JITE v34n1 - The Standards of Quality: A Reaction

Volume 34, Number 1
Fall 1996

The Standards of Quality: A Reaction

Richard L. Lynch
University of Georgia

The editor and guest editors of this special theme issue of the Journal of Industrial Teacher Education have requested that I prepare a reaction to their work as presented in this issue. Before commenting specifically on the apparent underpinnings of the standards, the standards themselves, and their rationale, I think it only fair to initially inform the reader of my biases.

Context for Critique

By way of context, I have been studying vocational and technical teacher education for many years. The data quest began in earnest during the mid-1980s as a search for information about where, when, what, how, to whom, and by whom vocational and technical teacher education was provided. Throughout the past decade, colleagues and I have examined many areas of vocational teacher education related to educational reform. The focus of this work has been conducted within a general context of teacher education reform and, more specifically, vocational education reform-especially the reform of vocational and technical teacher education. Drawing primarily upon findings from previous research, some survey and qualitative data, and analysis of the vocational education "reform" literature, nearly all observers, writers, and researchers have concluded that significant, systemic changes must be made if vocational and technical teacher education is to survive well into the 21st Century. Bromley, Cobb, and Hartley summarized much of this work in the 1996 publication, Beyond tradition: Preparing the teachers of tomorrow's workforce:

The writers of this monograph agree that substantive change in vocational education and the preparation of its teachers is both necessary and inevitable… It must be systemic, profound change… If vocational education and its teacher educators do not fully embrace such fundamental changes, the field of vocational and technical education may not survive in any form. ( p. 167 )

An alarmist call? Perhaps. But the following are just a few exemplary, summary statements from research studies and the vocational teacher education reform literature that have prompted many to sound the alarm urging significant change:

  • From 1987-88 to 90-91, the number of vocational teachers in the nation's secondary schools decreased by 9% versus a 7% increase for nonvocational teachers.
  • The demand for high school vocational education of the traditional variety continues to decline-33% from 1982 to 1992.
  • In 1987-88, teachers in trade and industrial education comprised 30.7% of the secondary vocational education teaching force; by 1991-92, approximately 20% of the high school vocational education teaching force taught T&I subjects.
  • College and universities have diminished greatly their capacity to produce teachers for vocational and technical education.
  • About 45% of secondary and about 1/3 of postsecondary trade teachers begin teaching without a baccalaureate degree; only about 50% remain teaching five years later.
  • All beginning teachers have problems; but vocational education teachers entering the profession directly from business and industry with little pedagogical training have additional problems. They desperately need early intervention with curriculum and pedagogy, but are not obtaining it.
  • There are some long-standing philosophical beliefs and practices underpinning vocational teacher education that are not withstanding the scrutiny of empirical research and/or the judgment of professionals.
  • Generally, inservice teachers claim that they are not prepared to implement reform initiatives in vocational education and preservice students are not being prepared to do so. Neither the foundation for reform nor the specific skills necessary to reform curricula and programs are being taught to teachers in sufficient strength to ensure substantive change.
  • The need exists to broaden the curriculum framework for vocational education (especially at the high school level). This need for increased breadth is also desirable for vocational and technical teacher education.
  • Research and research methodology have increased significantly the knowledge bases for teaching and teacher education. This further exacerbates the problems associated with the relative lack of academic experience among many trade and technical teachers.
  • The teacher is the primary difference. Simply put, better educated teachers produce better educated workers for our nation's workplaces. 1

With the above as background and context, I am pleased to respond more specifically to the work of the members of the NAITTE Quality Standards Committee as reported in this issue.

A Work in Progress

I applaud the work of the NAITTE Quality Standards Committee and its attempt to develop standards of professional practice for trade and industrial teachers. As Galluzzo pointed out in his article, it is tough to gain consensus on standards. He also noted that it is a challenge to design high-quality, rigorous, reliable, and valid standards and assessments.

Galluzzo did touch on three key initiatives that can help inform the further development of standards and assessments for teacher education: the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium, the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. The NAITTE Quality Standards Committee and its related subcommittees are encouraged to consult these and other significant standards development efforts as the Quality Standards continue to evolve. Many of these national efforts represent numerous years of relatively well-funded research and development in the preparation of standards, criteria, and assessment. Vocational education, including trade and industrial teacher education, needs to be an integral player in these teacher/teacher education standards development initiatives; they have much to offer us and vice versa.

