Does NAITTE Have a Future? A Third-Generation Decision
Roger B. Hill
The University of Georgia
As an organization, the National Association of Industrial and Technical Teacher Educators (NAITTE) is in the midst of a unique time in its history. At the 2001 NAITTE Breakfast, a report was presented that indicated considerable concern about the health of NAITTE and the viability of its future. Legitimate issues were raised, and additional attention will be needed in the coming years to resolve those concerns that have not already been addressed. Leadership is critical when organizations are under duress, and we naturally tend to look around for those familiar faces that have guided NAITTE over the years. Many of those faces, however, are not there now due to retirements, failing health, or even death. We must come to realize that responsibility for the future of this grand old organization rests with a new generation of leaders.
An important starting point for decisions about the future is a familiarity with the past. We are most fortunate that Rupert Evans had the foresight and dedication to write The History of NAITTE (Evans, 1988) so that we can review the paths that have brought us to the present era. A review of the origins of NAITTE reminds us that history often repeats itself. The primary reasons given for the founding of this organization were lack of support for vocational education by the President of the United States and action on the part of the federal government to redirect funding for vocational education, particularly with respect to teacher preparation. How ironic that as the words you are reading were being composed, career and technical education is again facing similar obstacles.
Past personal experiences are also influential in our perceptions of organizational possibilities and decisions we make. My own earliest memories of NAITTE are of an organization that was bright and vibrant, with enthusiastic leaders like Tom Walker and Sam Stern. The reason I came into contact with them was because I had a major professor who gave NAITTE membership applications to every graduate student that darkened his office door. Gregory Petty not only encouraged me to join NAITTE while still a doctoral student, he offered transportation to the annual convention when locations were close enough to drive to, shared roll-away space in motel rooms, and allowed me to "tag along" to executive committee meetings as he took minutes in his role as secretary. My involvement led to networks of acquaintances that opened doors of opportunity professionally, and my career path has been greatly influenced by my decision to become a member of NAITTE.
Several generations of members and leaders can be identified in any organization that exists for as long as NAITTE has. Each generation has a unique set of characteristics, needs, and motivation for involvement. In the case of NAITTE, at least three generations can be described.
The first generation of NAITTE members and officers was comprised of a group of 57 teacher trainers who were concerned about the future of the profession and the trends impacting the field. Many of these early leaders dedicated significant resources of time and energy to move the organization from idea to reality. One characteristic that could be identified in all of them was a clear awareness for the need and purpose for the organization. The very existence of the group was largely due to legislation that would redirect Smith-Hughes and George-Deen funds away from support for teacher training (Evans, 1988). Although the founders did a good job of establishing a constitution and written guidelines for operation, first-generation leadership could operate with some valid assumptions that members in the organization had similar goals with regard to what they desired to see accomplished.
As happens with any organization with the passing of time, there came a point when the original founders and leaders of NAITTE began to retire from the profession or became less involved due to age or health issues. A second generation of leaders emerged at that point to guide NAITTE forward. This generation of officers and members had been associated with the founders of the organization and had a good familiarity with the heritage and accomplishments of NAITTE. The organization had established some traditions by that time. Operating procedures were in place to handle routine activities of the organization, and membership was growing.
In 1973 paid NAITTE memberships totaled 702; and from 1954 until 1987, paid memberships continuously numbered more than 400. This was a time period when vocational education was flourishing, and being an officer or leader in NAITTE carried significant status. Due to the size of the organization, NAITTE was very influential; its existence and activities were widely recognized within the vocational education community. Second- generation leadership carried on the business of NAITTE, giving attention to initiatives that promoted the profession of industrial and technical teacher education. Much of what second-generation leadership was able to accomplish was built on the groundwork established by first-generation leaders, and the viability of the organization was not an issue that second-generation leaders or members had cause to consider.
Third-generation NAITTE members and officers are another step removed from the original founders of the organization. They never knew the original organizers nor experienced the contagious enthusiasm of those who had dedicated so much of their life to the formation of NAITTE. The sense of ownership of the organization and responsibility for its vitality were not as strong as they had been for second-generation members and leaders who had been inducted and guided into positions of responsibility by the founders. Third-generation members and officers also were more likely to have mixed organizational loyalties. The landscape for those that were capable leaders included a plethora of opportunities for involvement.
