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Current Editor: Dr. Robert T. Howell  bhowell@fhsu.edu
Volume 40, Number 1
Fall 2002


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Instructors' Perceived Helpfulness of Performance Based Teacher Education Instructional Modules

Dale E. Thompson
Cecelia Thompson
Betsy Orr
University of Arkansas

The purpose of this study was to determine instructors' perceived helpfulness of instructional modules used in the Performance Based Teacher Education (PBTE) program in Arkansas. The PBTE program is part of a professional development program required of all beginning instructors at a technical institute in Arkansas (Arkansas Department of Workforce Education, 2000).

The Arkansas PBTE program follows a model developed by the Center for Vocational Education, a national research and development organization specializing in the development of materials for career and technical educators. The Center was charged with finding ways to improve career and technical teacher preparation. To meet this need, the center developed the PBTE module series, which used an

approach to teacher preparation in which the teacher is required to demonstrate essential teaching tasks in an actual teaching situation. Actual performance of the tasks ensures that the teacher has not only the knowledge required, but also the ability to perform the competencies (teaching skills or tasks) that are essential to successful teaching (Hamilton & Quinn, 1981, p. 7).

In 1977, after an intensive research and development project by the Center for Vocational Education at the Ohio State University, the Professional Teacher Education Module Series was released (Fardig, Norton, & Hamilton, 1977). "The Center's PBTE modules are structured upon identified and verified teacher competencies which the learner is required to perform in an actual teaching situation. The curricular materials are, therefore, referred to as Performance Based Teacher Education curriculum" (Hamilton & Quinn, 1981, p. 7).

The modules were developed by identifying competencies important to successfully teaching career and technical education. The competencies were verified by practicing educators and formed the basis for the development of the PBTE materials (Norton & Huang, 1977). The National Center for Research in Vocational Education consolidated 400 teaching competencies into 132 modules designed for use by those responsible for professional development and teacher training. These 132 modules are organized into the following 14 categories.

Category A: Program Planning and Development
Category B: Instructional Planning
Category C: Instructional Execution
Category D: Instructional Evaluation
Category E: Instructional Management
Category F: Guidance
Category G: School-Community Relations
Category H: Vocational Student Organizations
Category I: Professional Role and Development
Category J: Coordination of Cooperative Education
Category K: Implementing Competency-Based Education
Category L: Learners With Special/Exceptional Needs
Category M: Assisting Students in Improving Basic Skills
Category N: Teaching Adults
(American Association for Vocational Instructional Materials, 1987)

Each module was extensively field tested in staff development and teacher education programs at 18 institutions of higher education throughout the nation. The evaluations and field tests resulted in modules that integrate theory and application.

Each module was a self-paced instructional workbook designed to cover a single teaching skill. The module included information, activities, and feedback devices to help the teacher acquire the teaching skill (Norton & Huang, 1977). After completing each module, the instructors demonstrated the application of the theoretical information in an actual classroom setting (Fardig, Norton, & Hamilton, 1977; Hamilton & Quinn, 1981). The PBTE modules were published and distributed by the American Association for Vocational Instructional Materials.

The original use of the PBTE modules exceeded all expectations. Many colleges and universities adopted them for all or at least some of their professional courses. The feedback from students and resource persons (professors) was extremely positive. The modules were used in every state and over 40 other countries; even today, the original version modules continue to be used by many colleges and universities (Norton, 2002).

In 1997, the first of four new modules was available in a Preparing Better Teachers for Tomorrow (PBTT) series. "The structure and design of the PBTT modules follows that of the PBTE series." (American Association for Vocational Instructional Materials, 2002, p. 9)

The Professional Development Program in Arkansas Technical Institutes

In 1982 the Arkansas Department of Education, Vocational Technical Education Division, began a professional development program for all instructors hired into the state's postsecondary technical school system (Arkansas Department of Workforce Education, 2000). Some instructors were hired directly from industry to teach technical courses in areas of trade, business, or health. Other instructors, such as content area secondary teachers, were hired to teach literacy or academic skills. The purpose of the professional development program was to improve teaching skills, update technical skills, and encourage participation in professional organizations. Participation in the professional development program was a requirement for continued employment. Continued progress in the program qualified instructors for promotions and salary increases.

