Preparation and Credentialing Requirements of Two-year College Technical Instructors: A National Study
|Susan J. Olson
University of Akron
University of Akron
|Peggy L. McCann
University of Akron
The role of occupational education in the two-year college has grown tremendously (Cohen & Brawer, 1996). Day (1996) finds that most new jobs will require postsecondary education and training beyond high school, but below the baccalaureate level. Two-year colleges also have a long history of providing workforce education and training that reflect the needs of their local economics (Doucette, 1993). Ninety-six percent of community colleges offer workforce training, with job specific technical training (20.2%) and computer training (18.6%) being the largest share (Phillippie, 1995). This growth has increased the need for technical instructors. Keim (1989) found that 60% of two-year college faculty are in occupational and technical areas.
However, the appropriate preparation for technical instructors has long been debated (see Hawkins, Prosser, & Wright, 1951; Gordon, 1999) and continues today (see Olson, 1991; 1994). Industrial and business experience continues to be seen as essential, while knowledge of teaching is seen as only desirable. During the early history of the two-year college, instructors tended to have teaching experience at the secondary level (Cohen & Brawer, 1996). More recently, instructors are "coming from graduate programs, from the trades, and from community colleges" (p. 50). Graduate degrees are rarely found among teachers in occupational programs; however, occupational experience along with some pedagogical training has been considered the best preparation for technical instructors (Cohen & Brawer, 1996). Few community college teachers are hired based upon teaching credentials, but instead are hired based upon subject/program expertise. The state departments of education licensure requirements or lack of such requirements in all 50 states confirm this subject matter emphasis (Blank, 1979).
Historically, states have had little involvement in the credentialing of postsecondary technical instructors. Forty years ago, Thornton (1960) reported that Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Utah had certification requirements for postsecondary technical faculty. During this time period faculty favored (62%) certification of faculty with some variation that included a master's degree in one's teaching subject (or a substantial number of graduate credits) and some teaching experience either at the high school level or college level (Kelly & Wilbur, 1970). By 1970 few states had laws governing certification, employment or tenure for postsecondary faculty (Kelly & Wilbur, 1970). Those that did (Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Kansas, Florida, Missouri, and California) treated community college faculty much like secondary education faculty. Unlike K-12 education, postsecondary technical programs do not monitor instructor qualifications as is increasingly being done in secondary education.
Jacobs (1989) states that "many community college teachers don't have the skills necessary to educate the modern workforce" (p. 70). In addition, Cohen and Brawer (1996) have noted the increased need for preservice preparation of instructors to accommodate the occupational as well as the collegiate student. Numerous studies have been done that have identified competencies and credentials needed by technical instructors (see Olson, 1994). Andrews and Marzano (1990-91) recommend 2 years of technical education at the community or technical college plus 2 years of undergraduate education (2+2), followed by another 2 years of work for entry as a two-year college technical instructor.
The current community college curriculum is complex, outcome based, entails articulation both internally and externally with high schools and four-year colleges, and requires integration of workplace basics (Carnevale, Gainer, & Metzler, 1989). Further, the nature of community college students has changed. They are older and are likely to be attending part-time, to have other responsibilities, and often lack basic learning skills and academic basics. For these reasons, community colleges need competent personnel who have the tools and abilities to teach a wide range of students to be tough, independent and productive members of society.
According to McDonnell and Zellman (1992), postsecondary vocational technical education is governed by a variety of boards and commissions. These state agencies tend to "impose far fewer policy directives" (p. 97) than secondary vocational programs. Most states (88%) offer postsecondary technical education in community colleges, with the exception of Georgia, Maine, New Hampshire, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, which either do not have community colleges or provide instruction through technical institutes or colleges. Over 90% of states offer public postsecondary technical education at a variety of postsecondary institutions such as community colleges, technical institutes, regional centers and four-year colleges.
"The quality of education in the community junior college depends primarily on the quality of the staff (O'Banion, 1997, p. v). These institutions strive to be "the nation's premier teaching institutions" (Commission on the Future of Community Colleges, 1988, p. 25). Tsunoda (1992) posits that community college teaching is one of the most difficult jobs in higher education today, with these institutions being held more accountable for the product that they produce. Yet state agencies impose few directives on the teacher qualifications needed beyond field expertise to instruct in the community college technical programs. All of this is occurring at a time when 40% of all community college faculty are retiring (American Association of Community Colleges, 1997).
