Vocations and Learning

, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 63–84 | Cite as

Innovative Work Behaviour in Vocational Colleges: Understanding How and Why Innovations Are Developed

  • Gerhard MessmannEmail author
  • Regina H. Mulder
Original Paper


In workplaces, innovative products and processes are required to address emerging problems and challenges. Therefore, understanding of employees’ innovative work behaviour, including the generation, promotion, and realisation of ideas as components of this behaviour is important. In particular, what fosters innovation development and what triggers these activities is important for its promotion and adoption in contemporary workplaces. To investigate how and why innovations at work are developed and enacted, an explorative study comprising structured interviews with vocational teachers in the German vocational system was conducted. The teachers reported on activities they undertook during the development of a specific innovation. Furthermore, they provided information on factors that made this innovation necessary and that they were activated by. The study indicates that even when opportunities for innovation development existed in a workplace, the needs and goals of teachers were pivotal for these opportunities to be recognised and teachers’ innovative work behaviour to be triggered. By analysing vocational teachers’ work activities, we found that the development of innovations was a complex, iterative and primarily social process. By encouraging teachers to act on opportunities for change and by establishing a collaborative structure at schools, innovation development can be facilitated. We also found that throughout the development of an innovation, reflection played an important role. If the importance of reflective activities is acknowledged by workplaces such as these participants’ vocational schools, this not only fosters innovations but also the teachers’ professional development.


