Faculty of Education

FACULTY OF

Education

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What We Do

CEWL operates within three distinct venues and makes unique contributions to each of them.

Several hands covered in oil and other materials from the shop.

  1. We contribute to the research community (provincial, national, and international) through reporting our studies at conferences and in refereed journals.
  2. We contribute to the faculty graduate programs through graduate instruction, supervision, and mentorship. The graduate programs at the Faculty of Education provide opportunities for course credit through individual study. Professors Hugh Munby (now retired), Nancy Hutchinson, and Peter Chin have experience in graduate instruction and supervision. Also, graduate research assistantships in CEWL manifest our commitment to the apprenticeship model and thus give our graduate students valuable experience in all facets of the work of large research program: library searches, interview design, data collection and analysis, conference presentation, research proposal writing, paper writing, and publishing.
Our Research Agenda I

Establishing a Knowledge Base for Education about the World of Work

Hugh Munby, Nancy Hutchinson, Peter Chin

This brief paper reviews the studies our research group has conducted in the SSHRC-funded research program, Co-op Education and Workplace Learning (CEWL). The goal of this program is to improve the experience of co-op education and students’ access to it. Our current 3-year research program conceptualizes co-op education as curriculum.

Setting the Scene

I don’t know if I’d be comfortable doing the vet’s job... the technician, even though it involves a lot of dirty work, I just liked the job a bit more – the more hands-on nursing and taking care of the animals. I guess the responsibility, too, of the vet terrified me: what if I made a wrong diagnosis? ... But seeing the two jobs compared side by side, I decided I really did like the job of vet tech much better – sort of the whole reason why I did my co-op. (Ruth. Interview, November 1999)

As it does for countless Canadian adolescents, co-operative education played a significant role in Ruth’s high school career because it set the direction she wished to go in her post-secondary education – she qualified as a veterinarian technician in the spring of 2000. Ruth’s statement reflects the theme of our research on co-op education in high school: co-op education is socially valued, but it is not well understood as an educational phenomenon. It is even difficult to obtain accurate enrolment information about secondary school co-op education. In a previous study, we estimated that about 10% of Canada’s over 1.55 million secondary-school students enrol in co-op education each academic year (Munby, Cunningham, & Chin, 1998).

We first met Ruth in 1997 during our case studies of co-op education in a veterinary clinic. In those studies, we observed students learning in the workplace, and we observed how the clinic staff arranged learning opportunities and taught the students. We also interviewed clinic staff and the students. While we were learning about co-op education in these studies, we were engaged in preparing two background research papers.

The first of these (Hutchinson, Munby, & Chin, 1997), in the area of counselling and career education, was prepared for the Ontario Secondary School Reform. Our research for this paper made it clear to us that co-op education in Ontario was not getting the research attention it deserved. For example, policy described co-op education courses as “modes of delivery” for school subjects, so co-op credits were to be linked to curriculum subject credits. But our case studies in the clinic suggested that much more than subject matter was being taught and learned. Essentially, the co-op students were obtaining a work-based career education course: career exploration, and “employability skills” were in evidence. Clearly, the practice of co-op education had a power not recognized in policy.

In the second background research paper (Munby, Hutchinson, & Chin, 1998), for the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC), we posed five research questions that fell directly from our commitment to viewing co-op education as part of the secondary curriculum.  Our questions included what the goals of co-op education should be, how learning might be enhanced, and how co-op placements might accommodate the learning needs of exceptional students and students from under-represented groups. We developed the curriculum perspective underlying these questions into our own program of research, currently funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

1999-2000: Studies of the Intended Curriculum

  • Document analyses
  • Survey studies of intentions and patterns of co-op enrolment
  • Multiple-perspective case studies of co-op education participants aimed at intentions
  • Conceptual work on “working knowledge”

The First Document Study

In the first document study, we examined policies across Canada, building on the work done for the CMEC paper, but with specific reference to the four equity groups named in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Government of Canada, 1982) – women, people with disabilities, members of ethnocultural minorities, and Aboriginal peoples. In the published paper (Hutchinson et al., 1999), our analyses of provincial and territorial policy highlighted the variety of approaches, emphases, programs, and experiences related to co-op education across Canada. As before, we found that there is little consistency in programs, and that the documents contain few references to equity for the four groups named in the Charter.

