Alternative teacher licensure, also known as alternative teacher certification, is a growing national trend in education, and it has long been common in the field of career and technical education. Alternatively licensed teachers often enter teaching with a wealth of subject area knowledge due to their previous work experience. Mentorship programs are one of the best ways to help alternatively certified teachers to successfully navigate their first year in the classroom. This study investigated the teacher perceptions of the Indiana Workplace Specialist I (WSI) licensure training program during the 2011-2012 academic year.
Keywords: Alternative, Licensure, Career, Technical, Education
Many states offer alternative paths to teacher licensure. According to the National Center for Education Information , "In 2005, 47 states, plus the District of Columbia, report 122 alternative routes to teaching certification being implemented (n.d.). The literature reviewed in this article will present the common strengths and weaknesses of alternatively licensed teachers and explain how mentoring programs can help these new teachers improve and become long-term members of the teaching profession. This article also reports the findings of a 2012 study which described the perceptions of alternatively licensed Indiana teachers (2011/2012) with regard to the Workplace Specialist I (WSI) alternative licensure training project that they participated in during the 2011/2012 academic year. Data will reveal if the teachers’ gender, age, computer experience, experience with online education, or occupational area of expertise influenced their perception of the alternative licensure program.
For a traditional education degree (certification- based route), teachers may need to pass standardized tests, meet a minimum grade point average requirement, and earn a degree from a teacher training program at an accredited college or university. Routes to alternative certification vary from state to state, but many are designed to certify teachers who have not completed an undergraduate degree in the field of education. Individuals may become certified more quickly through an alternative route than via a traditional one, which makes alternative certification especially appealing when there is a teacher shortage ( Ruhland & Bremer, 2002, pp. 3-4 ). Alternative teacher certification has helped bring more teachers into the profession, evidenced by the number of alternative certifications issued, which grew nationwide from 4,000 in 1992 to 60,000 in 2006. National Center for Policy Analysis researchers Rebecca Garcia and Jessica Huseman stated that alternative certification programs could have other positive effects, in addition to helping alleviate teacher shortages. "Alternative certification programs attract individuals who are committed to teaching and whose non-teaching experiences are valuable in the classroom" ( Garcia & Huseman, 2009, p. 2 ).
Career and technical education has traditionally been more dependent on alternative teacher licensing based on occupational work experience than other program areas, especially in areas such as trade and industry ( Cochran & Reese, 2007 ; Cotton, 2000 ; Cotton, Koch, & Harvey, 2010 ). The roots of CTE teacher certification go back the 1917 Smith-Hughes Act. Teachers in such fields as agriculture, family and consumer science, business, and marketing were expected to have a degree in a related subject area and to have completed professional education coursework. Teachers in industrial education and health fields were usually certified on the basis of their occupational experience and completion of minimal course hours in pedagogy. For example, in 1994, almost half of secondary trade and industrial education teachers did not have a bachelor’s degree. However, certified CTE teachers bring with them years of experience working as professionals in their fields of instruction ( Ruhland & Bremer, 2002, pp. 7-8, 10 ).
Ruhland and Bremer (2002) surveyed 178 alternatively licensed CTE teachers and 290 traditionally licensed CTE teachers (with a bachelor’s degree in education). The teachers were asked to rate their preparation before they began teaching in the areas of pedagogy, knowledge of subject matter, classroom management skills, and strategies for special populations. Traditionally licensed teachers were twice as likely as alternatively licensed teachers to rate their preparation in the area of pedagogy as “very adequate,” and they were 11% more likely to rate their pedagogical preparation as “moderately adequate.” In “knowledge of subject matter,” 74% of alternatively licensed teachers said they were prepared very adequately, compared to 56% of traditionally licensed teachers. Regarding classroom management skills, alternatively licensed teachers and traditionally licensed teachers were equally likely to rate their preparation as “very adequate” (18% and 20%, respectively). Of alternatively certified teachers, 15% said they were prepared very adequately for working with special populations, compared to 10% of traditionally certified teachers (Ruhland & Bremer, 2002, pp. 31-33). These percentages suggest that traditionally certified teachers felt better prepared in pedagogy, whereas alternatively certified teachers felt more knowledgeable of the subject matter they were teaching. Only a small percentage of teachers in either category felt very adequately prepared in classroom management skills or in special populations strategies.
