Talents in vocational educations in Denmark. Documentary analyses of policy, initiatives and results

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Since 2005, policy in Denmark have addressed talents (Ministry of education, 2008). The political assumption is that the nation can compete on knowledge in the global competition but not on the level of salaries. Therefore, talent development is necessary. One of the political intentions is to change the focus in educational policy from pupils with problems in relation to e.g. learning and well-being to pupils who are performing well at school (EVA, 2011). In 2011, the policy was updated. One of the recommendations was that vocational educations should have a special track for talents (Hermann et al; 2011). In 2005 and 2011, a group of experts were working on recommendations for the political system. In 2019, the policy was updated again but this time no experts were involved (Ministry of education, 2019). This time one of the political debates was how to avoid putting too much pressure on pupils because stress and performance pressure is reducing well-being.
The policies concerns all levels of the educational system, but this paper go into the area of vocational education. The objectives is to find tendencies in the development of the understanding of talents, talent spotting and talent development at vocational educations. Those tendencies might differ from challenges in other educational levels in Denmark, where social justice, inequality and social background are discussed (Rasmussen, 2012). It is also an objective to get knowledge about talent pedagogy. If such a pedagogy exists it might support the development of all pupils. At the moment, an overview of initiatives and results in relation to talents in vocational educations has not been made. This research project is therefore a documentary study of initiatives and results.
The understanding of talents and talent development in vocational educations are changing due to reforms. In 2015 a new reform of vocational educations is made and some changes are made in 2018 (Government, 2014; 2018). Nearly all parties in the parliament participated in the negotiations and there was consensus about evaluating the results based on what is called `clear goals´. One of the goals is that `all pupils should become as proficient as they can.´ One way to measure this goal is to measure how many pupils who attend the `talent track´ in vocational educations (Ministry of children and education; Ministry of education, 2018; 2019). Therefore, one of the theoretical approaches in the paper is performance measurement (Krogstrup, 2011). This is a quantitative method measuring processes and effects, but it does not tell anything about outcome. The other theoretical approach is based on “performative evaluations focusing on social processes, activities and ongoing results” (Albæk and Rieber, 2001, s. 137). The choice is based on the assumption that talent development is a so-called wild problem, not a tame problem (Krogstrup, 2011).
To analyse the results presented in documents a model is used. This model is developed by Pylvä and Nokelainen by combining different theoretical approaches (2017). One approach is that pupils are born with gifts and those gifts can be understood by Gardner´s theory of multiple intelligences. Those gifts can, as in Gagnés models, be developed into talents (Gagné, 2004, 2010). This process of development is dependent on intrinsic characteristics and extrinsic conditions. The development can take place in vocational educations during school and workplace learning so the student develops from initial level to master level gaining vocational and professional excellence (Pylvä and Nokelainen, 2017). In this development process, a gifted pupil can become a talent. The factors in this model is used to systematically analyse documents.

Reports and policy documents show the change of policy in the area of talents, but only the pupils on `talent tracks´ at vocational colleges are counted. The countings are done in in 2016, 2017 and 2018 (National Agency for IT and learning, 2019). Only a few Danish research articles concerns the topic of talents in vocational educations (e.g. Christensen, 2016). Search for documents from the two big university colleges in Denmark combined with snow balling shows five reports categorised as evaluation or as research of initiatives and projects about defining talent, talent spotting and developing talent (Lyngaard, 2015). Three of the documents are from the same time as the first and second policy (Allermand et al, 2015; Gleerup et al, 2015; Teknologisk Institut; 2015), and two documents are from the time after the second policy but before the third policy as stated in policy documents (Iversen, 2018; Rambøll, 2018). As an analytical division, the reform of vocational educations from 2014 is used. The argument is that the `clear goals´ that `all pupils becomes as proficient as they can´ derives from that reform and after the reform one project is initiated by the political system as a kind of policy implementation.
The documents are analysed from a social constructivist approach (Prior, 2011). The categories in the model made by Pylvä and Nokelainen (2017) are used in the analyses. Here the definition of talent and criteria for talent spotting is presented. It is also shown which domains is at stake such as levels of subjects, access to technology, teachers and skills. Furthermore, it is analysed whether talent development is described in relation to teaching at courses or in relation to the learning at workplaces.
Expected outcomes/results (up to 300 words)
The paper gives an overview of policy in the area of talent from 2005 to 2019. The policy has developed in three phases each presenting an updated policy stated in reports or policy documents. Vocational educations have been involved in five projects, which different stakeholders have evaluated or used as data in research. Using a model for systematic analyses of the results and processes described in the documents it becomes clear that the interests in and discussions about defining talent, talent spotting and talent development have evolved. In the early reports, the definition of talent and talent spotting seems important but in the latest documents, talent development is the main interest. Looking across the documents most of them are thematising teachers and pedagogy at vocational colleges. There is less knowledge about talent development at workplaces, which is also a part of the pupil’s vocational education in the Danish educational system.
Another outcome is that the analyses in the documents focus on the importance of development of teaching and the knowledge of teachers. The development of pedagogy seems to be important but also so widely understood that it could be seen as development of teachers in general. This focus is in line with the policy in the reform with `clear goals´ since one of the goals is that `all pupils should become as proficient as they can.´ This paper opens an important discussion on whethe focus on talent development can also improve or contribute to the development of all pupils.
A model developed in Finland is used as analytical tool in a Danish context. This contributes to perspectives of the interaction of talent development at college and workplaces, which is an important discussion in an international perspective.

Allbæk, E. and Reiper, O. (2001). Evaluering i Danmark: Effektevaluering, monitorering og formativ evaluering. I Daler-Larsen, P. and Krogstrup, H. K. (red.). Tendenser i evaluering. Gylling: Syddansk Universitetsforlag.
Allermand, G. Andersen, O. D., Iversen, K. S, and Koudahl, P. (2015). Talentudvikling i industrifagene. Fem casestudier i CoE. Metropol.
Christensen, S. (2016). Nytænkning: Talent rejser diskussion om pædagogiske ståsteder. Dansk Pædagogisk Tidsskrift nr. 4 s. 29-39.
EVA [Danmarks Evalueringsinstitut] (2011). Tilbud til stærke elever på erhvervsuddannelserne.
Gagné, F. (2004). Transforming Gifts into Talents: The DMGT as a Developmental Theory. High Ability Studies, 15(2), 119-147.
Gagné, F. (2010). Motivation within the DMGT 2.0 framework. High Ability Studies, 21(2), 81–99
Gleerup, J.; Nielsen, B. S.; Svejgaard, K. L. and Larsen, J. (2015). Afrapportering fra følgeforskningen til det pædagogiske udviklingsprojekt Talentspotning – et bidrag til en dygtigere ungdomsgeneration. Roskilde Universitet.
Government [Regeringen (Socialdemokratiet og Radikale Venstre), Venstre, Dansk Folkeparti, Socialistisk Folkeparti, Konservative Folkeparti og Liberal Alliance] (2014). Aftale om Bedre og mere attraktive erhvervsuddannelser.
Government [Regeringen, Socialdemokratiet, Dansk Folkeparti, Radikale Venstre og Socialistisk Folkeparti (2018)]. Fra folkeskole til faglært – Erhvervsuddannelser til fremtiden.
StatusUdgivet - 2020
BegivenhedECER 2020 Glasgow: Educational Research (Re)connecting Communities - University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Storbritannien
Varighed: 25 aug. 202028 aug. 2020


KonferenceECER 2020 Glasgow
LokationUniversity of Glasgow


  • Uddannelse, professioner og erhverv