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SoTL Trade Winds: Technical Trades & SoTL

by Nicola Simmons, Brock University

Earlier this year I wrote to our listserv seeking literature pertaining to SoTL and trades education. I was hoping for peer-reviewed articles I could include as readings in a SoTL course aimed at community college faculty, and I was having very limited success in finding anything in the area (read that as: more or less none!). I wanted to share my findings in a blog to let others know what I and colleagues did find.

An online book, Using ICTs and blended learning in transforming TVET (Latchem, 2017)gives case studies from several countries. While not specifically SoTL, there is a wealth of information in this book for those engaged in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET).

Another helpful resource mentioned to me is the Skills Competence Canada website, which outlines nine essential skills for trades workplaces and provides videos on YouTube to make public the ways in which these can be developed and how they apply in the workplace. The site, by the way, also lists provincial, national, and international skills competitions. 

In terms of peer review articles, Virginia Tech publishes the Journal of Career and Technical Education (see I was able to find some articles on trades education, but they are not necessarily framed as SoTL work. Many are on vocational training or pertain to high school contexts. Some, while very interesting, pertain to influences outside the classroom. There are, however, some likely to be of interest to SoTL scholars, such as “Competency-based versus traditional cohort-based technical education: A comparison of students’ perceptions” (Bell & Mitchell, 2000), which presents a Canadian study of Community College students.   

Imagine how excited I was to hear of a new journal that has just been released that is well positioned to contribute to this area of literature. Humber College Institute of Technology & Advanced Learning has just released (under the very capable editorship of Heidi Marsh, Director, Scholarship of Teaching & Learning), the Journal of Innovation in Polytechnic Education (JIPE). The journal’s focus is broader than simply technical trades education, of course, and although searching SoTL within the journal doesn’t currently link to any articles, with calls for future issues on “Innovative Learning Spaces” (July, 2018) and “Innovation in Sustainable Solutions” (January 2019), one can imagine future issues will begin to fill the gap.

From the journal’s website at,

The journal features scholarly work that explores the integration of theory and practice in an authentic manner and education that fosters innovation and entrepreneurship characteristic of the polytechnic model of education.

JIPE especially encourages contributions exploring the impact of innovative teaching and learning practices that push the boundaries of traditional approaches to learning or educational delivery including: inter-disciplinary approaches; the engagement of students with industry, action learning and/or applied learning and research opportunities.

I would strongly encourage colleagues to think about contributing to the trades and vocational literature – we need more good work in this area. Like me, I’m sure you know that some exceptional teaching happens in these disciplines: encourage your colleagues to make their work public!

I will certainly be making sure ‘trades education’ is a topic addressed on the SoTL Literature Annotations website (see

My thanks to Jason Openo and Tom Pusateri for contributing resources listed.


Submitted by Nicola Simmons, Brock University,



Bell, J. S., & Mitchell, R. (2000). SoTL scholars: Competency-based versus traditional cohort-based technical education: A comparison of students’ perceptions. Journal of Career and Technical Education, 17(1).

Latchem, C. (Ed.). (2017). Using ICTs and blended learning in transforming TVET. Paris, France & Burnaby, BC: United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Retrieved from


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