There are few two-year college teacher education programs (not necessarily degrees) in the United States today. Lumsden and Stewart (1992) identified 126 institutions that offer coursework (not necessarily degrees) focused on teaching at the two-year college level. Peterson's Guide (1996) lists 11 institutions that offer such programs in community college education. There seems to be difficulty in identifying postsecondary teacher education programs, and in operationally defining the terms used to describe them. For example, a keyword web search on technical education will produce many programs that are designed to train technology software technicians. In addition, very little has been published about programs designed to specifically prepare community college faculty (Keim, 1994). This study relied on the directory produced by Dennis (1998) to obtain contact information for potential technical teacher educator programs.
O'Banion (1972) suggests four guidelines for successful high quality preparatory programs for two-year college faculty. These programs should provide an understanding of the community college's history and philosophy, its students (their diversity, learning styles, socioeconomic and ethnic background), and an understanding of the learning process and innovations in this area. O'Banion also recommends an internship with a master teacher.
Description of the Study
This study was conducted as a follow-up to an earlier study (Olson, 1991). The specific objectives of this study were: (a) to describe current credentialing requirements for technical instructors, (b) to describe program requirements for technical teacher education programs, and (c) to compare changes that have occurred since the Olson (1991) study.
This study is descriptive in nature. Initial data for all phases were collected via a mailed survey requesting information. The request letters were mailed first-class with a self-addressed, stamped envelope. A second letter was sent to non-respondents two weeks later, with phone calls or e-mail contact (if available) being made after four weeks to non-respondents. The web was also used in certain circumstances to clarify or verify information. This study was conducted during the spring of 1998 in two phases. The research questions were as follows:
- How many states require credentialing of two-year college technical instructors?
- What are the credentialing requirements of two-year college technical instructors?
- How have the current credentialing requirements changed since the Olson (1991) study on credentialing?
- What degree programs are available to prepare two-year college instructors?
- What are the coursework requirements in technical teacher education programs?
- How have postsecondary technical teacher program requirements changed since the Olson (1991) study?
During Phase I, all 50 state departments of education or boards of regents were sent a survey requesting answers to research questions one, two, and three as outlined above. During Phase II, 50 program chairs of selected technical teacher education programs were surveyed via mail. Programs were selected based on the directory provided by Dennis (1998) and the programs included in the Olson (1991) study that used titles indicating they were postsecondary technical teacher education programs. Those titles that were clearly secondary vocational education programs or secondary technology education programs were omitted from this study. The data for Phase II were used to answer research questions four through six.
Phase I: State Credentialing Requirements
One hundred percent response to the survey request for information was obtained in Phase I. Thirty-three (66%) of the states do not require credentialing and 17 (34%) do require credentialing (see Table 1). Delzer (1972) found that 22 (44%) of the states required credentialing for postsecondary technical instructors. In 1991, 17 (38%) of the states responding (n = 45) indicated they credentialed (Olson, 1991). Therefore, between the benchmark of 1972 and the current study, there has been a decrease in the percentage of states that credential two-year college instructors, from 44% to 34%, respectively. Although the percentage of states requiring credentialing from 1991 to 1998 decreased from 38% to 34%, the number of states credentialing remained the same (n=17). The percentage decrease was due to the fact that only 45 states responded to the 1991 study, whereas all 50 states responded in 1998.
|1990 and 1998 Comparison of States Credentialing and Non-Credentialing|
|Non-Credentialing (n = 33)||% 1990||% 1998|
|Kansas**||North Carolina**||West Virginia**|
|Credentialing (n = 17)||% 1990||% 1998|
|Note: *Credentialing in 1990 and in 1998 (Olson, 1991). **States requiring credentialing in 1990, but not in 1998. ***Nonrespondents from 1990 study (n = 5).|
Seven states that required credentialing in 1990 no longer do. Four states that did not credential in 1990 are credentialing in 1998. Of the five states that did not respond in 1990, two are credentialing, and three are not credentialing.
