Students embracing change towards more powerful learning environments in vocational education

Inge Placklé, Karen D. Könings, Wolfgang Jacquet, Arno Libotton, Jeroen J. G. van Merriënboer, Nadine Engels

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Students’ educational engagement is both an important predictor of study success and a key preventive factor for dropout. Vocational tracks in secondary education show high dropout rates. There is strong evidence that the solution to educational disengagement lies in student‐centred, powerful learning environments (PLEs). This study investigates characteristics of PLEs from the perspective of students in vocational secondary education. Students’ perspectives on a learning environment are crucial for their satisfaction and learning engagement. Therefore, we investigated whether the perceived learning environment meets the requirements of PLEs, and to what extent it meets students’ preferences. Additionally, it was investigated whether students who perceive their learning environment as more powerful, are also more engaged for school. Survey data of 532 students showed that student perceptions of their current learning environment were largely discrepant from the characteristics of PLEs. Students strongly asked for more challenging learning pathways, in combination with adaptive learning support. Students who perceived the characteristics of PLEs as being present, reported higher satisfaction and stronger engagement than students who perceived their education to be a less powerful environment. There is a need to redesign curricula in vocational education in such a way that these more intensely implement characteristics of PLEs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-44
Number of pages19
JournalEducational Studies
Issue number1
Early online date5 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • powerful learning environment
  • Secondary vocational education
  • student engagement
  • student perception

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