The environment in which third-generation NAITTE leaders operate is impacted by a shrinking pool of potential members. Many universities have either abolished or consolidated teacher preparation programs related to industrial and technical education. The situation is exacerbated by actions taken during the heyday of the second generation when several influential NAITTE members formed or became active in organizations with a more tightly focused agenda. When NAITTE had a large pool of members, the departure of a few had a limited impact. As membership has declined, the participation of these departed members, and that of the new professionals that are now associated with other organizations, is sorely missed.
Third-generation NAITTE members and officers find themselves in a world where schedules are extremely busy, where those who are reliable are asked to do more and more, and where the watch-word for the day is to do more with less. Exponential technological development has made mastery of technical content a constant challenge. New delivery mechanisms using the Internet, the World Wide Web, and other electronic media have added to the burdens of instructional preparation, delivery, and management. Teacher shortages in technical fields have resulted in relentless pressures to place teachers in positions where they are responsible for instruction even though they are only partially qualified to assume these duties. In the midst of all of this, third- generation NAITTE members are reexamining what the organization has to offer and making critical decisions about their own level of involvement.
Third-generation NAITTE officers and leadership must guide the organization to undertake activities and initiatives that are meaningful and realistic with respect to the needs of 21st century teacher education professionals. The heritage of the organization must be respected, but "doing things for the sake of doing them" or "because they were always done that way" should not be descriptors of our work. The future existence of NAITTE will not be assured by status, name recognition, or a reputation built on past accomplishments. The organization will continue only by providing valued services to professionals who believe there is merit in the agenda being pursued.
Three areas of emphasis appear to be of particular importance as we plan and pursue a program of work for 2003 and beyond. First of all, assistance to new professional teacher educators in fields related to industrial and technical teacher education must be an emphasis. One of the actions now being taken is revitalization of the Leaders for Tomorrow Scholarship. The NAITTE Research Committee is developing new guidelines for this initiative, and the Executive Committee has committed significant resources to support this award program for the coming year. The Graduate Research Symposium will also be supported as an ongoing activity, and new avenues to encourage aspiring or new professionals will be sought.
The enhancement and development of online resources to support industrial and technical teacher education is another area in which NAITTE should excel. The NAITTE web site was revised and updated in 2002, but further enhancements are needed to provide value for NAITTE constituents. Located at www.coe.uga.edu/naitte, the web site presently provides organizational information; but it could be expanded to provide additional resources that would be of value to members of the profession. Other materials are also being developed for online distribution, such as the News and Views newsletter and the Industrial Teacher Education Directory, produced annually in cooperation with the Council on Technology Teacher Education, which will be distributed in electronic form beginning in 2003.
A third area of focus for NAITTE's near-term agenda is exploration of venues for collaboration with other organizations related to teacher education and preparation within the career and technical education community. The 2002 annual convention program guide for the Association for Career and Technical Education listed at least five organizations other than NAITTE that have a focus on teacher education. While the content specializations of these groups vary, in other respects there might be numerous similarities. Possibilities for collaboration must be explored with these organizations and open dialogue encouraged. NAITTE has also made efforts in previous years to establish connections with both the International Technology Education Association and the Academy for Human Resource Development. These initiatives had limited success, but we need to continue to operate with a spirit of openness to collaboration outside of our traditional boundaries.
So does NAITTE have a future? Will the organization continue to exist to celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2012, or is it ready for retirement at the age of 65 years? The decisions that determine these answers will be made by third-generation members and leaders. The trail behind us is comprised of the footprints of many special individuals who have contributed much to our profession. They were not perfect, and they made mistakes; but they believed that NAITTE had the potential to facilitate professional growth and development. The path ahead will be of our own choosing, and the footprints will be our own. We will each have to evaluate whether NAITTE has the potential to add value to our life and our career, and each will choose what level of involvement is appropriate.
As for me, I do believe that NAITTE has a future. I think that it can provide significant assistance to new teacher educators as they seek job opportunities and strive to meet other members within the profession. It can facilitate awareness of funding sources, availability of materials to aid instruction and job performance, and serve as a catalyst for inter-organization cooperation. These goals are consistent with the mission statement set down by those who came before us, but these goals must be pursued from a third-generation perspective. The future of NAITTE is in our hands, and we can make of it what we choose.
Evans, R. N. (1988). The history of NAITTE. Champaign, IL: National Association of Industrial and Technical Teacher Educators.
Hill is Associate Professor in the Department of Occupational Studies at The University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia. Hill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.