A developmental framework of practice for vocational and professional roles

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Harrison, James Gravener (2021) A developmental framework of practice for vocational and professional roles. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


This doctorate contends that vocational (including professional) practice is developed by cyclical iterative processes of problem solving, research and experiential learning that share generic characteristics in common. This concept lends itself to use in academic programmes of vocational formation that require life-long self-development. This research explores how mature professionals were using experiential learning and other processes for their development as compared with my own experience. The results of our combined experience were examined for their contribution to improved vocational formation. This development is closely linked to the concepts of 'competence' and 'capability' that became significant in contemporary vocational qualification prescriptions (Jessup, 1991; Stephenson & Yorke, 1998). In this work, 'competence' is defined as the performance of practice in a vocational discipline and 'capability' as how competence is built and evolved. Narrative inquiry, aligned with autoethnography, was selected as an appropriate methodology for this qualitative research. The study began by undertaking a series of interviews (Seidman, 2013) with individual professionals from business, technology and education fields. My professional practice in tertiary education teaching inspired a consideration of a broader concept of vocational development. This arose from my realisation that much of the development I was comprehending used familiar processes of problem solving and research. The approach to the research began with a focus on learning and its association with psychology and sociology disciplines. However, the addition of problem solving and additional research methods, has meant taking on a broader ontological and epistemological perspective. This is compounded by the separation of conceptual knowledge from experiential knowledge, making the principal form of inquiry an investigation into an epistemological problem. To try and situate the findings appropriately, the primary methodology and methods pertaining to the psychology and sociology disciplines have been retained in terms of data collection, analysis and presentation, and the personal autoethnography involves a hybrid between conceptual and professional practice perspectives. Thus the work comprises individual narratives of the participants (Clandinin & Huber, 2009) summarised in a narrative as inquiry, supported by a personal autoethnographic narrative (Denzin, 2013). The autoethnographic narrative is informed by dimensions of professional practice described by Cochran-Smith and Lytle (2015); and Lester and Costley (2010). The findings comprise a developmental framework of vocational practice, which contends that individual capability (Stephenson & Yorke, 1998) is underpinned by cyclical and iterative, problem-solving, research and experiential learning processes which have generic characteristics. The concept of capability as a lifelong cyclical iterative process and the linkages between problem solving, research and experiential learning are seen as new contributions to knowledge. In turn, competence (Burke, 2005) becomes a state of practice provided by a developmental capability process and continues to grow through new problem solving, research or learning needs. As such, the framework allows for conscious lifelong self-development that will have major benefits in the tertiary education system and potentially earlier. Two further findings of significance were noted; the first being that an individual’s narrative of identity also reflects their full practice and developmental capability holistically, (Clark & Rossiter, 2008; Polkinghorne, 1991) and that subconscious cognitive processes of insight, passive reflection and creativity all make a significant contribution to everyday vocational practice (Csikszentmihalyi, 2007; Eraut, 2002) and individual identities (Field, 2012).

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
URI https://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/42717
Subjects Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 3904 Specialist studies in education
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities
Keywords vocational practice; professionals; professional development; narrative inquiry; autoethnography; experiential learning; problem solving; research
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