Our examination of enrolment data provided by provincial and territorial jurisdictions suggests that they do not know if their co-op education programs could be described as equitable because they do not collect or, at least, did not make such information available to us. Among our recommendations are that ministries and departments of education make clear commitments to equity in provincial and territorial co-op education and career education documents, and that these documents include information for teachers and co-op supervisors about how to adapt programs to meet the needs of members of the four equity groups. This paper appears in Exceptionality Education Canada.

The Second Document Study

In our second study, we analyzed the intended curriculum in a sample of policies and procedures documents from nine school districts in Ontario. Four of the school districts were located in metropolitan areas while five were districts with schools in small cities, towns, and rural areas. Our detailed analysis of these documents showed the recently amalgamated school districts to be at various stages of developing or revising policies and procedures associated with co-op education. The explicitly stated purpose for co-operative education in most districts was career preparation.

However, consistent with the Ontario Ministry of Education (1989) policy, there were frequent references to co-op education as an alternative mode of instruction for students to obtain credits in academic subjects. Interestingly, there were almost no references to monitoring or evaluating subject-based knowledge, but frequent references to evaluating attendance, attitude, and workplace skills. Similarly, difficulties experienced by co-op students were described as resulting from truancy, poor attitude, or lack of initiative, rather than from lack of subject knowledge. Remedial actions consisted of more counselling and monitoring of workplace behaviour, rather than remediation in the subject-based knowledge related to the placement. Our analysis showed that while co-op education is described at the provincial level as an alternate mode of delivery for subject knowledge, as well as a means of career preparation, the emphasis at the district level is on career preparation and personal growth of adolescents. This paper is in press in the Journal of Vocational Educational Research.

Survey Studies

We administered surveys to university and college students in similar career preparation programs to examine relationships between post-secondary education and high school co-op enrolment. Two of these programs were university programs, B.ScN. and B.Ed., and two were college programs, nursing and early childhood education (ECE). Thirty-three percent of students in the B.Ed. program participated in high school co-op, while the participation rate for those in ECE at college was 69%. But participation rates for students in nursing did not distinguish between university (34%) and college (34%) programs.  And college students had more than one high school co-op placement while most university students had just one. Most B.Ed. students (71%) reported that they had participated in co-op to try out the profession or to gain the experience necessary to apply to the program. These reasons were cited less frequently by all other groups: 44% in nursing, 43% in ECE, and 38% in B.ScN. We were intrigued to find that almost all post-secondary students who had taken high school co-op would recommend it to others (99% in education, 100% in nursing). Surprisingly, recommendation rates were high among those who had not taken co-op: 92% in education, 77% in nursing. This paper will also appear in a 2001 issue of Journal of Vocational Educational Research.

Multiple-perspective Case Studies

A quite different approach to understanding curriculum intentions is to interview stakeholders.  We interviewed four high school students after they had been enrolled in co-operative (co-op) education — as well as other stakeholders such as their parents, co-op teachers, and workplace supervisors — for their perspectives on the purposes or intents of co-op education at the secondary level. Each participant was interviewed individually with a structured interview that probed perspectives on co-op education before, during, and after the student’s work placement. We analyzed each set of interviews for one student and the three accompanying adults as a multiple perspective case, then analyzed by stakeholder group, and finally across cases.

We found convergent purposes for high school co-op within cases, by stakeholder type, and across cases because all stakeholders believed that work experiences broadened the school curriculum. At the same time, there were gaps in the stakeholders’ understanding about how the components of co-op programs fit together, and there were differences in their perspectives on the purposes of workplace learning. Supplementary data from a focus group interview with seven secondary students revealed their belief that parents under-rate the importance of co-op education. Perspectives on what was learned and how it was learned emerged in addition to views held about the purposes of co-op education. Understanding the views of co-op education held by various stakeholders may clarify not only the purposes of workplace experience but how we can enable students to get the most from secondary co-op education.  This paper was presented at the annual meeting of the Canadian Society for the Study of Education in June 2001.

Conceptual Work: “Working Knowledge”

The purpose of this paper was to identify and analyze curriculum issues that arise in the practice of co-op education. We began by considering changes in the meaning of vocational education, from 1916 to the present. Our point was to compare current views of vocationalism with older versions and to explore relationships between the intents of the new vocationalism with the practice of co-operative education.  Then we move to look at the separation between school and work, the point being to highlight ideas about forms of knowledge, authenticity and the potential of the workplace for contributing to a liberal or general education. Workplace learning, although conducted apart from schools, is still curriculum; but curriculum commonplaces assume different forms in the workplace. Knowledge is one of these commonplaces, and we argue that the difference can be captured by distinguishing between “working knowledge” and the form of knowledge encountered in the school curriculum.  This paper will appear in an edited volume titled The Internationalization of Curriculum.

