JITE v34n1 - Standards of Quality for Programs that Prepare and Certify Trade and Industrial (T&I) Education Teachers: The Need and Key Issues

Volume 34, Number 1
Fall 1996

Standards of Quality for Programs that Prepare and Certify
Trade and Industrial (T&I) Education Teachers: The Need and Key Issues

Thomas J. Walker
Temple University
James A. Gregson
Oklahoma State University
Nevin R. Frantz, Jr.
Virginia Polytechnic Institute
and State University

The Need and Key Issues

The development of standards for preparing and certifying trade and industrial (T&I) education teachers is grounded in the mission of The National Association of Industrial and Technical Teacher Education (NAITTE). The Association serves to act as a catalyst for the promotion of excellence for industrial and technical teacher education and trainer training in all settings. NAITTE accomplishes its mission of stimulating and promoting positive change through various means that include "serving as an authority and advocate in the preparation of professionals in industrial and technical teacher education..."( Evans, 1988, p. 36 ). It is to this end that the Association undertook the work of developing quality standards for T&I teacher education. This article will focus on key issues in the development of the standards and describe the work of the committee that developed them. The need for teacher education standards and NAITTE's view of the standards will be presented along with the promise of the standards for improving the future practice of T&I teacher preparation and certification.

The Need for Standards of Quality for Preparing and Certifying T&I Teachers

Advancing technology, global competition, and the intense drive for productivity in the U.S. are raising the rewards for education and training higher than ever. As a result, America's schools are challenged to provide all students with a secondary school education that prepares them for high-skill, high-wage jobs, and further education. Quality teaching and teacher education are inextricably linked to the challenge. There is broad agreement in the literature that the performance of American students is closely linked to the quality of teaching in America's schools, and that the quality of teaching will not improve without dramatic improvements in teacher education (see Tomorrow's Teachers: A Report of the Holmes Group, 1986 ; A Nation Prepared: Teachers for the Twenty-first Century by the Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy, 1986 ; and Teachers for our Nation's Schools by John Goodlad, 1991 ).

A rich discourse on the role of teachers, the practice of teaching, and the nature of teacher education has been occurring over the past decade ( Darling-Hammond, 1990 ; Goodlad, 1990 ; Gregson, 1993 ; Simon, 1992 ). Calls for professionalizing and strengthening teaching practice as well as the programs that prepare teachers have extended to all disciplines. Liston and Zeichner (1991) , for example, maintain that the goals for teacher education should be to develop teachers who (a) are able to identify and articulate their purposes, (b) can choose the appropriate instructional strategies and appropriate means, (c) know and understand the content to be taught, (d) understand the social experiences and cognitive orientations of their students, and (e) can be counted on for giving good reasons for their actions. While it is true that significant change has been advocated for how well all teachers are prepared, the preparation of T&I teachers especially has been scrutinized because of the nontraditional method used to prepare them for their classroom responsibilities (Task Force Report on Vocational Technical Teacher Education, 1995). Historically, secondary school T&I teachers have been prepared to teach through alternative teacher education programs. Industrial experts or artisans have been recruited directly from business or industry and then prepared to teach while on the job. Licensure or certification is generally earned by completing less than a baccalaureate degree. The approach is commonly referred to as a "nondegree"or "less-than-baccalaureate"preparation program. While other vocational service areas (e.g., agriculture, health occupations, and home economics) also have recruited some instructors directly from industry with limited or no pedagogical training, T&I teacher education programs are unique in that they have prepared the vast majority of their teachers through nontraditional certification programs ( Bouchie, 1987 ).

Several factors have contributed to the prevalence of nontraditional certification efforts among T&I teacher education programs. One factor is the difficulty in finding persons who have both industrial experience and pedagogical expertise. Further, when confronted with choosing between an industrial expert or artisan and someone with teaching expertise, the artisan has typically been selected because of the historical mission of T&I education to prepare students for entry-level positions in the world of work directly upon graduation. The rationale for this decision has been that even though these industrial experts or artisans may have had limited or no pedagogical training, they generally did have a (a) good grasp of industrial standards and practice, (b) network of contacts in their respective occupational area, and (c) familiarity with many aspects of the industry (e.g., work conditions and employment possibilities).

