Vocademia: an exploration and a construction


Viva Ideas

This page is where I collated some of my ideas for a viva examination on this exploration, whilst still in the midst of this exploration, in July. This page is only really useful therefore, as a place to view where some of my ideas came from and how they have changed (quite substantially) to where they are now.

I could easily have deleted this page but I felt by keeping it, I adhered to the notion of continual development and refinement that has played a major part in this exploration, and is at the heart of my decision to use an updateable website as opposed to a written based format, with its insistence upon finality.

5.    Defence of approach and findings. 
Defend your project to a panel in a viva voce
"Dream of the day when a middle class parent storms up to the school to complain that their child has missed their session on plumbing because they were forced to study Latin."
Talk given by Alison West, Chief Executive, National Extension College, on 23 November 2004.

Who Is This For?

This study is an examination of the new 14-19 diploma qualification, focusing principally on the creative and media line of learning. In the first instance it is for practitioners of the diplomas, not for parents, nor students. This is because this investigation is not supposed to be a simple guide on how to teach the diploma, or a round up of what it entails; it is more fundamental than that. I'm aiming to delve deeper into the nature of what this new qualification is, to see to what extent  it is different to traditional GCSE and A level subjects and whether it is indeed an improvement on them; and to also look at what are the obstacles that are preventing it from being what it could be. My audience can be identified as those who have a more philosophical curiosity about teaching and learning, and those that operate at a more strategic level.

This means that the language I will adopt, though trying to be as accessible as possible, will necessarily include some philosophical concepts, theories and terminology. The challenge will be to try to adopt this style but still manage to be engaging. Moreover, because this investigation contains a quite considerable aim at its heart, (the attempted promotion of a new word - a protologism) and subsequent ancillary points regarding the nature of academic and vocational epistemology, it's primary aim is to be persuasive.

The results of this unit will then feed into a presentation at my exhibition, which will occur on November 24th, 2009; Target Setting day. The audience will then be chiefly, the stakeholders of the diploma, its teachers and students, and their parents; but should be all teachers who may have to radically alter the way they conduct their pedagogy following the 2013 review of A-levels. Use 2020 quote here**

Ideal Reader Profile

A skeptical Maths teacher

Why I Think The Academic and Vocational split in the Diploma is a subject worth exploring


I am now approaching a full year of teaching (following a full year of planning for) the new Creative + Media diploma,  which is part of the current Labour government's new education drive to radically alter the existing educational provision for 14 to 19 year olds in the UK. However, after all this time I am still not absolutely sure what it is that I am delivering. What I am sure about though, is that there are many concerns, doubts and criticisms of these new Diplomas. I believe this is the case because they:-
1) are new, and as a new educational model, have not yet "found/created" their own identity, in comparison to the much more familiar GCSE and A level qualifications.
2) are often associated with perceived failed qualifications, particularly of the vocational variety.
3) they highlight a divisive cultural attitude to certain qualifications. I suspect, and will try to show, that a lot of the  complexities of the diploma, arise from an unresolved tension between the  perceived differences  of academic and vocational learning, and the assumptions and prejudices that exist about them.

Much has already been spent on the introduction of the Diplomas, in terms of time, energy and finance; both on the micro level of the early adopter institutions, such as my school, and on the macro level by the current Labour government. With the growing belief that a Conservative government will soon be elected, with its undoubted conservative, traditional philosophy, particularly heard in the speeches of Michael Gove, current Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families; very strong arguments are needed if the egalitarian vision contained within the new diplomas is to survive.

Anti-elitist, Marxist and a Benthamite; I believe in the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people, and in terms of the 14 - 19 education system, I believe that the diplomas COULD provide this over the current traditional system.


I believe the biggest threat to the diplomas is both internal and external. Internally, the creation of the diplomas failed to address thoroughly enough the academic and vocational divide, even though this was a fundamental principle of its chief architects, evidenced by its inability to adequately defend itself against external, traditional attacks.
My approach is to:-
1) highlight the vocational/academic tension at the heart of the diploma

2) argue that it is endemic in the education system in the UK, using some literature and email interviews from Heads of departments from my school

3) to suggest a new word whereby academic learning is fused with vocational, called "vocademic".  After a discussion on the reasons and effects binary oppositions have on structuring knowledge, I will argue for the benefits of protologisms as ways of altering ideas; I will suggest a model by using Richard Sennet's Pragmatism and "Intelligent Hand" ideas, with Guy Claxton's 'Building Learning Power' philosophy.

4) to test whether this suggestion of vocademic learning has "any legs" on my colleagues. The gap between the attitudes to, and perceptions of, academic and vocational learning, are so powerful and deep seated that my approach is to ascertain whether there is any desire to accept a model of learning that proposes to bring these binary opposites together. I want to be clear that this investigation will not construct a full proof model,  but I think it would be a good start, for a much larger project, to gather evidence of whether there is any will for accepting the mere idea, of  "vocademic" learning.
I have 2 new teachers, a Drama specialist (Julia) and a Media and Art specialist (Matt) about to embark on teaching the next cohort of the Creative + Media diploma. They have informal semi-understandings of the course, via chats and such, but I am due to give them a formal introductory INSET next Thursday on  the course. Following an opening presentation by me, I will then record them interviewing me about it. Then we will plan the first Level 2 unit, Scene, together. Via a blog page, on this website, I will slowly introduce the vocademic idea to them, whilst trying to ascertain their traditional bias. I will analyse this data to search for some kind of acceptance of my vocademic protologism, and for ideas about how we can flesh it out.

5) to describe a future plan as to how to construct a model that goes beyond a suggestion, which will be explored in greater depth for my exhibition.

Deconstruction of the unequal nature of education and how young people are labelled unfairly and detrimentally
Foundation for the basis of a much more thorough model of the nature of Vocademic Learning
Justification and motivation for taking the model further - attempting to go deeper philosophically into a possible vocademic knowledge
Another chip at the class mountain that exists in education in the UK

Other models, ignorance, confusion and disinterest, will see the traditional subjects and traditional ways of teaching remain dominant, and the diplomas forever sidelined or disappear
never the twain shall meet - class divide

Staffroom installation for maximum impact - one week with a launch and Q+A on the "Vocademic" nature/identity of the diploma, using research data from this unit 4.


FINDINGS - Primary

The primary research I gathered were of 3 varieties
1) The emails to the Heads of Departments
trad academic subject heads didn't respond, said they would - too busy, didn't feel the need, something of the ivory tower

2) The blog comments of my 2 diploma colleagues
gentle reminders and pushes not really successful

3) The informal - though not social scientific are invaluable, and cannot be discounted, particularly from a study that involves a protlogism at its heart, as I wanted to test whether the term itself could be adopted in conversation, rather than a formal scenario. Obviously, informality is an issue in social research, but this is a shame, because I am convinced that the level of human truth is far higher in everyday interactions, than it is in controlled simulations of the real world. As such, my "vocademic" term was quickly understood on the level of discourse in many informal situations and encounters.

Future Data
I am aiming to collect a great deal more at my exhibition - re Gauntlett's Creative Explorations - will get teachers to place post-it notes with their ideas about vocademic learning, onto the wire-framed, life-size recreation of the Vitruvian Man, called The Vocademic Man.

FINDINGS - Secondary

Tomlinson Report and letter
Mike Baker BBC
Richard Sennet's 'The Craftsman' - chapters on 'Ability' and 'The Hand' - capability
Guy Claxton's 'What's The Point of School' and BLP dispositions - capability
David Gauntlett's 'Creative Explorations'


The desire for equality in education is slowly wittled away as the drive for meritocracy and evidence of ability is demanded by HE and the world of work.