The instructional materials used to improve teaching skills were the PBTE modules. Although this was not a traditional teacher education program, a university career and technical teacher educator coordinated the Arkansas program as a service to the state. The primary responsibilities of this teacher educator were to evaluate the learning experiences in the modules and observe instructors' demonstration of knowledge, skills, and attitudes required to perform a given teaching competency.

The Arkansas program was evaluated for the first time by Andrew (1987). Although his study focused on the total professional development program, some aspects of his study examined instructors' attitudes about the PBTE modules. He found that a majority of instructors had a negative view of the program and felt the modules took too much time and work to complete. Evaluation ratings received by the instructors did not automatically increase as more modules were completed. His study suggested that instructors needed more direct instruction in learning the competencies in the PBTE modules. It was recommended that a basic core of modules be used by all instructors, with additional modules being selected for different program areas.

Following his recommendations, a prescribed group of required basic modules was selected for beginning instructors in Arkansas. A second group of modules was identified to follow the first group. These provided a more advanced level of teaching skills. After completion of the second group, instructors were promoted to senior instructor. A third group of modules was completed on a voluntary basis; this group was individualized for each instructor. Instructors were promoted to master instructor following the completion of these modules.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study was to determine instructor's perceived helpfulness of PBTE modules used in the professional development program in Arkansas.

Methodology

Sample Selection

In Arkansas, approximately 188 instructors were employed in the postsecondary technical schools. The population for this study consisted of 137 instructors at all 11 postsecondary technical institutes in Arkansas who were actively involved in the professional development program. Instructors who had not participated in the program within the previous two years were not included in the sample. Their teaching areas included (a) Trade-- those teaching welding, electronics, mechanics, automotive service, drafting, air conditioning and refrigeration, industrial maintenance, tool and die technology, industrial processing and diesel technology; (b) Literacy--those teaching adult basic education; (c) Academic--those teaching math and communications; (d) Business--those teaching computer information systems, accounting, computer applications, business education, and office technology; and (e) Health--those teaching nursing, medical assisting, surgical technology, and applied health.

Instrumentation

The instrument used to collect data was designed by the researchers and modeled after existing surveys used at three universities. The survey included two sections, demographics and a five-point Likert-type scale that was designed to measure the instructors' perceived helpfulness of the modules. The demographic section asked for area of instruction, number of years as an instructor, years in the occupation, and level of formal education. On the Likert-type scale, instructors were asked to rate PBTE modules they had completed as to the modules' contribution to their development as a vocational technical instructor. This section included a complete list of all 132 PBTE modules. Each survey instrument was personalized by highlighting in yellow the modules which had been completed by each instructor. This information was obtained from the official State Department of Education records. Each instructor was asked to respond only to the highlighted modules. If an instructor responded to a module that was not highlighted, the response was not included in the data.

Surveys were distributed by the researchers to each instructor. Instructors responded on a five-point Likert-type scale ranging from "very helpful", "helpful", "somewhat helpful", and "slightly helpful" to "not helpful." Data were analyzed by giving the "very helpful" category a rating of 5 and decreasing to the value of 1 for the rating of "not helpful." Participation in the study was voluntary and responses were kept confidential.

Data Analysis

Data were analyzed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (1995). Frequencies and mean scores were tabulated to determine the level of helpfulness of each module. An analysis of variance was used to determine differences between instructor perceptions and years of teaching experience, years of work experience in their occupational area, level of education, and teaching area.

Findings

Demographics

A total of 137 surveys were distributed to instructors at all 11 technical institutes in Arkansas. Responses were received from 70 (51%) of the instructors. Of these, 29 of the respondents (41%) were trade instructors; 19 (27%) were literacy instructors; 11 (16%) were academic instructors; 6 (9%) were business instructors; and 5 (7%) were health instructors.

Years of experience as an instructor ranged from 1 to 23 years, with an average of 6.4 years. The years of occupational experience ranged from 0 to 50, with an average of 11.5 years. A master's degree had been attained by 16 of the instructors; 24 had a bachelor's degree; 11 had an associate degree; and 19 had a high school diploma. None of the respondents had less than a high school diploma.