It is somewhat difficult to report on the minimum state requirements for two-year instructors due to (a) equivalency qualifications in some states (e.g., an instructor may have an associate's degree plus five years of experience or a bachelor's plus three years of work experience); (b) field heuristics (e.g., a bachelor's in welding is somewhat unrealistic; however, a bachelor's in business might be the norm); and (c) the supply/demand of instructors in certain fields (e.g., some states grant waivers when there is a shortage of instructors and classes/programs need to be delivered). Therefore, emphasis was place on reporting minimum requirements; the lowest indicated denominator.
|Comparison 1990 and 1998 Minimum Educational Requirements|
|High School Diploma||6||10|
Of the 17 states that were found to have credentialing requirements, five (29%) require a bachelor's degree, with one requiring appropriate licensure and another asking for two years' work experience in addition to the degree. Two states indicated the minimum educational requirements are an associate's degree with an average of 5.5 years of experience (range = 5-6 years). Ten states indicated that the minimum educational requirement could be a high school diploma (or equivalent) with eight (47%) of those states specifying the addition of work experience with 4.9 (range = 2-8 years) being the mean number of years. Two of the eight states require a license/certificate in the technical field, where applicable, in addition to work experience hours. Two of the 17 states (12%) require an occupational competency exam (OCE) beyond high school.
As compared to Olson (1991), there seems to be an increase in bachelor's degree requirements from three states in 1990, to five states in 1998 (see Table 2). Although there was an increase in the number of states with a minimum of a high school degree (6 to 10), 5 of the 10 states had an alternative to a bachelor's degree equivalency that consisted of work experience only and/or credentials alone.
|Comparison 1972, 1990, and 1998: Minimum Educational Requirements for Two-year Instructors|
|State and Year||Education Requirements||Years of
|Voc.-Tech. Ed. Credit|
|1990||A.A.||5||3 semester hours*|
|1998||A.A.||5||3 semester hours*|
|1972||18 mos. specialized training||3||Workshop|
|1990||HS, OCE||5||4 semster hours|
|1998||HS, OCE||5||Induction program|
|1990||HS||8||90 Clock hours|
Background check and occupational spec.
|1972||2 years postsecondary||2||0|
|1990||A.A. (12 hrs. in field)||2||18 semester hours|
|1998||Bachelor's with 2 years in Tech Program, OCE||2||
30 hour preservice workshop
|1972||HS or equivalent||6||15 semester hours|
|1990||HS or equivalent||4||18 semester hours|
Workshop and satisfactory evaluation; 18 credits for
|1972||A.A.||3||13 semester hours|
|1990||A.A.||3||12 semester hours|
|1998||Varies with occup taught||--||4-8 semester hours within
first two years
|1972||18 sem hrs math/science||2||0|
|1990||Bachelor's or OCE||2||12 semester hours|
|1998||Bachelor's or OCE||--||
45 clock hour induction + 18 semester hours + 30 hour inservice (non-degreed)
|1972||2 years postsecondary||3||0|
|Sources: Delzer (1972); Olson (1991). Notes: *Courses in the community college; OCE = Occupational Competency Exams; HS = High school; PS = Postsecondary education; A.A. = Associate Degree in Applied Science.|
Research question number three pertained to replicating Olson's (1991) study. Therefore, the same nine states were examined for change between 1972, 1990, and 1998. The Delzer (1972) and Olson (1991) studies were used to make these comparisons (see Table 3). Although one state (Kansas) indicated an increase in minimum degree requirements from associate's to a bachelor's, the remainder of the state requirements stayed about the same. There was no real change in years of work experience, with only one state (Louisiana) reducing hours required from 1972, 1990, and 1998; to six, four, and two hours, respectively. Among these states, there appears to be a trend toward requiring training in teacher education for individuals seeking two-year college positions, with five (55%) of the states indicating this requirement (although it is after the instructors are hired).
