Applied research in VET: what do you think?

Dear Educator Hub readers

We are seeking your views to help us frame and conduct a project on applied research in VET. Our research Positioned for the ideas boom: where does the VET workforce fit? is being funded by the National Vocational Education and Training Research (NVETR) Program. We are investigating VET’s involvement in the national innovation system and will be mapping the skills and capabilities the VET workforce needs to conduct research and foster innovation in Australian industry. We are particularly interested in whether VET has a role to play in bridging the gap between inventions or innovations and their application in the workplace.

First to definitions. Is the term ‘applied research’ the right one to describe the activity we will be examining? Or might ‘research’ be a word that is off-putting to some VET practitioners, who do not see their work as teachers or their industry engagement as also a research activity. They might describe that work as being ‘red’ while we are talking about ‘vermillion’ (as Robert Luke, Vice-President, Research and Innovation, George Brown College, Toronto has put it). These different labels may be describing essentially the same thing; on the other hand, it may turn out that there is considerable variation.

Would we be better distinguishing R&D activities in VET by adopting the terms used by the OECD’s Frascati Manual (2015, p. 45):

  • Applied research is original investigation undertaken in order to acquire new knowledge. It is, directed primarily towards a specific, practical aim or objective.
  • Experimental development is systematic work, drawing on knowledge gained from research and practical experience and producing additional knowledge, which is directed to producing new products or processes or to improving existing products or processes.

Or should we talk about scholarship, drawing on Ernest Boyer’s 1990 model, which identifies four types of scholarly activity:

(1)         the scholarship of discovery, including original research that advances knowledge

(2)         the scholarship of integration or the synthesis of information across disciplines, across topics within a discipline, or across time

(3)         the scholarship of application or engagement that involves sharing disciplinary expertise with peers

(4)         the scholarship of teaching and learning.

What do you think? And what are you doing?

We want to hear from VET teachers about their ‘applied research’ or ‘scholarly practice’ and about whether you think the system has the potential to be a more active player in the ‘ideas boom’.

We’d love to see a discussion about these issues on the Educator Hub but also feel free to contact us by email:

Francesca Beddie:

Linda Simon:


Boyer, EL 1990, Scholarship reconsidered: priorities of the professoriate, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.

OECD, 2015 Frascati Manual 2015, Guidelines for Collecting and Reporting Data on Research and Experimental Development, OECD Paris


2 thoughts on “Applied research in VET: what do you think?

  1. Today, I came across another approach, which may capture what we are thinking about: interactive research is one form of collaborative research: it is a process which brings together practitioners and researchers. Ellström (2007) defines interactive research as a research position “in contrast to traditional academic research on the one hand and action research on the other hand” (p. 2). This means that interactive research aims at breaking traditional boundaries between research and practice, but also to strengthen the role of research and reflection in collaborative development processes. See


    1. I found this to be a good discussion of the possible outcomes of such research. What comes to mind for me is a need to conduct research into the comparative effectiveness of the ‘academic’, ‘practitioner’ and ‘interactive’ research. That would be interesting! Of course the hypotheses to be tested would need to be clearly articulated.


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