Perceived Helpfulness of Modules

The purpose of the study was to determine the perceived helpfulness of PBTE modules used in the professional development program in Arkansas. All instructors found that the modules contributed to their development as vocational technical instructors. The mean helpfulness score for all instructors for all modules was 3.8. Health instructors rated the modules highest at 4.5, followed by academic, trade, business, and literacy instructors (see Table 1).

Table 1
Mean Helpfulness Score for all Module Categories

Trade Literacy Business Health Academic Total
M M M M M M

3.8 3.3 3.6 4.5 4.0 3.8

n=70


As shown in Table 2, all instructors rated the Category B modules, Instructional Planning, as the group of modules that contributed the most to their development as vocational technical instructors. This was closely followed by the Category D modules, Instructional Evaluation; Category L modules, Learners With Special/Exceptional Needs; and Category N modules, Teaching Adults, with scores of 4.0. All instructors found the Category H modules, Vocational Student Organizations, least helpful, with a rating of 3.3.

Table 2
Mean Score by Module Category and Instructional Area
  Trade Literacy Business Health Academic Total
  M M M M M M
A 3.8 3.5 3.7 4.1 4.0 3.8
B 4.4 3.1 3.8 4.7 4.2 4.1
C 4.1 2.8 3.0 4.5 3.9 3.7
D 4.2 3.1 3.9 4.9 4.0 4.0
E 3.7 2.8 3.3 3.6 3.5 3.4
F 3.9 3.2 3.7 3.9 4.2 3.7
G 3.9 3.5 3.4 3.9 4.4 3.8
H 3.2 3.1 3.6 3.3 3.8 3.3
I 3.7 3.3 3.0 3.8 3.9 3.6
J 3.0 3.8 2.4 4.6 4.0 3.4
K 3.9 3.2 4.2 4.2 3.4 3.7
L 4.1 3.7 4.3 4.4 4.4 4.0
M 3.8 3.7 3.9 3.6 3.9 3.7
N 4.0 4.0 3.9 4.0 4.3 4.0

n=70


The trade instructors rated the Category B modules, Instructional Planning, the highest, with a mean of 4.4. The second highest rating for trade instructors was for the Category D modules, Instructional Evaluation, with a mean of 4.2. This was followed by the Category C modules, Instructional Execution, and the Category L modules, Learners With Special/Exceptional Needs, and the Category M modules, Assisting Students in Improving Basic Skills, both with a mean of 3.7.

The literacy instructors rated the Category N modules, Teaching Adults, the highest, with a mean of 4.0. The next highest rating by literacy instructors was the Category J modules, Coordination of Cooperative Education, with a mean of 3.8. This was followed by the Category L modules, Learners With Special/Exceptional Needs, and the Category M modules, Assisting Students in Improving Basic Skills, both with a mean of 3.7.

The business instructors rated the Category L modules, Learners With Special/Exceptional Needs, the highest with a mean of 4.3. The Category K modules, Implementing Competency-Based Education, with a mean of 4.2, followed. Next were the Category D modules, Instructional Evaluation; the Category M modules, Assisting Students in Improving Basic Skills; and the Category N modules, Teaching Adults, each with a mean of 3.9.

The health instructors rated the Category D modules, Instructional Evaluation, the highest with a mean of 4.9. Next highest for health instructors were the Category B modules, Instructional Planning, with a mean of 4.7. This was followed by the Category J modules, Coordination of Cooperative Education, with a mean of 4.6. Next were the Category C modules, Instructional Execution, with a mean of 4.5.

The academic instructors rated two module categories, the Category G modules, School-Community Relations, and the Category L modules, Learners With Special/Exceptional Needs, the highest, with a mean of 4.4. The second highest were the Category N modules, Teaching Adults, with a mean of 4.3. This was followed by the Category B modules, Instructional Planning, and the Category F modules, Guidance, both with a mean of 4.2.