Phase II: Teacher Education Programs
In Phase II, 22 out of 50 institution contacts responded to research questions four through six, pertaining to teacher education program requirements, for a response rate of 44%. Thirteen institutions were found which offer a degree in postsecondary technical teacher preparation. Nine institutions offer a bachelor's degree and nine institutions offer a master's degree (see Table 4). Thirty-three percent (6) of the institutions use the terms technical education, 22% (4) use terms such as occupational studies, occupational teacher education or occupational education studies, 22% (4) use terms associated with training and development, while the least chosen titles for programs are technical, trade & industrial education; vocational education; corporate training; and workforce education and development (these four titles were used once each).
|Summary of Teacher Education Programs Responding that Train Two-year Instructors (n = 18)|
|California State University, Long Beach||B.S. Occupational Studies
M.A. Occupational Studies
|Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO||M.S. Vocational Education|
|Ferris State University, Big Rapids, MI||B.S. Technical Education
M.S. Career and Tech Education
|Idaho State University||B.S. Corporate Training|
|New York City Technical College||B.S. Ed. Occupational Teacher Education|
|North Carolina State University||M.S. Technical Education (Adult
and Community College Education;
|Oklahoma State University||M.S. Occup Education Studies|
|Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, Kansas||M.S. Technical Teacher Education|
|Southern Illinois University||B.S. Workforce Ed and Dev|
|The University of Akron, Akron, OH||B.S. Technical Education (2+2)
M.S. Technical Education
|University of Louisville||B.S. Occup Training and Dev
M.Ed. Occup Training and Dev
|University of Tennessee, Knoxville||B.S. Training and Development
M.S. Training and Development
|Valdosta State University, Valdosta, GA||B.S.Ed. Technical, Trade and Industrial Education (2+2)|
|Note: n=18 programs among the 13 institutions listed.|
The make-up of the undergraduate technical education programs included a mean of 42.6 semester credits in general education, 33.4 semester credits in professional technical education, and 44.4 semester credits in technical field courses, with an average total of 126.8 semester credits. In 1990, there were slightly more general education requirements (52.9 credits), and fewer professional and field requirements (29.6 and 38.5 credits, respectively).
Of those programs identified as providing postsecondary teacher preparation, 100% of the programs in 1998 required courses in instructional techniques, curriculum development, and a practicum. Fifty percent or more of the programs included courses in assessment and evaluation, survey of occupational education, characteristics of adult learners, and computer literacy as requirements for a bachelor's degree. Table 5 is a comparison between 1990 and 1998 course requirements for a baccalaureate. Program differences are marked with a (-) if there was a decrease in the requirement, and a (+) if there was an increase.
As can be seen in Table 5, the greatest changes in course requirements from 1990 to 1998 were (a) a decrease in human development and learning (from 76.5 to 44.4%), (b) an increase in survey of occupational experience (from 64.7 to 88.9%), (c) a decrease in occupational education employment (from 52.9 to 22.2%), (d) a decrease in media methods (52.9 to 33.3%), (e) an increase in characteristics of adult learners (41.2 to 66.7%), (f) an increase in introduction to training (from 23.5 to 77.8%), and (g) an increase in computer literacy for teachers (11.8 to 66.7%).
In terms of mean semester credit hour differences for a bachelor's degree between 1990 and 1998, the major changes were (a) a decrease in the number of hours in instructional techniques (from 9.8 to 4.6 semester hours), (b) a decrease in the number of hours in curriculum development (from 7.3 to 3.7), (c) a decrease in the number of hours taken in practicum (from 10.0 to 7.1), (d) a decrease in human development and learning (from 4.3 to 3.0), (e) a decrease in the number of hours in occupational employment experience (22.6 to 9.5 hours), (f) an increase in introduction to training (from 2.5 to 4.6), and (f) a decrease in the two-year college (from 3.0 to 0.0).