Ruhland and Bremer (2002) queried CTE teachers about their intentions to continue teaching. More than 50% of all respondents indicated they planned to continue teaching at least eight more years (52% of traditionally licensed teachers and 58% of alternatively licensed teachers). In both of these categories of teachers, 29% said they would probably continue to teach for three to seven more years. Eight percent of traditionally licensed teachers were actively considering leaving the teaching profession, compared to four percent of alternatively licensed teachers (Ruhland & Bremer, 2002, p. 39). Heath-Camp and Camp (1990) found that 15% of CTE teachers left the teaching profession within their first year, and more than half left within six years.
In the Ruhland and Bremer study (2002) , alternatively licensed teachers were more likely to stay in the teaching profession than were traditionally licensed teachers, indicating that they may have been more satisfied with the profession. However, teachers who come to the profession through alternative licensing feel even less prepared than their traditionally licensed peers for tasks such as creating a positive learning environment and meeting the needs of diverse learners.
In the state of Indiana, alternatively certified CTE teachers receive a Workplace Specialist I (WS I) license. They then must complete the WS I training program to be eligible for the Workplace Specialist II license. WS I faculty are assigned mentors during the first year of training to help them adjust to their first year teaching in a classroom. Mentors must have completed five years of kindergarten-12 teaching experience, and they are usually CTE faculty members ( Nickolich, Feldhaus, Cotton, Barrett, & Smallwood, 2010, p. 41). Nickolich et al. (2010) surveyed 105 CTE faculty members (60 WS I first-year faculty and 45 mentors) to measure their perceived professional and personal life satisfaction.
“One important finding of this study revealed that Indiana faculty who serve as mentors for first-year CTE faculty were more satisfied with their lives than were the first-year CTE faculty” ( Nickolich et al., 2010, p. 47). Many factors may lead to this fact, but one discussed by the researchers is that these older and more experienced faculty members have become “master teachers” through their experiences, thus helping them remain content with their work in spite of increasing pressures and accountability heaped on teachers. The researchers also concluded that experience in teaching leads to more confidence because these mentors had at least five years of teaching experience. Some faculty need time to feel comfortable with teaching. The study concluded with a recommendation to “not underestimate the power of experienced CTE faculty to serve as mentors, coaches, and professional role models for junior faculty” (Nickolich et al., 2010, pp. 47-48).
Well-designed teacher mentoring programs can provide CTE teachers with additional support, thus improving teacher competence, performance, and effectiveness. Mentoring programs for alternatively licensed teachers should be carefully planned and executed so as to minimize confusion on the part of the mentees. Traditionally licensed teachers tend to view mentoring programs as relatively easy to follow, because often they have been learning how to teach since they began their college degrees. However, alternatively licensed teachers come directly from business and industry, so mentoring is a new experience for many of them, and the educational discussions and activities can be confusing ( Briggs, 2008, pp. 2, 5-6 ).
Briggs (2008) surveyed 151 alternatively licensed CTE teachers, all of whom obtained their recommendation for licensure from The Ohio State University between 1995 and 2006. The intent of the study was to measure the teachers’ perceptions of how well their university coursework and mentoring activities had prepared them for their teaching careers. The university coursework and clinical experiences that the respondents found most beneficial dealt with practical content, such as student assessment, lesson planning, and classroom management. Respondents perceived a need for distance learning coursework throughout the licensure program in order to reduce travel time to classes. Also, they did not want to waste time repeating material from university coursework in their mentoring activities. According to the respondents, mentoring is most useful when the following factors are met:
The need for mentorship for alternatively licensed CTE teachers is clear. Alternative certification has grown in popularity recently, in large part the result of teacher shortages, but alternative ways for teachers to enter the classroom have long been common in the field of CTE. Alternatively certified CTE teachers bring an increased knowledge of the subject matter to the classroom as a result of their business and industry experiences prior to teaching. However, they must be given extra preparation in the area of pedagogy to fully prepare them to be teachers. Teachers become more confident and more effective as they gain experience in the classroom, which is why they need extra help during the first year of teaching. Effective mentoring programs can make a significant difference for alternatively certified teachers, who may be often overwhelmed by their transition to the classroom. By guiding and assisting alternatively certified teachers in key areas, mentors can help the teachers overcome common challenges during their first year, while allowing the teachers’ strengths to shine through.
