Teacher Education in Career and Technical Education: Background and Policy Implications for the New Millennium

Teacher Education in Career and Technical Education: Background and Policy Implications for the New Millennium

Feb 2002


N. L. McCaslin
The Ohio State University

Darrell Parks
Educational Consultant
Columbus, Ohio

Executive Summary:

Most people, when asked to identify a teacher who made a difference in their lives, have been able to remember such a person. The teachers identified often were characterized as ones who took an interest in them as students, were respectful of them as individuals, and were concerned about creating a desire to understand the subject being taught. Yet, little is known about what makes a good teacher and how that teacher contributes to academic and technical achievement (Wenglinsky, 2000a).

The attention being given to teacher quality by the media, policymakers, and researchers is high. Improving teacher quality and teacher preparation is no simple task. The debates about teacher quality and how to produce quality teachers have been intense and have created numerous policy decisions at the local, state, and national levels. In some schools, teachers receive increased salaries if their students score high on state proficiency examinations. Some states are rewarding teachers with large increases in salary if they meet the requirements of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Other states, in order to meet the high demand for teachers, are changing the licensing requirements for entering teaching, and are offering alternative certification for individuals who have not taken teacher education courses.

Other approaches to increasing teacher quality have been to require a master’s degree or a major in the subject a teacher plans to teach.

Most of the efforts to improve teacher quality have been designed to manipulate teacher inputs, with the hope that the input will lead to improved student academic performance (Wenglinsky, 2000b). Wenglinsky indicated that there was little empirical evidence of a link between improved teacher inputs and improved student achievement.

Wenglinsky (2000a) studied the link between student achievement and three aspects of teacher quality in the teaching of eighth-grade mathematics and science: (a) what teachers do in the classroom, (b) professional development in support of these activities, and (c) non-classroom aspects such as teacher education levels. He found that students whose teachers emphasized higher-order thinking skills, small-group instruction, and hands-on learning activities outperformed their peers. Wenglinsky also found “…that teachers who receive rich and sustained professional development generally, and professional development geared toward higher-order thinking skills and concrete activities such as laboratories particularly, are more likely to engage in effective classroom practices” (p. 32).

Wilson, Floden, and Ferrini-Mundy (2001) examined more than 300 published research reports about teacher preparation and found 57 that met their criteria for inclusion in their report. Wilson, Floden, and Ferrini-Munday’s criteria for inclusion included: (a) required a direct relationship to one of the following five questions—(1) What kind of subject matter preparation, and how much of it, do prospective teachers need? Are there differences by grade level? Are there differences by subject area? (2) What kinds of pedagogical preparation, and how much of it, do prospective teachers need? Are there differences by grade level? Are there differences by subject area? (3) What kinds, timing, and amount of clinical training (“student teaching”) best equip prospective teachers for classroom practice? (4) What policies and strategies have been used successfully by states, universities, school districts, and other organizations to improve and sustain the quality of pre-service teacher education? (5) What are the components and characteristics of high-quality alternative certification programs?

Wilson, Floden, and Ferrini- Mundy reported a positive connection between teachers’ preparation in their subject matter and their performance and impact in the classroom. However, little definitive research has been conducted on the kinds or amount of subject-matter preparation. In regard to pedagogical preparation, studies reinforced the view that pedagogical aspects of teacher preparation are critical, both for their effects on teaching practice and their ultimate impact on student achievement. Wilson, Floden, and Ferrini-Mundy also reported that field experiences too often are disconnected from, or not well-coordinated with the university-based components of teacher education. Prospective teachers’ conceptions of the teaching and learning of subject matter can be transformed through their observations and analysis of what goes on in real classrooms. In the area of policy and strategies used to improve and sustain the quality of pre-service teacher education, too few studies have been conducted to make confident statements.

Wilson, Floden, and Ferrini-Mundy found that alternative-route programs have been successful in recruiting a diverse pool of teachers; however, they have a mixed record in attracting the “best and brightest,” and background in subject matter alone is not enough to prepare new teachers. The effectiveness of teacher education programs in institutions of higher education has been discussed extensively, and opinions vary widely. Groups such as the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation (1999) indicate that teacher education institutions (TEIs) are largely ineffective. The National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future (1996), on the other hand, are complimentary of TEIs. Undoubtedly, TEIs are neither all effective nor ineffective—but some are more effective than others.

Wenglinsky (2000a) examined the relationship of TEIs and schools, colleges, and departments of education housed in higher education institutions to students’ Praxis II scores, primarily from the Southeastern United States. He concluded that “…institutions of higher education are appropriate as sites for teacher preparation” (p. 32). He also concluded that teacher education institutions should “…place greater emphasis on content areas and less on preparation in professional knowledge” (p. 32). Wenglinsky also stated that “…until all TEIs operate at a high level, policymakers need to facilitate access to high-quality TEIs for students from less advantaged backgrounds” (p. 33). Lastly, Wenglinsky recommended that future reform efforts in teacher education “…need to be based on research that links teacher preparation practices to teacher effectiveness and other desired outcomes” (p. 33). Drew Gitomer, Vice President of the Research Division of Educational Testing Service, stated in the preface that, “Wenglinsky’s results make clear once again that teaching requires a mastery of both content and pedagogy, and that one at the exclusion of the other is insufficient” (p. 3).

A similar case could be made for career and technical teacher education. First, little is known about what makes a good career and technical education teacher and how that teacher contributes to academic and technical achievement. Second, an inadequate knowledge base is available regarding what the career and technical education teacher does in the classroom. Finally, there is little in the literature regarding what constitutes an effective career and technical teacher education program.

This paper will provide a context for education, an historical overview, a description of the magnitude of career and technical education, and trends and issues impacting career and technical teacher education. Additionally, it will recognize new approaches to career and technical teacher education, and identify components of a career and technical teacher education program. Finally, it will identify policy implications at the local, state, and national levels.

McCaslin, N. L., & Parks, D. (2002, February). Teacher education in career and technical education: Background and policy implications for the new millennium. Columbus, OH: National Dissemination Center for Career and Technical Education.