The results of the analysis of variance performed on the years of teaching experience revealed the following. Academic instructors with one to 10 years of teaching experience had a significantly higher perception of the Category A modules, Program Planning and Development, than those with more than 10 years of teaching experience (p< .001). Health instructors with 11 or more years of teaching experience had a significantly higher perception of the Category A modules than those with less teaching experience (p< .001). Business instructors with more than 15 years of teaching experience had a significantly higher perception of the Category A modules than those with one to 15 years of teaching experience (p<. 001). There was no significant difference in years of teaching experience and all other categories of modules.

The results of the analysis of variance performed on the years of occupational work experience revealed that trade instructors with 1 to 30 years of occupational work experience had a significantly higher perception of the Category A modules, Program Planning and Development, than those with over 30 years of work experience (p< .05). There was no significant difference in occupational work experience and all other categories of modules.

Education

Level of education did reveal significant differences among groups. The instructors with an associate degree had a significant higher perception of the Category A modules, Program Planning and Development, than those with any other level of education (p<. 05). There was no significant difference in level of education and all other categories of modules.

The analysis of variance did reveal a significant difference in teaching area (p< .05). The health instructors had a significantly higher perception of the usefulness of modules in seven of the categories: A, Program Planning and Development; B, Instructional Planning; C, Instructional Execution; D, Instructional Evaluation; E, Instructional Management; J, Coordination of Cooperative Education; and K, Implementing Competency-Based Education. The academic instructors had a significantly higher perception of modules in three of the categories: G, School-Community Relations; I, Professional Role and Development; and L, Learners With Special/Exceptional Needs, than all other participants. The remaining categories (F, Guidance; H, Vocational Student Organizations; M, Assisting Students in Improving Their Basic Skills; and N, Teaching Adults, revealed no significant differences by teaching areas.

Discussion

Four categories of modules were consistently rated helpful; the Category B modules, Instructional Planning, were rated highest by all instructors. Modules in this area included "Determining Needs and Interests of Students", "Developing Performance Objectives", "Developing a Unit of Instruction", "Developing a Lesson Plan", and "Selecting Instructional Materials." It is possible that this group of modules was viewed as helpful since they are basic instructional skills, which are needed on a daily basis by instructors.

Category L modules, Learners with Special/Exceptional Needs, were rated high by all instructors. Specific modules in this category consisted of "Identifying and Diagnosing Exceptional Learners", "Planning Instruction", "Providing Appropriate Instructional Materials for Exceptional Learners", "Modifying Learning Environment for Exceptional Learners", "Using Instructional Techniques to Meet Needs of Exceptional Learners", and "Assessing the Progress of Exceptional Learners." It is quite possible that participants viewed themselves as being prepared to teach traditional students; however, they felt inadequate to teach special/exceptional students. They therefore viewed these modules as being helpful.

Another category rated high by instructors was the Category D modules, Instructional Evaluation. Modules included in this category were "Establishing Student Performance Criteria --Knowledge, Attitudes, and Skills"; "Assessing Student Performance"; "Determining Student Grades"; and "Evaluation of Instructional Effectiveness." These modules may have been regarded as helpful because instructors were concerned about grading students in a fair and impartial manner. These modules help with establishing and conducting student evaluation.

The last category rated consistently high was the Category N modules, Teaching Adults. This area included modules such as "Determining Adult Training Needs", "Planning Instruction for Adults", "Managing the Adult Instructional Process", and "Evaluating the Performance of Adults." These modules may have been rated high because many instructors felt they needed help with the overall instruction of adults, due to their experiences with teaching in pedagogical, rather than the andragogical, areas.

The analysis of variance revealed that there were some differences of perceptions of the Category A modules, Program Planning and Development, regarding teaching experience, years of occupational work experience, and level of education. Specific modules in this category consisted of "Preparing for a Community Survey", "Conducting a Community Survey", "Reporting the Findings of a Community Survey", "Organizing an Occupational Advisory Committee", "Maintaining an Occupational Advisory Committee", "Developing Program Goals and Objectives", "Conducting an Occupation Analysis", "Developing a Course of Study", "Developing Long Range Program Plans", "Conducting a Student Follow-Up Study", and "Evaluating Your Vocational Program." Since the instructors are moving from industry or other levels of education to postsecondary teaching, they may be more responsive to those competencies related to planning an overall program of instruction.