There is a lack of information related to the perceptions of Indiana WSI teachers with regard to the 2011/2012 WSI teacher training project that they completed.
The purpose of this study was to ascertain the perceptions of Indiana 2011/2012 WSI teachers with regard to the WSI teacher training project that they participated in during the 2011/2012 academic year. These perceptions will provide the individuals involved with the project with data that could guide future program improvement.
The following research questions guided this study:
In the state of Indiana, the Indiana Department of Education offers an alternative license known as the Workplace Specialist I (WSI). This license allows an individual to teach in an occupational area in a career center. A university degree is not required for this type of teaching license, but the individual must have at least a high school diploma or a GED. Also, 6,000 hours of documented work experience in the occupational area for which the individual is to be licensed to teach are required. The hours of documented work experience can be reduced if the individual completes a 2-year degree in the occupational area of the requested license (e.g., automotive technology). The 6,000-hour requirement also can be reduced if an individual completed two years (1,020 hours) in a high school career and technical education (CTE) program in the specific occupational area, holds a license or certification in the occupational area, or completed a formal internship or apprenticeship in the occupational area.
To pursue this alternative path toward licensure, an individual must first be hired and contracted by a school to teach an identified occupational area. Once under contract with a school, the individual applies for the WSI license with the Indiana Department of Education. The individual then applies for the WSI teacher training program during his/her first year of teaching. This WSI teacher training program has a hybrid delivery system. The teachers attend two live remote site training sessions lead by project instructors with assigned locations determined by geography. The teachers participate in online coursework delivered by project instructors in one of eight groups assigned by licensed program area. Mentors with a minimum of five years of teaching experience in a closely related content area assist, supervise, and observe the WSI licensee during the year-long training program. The mentors conduct formal teaching observations that are shared with the project instructors and coordinator. A collaborative environment exists in online discussion forums between teachers and the project instructors. The content of the training program includes classroom management, writing and using standards-based learning objectives, conducting classroom and curriculum assessments, integrating academics into occupational program areas, lesson planning, accessing instructional materials, understanding advisory committees, understanding career and technical student organizations, and understanding how to develop professional development plans. All teachers who participated in the Indiana 2011/2012 WSI teacher training project were invited to participate in this study.
Descriptive research was used to investigate data from Indiana WSI teachers who completed the 2011/2012 WSI teacher training project. The population for this study consisted of Indiana WSI teachers (N = 64) who completed the 2011/2012 WSI teacher training project. The university students were grouped by their gender (Male / Female), age (22-34, 35-44, 45-54, 55-64, 65 and over), computer experience (No Experience, Some Experience, Experienced, Very Experienced), experience with online education (No Experience, Some Experience, Experienced, Very Experienced), and occupational area of expertise (computer/graphics/ PLTW, culinary arts, health sciences, machine/welding/industrial technology, medley), and level of education (GED, high school diploma, some postsecondary training, associate's degree, bachelor's degree, master's degree, doctorate degree). The response rate of the WSI teachers was 72% (N = 46).
The survey instrument was used to gather demographic information in the following categories: (1.) Gender, (2.) Age, (3.) Computer Experience, (4.) Experience with Online Education, (5.) Occupational Area of Expertise, and (6.) Level of Education.
