Title Ensuring Quality in VET Networks
Project Number 2009-1-PL1-LEO05-05050
Project Type Transfer of Innovation
Marketing Text AN INNOVATIVE TOOL FOR STRATEGIC PLANNING, EVALUATION AND KNOWLEDGE SYSTEM (SPEAK) ENHANCING QUALITY ASSURANCE IN VET NETWORKS
Following new LLP through the past years there’s a rapid growing of VET networks throughout Europe, with a strong tendency to interlocking educational activities across organisations and sectors. Apparently this shift towards multilateral and transversal cooperation in VET calls for new and innovative approaches to joint decision making, shared planning, coordinated implementation and quality control of educational provision.
However the vast majority of instruments and methods of quality assurance available for educational planning, monitoring and evaluation on provider level do not meet the new requirements. They are designed for managing the quality of either individual organisations or discrete training processes and structures, and this way are systematically counting out collaborative quality processes within newly emerging learning networks.
Through recent Leonardo da Vinci programme periods the European CERN partnership, with the help of evaluation, planning and management experts has developed a set of quality instruments in order to bridge this gap. Besides research papers, evaluation handbooks and training programmes the EVAL II project with SPEAK produced an strategic planning, monitoring and evaluation tool for VET networks, which in the course of the Leonardo da Vinci pilot project EVAL IV has been tested and validated in collaboration with VET institutes and stakeholders.
The VETWORKS project transferred the SPEAK instrument within a multi-stakeholder approach to national VET networks, and advanced their effectiveness and efficiency by using the European common quality assurance framework (CQAF), as well as the European Quality Assurance Reference Framework (EQARF), as a reference framework for implementation. In accordance with the Helsinki goals, the project was aimed to improve educational planning and training delivery within local, regional and sectoral VET networks in order to become a world quality reference and develop a common culture of quality improvement.
The VETWORK is promoted by the University of Economics, Cracow, whose transfer partner in Poland is the Regional Office for Social Policy. The partnership falls into 7 highly professional partners from 7 countries (PL,DE,HU,EL,ES,AT,IE), of which 6 actively transferred the quality approach to regional / national VET networks (the Irish partner - developer of SPEAK, was responsible for technically adapting the SPEAK tool, supporting implementation units and delivering multiplicator training.
SPEAK is a participatory evaluation and management support methodology. It offers organisations and projects a set of tools to build a deeper understanding of the relationship between efforts and results and to enhance planning for the future, and in the process pro-actively engages the ongoing participation of stakeholders.
A key part of SPEAK is a software package, tailored to each user. Implementing the SPEAK system by VETWORK partners involved a set workshops, within which members or the chosen network were supported by designing their own version. This was followed by participatory training sessions: delivered by VETWORKS partners and supported by Nexus.
WHAT DOES SPEAK DO?
SPEAK is designed to work at two levels, project and programme.
The project version would be developed and deployed in situations where there is just one network. In these cases, the SPEAK version will be used by staff, volunteers and local stakeholders. But project level data can also be collated into a programme version, where there are several projects undertaking similar programmes of work with similar objectives. In these cases, SPEAK will facilitate comprehensive and consistent aggregation and comparison of projects, ultimately generating significant benefits for both programme managers and projects for both ongoing development and networking.
To each project, the SPEAK system offers:
1. A planning tool to facilitate clarification and definition of mission and goals, key partners and available resources, in a participatory process open to all main stakeholders;
2. A means to monitor the utilisation of staff resources against each goal, based on target and resource use data provided by the staff and volunteers themselves;
3. A participative and transparent means to monitor and evaluate progress in relation to achieving agreed goals and objectives, covering both outputs and outcomes and tracked year by year;
4. A means to readily document and report on all major activities, processing and synthesising them into regular reports of various kinds, both quantitative and qualitative;
5. Combining the above, SPEAK facilitates periodic planning and review processes, in which all stakeholders participate equipped with the knowledge and orientations needed.
