Training quality and premature termination of apprenticeship contract – conceptualization, operationalization and measurement

Böhn, Svenja

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URN: urn:nbn:de:bsz:180-madoc-601801
Document Type: Doctoral dissertation
Year of publication: 2020
Place of publication: Mannheim
University: Universität Mannheim
Evaluator: Deutscher, Viola
Date of oral examination: 3 December 2020
Publication language: English
Institution: Business School > Wirtschaftspädagogik, insbes. Ausbildungsqualität und Kompetenzentwicklung (Deutscher 2016-)
Subject: 000 Generalities
330 Economics
370 Education
Keywords (English): training quality , premature termination of contract , vet , vocational education and training , dropout
Abstract: For some decades, vocational education and training (VET) researchers and practitioners have been concerned with quality management and quality assurance (e.g. Seyfried 2007; Seyfried 2008). Offering high quality training programs is seen as one central aspect for companies striving to ensure their viability in respect of the availability of skilled workers (e.g. Beicht et al. 2009). Especially for those occupations and industries that face relatively high numbers of premature training terminations, the quality of the training might be of special concern (e.g. Heisler 2016; Laporte & Mueller 2011; Negrini et al. 2016). With regard both to training quality and to premature termination of apprenticeship contract, two growing fields of interest have emerged in the research: First, many authors have strived to identify central aspects and conditions of VET. Thus, a large number of test instruments have been developed in the past, especially those targeting apprentices. Second, researchers have been particularly interested in identifying reasons for dropout. In this respect, a growing number of analyses have emerged, with a special focus on the apprentice’s point of view. Against the backdrop of accelerating research efforts in both fields of research, it has become increasingly challenging to handle the somewhat divergent findings from various studies, even where the focus is narrowed to only one stakeholder in VET – the apprentice’s perspective. As a result, this thesis has strived, with regard to long-standing, broad and diverse research activities to illuminate both fields: training quality, and the reasons for premature termination of contract. For this purpose, a mixed-methods approach was applied, combining qualitative and quantitative methods within the four papers that constitute the research basis of this thesis. By shedding light on the relation between training quality and premature termination of contract in VET, the key goals of this thesis consisted of (1) contrasting different conceptualizations and operationalizations of training quality, (2) collecting and analyzing test instruments used in prior research (questionnaire design; focused on the apprentice’s point of view), (3) creating an item overview with (4) references to validated short scales, (5) developing a comprehensive test instrument (VET-LQI) and presenting validated short scales, and (6) identifying and aggregating the dropout reasons that have been analyzed within previous qualitative and quantitative research. First of all, it was the objective of paper 1 to reveal and recognize different understandings of the term quality in the VET context, especially with regard to the various approaches to modeling training quality in previous research. These approaches were synthesized within a framework model in which three selected test instruments were integrated (Klotz et al. 2017). Second, it was the aim of paper 2 to broaden this approach by identifying and collating the test instruments that have been used in prior research. To this end, a qualitative meta-synthesis was conducted of the 112 studies identified, which represented 43 test instruments and 3,631 items. These were analyzed and integrated into a framework model of training quality. On the basis of this analysis, an item overview was generated with reference to validated items and scales. The number of items assigned to each category clearly shows that previous apprentice surveys have concentrated to a large extent on the individual, while being less engaged in operationalizing training conditions (Böhn & Deutscher 2019). Third, a comprehensive test instrument (VET-LQI) was designed on the basis of this item catalogue, as detailed analyses showed that only a minority of scales have been validated in the past and that, despite the fact that a large number of test instruments already exist, so far there has been no survey addressing all training quality aspects with regard to the framework model extracted in paper 2. Paper 3 indicates good results for VET-LQI at both item and factor levels. The final version consists of 116 items and has been made available in both the German and English languages (Böhn & Deutscher 2019). Fourth, with regard to paper 4, it was the aim to identify and aggregate the dropout reasons that have been analyzed within the research. Thus, 70 studies were extracted, representing 666 potential dropout variables aggregated on the basis of 68 dropout categories. The vast majority of these categories include learner-specific dropout factors. At the same time, prior research has been less concerned with analyzing company-related dropout factors. Due to the great differences in the database, with regard to both the inclusions and the number of variables in the respective dropout models, quantitative aggregation of results was impeded. At least, an overview of effect sizes could be generated and, for a minority of categories, it was possible to draw unequivocal conclusions regarding their relations to premature termination of contract: Previous research unanimously, or at least in the great majority, confirms that dropout probability increases with a low training wage, a training occupation deviating from the individual’s dream job, an apprentice’s low educational level, a poor performance level, a learning disability, the increasing age, or migration background, and that dropout varies widely with regard to different training occupations (Böhn & Deutscher forthcoming). On an aggregated level, the findings of this thesis confirm that research in both the training quality and dropout contexts has been extensively concerned with input and context training factors. However, primarily and in particular, there have been great efforts to identify and analyze the apprentice’s personal characteristics (for instance, demographic or personal factors, education or performance-related information). At the same time, research has widely neglected central in-company process factors such as the characteristics of work tasks, social interaction or educational mediation processes, as the operationalization of the apprentice surveys shows. These factors could be adjusted within the training, and therefore play a crucial role both in assessing and improving training quality, and in preventing dropouts from VET. Against this backdrop, and despite the numerous studies in the training quality and dropout contexts, many in-company-related training aspects still constitute a black box to researchers (e.g. Anbuhl & Gießler 2012; Beicht et al. 2009; Hauschildt & Heinemann 2010). Thus, the investigation of relations between training quality and premature termination of contract in VET should be reinforced. For such endeavours, this thesis provides qualitative overviews that might represent important preliminary work in this context. Moreover, with the development of VET-LQI, a collection of validated short scales is made available for future causal analyses, that might serve as a basis for deepening and connecting research in both fields.
Translation of the title: Ausbildungsqualität und Ausbildungsabbruch – Konzeptualisierung, Operationalisierung und Messung (German)

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