking and personal research. The findings highlight the importance of the immediate work environment and personal agency in teachers’ professional learning. This study thus argues for the promotion of workplace culture supportive of peer collaboration and learning as well as recognition and nurturing of teachers’ personal motivation for professional learning.