Trade and Industrial Teachers' Knowledge Related to Special Populations
Marie F. Kraska
Federal legislation mandates that the full range of vocational education programs and services be accessible to special populations (Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990; Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act of 1990). The Perkins Act describes members of these "special populations" as "individuals with handicaps, educationally and economically disadvantaged individuals (including foster children), individuals of limited English proficiency, individuals who participate in programs designed to eliminate sex bias, and individuals in correctional institutions" (Public Law No. 101-392, S 521, 104 Stat. 753, 1991). For purposes of this study, the following specific definitions from the Perkins (1990) legislation were used:
- The term disadvantaged means individuals (other than individuals with handicaps) who have economic or academic disadvantages and who require special services and assistance in order to enable such individuals to succeed in vocational education programs. [Disadvantaged] includes individuals who are members of economically disadvantaged families, migrants, individuals of limited English proficiency and individuals who are dropouts from, or who are identified as potential dropouts from, secondary school. (Sec. 521, 13).
- The term economically disadvantaged family or individual means such families or individuals who are determined by the Secretary to be low-income according to the latest available data from the Department of Commerce. (Carl D. Perkins Act, 1990, Sec. 15)
- The term individual with handicaps means any individual who is an individual with any disability (as defined in section 3  of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990). (Carl D. Perkins Act, 1990, Sec. 521, 19)
The National Assessment of Vocational Education: Final Report to Congress (1994) found that individuals with disabilities and/or economic and academic disadvantages (including limited English proficiency [LEP]) take more vocational education than other students (U.S. Department of Education, 1994). Larrivee and Cook (1979) stated that legal, financial, and social pressures are making it more likely that learning disabled, mildly retarded, and mildly emotionally disturbed children will appear with increasing frequency in regular classrooms. In addition, women, minorities, and immigrants are expected to comprise about 80 percent of the work force by the year 2000 (Johnston & Packer, 1987). Historically these workers have been ill-prepared and less skilled than white male workers (Johnston & Packer, 1987). As the youth population continues to dwindle, employers may be forced to select increased numbers of workers from this typically underutilized pool. One goal of the Perkins legislation and a primary task for vocational education is to ensure that individuals in these special populations develop the knowledge and skills they have historically lacked.
The Perkins legislation requires that certain assurances be provided to help ensure student success. These assurances include curriculum adaptation; career development counseling; assessment of interests, abilities, and special needs; and other services to facilitate transition of students from high school vocational programs to work or to postsecondary education (Carl D. Perkins Act, 1990). If vocational education is to remain viable, programmatic changes may be necessary to serve a wider range of individuals. Consequently, educators must realign and restructure programs to serve members of special populations.
Because teacher certification requirements generally require work experience in the trade and industrial area being taught, as well as a passing score on a nationally recognized skill competency examination, one may be reasonably assured that vocational educators possess the experience and occupational skills to prepare students for work. A study conducted in 1993 for the American Vocational Association reported that 13 states require a baccalaureate degree with experience and /or courses in specific technical fields for teacher certification in Trade and Industrial Education (American Vocational Association, 1993). Non-baccalaureate degree requirements exist as a minimum in 13 states. Certification in the remaining 24 states can be earned with a non-baccalaureate program or a baccalaureate degree. About half of the states "require prospective vocational teachers to pass occupational competency tests before they are certified . . ." (American Vocational Association, 1993, p. 35). In 1989, Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia used the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute examinations (NOCTI) for "initial certification, for recertification with the first year or for pre-service teachers lacking work experience" (American Vocational Association, 1993, p. 35). A baccalaureate degree with a major field of study in Trade and Industrial Education (T&I) generally includes a technical component of 32 to 45 semester hours. In addition to having an earned baccalaureate degree or a baccalaureate degree in education with a technical specialty, graduates are required to have in-depth technical knowledge as demonstrated by completed course work, passing a technical competency exam, and/or industrial experience in the trade or industrial education field to be taught (American Vocational Association, 1993).
