Powering Up Collaboration and Knowledge Monitoring: Reflection-Based Support for 21st-Century Skills in Secondary Vocational Technical Education

Elise H. Eshuis

Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis - Research UT, graduation UT

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The research within this dissertation took place in the light of changes underway in secondary vocational technical education and the needs of schools and teachers that are related to these changes. There is a growing need to train secondary vocational technical students not only to become domain specialists within their field, but also to have them acquire a broader professional orientation by developing cross-curricular, 21st-century skills. These are, for example, skills that would help them to be able to work collaboratively in increasingly complex teams and continually develop their knowledge. However, teachers often lack the tools to facilitate the development of these more generalized skills.

More concretely, as a response to this need, this dissertation focused on the development and evaluation of digital tools that help secondary vocational technical students acquire skills related to collaboration and knowledge monitoring. The tools incorporated elements that could trigger students’ reflective thinking, as reflection is a well-known and often employed means in various educational settings to promote knowledge acquisition and skill development: comparative feedback, reflection prompts, and interaction with peers. The tools were offered as part of an online learning environment in which students actively learned with online labs about topics – electricity and electrical power transmission – connected with the curriculum of their program.

This dissertation is a compilation of three empirical studies in which the effectiveness of different implementations of the tools, which were complemented with teacher-coordinated classroom activities, was investigated. The first study sought to support students’ collaboration skills by promoting the development of relevant communication activities, whereas the second and third study focused on stimulating skills related to students’ knowledge monitoring by eliciting externalization and evaluation of knowledge.

Based on the overall results, it is argued that support (i.e., comparative feedback, reflection prompts) that is found to be effective in many other educational contexts does not necessarily benefit secondary vocational technical students’ behavior or learning. It stands out that these students benefited most when interaction with peers was part of the support. Based on this, social interaction is suggested as a promising element when designing instructional support for secondary vocational technical students.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Twente
  • de Jong, Ton, Supervisor
  • ter Vrugte, Judith, Co-Supervisor
Award date17 Dec 2021
Place of PublicationEnschede
Print ISBNs978-90-365-5297-4
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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