Historically, then, the emphasis in T&I credentialing has been on competence in the subject matter to be taught or the content of the occupation. How the subject was taught (the process of teaching) has received far less attention. As a result, considerable variability in T&I teacher preparation and certification exists across the country. Duenk (1990a) reported the requirements for T&I preparation to be so dissimilar across the United States that no state can consider them as being reciprocal. As recently as 1990, only two states in the U.S. required the baccalaureate degree as a condition for initial employment. All states and territories, however, had moved to some college-level experiences as a condition of certification ( Duenk, 1990b ).

Intensive preservice, college-level workshops, and induction programs may have adequately prepared T&I instructors to teach in the industrial era when their responsibility was to teach technical skills for specific jobs. However, research on teaching and learning over the past two decades has made the case for more, not less, pedagogy in a teacher's preparation. Bruer (1993) , in an exceptionally important piece on teaching and learning, insisted that teaching methods based on research in cognitive science "...are the educational equivalents of polio vaccine and penicillin. Yet few outside the educational research community are aware of these breakthroughs or understand the research that makes them possible"(p. 8). Consequently, calls for reform from within the T&I profession that have persisted for some time (see Bradley, 1983 ; Frantz, 1994 ; Vos, 1989 ; Walker, 1990 ) are growing even more persuasive indicating that T&I teachers need to teach heuristic strategies, metacognitive skills, and personal and social skills along with occupational skills in order to adequately prepare students for the postindustrial era ( Gregson, 1993 ; Grubb, 1995 ; Heath-Camp, Camp, and Adams, 1993 ; Moss, 1992 ; Wirth, 1992 ). Contemporary T&I teachers require different skills than has been the case historically. The NAITTE Committee that developed the standards drew on this discourse and imbedded in the standards the acknowledgment that current T&I teacher education programs must prepare teachers to (a) integrate academic and vocational education; (b) better prepare vocational students for postsecondary education; (c) use more technology in the classroom and expose students to technology in the workplace; and (d) teach problem-solving, decision-making, and teamwork to better prepare vocational students for high performance places of work.

What Do We Mean by Standards?

Recently, policymakers have turned their attention to using educational standards as a method to improve teaching and learning ( Barton, 1996 ; Jennings, 1995 ; Tucker, 1996 ). Eisner (1995) reports that

Standards are being formulated for the certification of teachers, for the content of curricula, and for the outcomes of teaching. Virtually every subject-matter field in education has formulated or is in the process of formulating or revising national standards that describe what students should know and be able to do. (p. 759)

NAITTE's aim in drafting T&I standards was to provide benchmarks for improving teacher education programs and for state agencies to use in certifying secondary school teaching personnel. The standards are intended for use by (a) higher education schools, colleges, and programs that prepare and certify T&I teachers; (b) state departments of education; (c) professional associations; (d) schools, school districts, and school boards; and (e) the practicing T&I profession. Each of these groups must continue to discuss and improve their understanding of T&I teacher education for the profession to be improved. Use of the standards is sure to vary within groups and contexts but, NAITTE wants those who use them to know that under no circumstance was it our intent to design standards to control the T&I profession, or to present the standards as something to be imposed upon programs that prepare T&I teachers. Using the standards for these purposes would be a misuse. Rather, the standards are intended to serve as a mechanism to inform the profession of principles that direct action rather than rules that mandate compliance. Within this frame of reference, the standards should be considered as tools or guidelines for making judgments and decisions in a context of shared meanings, dialogue, and values ( Diez, Richardson, & Pearson, 1994 ).

NAITTE's position in this regard was guided, in part, by the thinking of several contemporary scholars. Darling-Hammond (1993) , for example, has expressed concern with standards when used for controlling purposes. Her caution is that within the current standards movement, some standards reflect behavioristic views of learning. She rejects the notion that something as complex as teaching and learning can be broken up into discrete areas of practice. She also suggests that some in the standards movement are attempting to control teaching and learning rather than developing the capacity of schools and teachers. Darling-Hammond (1990) argues that "capacity-building requires different policy tools and different approaches to producing, sharing, and using knowledge than those traditionally used throughout this country"(p. 754).

