NAITTE: What Is Our Niche?
In a 1999 address to the membership of the National Association of Industrial and Technical Teacher Educators (NAITTE), Professor Eugene Martin challenged NAITTE members to chart their association's course for the future. Martin (1999) noted, "associations that survive the times meet the challenges head-on, and leap forward into the new millennium having found ways to seize the moment through their ability to anticipate the future" (p. 2). Professor Martin questioned whether NAITTE was willing and/or able to accept the challenge.
Building on Martin's remarks, then-President of NAITTE Theodore Lewis presented an article in Volume 37 of the Journal, outlining NAITTE's competitive edge. Lewis proposed that this edge has four dimensions. The first dimension is NAITTE's tradition of scholarship, whose core component is the Journal of Industrial Teacher Education. NAITTE's second competitive edge, according to Lewis, is the quality of the association's members. Since its formation, members of NAITTE have also been the leaders in our professions, industrial arts teacher education, trade and industrial teacher education, technical teacher education, and industrial/military training. This spectrum of the various facets of industrial teacher education has also been an edge for NAITTE when compared to more narrowly focused groups (Lewis, 2000). Lewis noted that our association's fourth competitive edge is its contributions to the development of young teacher education faculty. NAITTE members, and Journal editors in particular, mentor new faculty in their professional development related to research and scholarship. Lewis concluded by postulating that the competitive dimensions presented were true of the past, and challenged the current membership by asking "What will give us the edge in the future?" (p. 108).
I contend that the competitive edge that NAITTE requires if it is to continue its leadership role in the future is very similar to its founding principles. NAITTE was founded in 1937 to develop cooperation among educators engaged in the preparation of teachers in industrial arts, trade and industrial education, and technical education. To me, this founding principle says "teacher education" above all other distinctions drawn. Today more than ever, the small pockets of university faculty engaged in industrial teacher education need a flag to rally behind. Many of today's programs are isolated and grouped with faculty members who have no idea what industrial teacher education encompasses. A cursory look at the Industrial Teacher Education Directory (Bell, 2000) indicates only a very small number of departments that are devoted solely to industrial teacher education.
Why do I contend that to foster our competitive edge in this new millennium, NAITTE must use the rallying flag of industrial teacher education? The answer is clear to me: we cannot and should not be all things to all constituent groups. We must shore up our foundation and build to new heights on that solid footing. If we choose to identify the "could be served" (Martin, 1999, p. 3) to include a broader arena, it will have less structural integrity. However, if we select our "could be served" as industrial teacher educators, our foundation will be true and well grounded.
In a 1997 article, Ken Gray argued that human resource development (HRD) and industrial teacher education can and should circle their wagons in a single camp called "workforce education and development" (p. 82). Gray noted that these two areas share a common mission, "to improve the occupational status of the individual student/client" (p. 82). Additionally, Gray noted that these two groups share a common base of knowledge.
In a rebuttal to Gray's (1997) article, Jeffrey Flesher (1998) argued that HRD and industrial teacher education, while sharing some interests, do, in fact, have unique missions and should therefore not be labeled as a single profession. Flesher stated that HRD and industrial teacher education "do not have a single unified philosophical foundation" (p. 73). Gray observed that HRD programs, which grew out of industrial teacher education, now overshadow their teacher education counterparts at many universities. The HRD profession has grown substantially over the past two decades; and while its historical roots may be tied to industrial teacher education, it is now its own profession. In spite of Lewis's contention that NAITTE is still relevant to HRD (2000), I would argue that the HRD profession has established its own competitive edge and that industrial teacher education is not included in that mission. Industrial teacher education is a unique field of teacher education.
Martin stated "unless an association has a strong foundation from which to build and maintain a program of work, it will never have the opportunity to seize the moment by anticipating the future" (p. 2). It is true that the size of the industrial teacher education enterprise has diminished greatly over the years. So, from a numerical standpoint, it may appear that the best course for our future survival is the broadening of our membership base. However, if our association capitalizes on the need by industrial teacher educators for a unifying agency, we can rebuild our niche of industrial teacher education with a smaller, yet truer, foundation.
Technology teacher education, trade and industrial teacher education, technical teacher education, and industrial/military instructor training do have some distinctive attributes, but they share similar missions. Industrial teacher education's mission is to prepare professional educators for employment in middle schools, high schools, technical schools (community colleges), industry, or the military. This mission of preparation of professional educators must comply with various state departments of education and teacher certification guidelines, along with university graduation requirements and National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) criteria. One-person industrial teacher education programs need an association, such as NAITTE, from which to build both support and scholarly activities.
Based on the four dimensions of NAITTE's competitive edge proposed by Lewis (2000), I believe that our association can and will achieve great things in this new era. To continue the tradition of scholarship, the Journal must continue to be our flagship. In order for this to happen, all NAITTE members must reinvigorate their own scholarship, which translates to publishing in the Journal. We, as industrial teacher educators, must also utilize the Journal's scholarship in our teacher preparation courses and professional development activities. The nurturing and mentoring of new industrial teacher education faculty is the responsibility of all NAITTE members. NAITTE membership and submission of manuscripts to the Journal should be an integral component of any graduate program in our field.
NAITTE's competitive edge with regard to the quality of its members has been, and continues to be, outstanding. However, members must publicize their relationship with NAITTE along with their other accomplishments. We must counteract our non-visibility, commented on by Martin (1999): "NAITTE never surfaced as an organization whose counsel was sought or revered" (p. 6). Initiatives such as the Trade and Industrial Teacher Education Standards and the Technology Teacher Education National Science Foundation proposal spearheaded by Zuga and Lewis must carry the NAITTE label.
Although Lewis (2000) identified the eclectic composition of NAITTE as being one of the association's competitive edge dimensions, I contend that this is the area NAITTE must examine. As Martin (1999) noted, "we sometimes lose our focus or the reason why we even exist at all, in trying to be all things to all people" (p. 6). Therefore, who are the professionals that NAITTE desires to rally around its flag? What is our 21st century niche?
Bell, T.P. (2000-01). Industrial teacher education directory. Millersville, PA: Council on Technology Teacher Education and National Association of Industrial and Technical Teacher Educators.
Flesher, J.W. (1998). Unique missions but similar interests: Training and development and teacher preparation. Journal of Industrial Teacher Education, 35(2), 71-73.
Gray, K. (1997). Seeking a "tie that binds" integrating training and development/human resource development and teacher preparation. Journal of Industrial Teacher Education, 34(4), 80-86.
Lewis, T. (2000). Transforming NAITTE: Are we capable of change? Journal of Industrial Teacher Education, 37(2), 106-111.
Martin, G.E. (1999). Anticipating the new century: Challenges of NAITTE. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Career and Technical Education, Orlando, FL.
Rogers is Associate Professor in the Department of Industrial Technology at Purdue University. He is currently serving as Associate Editor of the Journal.