Health instructors had a significantly higher perception of modules related to the instructional process and clinical instruction on the job site than other instructors. None of the health instructors in this study had formal training in teacher education, which could contribute to their higher perception of the helpfulness of these modules than the other instructors.

Academic instructors had a higher perception of the modules related to school/community relations, professional role and development, and serving learners with special/exceptional needs than instructors in other areas. Most of the academic instructors had public school teaching experience. The change from a public school setting to a postsecondary setting with adult and community involvement may have attributed to their perceptions in this area.

Conclusions

Of the 14 module categories in the Arkansas professional development program, the instructors found that the categories that contributed the most to their teaching development were the Category B modules, Instructional Planning; the Category D modules, Instructional Evaluation; the Category L modules, Learners with Special/Exceptional Needs; and the Category N modules, Teaching Adults. All of these categories were perceived as being a helpful form of teacher training.

The results of this study show that instructors found that all of the modules were helpful. This indicates that instructors accepted using PBTE modules in a professional development program. PBTE modules offer a self-paced, individualized way to improve the teaching skills of instructors.

The findings also indicated that some modules were more useful to some instructors than others. For example, literacy instructors found the modules related to instruction (Categories A-D modules) less useful than other instructors, with the exception of the N modules, Teaching Adults.

The results of this study were in sharp contrast to the Andrew's study in 1987, which found instructors had a negative view of the modules. The instructors in this study found the modules helpful to their development as new and beginning instructors.

Recommendations

Although the majority of the modules were published in the late 1970's, instructors in this study found them to be helpful in their development as career and technical education instructors. As teacher educators, the authors believe that the model developed by the Center for Vocational Education, providing PBTE instructional modules and the support of a resource person for school-based teacher training, is likely to be the reason for the instructors' positive attitude about the modules. This model is one that could be adapted for nontraditional/alternative licensure for both secondary and postsecondary technical teachers, as teacher shortages are accelerating the demand for school-based training for beginning and/or novice teachers.

However, the content of the majority of the modules has not been updated to meet current professional standards for teacher training. For example, the Pathwise Framework of Essential Teaching Skills developed by Educational Testing Service (2001) "… is grounded in 19 essential teaching criteria, a foundation supported by significant research and the consensus of hundreds of professional educators from around the country." (p. 3)

There is a striking contrast between the way Pathwise is organized and the organization of the PBTE modules. In Pathwise, the emphasis is on four domains of learning: organizing content knowledge for student learning, creating an environment for student learning, teaching for student learning, and teacher professionalism. In PBTE, there are 14 categories, with 132 modules. There is little emphasis on such information as the development of higher-order thinking skills, which are essential in today's workplace. It is time for technical educators to reexamine the content and organization of the modules and determine how to update them for today's teacher training.

References

American Association for Vocational Instructional Materials (1987). Evaluating the performance of adults. Athens, GA: Author.

American Association for Vocational Instructional Materials (2002). 2002 Resource catalog for teachers and teachers in training. Winterville, GA: Author.

Andrew, D. C., (1987). An evaluation study of the performance- based teacher education program in the Arkansas vocational technical schools. (ERIC Document reproduction Service No. Ed 288 023)

Arkansas Department of Workforce Education (2000). Professional development handbook. Little Rock, AR: Author.

Fardig, G. E., Norton, R. E., & Hamilton, J. B. (1977). Guide to the implementation of performance-based teacher education. Athens, GA: American Association for Vocational Instructional Materials.

Educational Testing Service (2001). Pathwise classroom observation system: Orientation guide. Princeton, NJ: Author.

Hamilton, J. B., & Quinn, K. M. (1981). Resource person guide to using performance-based teacher education materials. Athens, GA: American Association for Vocational Instructional Materials.

Norton, R.E. (2002). Preparing better teachers for tomorrow. (Available from the Center on Education and Training for Employment, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210)

Norton, R. E. & Huang, M. W. (1977). Student guide to using performance-based teacher education materials. Athens, GA: American Association for Vocational Instructional Materials.

Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (computer software). (1995). Chicago: SPSS.


D. Thompson is Assistant Professor, C. Thompson is Professor, and Orr is Associate Professor in the Department of Vocational and Adult Education at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Arkansas. D. Thompson can be reached at thomp@uark.edu.


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