Archived InformationThe Quality of Vocational Education, June 1998
A second major purpose of this paper is to provide data and information about the responsiveness of vocational teacher education to major initiatives in Perkins II: (a) tech prep, (b) integration of academic and vocational education content and programs, (c) school to work transition, and (d) work with special populations. The data and information are limited as follows:
Survey data collected and reported herein were limited to the 20 universities currently (1993) affiliated with the University Council on Vocational Education (UCVE). Funds were not provided to survey beyond these universities. The data are self reporting, in response to open-ended questions, and limited to the amount of information and detail provided in writing by the respondents. No attempt was made to validate the information beyond the evidence provided through the mail by the respondents (e.g., some attached course syllabi, catalog descriptions of new courses, workshop announcements, abstracts of research projects, etc.; others did not submit attachments).
There is little in the extant literature that describes efforts at colleges and universities to respond to Perkins II initiatives. Since Perkins II has so recently been implemented nationwide, it is probably too soon for articles to be published about college and university efforts in this legislated arena. A few articles and studies that did report on implementation efforts are included with the data presented in the following sections. Some of the efforts identified were begun prior to implementing Perkins II.
Data and information focus on vocational teacher education as it exists in our nation's colleges and universities, primarily at the preservice level. There has been much state- and local school-sponsored activity (e.g., conferences, technical assistance, workshops) to help in-service vocational educators on implementation of tech prep, integration of academic and vocational education, implementation of school-to-work transition programs, and better service to special populations. Many university vocational teacher educators have been involved with these activities - usually on a state-funded contractual basis or as an independent consultant. However, this section only discusses that which is known about responsiveness to Perkins II initiatives at the colleges and universities themselves.
Member institutions of the University Council for Vocational Education were asked to provide information concerning vocational teacher education responsiveness to the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act Amendments of 1990. Appendix A contains further information about UCVE-affiliated universities. All of these institutions have vocational education units with a primary mission that includes teacher education, production and dissemination of research, provision of service, and awarding of doctoral degrees. The request for information was discussed with the UCVE Board of Trustees and institutional members at their July and December, 1993 meetings. The Board of Trustees advised the data collection effort and helped assure response from faculty and staff at the various members' institutions.
Survey questionnaires were mailed to the vocational education unit chair at each of the 20 UCVE-affiliated member institutions. This person was requested to summarize activity in four content categories: (1) tech prep; (2) integration of academic and vocational education; (3) school-to-work transition and collaborative programs with business, industry, and labor; and (4) work with special populations. Abstracts of courses, syllabi, research abstracts, descriptions of workshops, etc. were requested. A fifth category on the questionnaire allowed respondents to provide their thoughts concerning a lack of activity nationally in any of these areas.
The overall response rate to the questionnaire was 95 percent, with 19 of 20 universities responding. One university is currently undergoing major restructuring of its vocational and technical teacher education programs and was not prepared to respond adequately to the survey. Responses to the survey questionnaire were open-ended; thus, they were qualitatively assessed and coded according to theme or pattern of answers.
Thematic divisions for the four general categories include Teaching/Instruction, Research, Evaluation, and Technical Assistance. Further descriptions of each of these themes is as follows:
(1) Teaching/Instruction includes class and related activities such as discussions, guest speakers, readings, teleconferences, and assignment of student oral and written reports.
(2) Research includes theory building and data collecting that results in the publication of monographs, articles, book chapters, and theses or dissertations.
(3) Evaluation includes program evaluation at either the local, state, or national level.
(4) Technical Assistance includes activities to improve teachers' instructional quality by sponsoring or conducting workshops, seminars, meetings, conferences, institutes, and other preservice or inservice activities; also includes assistance with helping schools and postsecondary institutions in areas such as program organization, developing measures and standards, and curriculum development.
Although the survey asked for discrete information in the four separate categories of tech prep, integration, school-to-work transition, and special populations, responses indicate that these issues often overlap in practice.
For example, tech prep and integration appear to be highly linked, as are tech prep and school-to-work transition. For analysis purposes, activities were categorized as they were presented by the respondents. Thus, the activities were sometimes reported as separate subunits of an overarching university project or series of projects that incorporated two or more of the four categories. For example, sponsoring an institute for applied academics was sometimes reported under both tech prep and integration. Southern Illinois University at Carbondale reported that "most activities combine the tech prep notion with integrating academic and vocational education."