2000-2001:  Studies of the Enacted and Experienced Curriculum

  • Conceptual work on “natural curriculum”
  • Case studies of learning in co-op placements 
  • Case studies of participation of students with two exceptional students
  • Studies of workplace routines
  • Conceptual work on rigor in qualitative research

Conceptual Work: The “Natural Curriculum” of the Workplace

The paper reports on a set of case studies of co-op placements in a veterinary clinic, selected because of its science focus, from the perspective that workplace experiences are essentially curricular. It opens with a presentation of the background literature and a description of the theoretical framework that informs the research we have conducted at the veterinary clinic.  This is followed by a description of the setting and our data collection approaches. Data analysis reveals several significant ways in which teaching and learning in the workplace are strikingly different from teaching and learning in customary classroom settings. Data analysis also reveals a variety of ways in which learning in the workplace occurred. Taken together, the findings create an image of a “natural curriculum” in the workplace. This paper appears in the published proceedings of the Working Knowledge Conference held in Sydney Australia in December 2000.

Learning in a Hospital

In this study we observed a co-op education student and her workplace supervisor weekly over a 3-month period in order to develop a description of the kinds of learning accomplished by the student and her struggles in securing the knowledge that she desired from her workplace experience. Interviews with the student highlighted her career uncertainty and her frustrations in trying to learn about a possible career in social work while assisting with orderly duties on a busy ward. Interviews with the workplace supervisor, who had been assigned supervision, rather than volunteering to supervise a co-op student, suggested that many supervisors would value clearer statements of expectations for workplace supervision. This study illustrated the complexity of workplace learning in a large multi-purpose institution and enabled us to see how one student saw this learning as more valuable than that accomplished in a part-time job. This paper is in draft form.

Learning in a Dental Office

Detailed observations and interviews over a three-month period enabled us to show how one co-op student appropriated knowledge to move from a shy, unconfident observer to a competent and confident assistant. She grew to be able to hand the dentist appropriate tools during a complex procedure, to prepare trays for upcoming procedures on her own initiative, and to become a part of the routines of the dental office for the half-day she was present for one school term. This case also afforded opportunities to observe the application of scientific knowledge in the workplace, the importance of a workplace supervisor committed to co-op students’ learning in the workplace, and the role of metacognitive routines in the workplace. This paper is in draft form.

Learning in Garages: Aspirations and Learning of Two Exceptional Students

Two case studies of learning were conducted with co-op students with identified learning difficulties. Both had chosen work in a garage with mechanics for their co-op experiences and hoped to work in this career after graduating. Despite high motivation, in both cases the students experienced difficulties in securing placements, experienced conflict with their workplace supervisors, and showed many of the same learning difficulties that characterized their school experiences. Employers were not well informed about the students’ learning needs. Few if any adaptations were made in how workplace routines were explained and how expectations were set.  These students did not show the quantity or quality of learning we had come to expect after conducting many previous case studies of co-op students in workplaces, and the workplaces (one large and one small) did not demonstrate the high commitment to student learning that we have frequently seen in the workplaces of professionals (e.g., dentists, veterinarians).  Analysis continues on these data. 

Studies of Workplace Routines

A series of observation and interview studies were conducted in workplaces typically used for co-op placements.  Workplaces included retail outlets, a delicatessen counter, and optical and printing businesses. Some of the workplaces were family-owned, others were national and multi-national. The purpose of these studies was to document the functions of routines within the workplaces, and to explore how routines were incorporated into the instruction given to co-op students by workplace supervisors. As a result of these studies, CEWL is exploring how features of routines can function metacognitively in workplace learning and instruction.  A conference proposal on these studies has been submitted.

Conceptual Work:  Rigor in Qualitative Research

The purpose of this paper is to explore how facets of the concept “rigor” might be applied to questions about the validity, and reliability of research independently of the research modes.  In this way, the focus of our critical lens can be on how to assess the contribution of different forms of research rather than on the somewhat tiresome “paradigm wars” and their overworked arguments about various research modes. The overall approach to the paper is to open with a brief look at theoretical frameworks. This acknowledges the legitimacy of different forms or modes of inquiry and allows us to focus more directly upon rigor within different forms. The venture into rigor begins with a recent history of the concepts reliability and validity that tracks changes in meaning. This is followed by illustrations of how the concepts work together to provide a sense of rigor. The paper then shows that rigor needs to account for application or use of research, and this opens the way for looking at several facets of rigor including ethics, professionalism, and rhetoric.  This paper was an invited address by Hugh Munby at the 2001 annual meeting of the National Association of Research in Science Teaching.

