Hungarian, British, Irish, Italian and Spanish VET institutions have put up the fight against the administrative burdens on teachers and for high-quality vocational education and training. How can you use technological advances in an Erasmus+ strategic partnership project seeking to develop training and a toolkit to support the quality assurance system? We asked Mária Hartyányi about the quality prize winner international partnership.
Quality Management – Using Technology to Ease Burdens on Teachers
Institution: IT Study Hungary Education and Research Center
Project title: Open-source Quality Assurance in VET
Coordinator: Mária Hartyányi
What was the starting point of your project?
Our school has been engaged in adult education in the field of IT for over 20 years, including OKJ (National Qualifications Register) courses and teacher training. We wanted to create a framework for our activity, so in 2001 we introduced a quality assurance system, but we soon realised that we should seek an electronic solution instead. The other reason was that in recent years there has been a constantly growing demand for improving internal quality culture in schools and for quality management solutions promoting high-quality education. It was at the time of submitting the project application that the elaboration of a teachers’ career path model in Hungary began, which can also be regarded as the element of a quality assurance system. These three factors led to the idea of developing an educational toolkit which relies on new technology to support quality development in VET.
What do you consider the most important outcome of the project?
The development of a training course built on very strong consultation and network cooperation, and the prototype of the software tool we have made, which, according to our research, is unique in the whole world. We managed to have the training accredited, but the integration of the application (Educational Quality Open Software or EQOS for short) within schools will be a far greater challenge.
How did you implement the project?
At the first event in Budapest, we presented our goals to teachers engaged in VET, and their feedback was a huge disappointment. The teachers unanimously regarded the quality assurance system as an extra burden and they told us they didn’t have energy for that. It became obvious that if we can’t develop a system which clearly helps teachers’ work, then we’d better not start at all. We decided to invite teachers for a longer online consultation. 37 teachers discussed what quality meant at school, why a quality assurance system is necessary and how it could support teaching. Each day, we brought up some issues which fundamentally affected the effectiveness of the teaching-learning process, we recommended videos and readings for discussion starters, and we asked the participants to share their opinions at a common forum and write down their thoughts in an internal blog. The consultation made it clear that cooperation and knowledge sharing are among the most critical issues in Hungarian schools. We found that the majority of teachers were not open at all or not open enough to sharing their own educational resources and lesson plans with their colleagues.
Why is that so?
Because no quality culture has been established in Hungary yet. An unplanned product of the project is also related to that. While doing some research, we found a quality management manual published by CEDEFOP in 2015, a practical guide for teachers and institution heads engaged in VET about developing quality culture in schools. We at the consortium decided to translate it to the languages of the partner countries, so now it’s also available in Italian, Spanish and Hungarian. That was followed by the development of the training programme, to which the manual provided excellent background material.
Planning, development and operation – the training was built on these three words.
We tested the online institutional quality manager training on VET teachers here in Hungary and in Italy, and then had it accredited within the domestic system of continuing teacher education. The basic reasoning behind the training was that neither quality culture, nor quality management will automatically work without a teacher at the school who, in possession of the competencies acquired in this field, is capable and open to assuming the task of coordinating internal quality management in cooperation with the school’s management. At the same time, we also began to develop the open-source quality assurance system.
Would you tell me about the application?
Since it’s a fact confirmed by research that the quality of teaching and learning is basically determined by the quality of teachers’ work, the goal of the application is, besides supporting the school’s quality management processes, to help teachers with their everyday duties of planning and self-assessment. The lesson planning module, for example, was filled with content from the central framework curricula of OKJ courses, so teachers can prepare the obligatory lesson plans required by the teachers' career path model. The ‘Assessment’ menu item contains a number of questionnaires which were also compiled according to the career path model, thus making it easier to prepare the self-assessments. Under the ‘Quality Assurance' menu item, the schools as institutions can plan their own processes, prepare an action plan with a deadline and develop a long-term strategy together. What we haven’t talked about is the resource library. That's where teachers can share their digital tools and best practices with each other.
What would be your strongest reason to convince institution heads to integrate the quality assurance system?
At our closing conference, we received a lot of positive feedback from the attending leaders of institutions and centres, and many of them said they wished to introduce the application at their own schools. A representative of the National Institute of Vocational and Adult Education offered us an opportunity to present the system at the events organised for centres. However, integrating such an application in the school’s work is a long and difficult process. First we want to reach the teachers and convince them of its importance and benefits. The general opinion of the career path model is that VET instructors are not prepared for it from an educational point of view, although we didn’t only transfer the content of the curriculum into an IT tool, but we also sought to help revise the educational background. That’s where the quality assurance system developed brings something unique. It took a lot of work, but we are convinced that it’s really useful.
The project focused on an issue which has been relevant in Europe in the field of vocational education and training in recent years. The partners have generated a general, and at the same time expandable solution, the common basis of which is the EQAVAT Reference Framework: providing open quality methods and tools for the players of VET, community shaping and practice-based training. All this is available free of charge in four European languages. The strategic partnership proved to be justified and effective. Eight members from five different countries were involved in the project.
Jázmin Xénia Topuzidu
Last modified: 16-04-2019