The perceptions of Indiana WSI teachers who completed the 2011/2012 WSI teacher training project were investigated using the following nine questions:
Regarding gender, survey respondents were evenly split between males (n = 23) and females (n = 23). In terms of age, survey respondents were mostly between 35-44 (n = 27, 58.7%). See Table 1 for more information.
|Frequency||Percent||Valid Percent||Cumulative Percent|
|65 and over||1||2.2||2.2||100.0|
Regarding computer experience, almost half reported some computer experience (n = 22, 47.8%). See Table 2 for more information.
|Frequency||Percent||Valid Percent||Cumulative Percent|
For experience with online education, many respondents had no experience (n = 19, 41.3%) or only some experience (n = 17, 37.0%). See Table 3 for more information.
|Frequency||Percent||Valid Percent||Cumulative Percent|
For primary occupational area of expertise, the most frequent type of occupation was health sciences (n = 20, 43.5%). See Table 4 for more information.
|Frequency||Percent||Valid Percent||Cumulative Percent|
|Multiple or Other||9||19.6||19.6||100.0|
For highest level of education, associate’s degree (n = 17, 37.0%) and bachelor's degree (n = 14,30.4%) were most common. See Table 5 for more information.
|Frequency||Percent||Valid Percent||Cumulative Percent high school|
|Some Postsecondary Training||10||21.7||21.7||26.1|
Research question one sought to investigate the perceptions of teachers who participated in the WSI teacher training project. Responses were collected from the WSI teacher to determine if the training project was helpful. Teachers strongly agreed and agreed the WSI teacher training project was helpful with classroom management 71.1% (n = 45), using standards-based objectives 80.0% (n = 45), classroom and curriculum assessment 75.5% (n = 45), integrating academics into occupational program areas 73.4% (n = 45), lesson planning 71.1% (n = 45), learning how to access instructional materials 66.7% (n = 45), understanding advisory committees 73.4% (n = 45), understanding career and technical student organizations 73.3% (n = 45), and understanding how to develop a professional development plan 77.8% (n = 45). See Table 6 for more information.
|The WSI Teacher Training Project Helped Me||Strongly agree||Agree||Neutral||Disagree||Strongly disagree||n|
|With Classroom Management||24.4%||46.7%||17.8%||6.7%||4.4%||45|
|Write and Use Standards-Based Learning Objective||31.1%||48.9%||17.8%||0.0%||2.2%||45|
|With Classroom and Curriculum Assessment||24.4%||51.1%||6.7%||13.3%||4.4%||45|
|Integrate Academics Into My Occupational Program Area||26.7%||46.7%||13.3%||6.7%||6.7%||45|
|With Lesson Planning||31.1%||40.0%||11.1%||8.9%||8.9%||45|
|Learn How to Access Instructional Materials||20.0%||46.7%||17.8%||8.9%||6.7%||45|
|Understand Advisory Committees||26.7%||46.7%||17.8%||4.4%||4.4%||45|
|Understand Career and Technical Student Organizations||24.4%||48.9%||17.8%||6.7%||2.2%||45|
|Understand How to Develop A Professional Development Plan||26.7%||51.1%||8.9%||4.4%||8.9%||45|
Research question two sought to investigate if the teachers’ gender influenced their perception of the WSI teacher training project. Males more than females agreed that WSI teacher training helped with classroom management (t = -3.768, df = 29.92, p = .001), using standards-based learning objectives (t = 2.430, df = 42, p = .019), integrating academics into their occupational area (t = 3.038, df = 29.48, p = .005), learning how to access instructional materials (t = -2.600, df = 36.46, p = .013), understanding advisory committees (t = -2.478, df = 30.22, p = .019), and learning how to develop a professional development plan (t = -2.149, df = 30.93, p = .040). No other differences in agreement were found for the survey items in this section. See Table 7 for means and standard deviations.
|With Classroom Management||Male||23||1.70||.559||-3.768||29.92||.001|
Write and Use Standards-based
With Classroom and
Integrate Academics Into My
Occupational Program Area
|With Lesson Planning||Male||23||1.96||1.186||-1.614||43||.014|
Learn How to Access
|Understand Advisory Committees||Male||23||1.78||.600||-2.478||30.22||.019|
Understand Career and
Technical Student Organizations
Understand How to Develop
A Professional Development Plan
Research question three sought to investigate if the teachers’ age influenced their perception of the WSI teacher training project. Two age groups were created, which were less than 44 years of age (22-44) and greater than 45 years of age(45 and over). Those that were ages 22-44 did not find WSI teacher training as helpful as those who were 45 and older (t = 2.390, df = 42.96, p = .021). No other differences in agreement were found for the survey items in this section. See Table 8 for means and standard deviations.