However, the education needs of special population learners may not be addressed effectively in T&I teacher education programs. Due to time constraints in teacher education programs, future T&I teachers lack knowledge regarding special needs students who are enrolled in vocational education. In most cases, T&I instructors have not been prepared adequately to provide the instruction and support systems that special populations learners need.
Purpose of the Study
A review of the literature and research revealed no studies of trade and industrial teachers' knowledge related to special needs learners. Hallahan and Kauffman (1986) stated that one of the biggest problems in implementing mainstreaming is the assumption that "mainstreaming can and will be readily adopted by regular classroom teachers. Some mainstreamed classes have been established with little planning and thought given to how to prepare educators for their new and difficult role" (p. 439). Results of a study by Lobosco and Newman (1992) revealed that teaching students with learning disabilities was related to decreased job satisfaction, especially for teachers with no specific training to work with students with special needs. This finding was attributed to a "lack of adequate professional preparation of teachers for dealing with the challenges provided by children with learning difficulties" (p. 28).
The paucity of information regarding knowledge that teachers of trade and industrial subjects have about special needs learners limits the development and delivery of teacher education programs that assist T&I teachers to work effectively with special populations. Thus, the focal point for this investigation is the inadequate information base regarding knowledge that T&I teachers have about special needs learners.
The purpose of this study was to determine the amount of knowledge that T&I teachers have regarding learners from special populations. More specifically, the study was designed to answer the following research questions:
- To what extent are T&I teachers knowledgeable about special populations (disabled, economically disadvantaged, nontraditional, and academically disadvantaged) as indicated by responses to the Vocational Special Needs Inventory (VSNI)?
- To what extent are there differences in the responses of secondary and postsecondary T&I teachers regarding special needs learners as indicated by responses to the Vocational Special Needs Inventory (VSNI)?
Sources of data for this study consisted of 55 secondary and 18 postsecondary beginning T&I teachers. All beginning T&I teachers in Alabama are required to complete four professional education courses specified by the State Teacher Certification Office. The courses may be completed as an inservice activity. Only those beginning T&I teachers who participated in the required professional education courses at Auburn University were selected for this study. All teachers in this study had taught for at least one quarter, but less than a full year. These 73 teachers, who participated in certification courses during the spring and summer of 1995, comprised a time-place sample of beginning T&I teachers in Alabama.
The researcher administered a modified version of the Vocational Special Needs Inventory (VSNI) during teacher in-service activities (National Center for Research in Vocational Education, 1982). The VSNI is a 36 item inventory related to serving the education needs of individuals who are members of special populations. The original version was reviewed by a panel of experts to establish face validity of the instrument. Retention of each item statement from the original inventory was systematic and dependent upon its acceptability in serving special population students in vocational education programs. The panel consisted of one vocational education administrator, two experienced T&I teachers, two T&I teacher educators, one T&I state specialist, and a special needs teacher educator. The modified inventory consisted of 30 items--statements related to special populations enrolled in regular vocational education programs. Each item on the inventory solicited a true or false response. Cronbach's Alpha reliability measure for the modified inventory was .75. Trade and industrial teachers were directed to respond to each item in the inventory by indicating whether an item was true or false. Teachers marked their responses on the inventory by circling the appropriate letter (T for true; F for false) for each item.
A reliability analysis, item sums, frequency distribution, mean scores, standard deviations, and MANOVA were calculated to investigate the research questions. Two coded values were used for each item: 0 indicated an incorrect response to an item and 1 indicated a correct response to an item. A process that can eventuate in only one of two outcomes is usually called a Bernoulli trial. In this case, one of the two event classes, true or false, must occur. The true or false response or name of the event serves only to tell the events apart, and do not convey any connotation of "goodness" of the event (Hays, 1973, p. 179). Therefore, the Bernoulli process (Hays, 1973) was applied as a response model for each item. The Bernoulli process produced two theoretical binomial distributions of observed totals: one distribution for marginals of Person (row) totals for each of 73 cases, and one for marginals of Stem (column) totals for each of 30 items.
