"Who am I supposed to let down?": The caring work and emotional practices of vocational educational training teachers working with potential drop-out students

Lena Lippke

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – Because of high drop-out rates among the students entering vocational education in Denmark retention of students has become pivotal to Danish educational policy. Thus vocational educational training (VET) colleges have been asked to work on implementing different kinds of retention initiatives and as a result, most colleges have established extended basic courses aimed at
students with personal, social and/or academic difficulties. This paper aims to explore the emotional aspects of vocational educational teachers’ work and present a preliminary analysis of the notion of care as socially situated within the vocational educational system.
Design/methodology/approach – This paper derives from a study based on fieldwork at a VET college offering extended basic courses. During the fieldwork nine weeks of participating observations and 13 interviews with teachers were conducted.
Findings – The paper provides empirical insights into the emotional practices and the management of emotions related to prevention of dropout within an educational setting. It shows how emotional practices can provide both teachers and students with positive identities and make out a productive force that prevents students from dropping out. However the management of emotions also involves a range of dilemmas and ambivalences revealing the difficult limitations related to an institutionalization and professionalization of human care.
Research limitations/implications – Because of the chosen research design more studies on the emotional aspects of prevention of drop-out from both the perspective of teachers and students are needed.
Practical implications – The emotional dimension of retention remains to be recognized and critically discussed more widely among stakeholders at different levels within the VET system and policy makers within education. Handling both the possibilities and the pitfalls of emotional practices requires that teachers are not left alone feeling responsible for the fate of their students.
Originality/value – The paper contributes with descriptions of how emotions can be productive forces preventing students from dropping out of education. At the same time it identifies a need for further critical examination of the emotional aspects of teachers’ working life.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Workplace Learning
Issue number7/8
Pages (from-to)461 - 472
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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