All posts by fbeddie

Building bridges with universities

I recommend reading Barney Glover’s address to the Press Club and his assertions about universities. More particularly, his point about building bridges with the world beyond the university is important. Could that include better collaborations with VET institutions when it comes to the knowledge economy and start-ups?


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

Victorian reforms

Part of the reforms for Victorian VET announced today (see  include a fund that explicitly acknowledges applied research:

the new Workforce Training Innovation Fund will provide funding for new training programs and products, projects or initiatives. This will include specialised curriculum development and applied research that develops new skills where there are identified gaps for new, emerging and priority sectors. The fund will support strong partnerships between industry, TAFEs, dual sector universities and high quality training providers

Engaging with policy

I found this blog post by Nick Hillman in the UK interesting. Hope you might too:

Criticising Whitehall from the safety of an ivory tower?


Using evidence

For those wanting to understand a bit more about the iterative nature of science, and about things like open access and peer review (for the latter see the appendices), you might be interested in Nobel Laureate Peter Doherty’s new book, The Knowledge Wars. I reviewed it  here.

A Tribute to Berwyn Clayton

Another recent happening was a celebration hosted by Victoria University of Berwyn Clayton’s career as a VET researcher. Berwyn is retiring from the Work-based Education Research Centre ( at Victoria University next week. Last week she was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Australian Training Awards.

Roger Harris (University of South Australia) did an analysis of Berwyn’s research output, tracing the development of her interest in two particular areas, assessment and the VET professional. Erica Smith (Federation University) highlighted Berwyn’s contribution to AVETRA’s hallmark as an organisation at the nexus of the practitioner and academic VET research. Megan Lilly (Australian Industry Group) eloquently summed up the principle underlying Berwyn’s overall approach to her work: championing the value of learning. In a panel discussion facilitated by the ebullient Hugh Guthrie (Victoria University), Chris Robinson (Australian Skills Quality Agency) underlined the importance of the second half of the research process, getting the message out – something Berwyn  mastered, thanks, as Ann Goleby (ACT government) reminded us, to her grasp of the English language and dedication to hard work. Bob Paton (Manufacturing Skills Australia) reiterated another theme of the day, Berwyn’s ability to weave together the world of policy, VET practice and the workplace.  Helen Sonnleitner (former Masters student) and Anne Bowden (former new researcher in the NCVER-VU-AVETRA Community of Practice researcher) spoke of Berwyn’s tremendous commitment to nurturing new researchers by getting them to ask the right questions and helping then tackle manageable answers. Someone commented during the day that we need ten Berwyn Claytons to keep the sector on track. She’s done everything she can to ensure a future for VET research; still she will be sorely missed…if she really does retire.