Vocations and Learning

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 227–256 | Cite as

Learning Documentations in VET Systems: An Analysis of Current Swiss Practices

  • Valentina Caruso
  • Alberto Cattaneo
  • Jean-Luc Gurtner
Original Paper


Swiss vocational education and training (VET) is defined as a dual-track system where apprentices weekly alternate between vocational school and a (real) workplace. At the workplace, they have to keep a learning documentation throughout their training, in which they are expected to regularly document their professional development. The actual use of this documentation remains limited, however, and its potential for learning is clearly underexploited. The study presented in this paper sheds light on the current practices and issues related to the use of such a learning documentation in the Swiss VET system. Semi-structured interviews (N = 29) were conducted with representatives of all the main actors of the Swiss VET system for various professional domains (Industrial & Handicraft, Commerce, and Health & Social Care). The study shows that although they all tend to see the potential of the learning documentation, the different actors of VET do not share a same conception of the aims and functions, both within and across professions. Based on their answers, possible improvements for this tool are discussed, and suggestions are made to enhance its use as a boundary object throughout the training.


Learning documentation Learning journal Vocational education Apprenticeship Dual system 



This study was conducted in the framework of the Leading House ‘Technologies for Vocational Training’, funded by the Swiss State Secretariat of Education, Research and Innovation.