Another concern conveyed by Darling-Hammond (1993) is that standards tend to standardize practice. She finds the promotion of standardized practice problematic because schools vary drastically with respect to student populations, resources, and content. As a result, she advocates variability rather than uniformity.

Also influencing NAITTE's position on the use of the standards was the lesson learned from earlier school reform efforts; that top-down directives seldom, if ever, work ( Bacharach, 1990 ). Just as progressive business leaders have realized that the rational control model ( Wirth, 1992 ) with its mass-production, assembly line mentality hinders productivity, creativity, and quality, progressive educational leaders have realized that educational "factories"hinder the productivity, creativity, and quality of teachers and learners ( Glasser, 1992 ; Gray, 1991 ; Shedd & Bacharach, 1991 ).

NAITTE is hopeful that the standards will be used to renew and revitalize T&I teachers and teacher education programs. The Standards Committee feared that in the absence of standards, the essential knowledge of the profession was not being communicated. We were also concerned that aspiring teachers could be held responsible for deficiencies rather than the programs that had failed to prepare them. Furthermore, NAITTE aspired to be proactive in this endeavor. The consensus of the committee was that it was far more important for standards to originate from within a profession, rather than from legislators or policymakers outside the learning community, especially if renewal was the primary concern.

The standards purposively are designed to represent a "core"of accomplished practice rather than a detailed "blueprint."T&I teacher education and certification programs prepare teachers for a wide array of educational contexts (e.g., urban high schools and rural area vocational-technical schools) where the availability of resources vary and student populations are heterogeneous in nature (i.e., race, ethnicity, gender, class, aptitude, and motivation). Hence, every effort was made to develop standards that are specific and clear enough to be useful, and yet not so narrow that they restrict and limit methods of practice. NAITTE's position was that educators associated with various programs could elect to expand the standards to reflect their particular context. If the standards were too specific, however, they would be perceived as being arbitrary, restrictive, and ultimately dysfunctional. The committee is confident that the standards are flexible enough to account for individual program differences, and at the same time offer a universally accepted level of proficiency for being a T&I teacher.

Finally, NAITTE is not in the position politically, nor does it have the inclination to mandate adherence to the quality standards. Teachers and communities have a democratic right to influence policy and practice within their specific contexts. Indeed, the intent behind these standards is to promote rather than obstruct democratic possibilities. It is our belief that if the standards are used as intended, they can assist individuals seeking to better understand and implement effective teaching and learning practices as well as groups wanting to improve their institution's overall teacher education effectiveness.

Development of the Standards

As was mentioned above, the development of the standards is grounded in NAITTE's mission, which includes "...serving as an authority and advocate in the preparation of professionals in industrial and technical teacher education..."( Evans, 1988, p. 36 ). NAITTE began work on the quality standards project as part of a planned program of initiatives aimed at renewing the Association.

The genesis of the project grew from a forum that took place at the opening general session of the annual meeting of NAITTE, held during the 1993 American Vocational Association conference in Nashville, Tennessee. The forum was created so that emerging trends and issues impacting education, work, and teacher preparation could be presented, discussed, and reflected upon in helping to chart a future course of direction for NAITTE. The program, Education and work for the year 2000: The choices we face and the implications for industrial and technical teacher education, featured Arthur G. Wirth and a panel of teacher educators representing technology education, technical education, and trade and industrial education. One of the recommendations made during the general session was to develop a set of national teacher preparation and certification standards that would require a high level of professional and technical competence for T&I education teachers.

Early in 1994 the Executive Committee of NAITTE acted upon this recommendation and established a committee to begin developing the standards for T&I teacher education and certification. The committee was comprised of five industrial teacher educators from well respected university-based programs in various areas of the country.1 The committee began its deliberations with a review and discussion of existing standards for teacher preparation programs. These included those prepared by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the National Business Education Association, and the U.S. Department of Education Standards of Excellence in Trade and Industrial Education prepared by the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America.