Under the hypothesis of chance, each row and each column is a set of 0,1 outcomes. Thus, the sets of row totals and column totals have binomial characteristics (Hays, 1973). One research question for this investigation involved knowledge on the item level suggesting comparison of observations with expectations for the column sums. For each column the observed sum was to be compared with the expected sum for its chance binomial of 36.5. Such comparisons required computation of the standard deviation of the corresponding binomial, which in this case was +/-4.27.
A 99 percent confidence interval was set for each item to preserve a 95 percent confidence level for the entire group of 30 items. Bonferroni considerations supplied theory for identifying the protected (95%) confidence interval around the theoretical binomial mean for 73 observed case sums under the hypothesis of chance. The Bonferroni procedure involves the calculation of F or t ratios for the hypothesized comparisons and adjusting the overall alpha level for the number of comparisons being performed. With 30 item-mean decisions, each needed a 99 percent confidence interval (corresponding to an alpha of .01) under Bonferroni requirements (Pedhazur, 1982). That is, the 30 item-sum decisions were referred to the same 99 percent confidence interval in protecting the experiment-wise decision at the 95 percent confidence level.
Confidence limits were set around the hypothesized mean at .62 and .38. That is, a mean score of .62 (upper confidence limit) or greater indicated that 62% or more of the respondents were responding correctly to an item more often than would be expected by chance. Conversely, a mean score of .38 (lower confidence limit) or smaller indicated that 38% or fewer of the respondents were responding incorrectly to an item less often than would be expected by chance. Likewise, mean scores between .38 and .62 indicated that there was no systematic pattern of responses among respondents. In other words, there was no systematic response pattern for all respondents who had scores ranging from 38 to 62 percent.
The 95 percent confidence interval for observed item sums under the hypothesis of chance extended between observed sums of 28.0 and 45.0 out of a possible 73 and for observed case sums between 9.52 and 20.5 out of a possible 30. In response to the research question, every item having an observed sum less than 28.0 identified participants who were probably not knowledgeable of the correct response; every item having an observed sum greater than 45.0 identified participants who were probably knowledgeable of the correct response. Observed item sums between 28.0 and 45.0 suggested chance responses by the respondents. Likewise, every case having an observed sum less than 9.52 suggested that the corresponding respondent was not knowledgeable of the range of subject matter measured; every case having an observed sum greater than 20.5 suggested that the corresponding respondent was knowledgeable of the range of subject matter measured. Observed case sums between 9.52 and 20.5 suggested chance responses by the corresponding respondents.
The subjects' responses to the modified Vocational Special Needs Inventory were used to assess the knowledge of T&I teachers regarding special populations. The results are reported according to the research questions:
1. To What Extent Are T&I Teachers Knowledgeable About Special Populations as Indicated by Responses to the Vocational Special Needs Inventory?
Chi-Square, item sums, frequency distribution, mean scores, and standard deviations were computed from T&I teachers' responses to the 30 items on the VSNI. Analysis of variance for Cronbach's Alpha (.75) indicated reasonable similarity in the profiles. That is, high-scoring respondents had similar profiles of correct item answers, middle-scoring respondents had similar profiles of correct item answers, and low-scoring respondents had similar profiles of correct item answers (Winer, 1971, p. 295). The between-teacher and within-teacher sum of squares was 54.5 and 450.0 respectively. The grand mean was .64.
A .62 level (two standard deviations above the mean of .50) was set to indicate a correct response on an individual item. Table 1 reports frequencies, means, and standard deviations by item number. Analysis of variance for Cronbach's Alpha indicated Chi-Square values significant at the .05 level for all four categories: (a) disabled, (b) economically disadvantaged, (c) nontraditional, and (d) academically disadvantaged. As displayed in Table 1, at least 62% or more of the teachers responded correctly to six items related to disabled (items 1, 5, 7, 11, 14, and 21), four items related to economically disadvantaged (items 8, 15, 20, and 26), five items related to nontraditional (items 2, 10, 24, 28, and 29), and four items related to academically disadvantaged (items 4, 6, 12, and 13). All remaining items were not answered correctly by 62 percent or more of the respondents. When the 99 percent confidence interval was applied, items 6, 11 and 15 did not meet the upper confidence limit.
