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Karen leads NZCER's research programme on vocational and professional education. She believes strongly in the rich learning potential of all kinds of settings, and has a particular interest in those outside of educational institutions. She enjoys designing projects to impact on practice and policy.
She has just completed Training for a Reflective Workforce in Health and Community Support Services which investigates workforce capabilities against the changing nature of the social and community support sector’s work.
Karen also recently led the Knowing Practice project, which explored "vocational thresholds" - transformational learning experiences at work that help people integrate theory and practice. Her team worked with GP registrars, carpentry apprentices, engineering technician cadets, and their workplace-based mentors and educators, employers, ITOs, and professional associations.
Her other workplace learning projects include: a good practice guide to assessing on-job learning for ITOs; reviewing the BCITO assessment model and writing a guide for carpentry apprentices; and synthesising international research on workplace learning and on SME engagement in training.
She has also done extensive research on career education and youth transition which has been influential for initiatives such as Youth Guarantee and Vocational Pathways: the use and potential of career-management competencies in schools; the development of career education networks across schools, tertiary education and industry; the five year Pathways and Prospects study with apprentices, army soldiers and officers, students at university and ITPs, and youth trainees; and a review supporting redevelopment of the Secondary-Tertiary Alignment Resource (STAR).
She also led several projects on prison education (young prisoners with special education needs; assessment and literacy/numeracy support).
Prior to joining NZCER, Karen had a software business, building bespoke applications for SMEs. She has also been a research consultant and lecturer at the University of Auckland.