2001-2002: Studies of the Plausible Curriculum and the Desirable Curriculum

  • The development of instructional materials based on the previous years, and then field testing of materials.

Conclusion

Co-op education is a vibrant part of Canada’s secondary education. Yet our research shows that there is a lack of research that answers important questions about this significant part of the school curriculum: What is the workplace curriculum?  How do students learn in the workplace? How might this form of learning be enhanced? How are students evaluated?& What adaptations are made so that the workplace is accessible to all students? We have cast our three-year research program on co-op education as curriculum research, and the aim is to develop information that can be used to answer questions like these.

References

  • Government of Canada. (1982). Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/Const/page-15.html (March 13, 2001).
  • Hutchinson, N. L., Chin, P., Munby, H., Mills de España, W., Young, J., & Edwards, K. L. (1999).  How inclusive is co-operative education in Canada? Getting the story and the numbers.  Exceptionality Education Canada, 8(3), 15-43.
  • Hutchinson, N. L., Munby, H., & Chin, P. (1997). Guidance and career education curriculum background research. Toronto, ON: Ministry of Education and Training for the Province of Ontario.
  • Munby, H., Cunningham, M., & Chin, P. (1998, May). Co-operative education: The functions of experience in workplace learning .  Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Canadian Society for the Study of Education, Ottawa, Ontario.
  • Munby, H., Hutchinson, N., & Chin, P. (1998). “I know how to do it”: Research priorities for co-operative and career education in Canada’s secondary schools. Toronto, ON: Council of Ministers of Education, Canada.
  • Ontario Ministry of Education. (1989). Co-operative education: Policies and procedures for Ontario secondary schools. Toronto: Author.
Our Research Agenda II

Linking School-Based and Work-Based Learning in the Knowledge Economy: Studies of Appropriation, Science, and Equity

Hugh Munby, Nancy Hutchinson, Peter Chin

Our research program "Linking School-Based and Work-Based Learning in the Knowledge Economy: Studies of Appropriation, Science, and Equity" was premised upon the observation that Canadian society is engaged in what is described as a New Economy. This shift signals a significant growth in knowledge and an understanding that economies are increasingly based on knowledge. We feel that this has implications not only for workplaces that will and are increasingly reliant upon workers who are learners, but also, that schools are and will be expected to furnish students with appropriate preparation for the workplace.

Undergirding the necessities of the changing workplace, we believe, is a lack of systemic knowledge about how work-based programs, such as co-operative education, can be enhanced to meet the needs of students and Canadian society. To meet these challenges we directed our attention at examining school and workplace experiences that provide students with (a) optimal experiences for workplace learning, (b) a clear understanding of the relationship between school science knowledge and work-based science knowledge, and (c) equitable access to work-based programs regardless of the level of intellectual and physical ability.

This program had three interrelated strands that extended over 3 years. Each strand addressed an issue relevant to the New Economy. The first strand focussed on student workplace learning. This research gathered information on exemplary practices, on students in workplace settings, and on program adaptations designed to incorporate our findings about making settings optimal for students. The second strand focussed on science in the workplace. The importance of scientific knowledge in the workplace increases almost as rapidly as the knowledge itself advances. This strand addressed the relationship between school science and science within the workplace by studying science education policy, the views of employers, and the understandings of science available to students within selected workplace settings. The third strand focussed on equity and accessibility. We developed baseline data on participation rates of co-op students with identified disabilities, we documented the challenges and barriers to access that these students find in work-based programs and in workplaces themselves, and we produced research-based recommendations for enhancing equity in work-based learning.

In summary, this research program was designed to create knowledge with direct applicability to preparing Canadian youth for work. Our perspective was to focus attention within the New Economy upon the Knowledge Economy because we understand that knowledge growth within the workplace presents challenges to those who work there. Clearly, schools have a large role to play by providing curriculum and instruction that equips their graduates appropriately for life after school. This growth in workplace knowledge will transform our collective understanding of workers so that we view workers as learners and working environments as learning environments.

