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Journal of Vocational and Technical Education

Editor:
Kirk Swortzel:   kswortzel@ais.msstate.edu

Volume 15, Number 1
Fall 1998

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NOTES FROM THE EDITOR

The Journal of Vocational and Technical Education, can be obtained in both paper and electronically. This fall, 1998 issue (15-1) marks the twenty-ninth issue of JVTE in print and the seventh issue currently on-line. The printed journal is mailed to members and other subscribers around the world and is indexed in ERIC. The electronic journal is available worldwide on the Internet and can be accessed at the following (case sensitive) location:

http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/JVTE/index.html

Establishing JVTE as an electronic journal as well as a paper one means a whole new set of responsibilities for the editor, one of which is making sure that the files are properly formatted in order to be converted to HTML. This also will call for authors paying closer attention to using the proper formatting features on the word processor.

In this issue:

Two of the articles focus on teachers, their practices and experiences, two on industry preparation and a fifth on using the Delphi Technique to determine Tech Prep research needs. The findings in these manuscripts have implications for the quality of curriculum and instruction provided in Vocational Education.

The purpose of Howard R. D. Gordon's research was to describe West Virginia's secondary vocational teachers' use of student assessment information in making instructional decisions. Teachers were asked how they used assessment data for making instructional decisions and what they thought were the constraints in the assessment process. Their attitudes toward assessment were also determined. The teachers in this study tended to be experienced, middle aged, completed the teacher preparation program on-the-job, have a graduate degree, and the largest percentage are Trade and Industrial Education teachers. Gordon found that performance assessments are of more use to secondary vocational teachers than the other five assessment methods used in this study. As expected, vocational teachers placed much use on objective paper and pencil methods in assigning grades. With portfolios being such a trend in assessment today, it was surprising to find that they did not have much use in generating information for instructional decisions. Gordon found that secondary vocational teachers are less likely to use standardized tests and essay type methods for assessing student learning than objective items, performance assessments, informal observations, and portfolios. He suggests that vocational teachers may not have the proficiency to interpret standardized test scores or score essay questions for assessment. Therefore, he recommends that more emphasis be placed on preparing teachers in preparing and using data from essay and standardized assessments. He recommends a combination of assessment techniques for evaluating student work and improving instructional practices.

Barbara Kirby's and Anthony LeBude's descriptive research addresses a much-ignored group of teachers in our profession—beginning teachers. They studied the nature of beginning teacher induction processes for Agricultural and Health and Biotechnology Career Development teachers with five or less years of experience. Their study included determining the levels of concerns of these teachers and what would most likely keep them in the profession. In addition, they analyzed if there was a relationship between their concerns and retention strategies. They also determined differences in concerns, retention strategies, and relationships among teachers by program and certification types. Even though this study shows evidence that assistance such as mentors, workshops, orientation, and support networks is provided to a high percentage of teachers, it also shows evidence that not all beginning teachers have the benefit of these strategies. It is encouraging to find in the results of this study that beginning teachers are concerned with the impact they have on their students. The results of this study show support to previous studies that beginning teachers are over committed with their time and not always by choice. The authors concluded that time-consuming tasks; concern for safety; lack of fairness and support; inadequate facilities, materials, and resources may influence teachers' decisions to leave the profession. The authors make some strong recommendations to administrators that will make teachers' beginning years easier and more productive. If implemented, they have the potential to increase retention of vocational teachers.

John De Leon and Ralph Borchers cite several studies which support the current thinking that high school graduates should be prepared to enter the workplace with both the academic and vocational skills for today's complex work environment. The literature suggests that the availability of manufacturing jobs for people with only a high school education will diminish. Their research targeted a specific industry in order to determine what skills employers of Texas manufacturing industries expect when hiring new employees with only a high school education. Their research sought to determine manufacturer's current hiring practices, projected hiring trends, and skills required for those with only high school diplomas. DeLeon and Borchers found that more than half of the employees have only a high school diploma in 66% of the 80 firms surveyed. Fifty-three percent of the respondents indicated that they would continue to hire people with only high school diplomas. The researchers expect the majority of future occupations in Texas to be similar, but increased, to those currently in the Texas economy. They found that employers valued attributes that are more intrinsically humanistic rather than academic or technical. Even though skills such as reading, writing, math, and computer skills were important, they ranked below group interaction, employability, and personal development. The authors make good recommendations on how these findings should impact curriculum development and delivery in the classroom. They also provide recommendations for future similar studies that will expand the knowledge base of the expectations and hiring practices of manufacturing industries beyond the limitations of this study.

Chris Zirkle's research addressed who should be responsible for the skill development and evaluation of students involved in school-to-work programs. He asked vocational educators and training and development professionals to what extent a skill should be developed in school and to what extent in the workplace. In addition, he asked both groups who should evaluate the student's achievement of a given skill. He found that there are varying opinions. Training and development professionals perceived that students need higher prior mastery skill levels in the academics than did vocational educators. They both agreed that development and assessment of these skills is the role of the school. The vocational educators believe that students need higher prior mastery level for occupational/technical skills than did the training and development professionals. Both groups were close on their opinion that the school should take responsibility for employability skills. There was evidence in these findings that industry people prefer to train students on their own equipment, their own tools, and their own software. When it came to evaluation of the skills both groups agreed somewhat on responsibility. He recommends that training and development professionals and vocational educators need to come to an agreement through continued collaboration on who is responsible for skill development and evaluation if school-to-work programs are to be successful. Vocational Educators will find useful information in the findings of this research in planning school-to-work programs.

In this article, Edgar Farmer has provided us with research priority items for the next ten years for Tech Prep educators. He used subject matter experts through the Delphi Technique to determine these priorities. The vast majority of the subject matter panel was nationally recognized teacher educators and administrators at four-year colleges and universities that play a pivotal role in successfully promoting Tech Prep. They were also selected for their involvement in the National Tech Prep Network. The results of the survey produced 11 major research categories and 98 research question and problem statements. The item with the highest priority was "Institutionalize Tech Prep into the higher education delivery system and focus instruction on data from learning styles/cognitive sciences research, and non-traditional teaching methods." Though Farmer did point out that the research is four years old, the experts were asked to identify the priorities for the next ten years. This research should provide a foundation for others to identify future research priorities in the area of Tech Prep.

 

We appreciate the contributions of our authors to the Journal of Vocational and Technical Education and their willingness to work with me to provide this issue of the journal. Their research will add to the knowledge base of workforce education.

The Editor

Betty Heath-Camp, August, 1998

Volume 15, Number 1


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