Innovative work behaviour Vocational teachers Activities Triggers 


  1. Anderson, N. R., De Dreu, C. K. W., & Nijstad, B. A. (2004). The routinization of innovation research: a constructively critical review of the state-of-the-science. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 25, 147–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Attwell, G. (1997). New roles for vocational education and training teachers and trainers in Europe: a new framework. Journal of European Industrial Training, 21, 256–265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. BMBF (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung). (2010). Berufsbildungsbericht 2010. Bonn: BMBF.Google Scholar
  4. Boud, D. (2006). Creating the space for reflection at work. In D. Boud, P. Cressey, & P. Docherty (Eds.), Productive reflection at work. Learning for changing organizations (pp. 158–169). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  5. Centre for Educational Research and Innovation. (2009). Working out change. Systemic innovation in vocational education and training. Paris: OECD.Google Scholar
  6. Choi, J. N. (2007). Change-oriented organizational citizenship behavior: effects of work environment characteristics and intervening psychological processes. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 28, 467–484.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. De Jong, J. P. J., & Kemp, R. (2003). Determinants of co-workers’ innovative behaviour: an investigation into knowledge intensive services. International Journal of Innovation Management, 7, 189–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Deutscher Bildungsrat. (1970). Strukturplan für das Bildungswesen. Stuttgart: Klett Verlag.Google Scholar
  9. Dowling, M. J., & Ruefli, T. W. (1992). Technological innovation as a gateway to entry: the case of the telecommunications equipment industry. Research Policy, 21, 63–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Eraut, M. (2000). Non-formal learning of tacit knowledge in professional work. The British Journal of Educational Psychology, 70, 113–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Flanagan, J. C. (1954). The critical incident technique. Psychological Bulletin, 51, 327–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fullan, M. G. (2007). The new meaning of educational change (4th ed.). London: Cassell Educational Limited.Google Scholar
  13. Geijsel, F., Sleegers, P., Van den Berg, R., & Kelchtermans, G. (2001). Conditions fostering the implementation of large-scale innovation programs in schools: teachers’ perspectives. Educational Administration Quaterly, 37, 130–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ghaith, G., & Yaghi, H. (1997). Relationships among experience, teacher efficacy, and attitudes toward the implementation of instructional innovation. Teaching and Teacher Education, 13, 451–458.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hargreaves, A. (1997). From reform to renewal: A new deal for a new age. In A. Hargreaves & R. Evans (Eds.), Beyond educational reform. Bringing teachers back in (pp. 105–125). Buckingham: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Janssen, O. (2000). Job demands, perceptions of effort-reward fairness and innovative work behaviour. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 73, 287–302.Google Scholar
  17. Kanter, R. M. (1988). When a thousand flowers bloom: structural, collective and social conditions for innovation in organizations. Research in Organizational Behavior, 10, 169–211.Google Scholar
  18. King, N. (1990). Innovation at work: The research literature. In M. A. West & J. L. Farr (Eds.), Innovation and creativity at work: Psychological and organizational strategies (pp. 15–59). Chichester: Wiley.Google Scholar
  19. Kwakman, K. (2003). Factors affecting teachers’ participation in professional learning activities. Teaching and Teacher Education, 19, 149–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Mayring, P. (2000). Qualitative content analysis. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 1,
  21. Meirink, J. A., Meijer, P. C., Verloop, N., & Bergen, T. C. M. (2009). Understanding teacher learning in secondary education: the relations of teacher activities to changed beliefs about teaching and learning. Teaching and Teacher Education, 25, 89–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Messmann, G., & Mulder, R. H. (2009). Zusammenhänge zwischen Lernmotivation und Lernumgebungsmerkmalen an beruflichen Schulen. Jugendliche ohne Ausbildungsplatz und Auszubildende im Vergleich. Zeitschrift für Berufs- und Wirtschaftspädagogik, 105, 343–360.Google Scholar
  23. Messmann, G., Mulder, R. H., & Gruber, H. (2010). Relations between vocational teachers’ characteristics of professionalism and their innovative work behaviour. Empirical Research in Vocational Education and Training, 2, 21–40.Google Scholar
  24. Morrison, E. W., & Phelps, C. C. (1999). Taking charge at work: extra role efforts to initiate workplace change. Academy of Management Journal, 42, 403–419.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Mulder, R. H. (2004). Conditions for instructional design and innovation in vocational education: successful design and implementation of complex learning environments. Oxford Studies in Comparative Education, 13, 59–70.Google Scholar
  26. Nijhof, W. J., & Streumer, J. N. (1994). Flexibility in vocational education and training: An introduction. In W. J. Nijhof & J. N. Streumer (Eds.), Flexibility in training and vocational education (pp. 1–12). Utrecht: Lemma.Google Scholar
  27. Parker, S. K., Turner, N., & Williams, H. M. (2006). Modeling the antecedents of proactive behavior at work. The Journal of Applied Psychology, 91, 636–652.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Pugh, K. J., & Zhao, Y. (2003). Stories of teacher alienation: a look at the unintended consequences of efforts to empower teachers. Teaching and Teacher Education, 19, 187–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Randi, J., & Corno, L. (1997). Teachers as innovators. In B. J. Biddle, T. L. Good, & I. F. Goodson (Eds.), International handbook of teachers and teaching (Vol. II, pp. 1163–1221). Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  30. Schumpeter, J. A. (1942). Capitalism, socialism and democracy. New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  31. Scott, S. G., & Bruce, R. A. (1994). Determinants of innovative behavior: a path model of individual innovation in the workplace. Academy of Management Journal, 37, 580–607.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Simons, P. R.-J., & Ruijters, M. C. P. (2004). Learning professionals: Towards an integrated model. In H. P. A. Boshuizen, R. Bromme, & H. Gruber (Eds.), Professional learning: Gaps and transitions on the way from novice to expert (pp. 207–229). Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  33. Smith, G. F. (2003). Towards a logic of innovation. In L. V. Shavinina (Ed.), The international handbook on innovation (pp. 347–365). Amsterdam: Elsevier.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Sternberg, R. J., & Lubart, T. I. (1999). The concept of creativity: Prospects and paradigms. In R. J. Sternberg (Ed.), Handbook of creativity (pp. 3–15). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Van den Berg, R., Vandenberghe, R., & Sleegers, P. (1999). Management of innovation from a cultural-individual perspective. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 10, 321–351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Van Woerkom, M., Nijhof, W. J., & Nieuwenhuis, L. F. M. (2002). Critical reflective working behaviour: a survey research. Journal of European Industrial Training, 26, 375–383.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Von Hippel, E. (1995). The sources of innovations. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  38. West, M. A. (2002). Sparkling fountains or stagnant ponds: an integrative model of creativity and innovation implementation in work groups. Applied psychology: An International Review, 51, 355–424.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. West, M. A., & Farr, J. L. (1990). Innovation at work. In M. A. West & J. L. Farr (Eds.), Innovation and creativity at work: Psychological and organizational strategies (pp. 3–13). Chichester: Wiley.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Educational ScienceUniversity of RegensburgRegensburgGermany

Personalised recommendations