Our Research Agenda III

Essential Skills Training for Workers with Disabilities to Enhance Negotiations for Accommodations

Nancy Hutchinson, Hugh Munby, Peter Chin, Denise Stockley, Joan Versnel

With the support of our partner, the Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work, this research program "Essential Skills Training for Workers with Disabilities to Enhance Negotiations for Accommodations" investigates the impact of Essential Skills (ES) training on workers with disabilities who must negotiate with employers for workplace accommodations. ES refers to nine profiles, that Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC) has developed, which include the cognitive--thinking skills (e.g., problem solving), and the social--working with others and oral communication. Workers with disabilities are entitled to have their individual needs accommodated, short of undue hardship to the organization, in a manner that respects their dignity and allows them to perform the essential duties of their job (Canadian Human Rights Act, Section 15.2). Accommodations may be characterized as (a) structural/environmental, (b) social, and (c) cognitive (Chappell, Higham, & McLean, 2003). While structural / environmental needs are recognized and cited in training manuals (e.g., ergonomic design), there is less awareness and less action on social and cognitive accommodations (e.g., Canadian Mental Health Association, http://www.mentalhealthworks.ca).

This research has five purposes:

  1. To describe the role of ES in negotiations, between workers with disabilities and employers, which lead to successful accommodations.
  2. To document the role that goal setting and related motivational constructs play when workers with disabilities use ES to negotiate accommodations.
  3. To develop and evaluate training to help workers develop and use ES to negotiate social and cognitive accommodations with employers.
  4. To study how policy recipients (both workers and supervisors) seek to understand legislated requirements for accommodations, and how ES training can encourage policy implementation.
  5. To engage in and evaluate continuous dissemination of findings with workers with disabilities, employers, and the partner agency.
Our Research Agenda IV

Individual and Contextual Factors in Work-based Education Programs: Diverting At-risk Youth from the Path to Social Exclusion

Nancy Hutchinson, Peter Chin, Joan Versnel, Mike Zannibi

The world faces a growing youth employment crisis: worldwide, youth are three times as likely to be unemployed as adults (International Labour Office, 2006). Recent international reviews suggest that contributing factors include the disengagement of youth from education as well as a changing labour market that can no longer absorb young workers with minimal qualifications (McGinty & Brader, 2005). Contemporary international reports on the changing nature of the school-to-work transition make it clear that, despite our strong economy, Canadian youth are experiencing both educational disengagement and unemployment at rates similar to their counterparts worldwide (e.g., Quintini, Martin, & Martin, 2007). Work-based education (WBE), in its many forms, is one of the most frequently recommended solutions in Canada (e.g., Canadian Career Consortium (2007) and around the world (e.g., Quintini et al., 2007). The result has been a plethora of varied WBE programs and diverse youth who might benefit from such programs, with no means of matching the needs of youth to the programs most likely to effect change for them. At the same time, there is little conceptual agreement on the constructs central to understanding and solving this growing problem. Disputed constructs include youth, at-risk, educational disengagement, passive disengagement by those still in school, NEET (not in education, employment, or training), the protective factors in WBE and co-operative education, and the relationship of at-risk factors including disability, homelessness, and family breakdown to unemployment and disengagement (McGinty & Brader, 2005). Without a concerted effort at both the conceptual and practical levels, we will continue to see these disengaged youth on a path to social exclusion that was not apparent even two decades ago when a more flexible labour market could absorb almost all young workers, no matter their qualifications.

Year 1 (2008-2009): Developing the Model

  1. To identify the key elements and the relationships among these elements in social, political, economic, and educational contexts that contribute to the growth of youth disengagement and unemployment worldwide; and to contextualize the Canadian situation within the larger picture.
  2. To identify the key elements of macro responses (national polices) and micro responses (research and program descriptions of WBE) to youth disengagement and unemployment.
  3. To identify the diverse characteristics of youth who face adversity in the transition to work.
  4. To develop a model of person-context relations for attributes of disengaged youth and of WBE, within the worldwide phenomena of youth unemployment and social change.

Year 2 (2009-2010): Making the Model Germane to Canada

  1. To provide descriptive accounts of how adults who develop and implement WBE and other programs for disengaged Canadian youth perceive challenges, policies, and elements of effective programs.
  2. To provide descriptive accounts of how re-engaged youth perceive WBE and other programs designed to facilitate their transition to work, and of how they would improve these programs.
  3. To map the descriptive accounts of program providers and disengaged youth developed in Year 2 on to the model developed in Year 1 to specify how the model is germane to the Canadian context.

Year 3 (2010-2011): Validating the Model

  1. To fully describe using case studies the challenges and successes of previously disengaged youth, from across Canada who have diverse characteristics, participating in a range of WBE programs.
  2. To use the data from these case studies of disengaged youth to validate our person-context model.