Another example of the interconnectedness is from the University of Georgia. There, faculty in a newly conceptualized Department of Occupational Studies (created from 6 former departments in 2 administrative divisions) have integrated into various courses a futuristic workforce development focus consisting of eight major themes: tech prep, integration, school-to-work transition, technology, special populations, workplace change, research-to-practice, and leadership.
Results indicate a high level of activity among universities in at least one of the four content categories. In general, it can be concluded that vocational teacher education students are at least being made aware of - through class presentations and discussions, guest speakers, readings, video teleconferences - the major initiatives in the Perkins legislation. Most of this is infused in pre-existing (i.e., prior to Perkins II) vocational education methods, curriculum, or foundations classes.
Further, one or more teacher educators at most institutions are involved in providing technical assistance to public schools and postsecondary institutions in one or more of the major initiatives, usually on a funded contractual basis with a state agency or a local consortium.
It is far less certain that a solid theory and research base to undergird the initiatives - through research and evaluation projects - is being provided by many of the universities.
Tech prep. Eighteen of 19 respondents (95 percent) reported activity in tech prep. Most of the activity is in the teaching/instruction category (n=16; 84 percent) and in the provision of technical assistance (n=15; 79 percent).
Most universities present information about tech prep in various classes. Examples include use of video and printed materials, guest speakers, field trips, teleconferences, and curriculum materials developed for applied academics courses. Two universities (Texas A&M and the University of Illinois) are teaching a graduate course specific to tech prep. The University of Arkansas is offering a graduate course, "Tech Prep/Applied Academics." Auburn University, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Idaho offer special seminars or topics for credit on tech prep.
Further, individual faculty or faculty teams from 15 UCVE-affiliated universities are actively involved in providing technical assistance to schools on implementing tech prep, usually under grant or contract funds from the state department of education or a local school consortia. For example, two faculty at Colorado State University assist that state's schools in forming tech prep consortia and then advise on curriculum and process matters. Several universities (e.g., Auburn University, University of Kentucky, Southern Illinois University, North Carolina State University, University of Illinois, University of Minnesota, and the University of Missouri) have sponsored workshops, institutes, or conferences on tech prep.
One faculty member at Texas A&M is especially involved with that state's tech prep initiatives. He has conducted eight all-day workshops for K-12 counselors in a consortium, served as conference coordinator for a four-day statewide workshop for junior high through university counselors, team taught a graduate course on tech prep, and helped to organize the state's 25 tech prep consortia. He envisions continued focus on professional development through teleconferencing and other forms of distance learning. He also hopes to use a town hall meeting format to further introduce students and parents to tech prep concepts.
One faculty member at Louisiana State University is working with other educators to form a teacher-educator consortium, with support from the state department of education, to assist secondary and postsecondary consortia with tech prep and integration activities and to help them develop a strategic plan to implement higher-level academics. Further, the teacher education programs at LSU are developing new courses for postsecondary teachers and helping to change teacher certification to reflect new and expanded roles for vocational education teachers.
There is limited activity in tech prep research or evaluation. Only three universities report tech prep-related research activities, and three report involvement with tech prep evaluation. In addition, two doctoral students at Ohio State University and one at the University of Georgia are working on tech prep related dissertations.
The major research and evaluation activities appear to be identified with universities affiliated with the National Center for Research in Vocational Education (NCRVE). For example, researchers at the University of Illinois have conducted several national and state-level studies that have included concept mapping with stakeholders in tech prep, a needs analysis for tech prep teacher preparation, and an evaluation design. They have also prepared an implementation guide and an annotated resource list, organized a national forum, and evaluated tech prep activities in two states. One faculty member at Virginia Tech has several NCRVE publications reporting on tech prep, including implications for graduate and undergraduate studies. Both Virginia Tech and the University of Minnesota - as well as Auburn University - have contracts to evaluate tech prep projects in their respective states. One interesting twist on the tech prep concept is being initiated at The Pennsylvania State University. Faculty are working with several postsecondary institutions in central Pennsylvania to organize a 2+2+2 program to encourage vocational high school students to become teachers. Students complete two years of vocational-technical training at their high school or area vocational-technical school. Then, these students go on to a two-year degree program, acquiring an associate's degree while working in their trade area. The last phase is two years at Penn State's campus to complete a baccalaureate degree and teaching requirements.
Finally, three universities have reported some restructuring in their preservice programs to reflect tech prep. Auburn University has revised its industrial arts program to reflect a tech prep model. The University of Georgia has restructured its trade and industrial education, industrial arts, and health occupations programs into a new major and program in technological studies. Louisiana State University is in the process of revamping programs to better meet the professional needs of postsecondary technical educators.