At the multi-project or programme level, programme managers is able to:
1. Aggregate outputs and impacts of projects in usable forms, including both quantitative and qualitative features;
2. Identify and compare issues for projects working in similar areas, suggesting areas in which cooperation can be encouraged or support may be needed;
3. Extract and analyse data and insights on development themes, challenges and results across all projects, thus increasing programme capacity for both forward planning and policy influence.
Projects, at a collective level, should be able to:
1. Share experiences and learning points;
2. Through using a common evaluation language and understanding, build common agendas and shared actions on thematic, geographical or other bases.
Above all, the aim of implementing SPEAK was to create an empowering process for both projects and programme management: enhancing individual engagement and group participation; yielding strategically useful and robust information; and revealing many new possibilities and opportunities.
THE UNDERLYING METHODOLOGY AND SPEAK CYCLE
The underlying methodology of SPEAK is relatively straightforward and not unlike other participatory approaches to evaluation and support. Its sustained software-supported mode of implementation, however, is unique. The system is conceptually organised around a four part framework.
The one side of the project comprises mainly an ‘audit’ of each project and the environment in which it operates. The second side comprises review and evaluation: measuring firstly what the project has achieved in relation to its stated objectives and target groups, and, secondly, what impact this work has had on the groups concerned. On the other hand, the cycle describes the environment in which the initiative operates and hopes to change; as well as the the initiative itself, what it is and what it delivers.
From area and project audits, SPEAK moves on to indicators relating to the project and area.
First is the output indicators component. Drawing together information available within the project but also through collective deliberation, the direct outputs of the project are identified by staff and volunteers. These can be quantitative or qualitative, referring for instance to training days delivered, clients seen, infrastructure built, and so forth. Outputs are related to specific target groups and goals.
Next, staff, management committee members, volunteers and key stakeholders interactively work through a set of impact indicators to develop a consensus on what the initiative has achieved through these outputs, in terms of making a difference to target groups. These can refer back to the ultimate mission, goals and milestones, and may consist of, for instance, verifiable behaviour change of target groups, specific evidence of empowerment, or changes in objective well-being indicators.
Finally, the process moves into a second cycle with a re-examination of the operational environment, but this time with a detailed and robust knowledge of the role of the initiative in changes identified. At this point, goals, target groups and working methods are revisited, future plans revised, and the cycle is underway again.
In practice, the process of working through each moment in the cycle is as important as the knowledge generated, combining individual reflection on the use of resources and time with collective deliberation on the environment, working methods, outputs and impacts. All involved in the initiative gain a deeper, shared, understanding of the environment in which they work, what they are trying to achieve, and the way they are going about it. The real value lies at least as much in the process as in the formal outputs.
Most important, the framework is cyclical: it begins by looking at the external environment it seeks to influence and, moving around a full circle, finishes up by asking questions about how this environment has changed.
To assess the achievements of a project or initiative, some account must be taken of the nature of the development challenges faced and existing responses to them. The top left of the diagram, the conceptual starting point, thus begins by defining the operational environment including for instance baseline figures and features, or a description of VET-related needs, as well as an account of the current responses to these, independent of the project itself. The collective process by which this is completed is vital as it ensures that those involved, including management committee and staff, develop a common view of the issues facing young people, and of current responses to them.
The second conceptual component is a detailed analysis of the project environment. Here, based on the initiative’s mission, goals, resources and expected outcomes, the groups targeted by the project, the working methods adopted, and the working partners are teased out and set down by staff and other stakeholders. A further key element of the project environment, estimated retrospectively each period, is the resource audit showing how much staff and volunteer time is used in relation to each of these.
procedure for the analysis and prognosis of the vocational training requirement
First national versions of SPEAK will be released at the end of the project, in October 2011.
Moreover, since June 2010 on the project's homepage there is a draft paper on CQAF model of excellence in VET at the institutional level (in English as well as in Polish version). The English version of this document was also uploaded on the ADAM portal as a temporary product of the VETWORKS project(tab "files")
In September 2010 on the VETWORKS homepage were published other language versions.
At the ADAM database you can also find executive summary of national reports, describing the VET sector in participating countries, as well as transfer of innovation strategies (SPEAK) and other products delivered by the project partners.