Even Better than the Real Thing: Practice-Based Learning and Vocational Thresholds at Work

  • Karen VaughanEmail author
Part of the Technical and Vocational Education and Training: Issues, Concerns and Prospects book series (TVET, volume 29)


This chapter considers the distinctive contribution of practice-based learning to New Zealand’s vocational education system. It contends that examining the way apprenticeship-like arrangements combine theoretical knowledge and practice competence is particularly useful for addressing questions about the kinds of knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed for 21st life and work and how they are best developed.

The chapter draws on research with general practice (GP) registrars, carpentry apprentices, engineering technician cadets, and their workplace teachers and mentors, exploring “vocational threshold” experiences that act as a portal to new levels of practice capability (Vaughan, Bonne, Eyre, Knowing practice: Vocational thresholds for GPs, carpenters, and engineering technicians. Wellington, New Zealand Council for Educational Research and Ako Aotearoa, 2015). The vocational thresholds that learner-practitioners must cross – developing expertise with uncertainty (GPs), reframing technical know-how with craft values (carpenters), and developing a social eye (engineering technicians) – are notably dispositional in nature. This underscores the critical role of ontology (nature of being), as well as epistemology (nature of knowing), in capability development. The chapter argues that this makes the inherently integrated approach of practice-based learning apposite for a knowledge society requiring attentive, proactive, and wise practitioners.


Apprenticeship Practice-based learning Professional learning Vocational education and training Work-integrated learning Threshold concepts Identity 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.New Zealand Council for Educational ResearchWellingtonNew Zealand

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