Integrating academic and vocational education. All 19 respondents (100 percent) reported activity at their universities related to the integration of academic and vocational education; 15 (79 percent) reported activity in teaching/instruction, 6 (32 percent) in research, 0 in evaluation, and 18 (95 percent) in technical assistance.
Similar to that reported in tech prep, most activity in teaching/instruction takes place in pre-existing classes and is heavily at the awareness - or information giving - level (e.g., speakers, short units, tapes of teleconferences, readings). This activity occurs at the preservice level at 12 (63 percent) universities. Of the 12, four universities (Auburn, Georgia, Illinois, Oklahoma State) have modified some courses substantially or added some courses in vocational education programs to include integration.
Beyond this, no university reported any significant, broad-base changes in general education requirements, curriculum and instruction courses, or other university classes to develop skills of integration among preservice or master's level students. All changes were reported within, not beyond, the vocational education unit(s). Combined with data collected by Lynch (1991) and the conclusions reached by Finch et al. (1992), it continues to appear as though vocational teacher education students are not being adequately prepared to implement vocational and academic education. And there is no evidence that other teaching majors (e.g., math, science, English education) are receiving any preparation on integration.
There were some isolated, vocational education subject-specific areas where substantive integration activities were reported - such as teaching a principles of technology course (applied physics) to technology education majors or teaching scientific principles and applied mathematics to technology or agricultural education majors. Also, the Vocational Education Department at the University of Minnesota reported plans to initiate a new doctoral study program with the Department of Educational Policy and Administration to prepare educators for leadership roles in two-year institutions of higher education. At the University of Minnesota, the integration of academic and vocational education is being modeled in program design and content. However, beyond these few isolated examples, the practices of successful integration as being implemented in high schools and community colleges - new curricula approaches, academic and vocational team teaching, use of applied academic modules, new courses, and reorganizing departments according to occupational clusters and career paths (see, for example, Beck, 1991; Grubb, Davis, Lum, Plihal, & Morgaine, 1991; Grubb, 1991; Clapsaddle and Thomas, 1991) - are not happening at any university. >Nearly all UCVE-affiliated universities report providing faculty technical assistance beyond the college campus. Fifteen of the 19 universities reported activities such as participating in or sponsoring workshops or conferences; providing consultative and technical assistance to state agencies or local schools; developing applied academic curriculum for use by vocational education teachers; conducting short sessions on topics as specific as teaching with the aid of various commercially-packaged courses (e.g., Applied Communications, Applied Biology/Chemistry, Applied Mathematics, Principles of Technology); and offering independent study and/or evening school courses.
Colorado State University reported involvement with various integration activities, such as large group awareness sessions, teacher teams, and implementing academic models. Colorado State University is also responding to requests to provide training for teachers and counselors on the products of its federal grant, "Integrating Basic Skills in Vocational Teacher Education and Counselor Role and Educational Change." Penn State has implemented a S.W.A.T. (Strategic Wakening for Activating Transitions) team to enhance program delivery systems, program planning, and integration issues. The University of Missouri-Columbia has developed a management and tracking system to facilitate identification of academic outcomes required for performance of vocational competencies.
Six universities reported research activity, including (1) dissertations by doctoral students at Ohio State University and the University of Georgia; (2) identification by a Oklahoma State University faculty member of effective teaching strategies using an integrated curriculum; (3) development of concepts and data related to situational learning, cognitive apprenticeships, and teacher education as further foundation to integrate vocational education, technology, math, and science (one project funded, two in review for funding) by faculty at the University of Georgia; (4) a case study on raising academic achievements of high school vocational education students and the effects of site-based decision-making by the University of Kentucky; (5) identification and development of basic and advanced academic skills for marketing education programs by a faculty member at the University of Missouri; and (6) several studies funded by the NCRVE at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and the University of Illinois. Three of Virginia Tech's published funded projects focused on the teacher's role in integration.
It is interesting to note that no university reported any evaluation activity at either the local, state, or national level.
School-to-work transition and collaborative programs with business and industry. Seventeen respondents (89 percent) reported activity in school-to-work transition and collaborative programs with business and industry. The following is a summary of responses according to thematic division: Teaching/instruction (n=13; 68 percent), research (n=4; 22 percent), evaluation (n=2; 11 percent), and technical assistance (n=7; 39 percent).
