We have established User Forums within our project context. These meetings bring together practitioners from the field of Higher Education (HE) and Vocational Education and Training (VET), members of administrative units, and national organisations concerned with both spheres, our project team and a member of the TLRP Directors' Team. Through these User Forums we aim to generate a range of evidence-based solutions to improve access to, and successful progression within, HE for those with a VET background. The forums have a fourfold function in the project context:
We think that practitioners from the fields can inspire the relevant research questions with their experience. They know best which questions are the most pressing ones.
Based on their experience, the members of the User Forums are informed discussants of preliminary research findings. By this we are able to externally validate the findings especially from the quantitative data analyses, thereby avoiding irrelevant statistical artifacts.
A central part of the project is concerned with the development and implementation of a reform agenda. Our strategic partners will play a decisive role in setting up the discourse with the VET and HE communities.
Reform is an ongoing process, and it needs the cooperation of relevant actors. By providing a basis for exchange between different users we not only bring to the fore our reform strategy, but moreover we will hopefully initiate a sustainable reform discussion led by the institutions themselves.
With our User Forum we fulfil one central aim of the Teaching and Learning Research Programme (TLRP): the transferability and the actual transfer of the research findings into the practice of education. As TLRP argues on its website: "Through professional partnerships between researchers and users the relevance, significance, quality and impact of each project's research can be enhanced."
Two meetings of the forums are planned, one a third of the way through the research project, primarily to discuss the relevance of the research questions for practice and our first research findings, and a second one before the end of the project to discuss the research findings in more depth and to think about ways to implement them in practice. As our research project involves institutions from both the south and north of England as well as Scotland, we have organised two forums, a southern forum (located in Oxford) and a northern forum (located in Glasgow).
SOUTHERN FORUM (Oxford) 19/1/2007 & 9/2007
NORTHERN FORUM (Glasgow) 9/2/2007 & 10/2007
Together with the members of the User Forums we decided to create an email-based network for a permanent and more timely exchange of information alongside the actual meetings. To keep the User Forum participants up-to-date about the research, we will also send out an electronic newsletter once in a while.
The first round of User Forum meetings has been successfully completed. Thank you again to all participants for interesting discussions. Participants can find a report on the meetings held in Oxford and Glasgow on the Virtual Research Environment (VRE).
The second User Engagement and Dissemination Seminar was held in Oxford on the 17th and 18th of March 2008. Presentations included: