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Working Paper


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Publication Details

A working paper by the Skills Research Initiative:accepted by the INTED conference, Valencia, Spain, March 2009. The complete research paper on the Research Capacity Building courses will be available next September.


The Technological University Dublin is one of the largest multi-level higher education providers in Ireland, catering for over 22,000 students annually. Under the 1999 Qualifications (Education and Training) Act, DIT became an awarding body in its own right. Programme provision covers apprenticeships, short continuous professional development courses, taught undergraduate and postgraduate, research MPhil and PhDs. While the Institute’s traditional mission1 was focused on teaching and learning in the field of advanced technical vocational education and training (TVET), over the last decade the importance of developing a research informed culture has become prominent in the strategic policy development of the Institute. Within this new emerging research agenda substantial achievements have been made in specific fields such as; science, engineering, ICT, tourism & food. However the research potential of a large portion of staff who work in the apprenticeship and craft area has been underdeveloped. This paper reviews some contextual information relating to the emerging research agenda as expressed in documents produced by the Institutes of Technology in Ireland and the DIT. It sign-posts significant Irish national strategies and notes some European Union initiatives that have relevance to research policy in this sector of higher education. The research then applies a ‘single case study’ (Yin 1996) to describe a new initiative which seeks to unlock the research potential of staff in the apprenticeship and craft area in DIT. Reporting the findings from a pilot Research Capacity Building project, which was run in DIT in 2008. This was a collaborative project between the Head of Department of Construction Skills and the Project Manager of the Skills Research Initiative, offered to Assistant Lecturers in the Wood Skills area. The paper details the emergence of this project and utilises ‘4th generation evaluation’ methodology (Guba & Lincoln 1986) to access the effectiveness and future potential of this type of initiative. Further by adopting a participatory ‘insider’ research approach the ‘lived experience’ and ‘voice’ of staff who participated in the project is captured through in-depth ethnographic interviews. The research demonstrates a willingness of staff working in the apprenticeship and craft area to engage in, and develop skills, competencies and knowledge relating to research ‘praxis’. However there seems to be a ‘cultural gap’ and mismatch between the high level national and sectoral research policy narratives, and the direct research capacity and capability needs of apprenticeship and craft staff. The research recommends that in order for this staff cohort to gain a footprint in the research domain, there is a need for localized and flexible research capacity building initiatives. This type of proactive research capacity building intervention can facilitate the unlocking, production and dissemination of the rich expert knowledge, experience and skills inherent in the apprenticeship and craft areas.

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