In the teaching/instruction category, 13 universities reported activity. Five are offering newly-developed courses focusing on apprenticeship programs, education-labor force linkages, or work-based education programs: University of Arkansas, University of Georgia, University of Idaho, University of Minnesota, and Southern Illinois University (for its training and development majors).
In addition, these and 6 other universities indicate that school-to-work transition topics are infused in such classes as coordination of cooperative education, organization of occupational education, training in the workplace, and special graduate seminars. In addition to discussions, readings, and lectures, respondents mentioned that methods in these classes often include job site visits, training needs assessment of local industries, industry tours, community surveys, development of model training programs and plans, field interviews, and business-industry short-term faculty exchanges.
A few universities mentioned specifically that they require students to obtain a certain amount of work experience to be recommended for a teaching certificate. For example, the University of Nebraska, the University of Idaho, and Virginia Tech require university-supervised business internships/work experience for some of their vocational education majors.
It was interesting to note that programs or courses on transition are targeted specifically to students with special needs at two universities: Colorado State University and the University of Georgia.
Major research activities on school-to-work transition seemed to be primarily at the NCRVE-affiliated institutions: Virginia Tech and the University of Minnesota in collaboration with the University of California at Berkeley (UC-Berkeley is not affiliated with the UCVE). In addition, a doctoral student at Ohio State University is focusing on transition/collaboration issues for dissertation research. A faculty member at the University of Georgia has written a book chapter on collaboration between agribusiness and agricultural education, two others have prepared separate research-based reports for information by state policy groups, and two others have published extensively on transition of disabled, economically disadvantaged, and at-risk students.
Only two universities report evaluation activity. Faculty at Penn State are evaluating the effectiveness of the state's youth apprenticeship pilot programs, and a doctoral student at the University of Arkansas is conducting an evaluation of that state's apprenticeship programs.
Seven universities reported providing technical assistance activities. The University of Illinois operates a federally-funded leadership development program focused on transition for special populations. Faculty at the University of Minnesota provide considerable technical assistance to states and local schools on implementing and operating school-based work programs. North Carolina State University developed a school-to-work manual for use in local schools.
Three respondents mentioned assistance with state agencies or commissions investigating workforce development and training issues. Two mentioned customized training activities with business and industry, and four reported new foci in providing human resource development programs for industry-based educators.
Work with special populations. It is interesting to note, on the onset, that of the four general areas for which information was requested from UCVE-affiliated universities, this category - work with special populations - generated the least response and commentary. This seemed surprising and a bit disconcerting given the significant emphasis in Perkins I and Perkins II legislation to better serve special populations. However, findings do seem to support the concern of Rojewski and Greenan (1992) that many states - through certification policies - are not mandating better preparation of vocational teachers to serve special populations.
For information purposes, special populations were described as individuals who are learning disabled, physically handicapped, speech impaired, emotionally disturbed, mentally retarded, deaf, or blind/visually impaired (Peterson and Thomas, 1987); minorities (Jeria and Roth, 1992); older adults (Sorensen, 1990); and immigrants, limited-English proficient, and economically disadvantaged (Rojewski and Greenan).
Sixteen respondents (84 percent) did report some activity in the category, Work With Special Populations; 10 (53 percent) in teaching/instruction, 3 (16 percent) in research, 1 in evaluation, and 13 (68 percent)in technical assistance. Of the 10 universities reporting information on instruction, 5 universities infuse instruction about special populations throughout preservice classes and 5 (the Universities of Georgia, Arkansas, Idaho, Nebraska, and Virginia Tech) require a special course. Five universities (Colorado State, Georgia, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Virginia Tech) have graduate-level foci in vocational special needs. The University of Arkansas also offers career exploration and supervised work experience in cooperation with the Department of Rehabilitation and Research.
Major national research and dissemination activities are centered at the University of Illinois where the NCRVE's major research and technical assistance program is administered. In addition, several other universities reported faculty who publish in the area of vocational special needs.
Faculty at 13 UCVE-affiliated universities are involved with providing technical assistance to vocational educators in their work with special populations, mostly as funded through state grants and contracts. For example, a faculty member at Texas A&M has annually sponsored a statewide conference, prepares a newsletter, operates a reference library, and analyzes assessment instruments for purposes of serving special populations. Faculty at Colorado State University are providing assistance with state grants variously titled, "Partners in Parent Education," "Survival Skills for Homeless, Runaway, and Throwaway Youth," "Transition Center for High Risk Youth," and "Personnel Preparation" to train related service personnel to work with high risk youth transitioning from school to work. The University of Kentucky funds a teacher educator to work throughout the state with vocational teachers to help them with vocational special needs students.