As shown in Table 1, observed item sums (frequencies) under the hypothesis of chance indicated that T&I teachers as a group responded correctly to 19 items, incorrectly to 3 items, and by chance to 8 items. However, observed case sums under the hypothesis of chance indicated that approximately 60 percent of the teachers scored at or lower than the upper confidence limit of 20.5 correct responses out of a possible 30.
Abbreviated Items, Frequencies, Means, and Standard Deviations for T&I Teachers' Responses to the VSNI (N=73)
Table 1 Students With Disabilities
Item Statement F Mean SD
1 Visually impaired students need all materials in Braille. 51 .6986 .4620 5 Mentally retarded students should not be enrolled in an auto mechanics program. 53 .7260 .4491 7 Mentally retarded students have severe behavior problems. 49 .6712 .4730 11 Mentally retarded students cannot learn responsibility. 48 .6575 .4778 14 Teachers should know the symptoms of insulin shock. 56 .7671 .4256 17 Disabled students and guidance counselors decide which vocational program is best for students. 24 .3288 .4730 19 Quality of your program is reflected by whether or not a mentally retarded student in your program gets a job. 26 .3562 .4822 21 Industry performance standards should not be lowered to accommodate special needs learners. 49 .6712 .4730
Grand Mean of 8 Items = .6096
Coefficient of Concordance W = .1047
Reliability Coefficients a = .5133
Table 2 Students With Economic Disadvantages
Item Statement F Mean SD
8 Economically disadvantaged students naturally have high motivation to succeed. 59 .8082 .3964 9 Economically disadvantaged students should never be portrayed in menial positions. 40 .5479 .5011 15 Economically disadvantaged students usually do not use eye contact. 48 .6575 .4778 20 Economically disadvantaged students might need help to understand the need for career planning. 54 .7397 .4418 26 Teachers can do much to help economically disadvantaged students with learning problems. 52 .7123 .4558
Grand Mean of 5 Items = .6932
Coefficient of Concordance W = .0359
Reliability Coefficients a = .4582
Table 3 Nontraditional Students
Item Statement F Mean SD
2 Oriental students are not suited for Trade and Industrial Education. 61 .8356 .3732 3 Older women may be the least self-assured students in a vocational program. 32 .4384 .4996 10 Male students usually advance faster than female students. 56 .7671 .4256 16 Older persons usually respect your role as a teacher. 43 .5890 .4954 18 Young women have to do the same heavy lifting as young men. 41 .5616 .4996 24 Vocational teachers should contribute to decisions about the program placement of special populations. 68 .9315 .2543 25 Relating to special needs learners is unimportant as long as you teach them knowledge and skills. 44 .6027 .4927 27 It is usually unnecessary to convince older students there are new ways to do things. 21 .2877 .4558 28 Young women can catch up with the young men in auto mechanics. 55 .7534 .4340 29 Teacher can help nontraditional students with low self-esteem. 66 .9041 .2965 30 Displaced homemakers have no transferable skills for paid work. 33 .4521 .5011
Grand Mean of 11 Items = .6476
Coefficient of Concordance W = .1719
Reliability Coefficients a = .4477
Table 4 Academically Disadvantaged Students
Item Statement F Mean SD
4 Students with limited English proficiency learn best the same way. 57 .7808 .4166 6 Students with limited English proficiency would not necessarily need a bilingual teacher. 47 .6438 .4822 12 Teachers should be concerned about reading problems of students. 52 .7123 .4558 13 American Indian students have difficulty learning English. 45 .6164 .4896 22 If students do not have math skills needed for a trade, additional technical content can compensate. 37 .5068 .5034 23 Students with limited English proficiency should know enough English to read safety signs. 35 .4795 .5030
Grand Mean of 6 Items = .6233
Coefficient of Concordance W = .0479
Reliability Coefficients a = .0017
2. To What Extent Are There Differences in the Responses of Secondary and Postsecondary T&I Teachers Regarding Special Needs Learners as Indicated by Responses to the Vocational Special Needs Inventory (VSNI)?