|With Classroom Management||22-44||29||2.14||.953||-.537||43||.594|
|45 and over||16||2.31||1.195|
Write and Use Standards-based
|45 and over||16||1.88||.885|
|With Classroom and Curriculum Assessment||22-44||29||2.38||1.178||1.293||43||.203|
|45 and over||16||1.94||.929|
|Integrate Academics Into My Occupational Program Area||22-44||29||2.21||1.114||.055||43||.956|
|45 and over||16||2.19||1.167|
|With Lesson Planning||22-44||29||2.52||1.379||2.390||42.96||.021|
|45 and over||16||1.75||.775|
|Learn How To Access Instructional Materials||22-44||29||2.45||1.213||.750||43||.457|
|45 and over||16||2.19||.911|
|Understand Advisory Committees||22-44||29||2.14||1.026||.041||43||.968|
|45 and over||16||2.13||1.025|
|Understand Career And Technical Student Organizations||22-44||29||2.10||.900||-.283||43||.779|
|45 and over||16||2.19||1.047|
|Understand How To Develop A Professional Development Plan||22-44||29||2.14||1.125||-.309||43||.759|
|45 and over||16||2.25||1.238|
Research question four sought to investigate if the teachers’ computer experience influenced their perception of the WSI teacher training project. Two groups were created: some experience and experienced. The experienced group was composed of responses from the experienced and very experienced groups. No differences in agreement levels were found based on self-reported computer experience by the WSI survey participants. See Table 9 for more information.
|With Classroom Management||Some Experience||22||2.05||.999||-1.175||42||.247|
|Write and Use Standards-based Learning Objectives||Some Experience||22||1.82||.664||-1.087||42||.283|
|With Classroom and Curriculum Assessment||Some Experience||22||2.14||.941||-.535||42||.595|
|Integrate Academics Into My Occupational Program Area||Some Experience||22||2.00||.873||-1.204||36.21||.236|
|With Lesson Planning||Some Experience||22||2.00||.926||-1.472||35.38||.150|
|Learn How to Access Instructional Materials||Some Experience||22||2.05||.844||-1.795||36.15||.081|
|Understand Advisory Committees||Some Experience||22||2.09||.868||-.291||42||.772|
|Understand Career and Technical Student Organizations||Some Experience||22||2.18||.907||.474||42||.638|
|Understand How to Develop A Professional Development Plan||Some Experience||22||1.95||.899||-1.302||36.27||.201|
Research question five sought to investigate if the teachers’ experience with online education influenced their perception of the WSI teacher training project. Three groups were created: no experience, some experience, and experienced. The experienced group was composed of responses from the experienced and very experienced groups. There were differences in agreement levels for how helpful the WSI teacher training project was in assisting with classroom and curriculum assessment based on prior online education experience (F(2,19.67) = 3.632, p = .045). Using the Games-Howell Post- Hoc test no pairwise differences were found; however, there did appear to be more agreement for those with some experience than those with no experience or more extensive experience. There were differences in agreement levels for how helpful the WSI teacher training project was in assisting with lesson planning based on prior online education experience (F(2,20.02) = 4.429, p = .026). Using the Games-Howell Post-Hoc test, those with some online education experience reported the training more useful than those who had more extensive online education experience (p = .029). See Table 10 for more information.
