VET Teachers' Experiences of the Extrinsic Imperatives of the Ethical Dilemmas within the Politics of VET.

Year: 2017

Author: Nakar, Sonal

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

VET Teachers' Experiences of the Extrinsic Imperatives of the Ethical Dilemmas within the Politics of VET.

VET in Australia in recent decades has been subject to a range of major policy reforms in response to globalized pressures for it to become more effective and competitive in its responsiveness to consumer demand. Those policy reforms have been noted to date as raising significant ethical challenges for teachers in the sector. A recent research project into the impact of the changing contemporary cultural context of VET on the creation of moral dilemmas facing VET teachers in their work has identified the VET teachers' perspectives of the ethical dilemmas experienced, by identifying the tensions between competing values and the resulting interactions. The phenomenological study by the author draws primarily on exploratory, discursive, conversational interviews with 18 VET teachers in South-East Queensland, selected from those responding to a call for participation in the study. The study pointed to the value of dilemmas as constructs through which to generate knowledge of ethical conflicts arising from contextual changes. It highlighted the significance of those conflicts to VET teachers involved in the study. Four common dilemmas were identified: the dilemmas of (1) responding flexibly to heightened student diversity, (2) limiting educational engagement, (3) constraining teacher responsiveness, and (4) manipulating learning assessment. Each was seen as being created by tensions between what participants (intrinsically) understood that they should do in a particular situation and what they felt impelled to do by extrinsic imperatives or pressures from changed circumstances in the contemporary cultural context of VET. The extrinsic imperatives were identified from the ethical challenges attributed by the teachers to changes in that cultural context, each dilemma being defined by a small number of such challenges particular to it, with a total of 13 challenges emerging across the four dilemmas. Three of the four categories of participant explanations for their experience of the dilemmas focused on what they saw as external realities of their teaching: changing immigration rules, changing funding requirements, and the changing culture and philosophy of their employing registered training organization. The fourth identified explanation focused on inadequacies in their teacher preparation. For the participants, coming to terms with the changing philosophy of their RTO meant addressing the conjunction between what is happening in the economic world of the RTO and what takes places in the classroom. Moreover, participants were conscious that in a competitive climate, their jobs might be on the line if the link between student recruitment and profit-maximization was not maintained.
The long-term impacts of anxiety and stress caused by such pressures can severely affect teachers' ability to think rationally and manage their life. The question it raises is how do teachers continue to encourage themselves to work hard for the provider in the face of such insecurity?