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Teaching and learning at tertiary-level vocational education: a phenomenological inquiry into teachers’, studentś and administrators’ perceptions and experiences

Sarıkaya Erdem, Yeld
The aim of this study is to explore the phenomenon of teaching and learning at higher vocational education schools through teachers’, students’ and administrators’, perceptions about effective vocational teaching and learning, and to investigate the challenges faced by the teachers, students and administrators, and their practices to cope with them. In line with this thrust, phenomenological research design was employed, and data were collected at eight higher vocational schools in Nevşehir, Turkey with the participation of 8 administrators, and 16 teachers and 70 students in sixteen focus groups, who were selected through maximum variation and snowball sampling strategies. Individual and focus group interviews were utilized as data collection methods, together with non-participant observation conducted to confirm and supplement interview data. Data analysis, conducted through inductive content analysis approach, revealed that effective vocational teaching and learning was defined from two perspectives: product-oriented teaching versus process-oriented teaching, and product-oriented learning versus process-oriented learning. Concerning characteristics of effective vocational teacher, emerging themes were teacher knowledge, teacher role and teacher traits while effective vocational learner characteristics were related to learners’ entry, affective and cognitive characteristics, and personal traits. Also, perceptions regarding aim of higher vocational education and characteristics of effective vocational program emerged from data. The challenges hindering effective vocational teaching and learning were found related to teachers, students, curriculum, context, system, employers and parents while the strategies to cope with those challenges were categorized as teacher-led, student-led and administrator-led practices. Finally, data revealed recommendations made to improve effectiveness of higher vocational education.