A MANOVA statistic was computed to respond to the second research question. The Wilks Lambda was significant beyond the .05 level. The hypothesis of chance variation between the two levels of teacher status (secondary and postsecondary) was rejected. Univariate significance between group differences existed on items 2, 5, 6, and 9 with error effects of -.5228, .7426, .5786, and .5876 respectively. Secondary teachers scored higher than postsecondary teachers on items 5, 6, and 9 (disabled, academically disadvantaged, and economically disadvantaged items respectively). Postsecondary teachers scored higher than secondary teachers on item 2 (nontraditional student item).
This investigation revealed profile similarities among respondents and differences among the measures (items). With regard to the eight items categorized as disabled, nearly 40 percent of the teachers had inadequate knowledge as indicated by incorrect responses. Teachers had a higher percent of correct responses to the category of economically disadvantaged as nearly 70 percent of the teachers responded correctly to the items in this category. The widest range of correct responses occurred among the eleven items categorized as nontraditional. The lowest number of correct responses related to T&I teachers' knowledge of older students. For this category as a whole, approximately one-third of the teachers seemed to lack sufficient knowledge. Responses to the category of academically disadvantaged revealed that nearly 40 percent of the teachers had inadequate knowledge related to the items included in this category.
The increased number of special population learners being served by vocational education and the demands of these populations make it imperative that vocational teachers be fully prepared to serve these groups effectively. While complex issues related to serving learners with special education needs do not lend themselves to a single statement that may be generalized to all beginning T&I teachers in Alabama, when taken as groups of statements, these data provide a starting point for research that may be generalized to T&I teachers similar to those in the time-place sample in this study.
As illustrated in Table 1, responses of teachers on the VSNI indicate that this group of teachers needs additional preparation regarding special population learners. These findings were similar to those of Lobosco and Newman (1992), who found a lack of adequate professional preparation of teachers for dealing with learners with special education needs.
As the T&I program coordinator for Auburn University, the researcher has ample opportunities, both in and out of planned coursework, to interact formally and informally with T&I teachers in Alabama. In addition, the researcher presents workshops on a periodic basis and participates each year in a new teacher institute sponsored by the Alabama Department of Education. These types of activities provide a non-threatening environment where T&I teachers discuss their views freely. Through the researcher's interactions with T&I teachers, it was learned that T&I teachers have limited contact with special education personnel and were infrequently involved in the process of individualized education program (IEP) development and implementation. This observation may partially explain the teachers' limited knowledge related to learners from special populations.
Results of this study suggest the need for trade and industrial teacher preservice and inservice programs to include content and experiences related to learners from special populations. Feedback from T&I teachers is useful in designing preservice and inservice teacher education courses and programs. If teachers do not have the facts about special populations, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to change attitudes and generate a knowledge base that is productive for serving special populations in vocational education programs. Furthermore, teachers' lack of knowledge may make coordination with special education personnel and the IEP process less effective. Teacher educators may be able to revise the curriculum to close the gap between existing knowledge and up-to-date knowledge of T&I teachers regarding special populations. For example, an introductory unit of instruction could be used to discuss characteristics of special population learners and their strengths and weaknesses. An awareness and knowledge of special populations is critical if teachers are to provide effective vocational education for these students.
Significant differences between secondary and postsecondary T&I teachers should be interpreted with caution since 30 univariate tests inflate the decision error. However, there appear to be significant differences and those differences may be of interest to curriculum developers, school administrators, teachers, and other program planners. In addition, differences between secondary and postsecondary teachers regarding special populations is clearly an area needing further clarification through research. This study provides a data base for future investigations of T&I teachers' knowledge related to serving learners with special education needs. Since there were no previous studies on T&I teachers' knowledge of special populations, the findings as presented here may be useful for future descriptive as well as comparative studies.
Kraska is Associate Professor, Department of Vocational and Adult Education, College of Education, Auburn University, Alabama. The author expresses appreciation to Professor James N. Wilmoth, Department of Vocational and Adult Education, Auburn University, who assisted with the data analyses for this article.
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Reference Citation: Kraska, M. F. (1996). Trade and industrial teachers' knowledge related to special populations. Journal of Industrial Teacher Education, 33(2), 47-59.