The start of the academic year 2020/2021 was marked by the COVID-19 pandemic that caused an unparalleled crisis in all areas of life. The pandemic has also transformed education – many new learning platforms had to be introduced, curricula and teaching programmes had to be remodelled and some skills and competences have become more relevant.
Taking into account the current epidemiological situation and the planned teaching models (in classroom teaching with supplementary distance learning), we must strive that all vocational students achieve the learning outcomes specified by the vocational curricula / teaching programmes, in order to successfully progress to the following year, gain necessary competences for the integrity of the vocational qualification and ensure successful transition to the labour market or continuation of education.
In relation to the previously published documents COVID-19 related teaching models and classroom precautions in adult education and Instructions for preventing and supressing the COVID-19 epidemic in pre-education institutions, primary schools and high schools in the academic year 2020/2021 (Ministry of Science and Education), Agency for VET and Adult Education has, in collaboration with regional expert councils, developed recommendations / framework for achieving learning outcomes. In this unpredictable epidemiological situation, it was necessary to determine basic learning outcomes / teaching programmes for particular school subjects.
In order to make the necessary adjustments, the characteristics of a particular sector, resources and capacities of vocational schools, as well as student capabilities, were taken into account. Learning outcomes were prioritised and contextualised based on the consensus of expert councils that included the members’ willingness to participate in this process. These adjustments have given importance to the values and competences accentuated in this pandemic: solidarity, self-regulated learning, developing socio-emotional skills, taking care of personal health and of other people’s health.
Learning outcomes and teaching content have been integrated into interdisciplinary thematic sets that enable simultaneously tackling topics from different subjects using problematic, project and exploration methods. The emphasis was put on teacher autonomy and integrated learning approach, both when it comes to different teaching specialties and students.
Learning difficulties were also taken into account while adjusting learning outcomes – the principle of interdisciplinary teaching was chosen, as well.
Practical training and exercises
Last years’ experience in distance learning shows that developing vocational skills online is a difficult, if not impossible, endeavour. Practical training at schools and at workplace is therefore a priority and should be held from the beginning of the academic year (without the usual postponement in order to achieve the planned theoretical learning outcomes). We advise the integration of vocational-theoretical teaching and practical training wherever and whenever possible, with continuous teacher cooperation.
Monitoring and evaluation
In April 2020, Agency for VET and Adult Education has issued two documents regarding monitoring, evaluation and grading, which are still valid today:
- Recommendations for evaluation and grading in distance learning for vocational and adult education systems;
- Recommendations for defending the senior thesis and work based learning in vocational and adult education systems.
By gathering data about every single student, teachers can offer high-quality feedback, test the efficiency of their teaching methods and adjust them to their students’ needs. We recommend the development of formative instruments of evaluation and self-evaluations that facilitate teacher-student cooperation in marking their progress according to the planned learning outcomes and evaluation criteria.
Several things must be taken into account in monitoring and evaluation:
- Timeliness and usefulness of teacher feedback;
- Monitoring students’ learning and effectiveness of learning strategies, despite the school’s chosen teaching model;
- Necessity of making further effort in identifying mechanisms that ensure equality in grading.
Furthermore, we recommend holding meetings of regional expert councils at least once a month, in order to uniform practices and give examples of best practice, particularly in monitoring and evaluating work based learning (school, labour market). The goal of the attached documents is not to offer ready-made solutions, but to bring attention to different teaching possibilities and to create space for innovative teaching and learning.
Have a successful academic year! We are open to your suggestions, questions and best practice sharing.