Research and Reform Design

of the ProWoThai Project

1. Objectives and Targeted Outcomes of the Project

The overall objective of ProWoThai is to promote Work-based Learning (WBL) in Thailand`s TVET system to strengthen dual education and training on micro, meso, and macro levels:

  • to improve vocational action competence of apprentices through developing, testing and implementing pedagogical-didactical innovations in the context of WBL
  • to improve WBL-related teaching competences through promoting WBL for vocational teachers and in-company training personnel/staff through new teaching and learning materials and guidelines
  • to implement WBL in curricula and TVET programs
  • to develop and institutionalize research capacities through capacity building
  • to support cooperation between learning venues and stakeholders
  • to implement WBL in the curricula
  • to support the establishment of Public Private Partnership (PPP)
  • to support the development of a network of researchers creating a WBL-related Community of Practice (CoP)
  • to sustain institutional development and capacity building in the context of WBL

2. Research and Reform Methodology: Participatory Action Research (AR) for sustainable results

The programmatic nature of this Action Research (AR) project focuses on reforms – competence development and capacity building to promote WBL in Thailand. It differs from classical empirical research, which would be limited to the analysis of existing forms of Work-based Learning in response to a research gap. Research parts are directly related to needs-based reforms in the respective context.

The premise and conviction of ProWoThai is that a needs-oriented, sustainable implementation of Work-based Learning can only succeed with an action-oriented methodology that does not focus on “what is” but on “how can we develop and implement Work-based Learning?”. The basic assumption is that sustainable results (innovations or reforms) can only be achieved through a participatory, process-open approach on a par with all partners involved.

The principles of AR underlying the project: democratic participation, symmetric communication, and cooperation in order to develop social relationships (change process) and to solve social problems based on independence and equality. These principles are fundamental to the work of the UNESCO Chair on TVET and Competence Development for the Future of Work at the TU Dortmund University.

“Action research aims for innovative sustainable intervention in social systems. … Constituent elements are the participation of all actors on an equal level and the design of the project as a development process; researchers and practitioners provide structures to each other; they cooperate closely and learn from each other. In addition, there is a positive attitude to research and the claim to generate new knowledge.” (Schröder 2017, p. 112)

“Transfer” and implementation of WBL is a process that is fundamentally expressed in joint and dialogic research of all collaborating actors in the research field, i.e. partners from collaborating universities in Germany, Thailand and Malaysia. The process is characterized by mutual respect for each other’s expertise, cultural background and professional experiences, recognizing each other as competent players in the field. In shaping practice, the process of Action Research becomes a form of WBL.

The methodological and didactical implication of this iterative process model is that knowledge and competence development and the provision of input do not take place in an instructional manner and “on stock” but “just in time” and by reflection and explication of the final product/goal. Competence development is embedded in an action-oriented innovation process, supported by mutual scientific coaching.

3. Scientific Coaching (SC) – Driving force of Action Research and WBL implementation

Scientific Coaching (SC) is a core element of our approach of Action Research (AR) according to a non-instructional and trust-building dialogical setting on an equal footing and moves towards implementing forms of Work-based Learning in a culturally and contextually coherent manner. It reflects and resonates on the autonomy of the actors in the sense of self-directed experiential learning. Scientific Coaching also follows the principle of Work-based Learning as learning on demand, supporting the Community of Practice (CoP) in the process of interactive problem-solving.

4. Research Questions

The overarching question of all research and reform activities of ProWoThai is:
“How can WBL be implemented and developed in a needs-based and culturally and contextually coherent way?”

This question can be operationalized in the following (implicit) sub-colours:

  • How to develop WBL according to the practical needs of partners?
  • How and where can WBL be implemented on a needs-based level, using existing expertise?
  • How can the sustainability of actions and reforms be secured beyond the lifetime of the project?

These (implicit) research questions represent the bottom line of the entire Action Research project, geared towards concrete measures of change on micro, meso, and macro levels. The research activities took place in the context of the exploratory study as well as during the development and implementation phase.

  • Exploratory Study: finding and analyzing compatible structures of dual training, within the framework of which WBL could be further developed: The Tripartite TVET system (TPTS) and the School in Factory (SiF).
  • Development and implementation phase:

(1) Research related to the Thai vocational education system and the analysis of documents on the vocational strategy of the Thai government.

(2) Research on the scientific and practical concepts at stake.


5. ProWoThai in the Context of International TVET Research and Cooperation

The ProWoThai project is located in the scientific discipline of TVET research, which represents an interdisciplinary field of research that addresses a variety of issues and development tasks at macro, meso, and micro levels (cf. Rauner/ Grollmann 2018, p. 13):

  • The macro level deals with questions of the vocational education and training system and its further development.
  • The meso level relates to the organization and design of vocational training curricula/institutions.
  • The micro level comprises methodical-didactical and content-related questions of educational and learning processes.

In essence, the task of TVET research incorporates the “scientific study of the fundamentals for the design and organization of vocational education and training” and “development tasks such as the creation of training regulations and media” (ibid., p. 15). TVET research thus differs from general education research primarily in its specific content and goals. These include, above all, the change of work organized in occupational form as well as the analysis and design of vocational education, qualification and learning processes (cf. ibid., p. 15).