|With Classroom Management||No Experience||19||2.11||1.049||.965||2||42||.389|
|Write and Use Standards-Based Learning Objectives||No Experience||19||1.84||.765||1.254||2||42||.296|
|With Classroom and Curriculum Assessment||No Experience||19||2.26||1.046||3.632||2||19.67||.045|
|Integrate Academics Into My Occupational Program Area||No Experience||19||2.16||.958||1.521||2||20.82||.242|
|With Lesson Planning||No Experience||19||2.00||1.106||4.429||2||20.02||.026|
|Learn How to Access Instructional Materials||No Experience||19||2.32||.885||2.571||2||20.62||.101|
|Understand Advisory Committees||No Experience||19||2.05||.780||.445||2||20.16||.647|
|Understand Career and Technical Student Organizations||No Experience||19||2.11||.809||1.113||2||42||.338|
|Understand How to Develop A Professional Development Plan||No Experience||19||2.26||1.195||.723||2||19.96||.498|
Research question six sought to investigate if the teachers’ occupational area influenced their perception of the WSI teacher training project. Of the 46 respondents, 20 were in health sciences and the other categories had very few respondents. Statistical testing was not pursued due to the low number of responses in the categories.
Before this study was conducted, little was known about the perceptions of teachers who participated in the WSI teacher training project during the 2011-2012 academic year. This study yielded information that indicated the training project was helpful to the teachers. Teachers strongly agreed (or agreed) that the WSI teacher training project was helpful with classroom management 71.1% (n = 45), writing and using standards-based objectives 80.0% (n = 45), classroom and curriculum assessment 75.5% (n = 45), integrating academics into occupational program areas 73.4% (n = 45), lesson planning 71.1% (n = 45), learning how to access instructional materials 66.7% (n = 45), understanding advisory committees 73.4% (n = 45), understanding career and technical student organizations 73.3% (n = 45), and understanding how to develop a professional development plan 77.8% (n = 45). The results of this study indicated that males more than females agreed that WSI teacher training helped with classroom management (t = -3.768, df = 29.92, p = .001), with writing and using standards-based learning objectives (t = .2.430, df = 42, p = .019), with integrating academics into their occupational area (t = 3.038, df = 29.48, p = .005), with how to access instructional materials (t = -2.600, df = 36.46, p = .013), with understanding advisory committees (t = -2.478, df = 30.22, p = .019), and with understanding how to develop a professional development plan (t = -2.149, df = 30.93, p = .040). Teachers who were 22-44 did not find the WSI teacher training as helpful as those who were 45 years of age and over (t = 2.390, df = 42.96, p = .021). Teachers with some online education experience reported the training more useful than those who had more extensive online education experience (p = .029).
Prior to this study, there was a lack of information about the perceptions of Indiana WSI teachers with regard to the 2011/2012 WSI teacher training project that they completed. This article yielded some new information to the knowledge base pertaining to alternative route teachers. It reported the findings of a 2012 study that showed the perceptions of alternatively licensed Indiana teachers with regard to the WSI alternative licensure training project that they participated in during the 2011/2012 academic year. Data revealed that the alternatively licensed teachers either agreed or strongly agreed that the WSI teacher training project was helpful with classroom management, using standards- based objectives, classroom and curriculum assessment, integrating academics into occupational program areas, lesson planning, learning how to access instructional materials, understanding advisory committees, understanding career and technical student organizations, and understanding how to develop a professional development plan. As reported, some groups compared to others felt that the WSI alternative licensure training project was more helpful; however, alternative licensure appears to be helpful overall to the teachers surveyed in this small Indiana study.
Future research should be conducted to ascertain the perceptions of Indiana WSI teachers with regard to future WSI teacher training projects. These perceptions could guide continued program improvement. Future studies should incorporate open-ended responses or focus groups to investigate why males more than females agree that the WSI teacher training program assisted with classroom management, writing and using standards-based learning objectives, integrating academics into an occupational area, accessing instructional materials, understanding advisory committees, and understanding how to design a professional development plan. Open-ended responses also may yield insight into why teachers who were 22-44 did not find the WSI teacher training as helpful as those who were 45 years or age and over. Furthermore, these types of responses may help to gain insight into why teachers with some online education experience reported the training more useful than those who had more extensive online education experience. Replication of this study in other states is recommended to determine if there are similar issues and results in larger regions or nationally.
Dr. Edward J. Lazaros is an assistant professor in the Department of Technology at Ball State University Muncie, Indiana, and coordinator of the Master of Arts Degree in Career and Technical Education.
Dr. Samuel Cotton is an associate professor and Chairperson in the Department of Technology at Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana.
Paul B. Brown is a graduate of Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana.
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