I also encourage the T&I commissions who will now discuss and debate this work on standards to examine other documents such as the recent text by the University Council on Vocational Education, the report of the Task Force on Vocational Technical Teacher Education sponsored by the National Association of State Directors of Vocational Technical Education Consortium and the University Council on Vocational Education, and the Proposed Action Agenda for 1996 and Beyond from the 1995 San Diego Summit on Vocational Teacher Education.

The Issues Article

Many important issues that have informed and underlay the development of standards are nicely and succinctly articulated in the article by Walker, Gregson, and Frantz. Summary statements from such premier researchers as Darling-Hammond, Zeichner, and Goodlad provide a good context within which to frame the key issues in teacher education as well as to provide direction for the future.

The historical practice of employing trades persons with many years of occupational experience to teach in trade and industrial education is also briefly reviewed. A discussion of this practice is important. What is missing, however, is an acknowledgment of the fact that the practice of recruiting and employing T&I teachers because of this extensive work experience-most of whom do not have college degrees, and very limited preparation in pedagogy-simply has not worked very well. As summarized in the 1994 National Assessment of Vocational Education Report to Congress:

…the findings across many studies conducted over a period of 40 years suggest that extensive occupational experience confers no particular benefits on vocational teaching, although a few years' experience has a positive impact. Formal postsecondary education is positively associated with desirable teacher and student outcomes. In short, trade and industry teachers would be better off with more formal education and less occupational experience. ( Boesel, Hudson, Deich, & Masten, 1994, p. 75 )

The authors of this issue of JITE seem to tacitly acknowledge the need more for formal education (at least in pedagogy), but make short shrift of findings that consistently show that short-term workshops or teacher preparation programs have little effect on either teachers' or students' growth. Recently published studies from the National Foundation for the Improvement of Education and the National Commission on Teaching & America's Future lined up solidly in opposition to short cuts in teacher preparation and use of short-term survival approaches to teacher preparation. As cited in the National Commission's report, "Our society can no longer accept the hit-or-miss hiring, sink-or-swim induction, trial-and-error-teaching, and take-it-or-leave-it professional development it has tolerated in the past" (Cited in Education Week , 16(3), Sept. 18, 1996, by A. Bradley, p. 14 ).

There are also appropriate citations by Darling-Hammond about the use of standards and the admonishment that standards not be used to control teaching and learning, but rather to build the capacity of teachers. Indeed! But, Darling-Hammond and her many colleagues working in this arena extend this conversation about standards into numerous related components that also must undergird standards development. In drawing on her extensive examination of the teaching profession and related teacher preparation, Darling-Hammond says, "we have to get serious about the tough stuff" (cited in Education Week , 16(3), Sept. 18, 1996, p. 14) if indeed we are serious about recruiting, preparing, and supporting excellent teachers. The following are a few examples of the "tough stuff": (a) the societal need for a professional, well-educated teaching force; (b) teachers who are prepared and empowered to make responsible, relevant program, curriculum, and instruction decisions; (c) teachers who have comprehensive knowledge of children and youth including how they learn and develop; (d) teachers with a rich repertoire of pedagogical skills including knowledge and application of constructivist theory and active engagement techniques; (e) teachers as members of learning communities; and (f) teachers with the ability to diagnose, assess, prescribe, and evaluate students' learning styles and use appropriate instructional methods to maximize student learning. The point must again be made that we must examine reform in teacher education from within comprehensive, holistic vantage points and conduct the discourse accordingly.

The Standards and Rationale

As for the standards themselves, my first impression in reading statements surrounding the presentation of standards is that the authors "may not really mean it." Duenk's studies ( 1989 ) have unearthed little consistency among states' preparation or licensing of T&I teachers and thus, there is no reciprocity across the states. Apparently, the field (or at least the authors) are comfortable with this as they use many caveats so as not to offend anyone who might see the standards as imposing. It reminds me of the nearly century-old admonition that we really should integrate academic and vocational education because it would be best for students and for education; but to attempt to do so would threaten and disrupt the system (and perhaps even our own profession). Thus, the status quo tends to be maintained.