The standards were juxtapositioned around discussions about present and future directions of education and work, as well as the need to prepare young people and adults for entry and success in contemporary workplaces. As these discussions took place, several themes or broad areas emerged with respect to the role of a T&I education instructor at both the secondary and postsecondary levels. The roles that emerged were that the T&I teacher should be a positive role model within the profession, school, and community capable of (a) designing curriculum and delivering instruction that provides learning experiences for students in applying academic concepts in workplace contexts, (b) organizing and managing laboratories that are safe and occupationally relevant, (c) adapting instruction to accommodate students of diverse backgrounds and special needs, and (d) establishing minimum level-of-entry qualifications to the teaching profession with incentives for continued professional development and improvement. As these general areas became formalized, committee members began to define specific competencies within each of the areas that teachers could demonstrate as outcomes of teacher preparation programs. As competencies were identified, the committee decided that it was important to organize them into broad general outcome statements rather than to develop a checklist of very specific behavioral competencies. For each of the broad areas a general standard was developed that could serve as a criterion (guideline) for the examination of a T&I teacher education program. Within the general standards a set of indicators was composed to serve as examples or guidelines for determining whether the general standard was being addressed in a given T&I teacher preparation program. This process resulted in the development of a set of six general standards of excellence for the following areas: (a) instruction, (b) curriculum, (c) students with special needs, (d) laboratory organization and management, (e) linkages with stakeholder groups, and (f) projection of a positive public status and image.

The initial draft of the standards was shared and discussed during a forum sponsored by NAITTE at the 1994 AVA Convention. The forum was attended by a diverse group of individuals including T&I teachers, state and local supervisors of T&I programs, state directors of vocational education, and teacher educators from four-year teacher education institutions. Discussions were held in small group sessions focusing on each of the six general standards. A series of questions focusing on the appropriateness of each standard, suggestions for modification and improvement, the need for additional standards, and input on any other concerns were presented to each of the groups. The results of these discussions were used by the committee to make further revisions and modifications to the standards.

After preparing another draft following the forum, additional requests for review and suggestions for improvement were made of several national organizations. These included the National Association of State Directors of Vocational Education, the National Association of State Supervisors of Trade and Industrial Education, the Trade and Industrial Education Division of AVA, and the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America. Comments and suggestions were received from these groups and incorporated into still another draft of the standards document.

This document was then disseminated to the membership of NAITTE along with a response sheet for any final suggestions to improve the standards as proposed by the committee. The final draft of the proposed standards was subsequently presented for approval at the annual business meeting of NAITTE held at the 1995 AVA Conference in Denver, Colorado. At that meeting, NAITTE members voted unanimously to approve and adopt the standards of quality for the preparation and certification of T&I education teachers.

The Promise of the Standards

NAITTE's work with the quality standards will continue. The next phase of the process will be to assist teacher education institutions and state certification agencies throughout the country in discussing and analyzing their programs. A new committee has been formed representing different geographical regions and types of four-year teacher preparation programs. Industrial teacher educators on the committee include representatives from Pennsylvania, Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Oklahoma, and California. This committee will develop an information dissemination process for the standards that will include discussion aids for users. The committee also hopes to begin examining the policies and practices that might enhance or impede the adoption of the standards within states and teacher education institutions. A status report on this work is planned for NAITTE's annual meeting to be held during the 1996 AVA Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The standards were created based on the belief that programs preparing and certifying T&I teachers need to be renewed and revitalized. This process and the resulting standards should not be viewed as an all or nothing proposition. NAITTE recognizes that resources are disparate across the educational spectrum. We also realize that resources available to institutions and programs that prepare and certify teachers will surely affect the pace of renewal. Even with this caveat, we believe that the real potential of the standards lies in the dialogue they can create between and among stakeholders across the T&I profession. The standards should help to invoke serious conversations and thoughtful reflection by individuals and groups as they take up the issue of getting from where they are now to the vision advanced by the standards. NAITTE's promise is to stay involved in these conversations.


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Reference Citation: Walker, Thomas J., Gregson, James A., & Frantz, Nevin R, Jr. (1996). Standards of quality for programs that prepare and certify trade and industrial (T&I) education teachers: The need and key issues. Journal of Industrial Teacher Education, 34(1), 19-30.