Only one university reported any work on evaluation. Auburn University is evaluating the effectiveness of programs designed to meet the needs of prison populations.
Thoughts regarding lack of activity. Respondents were invited to respond to the question: "Any thoughts as to why there seems to have been little activity from vocational teacher education nationally in any of the above?" Needless to say, responses varied - from terse one or two words, to three or four reasons, to rather lengthy discourses - in response to the question. Five respondents chose not to answer or did so by stating, in effect, "We are responding to Perkins II." All of the responses from 14 UCVE-affiliated universities were eventually able to be categorized into 6 major themes: (1) funding, (2) time/priorities, (3) philosophy or lack of a theory base, (4) unwillingness to change, (5) lack of involvement from teacher educators, and (6) need for professional development.
By far, the most frequently mentioned reason for seemingly little action from teacher education is the lack of funds. Eleven respondents specifically mentioned their unit's financial situation with phrases such as:
"No funding for anything new; we were lucky to survive with what we've had."
"The lack of activity... is a reflection of the way legislation is written.... Universities are not given funds to initiate activities."
"Perhaps since the legislation, i.e., funding, the teacher educators feel less affected by the legislation."
"Lack of flow-through funds from state department of education to university-based programs to assist in supporting efforts relating to above topics."
Time/priorities was a second major theme and was mentioned by respondents from 9 institutions. Respondents made statements that initiatives in Perkins II were not consistent with their research foci or that they simply couldn't implement activities due to insufficient time. This theme also is seemingly related at some institutions to the cut in numbers of faculty. A few responses:
"Time to learn about and treat these new topics is a common complaint."
"Burnout?? Decreasing number of teacher educators? I seem to be running as fast as I can doing what the university demands and what I need to do to recruit students. These things are highest priority."
"[There is a] lack of sufficient faculty to plan, develop, and carryout programs and activities related to these areas."
"University people are too busy with day-to-day activities that have a higher priority, i.e., publishing, teaching, and dealing with sweeping changes in teacher education."
A third theme that emerged from qualitative feedback is philosophy or lack of a theory base felt necessary to support the Perkins II changes either by vocational teacher educators or by their colleagues at the university. Or, at least the faculty were not sufficiently convinced there is an adequate theory base to bring about the appropriate changes in Perkins II. In other words, a number of vocational teacher educators in at least 8 universities weren't "buying" the changes themselves to sufficiently implement them or their colleagues (e.g., deans and co-workers in other academic units) were not sufficiently "sold."
"Support for above efforts in universities must come largely through reallocation of existing resources at a time when overall level of resources is being reduced."
"There is little or no research available and . . . [besides] teacher educators want things to be the way they were."
[We have] "difficulty in getting interest or commitment from other departments."
"Lack of theory base to reason about the issues."
Closely related is unwillingness to change. Similar to not being convinced of the philosophy underlying Perkins changes or claiming lack of an adequate theory base, faculty at 8 universities are simply not interested in changing. A related and strong sub-theme was faculty members' rigid adherence to traditional turf.
"Vocational teacher educators, in general, come from content specific programs: agriculture, marketing, business, home economics, health occupations, etc. and... unfortunately...time and loads over the past few years have not provided much of an opportunity to broaden our focus." "Basically, change is often difficult for individuals and is even more difficult for systems."
"Organization of university programs along specialized vocational fields sometimes makes it difficult to work at cross-cutting topics as those represented in above headings."
"Faculty members are afraid (or do not want) to work with others in designing collaborative programs. Departmental barriers."
A fifth theme surfaced dealing with teacher education being kept "out of the loop" and not involved with changes in Perkins II.
"Our state has chose to develop [Perkins II initiatives] without informing and/or involving teacher education."
"Perhaps another reason that teacher educators are not involved is because this is perceived as a state department of education domain in which they really don't want our input at this time."
"Lack of communication between agencies, staff - who's doing what."
A final theme focused on the need for professional staff development for teacher educators themselves.
"It may be due to the fact there have not been in-service programs organized or funded to train or retrain teacher education in these types of activities."
"Faculty members lack knowledge and experience."
"Very little in-service education/instruction on these topics for teacher educators. We are expected to read and apply with almost no training. Our cups are full, help us to see how this will benefit our existing efforts."