Compliance with ethical standards


This study was funded by the Swiss State Secretariat of Education, Research and Innovation (SERI). Contract Nr. BB.2013.0098 – REF-1131-31403.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. Aarkrog, V. (2006). Practical training as a means of reflecting on practice: an evaluation of a vocational and education and training programme for rescue officers. Learning in Health and Social Care, 5(3), 155–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Akkerman, S. F., & Bakker, A. (2011). Boundary crossing and boundary objects. Review of Educational Research, 81(2), 132–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Avis, J. (2004). Work-based learning and social justice: ‘learning to labour’ and the new vocationalism in England. Journal of Education and Work, 17(2), 197–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bisman, J. (2011). Engaged pedagogy: a study of the use of reflective journals in accounting education. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 36(3), 315–330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Boldrini, E., & Cattaneo, A. (2014). Scaffolding collaborative reflective writing in a VET curriculum. Vocations and Learning, 7(2), 145–165.Google Scholar
  6. Bolton, G. (2005). Reflective practice: writing and professional development (2nd ed.). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  7. Brown, J. O. (2001). The portfolio: a reflective bridge connecting the learner, higher education, and the workplace. The Journal of Continuing Higher Education, 49(2), 2–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brown, T., McCracken, M., & O’Kane, P. (2011). ‘Don’t forget to write’: How reflective learning journals can help to facilitate, assess and evaluate training transfer. Human Resource Development International, 14(4), 465–481.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. de Bruijn, E., & Leeman, Y. (2011). Authentic and self-directed learning in vocational education: challenges to vocational educators. Teaching and Teacher Education, 27(4), 694–702.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. de Jong, J. A., Wierstra, R. F., & Hermanussen, J. (2006). An exploration of the relationship between academic and experiential learning approaches in vocational education. The British Journal of Educational Psychology, 76(1), 155–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Driessen, E., Van Tartwijk, J., Van Der Vleuten, C., & Wass, V. (2007). Portfolios in medical education: Why do they meet with mixed success? A systematic review. Medical Education, 41(12), 1224–1233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Farrah, M. (2012). Reflective journal writing as an effective technique in the writing process. An-Najah University Journal for Research, 26(4), 997–1025.Google Scholar
  13. Francis, D. (1995). The reflective journal: a window to preservice teachers’ practical knowledge. Teaching and Teacher Education, 11(3), 229–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fulwiler, T. (1982). The personal connection: journal writing across the curriculum. In T. Fulwiler & A. Young (Eds.), Language connections: writing and reading across the curriculum (pp. 15–31). Urbana: National Council of Teachers of English.Google Scholar
  15. Glogger, I., Holzäpfel, L., Schwonke, R., Nückles, M., & Renkl, A. (2009). Activation of learning strategies in writing learning journals. Zeitschrift für Pädagogische Psychologie, 23(2), 95–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Grollmann, P., & Rauner, F. (Eds.). (2007). International perspectives on teachers and lecturers in technical and vocational education (Vol. 7). Springer Science & Business Media.Google Scholar
  17. Hübner, S., Nückles, M., & Renkl, A. (2010). Writing learning journals: instructional support to overcome learning-strategy deficits. Learning and Instruction, 20(1), 18–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Illeris, K. (2011). The fundamentals of workplace learning. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  19. Kerka, S. (1996). Journal writing and adult learning. ERIC Document ED 339413. Retrieved from
  20. Kok, J., & Chabeli, M. M. (2002). Reflective journal writing: How it promotes reflective thinking in clinical nursing education: A students’ perspective. Curationis, 25(3), 35–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lee, I. (2007). Preparing pre-service English teachers for reflective practice. ELT Journal, 61(4), 321–329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lew, M. D., & Schmidt, H. G. (2007). Online reflection journals: learning through assessment. Proceedings Ascilite Singapore, 2007, 578–582.Google Scholar
  23. Lyons, N. (1998). With portfolio in hand: validating the new teacher professionalism. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  24. Mansvelder-Longayroux, D. D., Beijaard, D., & Verloop, N. (2007). The portfolio as a tool for stimulating reflection by student teachers. Teaching and Teacher Education, 23(1), 47–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Mauroux, L., Dehler, J., Rodondi, E., Cattaneo, A., Motta, E., & Gurtner, J.-L. (2015). Writing reflective learning journals: promoting the use of learning strategies and supporting the development of professional skills. In M. Bétrancourt, G. Ortoleva & S. Billett (Eds.), Writing for professional development. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.Google Scholar
  26. Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis: an expanded sourcebook. Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  27. Mittendorff, K., Jochems, W., Meijers, F., & den Brok, P. (2008). Differences and similarities in the use of the portfolio and personal development plan for career guidance in various vocational schools in The Netherlands. Journal of Vocational Education and Training, 60(1), 75–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Moon, J. A. (2006). Learning journals: a handbook for reflective practice and professional development. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  29. Motta, E., Boldrini, E., & Cattaneo, A. (2013). Technologies to “bridge the gap” among learning contexts in vocational training. Handbook of research on didactic strategies and technologies for education: Incorporating advancements, 247–265. doi: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2122-0.ch021
  30. Nore, H., & Lahn, L. C. (2014). Bridging the gap between work and education in vocational education and training: a study of Norwegian apprenticeship training offices and e-portfolio systems. International Journal for Research in Vocational Education and Training, 1(1), 21–34.Google Scholar
  31. Nückles, M., Hübner, S., & Renkl, A. (2009). Enhancing self-regulated learning by writing learning protocols. Learning and Instruction, 19(3), 259–271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. O’Connell, T. S., & Dyment, J. E. (2011). The case of reflective journals: is the jury still out? Reflective Practice, 12(1), 47–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Paquay, L., Defêche, N., & Dufays, J. L. (2002). Comment concilier évaluation formative et évaluation certificative? Quels apports de l’apprenant? [How to reconcile formative and summative assessment? What does the learner bring?]. In L. Paquay, G. Carlier, L. Collès, & A.-M. Huynen (Eds.), L’évaluation des compétences chez l’apprenant: Pratiques, méthodes et fondements (pp. 85–95). Louvain-la-Neuve: Presses Universitaires de Louvain.Google Scholar
  34. Park, C. (2003). Engaging students in the learning process: the learning journal. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 27(2), 183–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Poortman, C. L., Illeris, K., & Nieuwenhuis, L. (2011). Apprenticeship: from learning theory to practice. Journal of Vocational Education & Training, 63(3), 267–287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Sappa, V., & Aprea, C. (2014). Conceptions of connectivity: How Swiss teachers, trainers and apprentices perceive vocational learning and teaching across different learning sites. Vocations and Learning, 7(3), 263–287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Schaap, H., Baartman, L., & de Bruijn, E. (2012). Students’ learning processes during school-based learning and workplace learning in vocational education: a review. Vocations and Learning, 5(2), 99–117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Schulte, S., Richter, T., & Grantz, T. (2014). Digital media as support for technical vocational training: expectations and research results of the use of Web2. 0. International Journal of Advanced Corporate Learning (iJAC), 7(3), 29–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Spalding, E., Wilson, A., & Mewborn, D. (2002). Demystifying reflection: a study of pedagogical strategies that encourage reflective journal writing. The Teachers College Record, 104(7), 1393–1421.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Stevens, D. D., & Cooper, J. E. (2009). Journal keeping: How to use reflective writing for effective learning, teaching, professional insight, and positive change. Sterling: Stylus Publishing.Google Scholar
  41. Taylor, A., & Freeman, S. (2011). ‘Made in the trade’: youth attitudes toward apprenticeship certification. Journal of Vocational Education & Training, 63(3), 345–362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Thorpe, K. (2004). Reflective learning journals: from concept to practice. Reflective Practice, 5(3), 327–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Vermersch, P. (1994). L’entretien d’explicitation (Vth ed.). Paris: ESF.Google Scholar
  44. Vermersch, P., & Maurel, M. (Eds.). (1997). Pratiques de l’entretien d’explicitation. Paris: ESF.Google Scholar
  45. Volz, C., & Schuler, M. (2012). EHB-Standards für eine gute Lerndokumentation in der beruflichen Grundbildung [SFIVET Standards for a good learning documentation in initial vocational education]. Zollikofen: Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training SFIVET.Google Scholar
  46. Wang, Y. H., & Liao, H. C. (2008). The application of learning portfolio assessment for students in the technological and vocational education system. Asian EFL Journal, 10(2), 132–154.Google Scholar
  47. Wellington, J. (2000). Educational research: contemporary issues and practical approaches. London: Continuum.Google Scholar
  48. Winsor, P. J., Butt, R. L., & Reeves, H. (1999). Portraying professional development in preservice teacher education: Can portfolios do the job? Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 5(1), 9–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Zubizarreta, J. (2009). The learning portfolio: reflective practice for improving student learning. San Francisco: Wiley.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Valentina Caruso
    • 1
  • Alberto Cattaneo
    • 1
  • Jean-Luc Gurtner
    • 2
  1. 1.Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (SFIVET, EHB IFFP IUFFP)Lugano MassagnoSwitzerland
  2. 2.University of Fribourg (CH) Site Regina MundiFribourgSwitzerland

Personalised recommendations