I really do not understand the Associate Teacher (Level I). What is the justification? Is this practice defensible? Why are such persons not responsible or accountable for any of the standards under "Instructional Standards of Quality"? What will Associate Teachers do? Apparently, they can teach for seven years without additional preparation and possibly renew their provisional certificates for three more years (for a total of 10) before they must meet any "instructional standards of quality." I note that even the Level II teacher (who is to meet standards) must renew his or her certificate every five years.

The Instructional Standards of Quality for the Qualified Teacher (Does this mean the Associate Teacher really is unqualified?) in Level II seem to make some sense. In subsequent discourse, I encourage trade and industrial educators to ask: Are the standards intellectually challenging? Do they truly get at what effective T&I teachers need to know and be able to do? Do they prepare T&I teachers to adequately manage contemporary work-based education programs and to use instructional techniques to accomplish stated objectives for the profession? Are the standards sufficiently comprehensive? Above all, will the standards ensure that all students are learning that which they must learn in order to function effectively in 21st Century workplaces and society? (See, for example, SCANS, Workplace basics, and America's choice: High skills or low wages! )

I found the "rationale" article by Frantz, Gregson, Friedenberg, and Walter to be quite informative. The material has considerable utility for all vocational educators, but especially for trade and industrial educators as they continue to debate standards as well as what is best for their profession.

My main question related to the content of this article is, "Do we get it"? The information is accurate, but are we really drawing on the message as a basis for developing standards and for charting our future? We often use statements or quotes to verify or justify a position or point, but then promptly advocate or do something very different. The discussion of behaviorism provides an example. The reform literature in vocational education, teacher education, and vocational teacher education clearly directs us toward Dewey's progressivistic philosophy and today's educational theory of constructivism. Yet, much of the rationale for the standards, some of the standards themselves, and the detail on the standards (e.g., on what/how to teach and manage safety in laboratories) appear to be much more grounded in essentialism and behaviorism then they do in pragmatism and constructivism. Although the authors claim that curriculum and instruction standards "blur" the boundaries between behaviorism and progressivism, I found the standards (as written and illustrated) to include a "foot in each," but with the lead foot clearly in essentialism.

In summary, I appreciate the noble attempt to develop teacher preparation standards for the trade and industrial profession. This is great progress, and I hope the standards will be put into use immediately and that they will be subsequently used as a springboard to further develop the knowledge bases for teaching and learning in trade and industrial education. I especially encourage those who will develop and build on this work to bring congruence among the needs and key issues, the standards themselves, and the rationale for the standards. I am well aware that standards development, implementation, and enforcement are tough work. It is difficult to obtain consensus on standards. I think it is especially tough for trade and industrial education, a teaching field that has always "beat to a different drummer" with alternative certification patterns that differed enormously from state to state. My hat is off to the Committee, and I thank you for this seminal effort.


1 These summary statements have been extracted from several studies in vocational and technical teacher education, but primarily from those recently supported by the National Center for Research in Vocational Education, the federal Office of Educational Research and Improvement, the National Assessment of Vocational Education, and the University Council for Vocational Education.


Boesel , D., Hudson, L., Deich, S., & Masten, C. (1994). National assessment of vocational education: Final report to Congress Volume II, participation in and quality of vocational education. Washington, DC: Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U. S. Department of Education, 75.

Bradley , A. (1996, Sept. 18). Education Week, 16 (3), 14.

Bromley , K., Cobb, R. B., & Hartley, N. (1996). Epilogue. In N. K. Hartley, & T. L. Wentling (Eds.). Beyond tradition: Preparing the teachers of tomorrow's workforce. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri.

Carnevale , A. P., Gainer, L. J., & Meltzer, A. S. (1988). Workplace basics: The skills employers want. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor and the American Society for Training and Development.

Duenk , L. G. (1989). Trade and industrial education requirements in the United States and territories. Blacksburg: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Division of Vocational and Technical Education.

The Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce. (1990). America's choice: High skills or low wages. Rochester, NY: National Center on Education and the Economy.

U.S. Department of Labor. (1991). What work requires of schools: A SCANS report for America 2000. Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills. Washington, DC: Author.

Reference Citation: Lynch, Richard L. The standards of quality. Journal of Industrial Teacher Education , 34(1), 67-74.