|Comparisons of 1990 and 1998 Summary of Bachelor Degree Requirements|
(n = 16)
(n = 9)
|Human Dev and Learning||76.5||44.4||-32.1||4.3||3.0||-1.3|
|Survey of Occupational Experiences||64.7||88.9||+24.2||2.6||3.3||+0.7|
|Occupational Employment Experiences||52.9||22.2||-30.7||22.6||9.5||-13.1|
|Characteristics of Adult Learners||41.2||66.7||25.5||2.7||3.0||+0.3|
|Introduction to Training||23.5||77.8||+54.3||2.5||4.6||+2.1|
|Note: *Percentage of institutions including the named class in their program course distributions; **Mean semester hours for two comparison years (Source: Olson, 1991). (-) = decrease in requirement (+) = increase in requirement.|
In 1998, the make-up of the graduate technical education programs included a mean of 10.8 semester credits in the professional core, 16.6 semester credits in the technical teaching specialization, and 5.3 semester credits of electives for non-thesis options and a mean of 6.0 hours of electives for thesis options. The average total semester hours was 32.6 semester credits for non-thesis degrees and 34.6 semester credits for master's thesis option degrees. In 1990, there were somewhat more hours required in the professional core (17.9 hours), fewer specialization credits required (11.1), and approximately the same number of electives given (5.8 hours).
Of those programs identified, 100% of the master's programs in 1998 required research, curriculum development, and instructional techniques. Table 6 is a comparison between 1990 and 1998 master's degree programs. Difference scores are indicated with a (-) for decreases and a (+) for increases in requirements.
|Comparison of 1990 and 1998 Summary of Master Degrees Requirements|
|Survey of Occupational Ed||85.7||22.2||-63.5||3.0||3.0||0.0|
|Evaluation of Learners||71.4||44.4||-27.0||3.0||3.0||0.0|
|Note: *Percentage of institutions including class in their program course distributions. **Mean semester hours for two comparison years (Source: Olson, 1991). (-) = decrease in requirement;
(+) = increase in requirement
As can be seen in Table 6, the greatest changes in course requirements from 1990 to 1998 were (a) a decrease in survey of occupational education (from 85.7 to 22.0%), (b) a decrease in evaluation of learners (71.4 to 44.0%), (c) a decrease in supervision (57.1 to 22.2%), (d) an increase in characteristics of adult learners (28.6 to 44.4%), (e) an increase in seminar (from 28.6 to 44.4%), and (f) a decrease in the requirement of the two-year college (28.6 to 11.1%).
Conclusions and Discussion
As with other studies of this nature (Carnevale & Schulz, 1989; Olson, 1991), while determining the current state requirements and surveying the preparation of instructors the researchers found some discrepancies regarding the definition of postsecondary technical education (e.g., technology education and technical education were sometimes used synonymously). This study tried to specifically focus on those requirements/programs that pertained to individuals who instruct technical subjects at the postsecondary level, specifically two-year colleges. Therefore, requirements/programs that dealt with preparation of secondary instructors or postsecondary trainers in business or industry were not included in this study.
In terms of state credentialing requirements, there was an additional level of ambiguity due to labor supply/demand, field heuristics, and multiple qualification equivalency variables that lead to situational credentialing of instructors. These factors make analysis for consistency between data somewhat problematic. Therefore, minimum levels of qualifications were used to obtain a common denominator among states.
The analysis of state certification requirements indicated that only 34% of our states credential two-year college instructors. Although this is a slight decrease in percentage since 1990 (38%), the actual number of states credentialing was the same (17 states). There is not a clear trend, however, as seven states that used to credential in 1990 did move to non-credentialing, and four states that did not credential in 1990 now credential. Prior work experience in the specialization field continues to be important for those who have less than a bachelor's degree. The number of years of work experience varies quite a lot from state to state, with the range being from two to eight years. Usually, the higher the degree level, the less work experience required.
Although an attempt was made to identify all postsecondary teacher preparation programs, the data in this study were limited to those that could be identified from the literature and those that responded. Thirteen institutions were identified as offering a degree in technical teacher preparation. Nine of these institutions offered baccalaureate degrees and nine offered a master's degrees to prepare two-year college instructors.
Comparison of undergraduate program requirements among institutions during the last eight years indicates that occupational employment experience is required less often today than in the past. This could be due to the difficulty in verifying prior work experience. In fact, some states are getting out of the business of verifying work experience due to administrative issues (e.g., the University of Akron). Although there is a decrease in the number of institutions requiring media methods, the number of institutions requiring computer literacy has grown tremendously. This could just be a change in course names, and those topics covered in media methods are now being taught in courses entitled computer literacy. The increase in adult learner courses suggests a heightened awareness that understanding adult learners and their needs is important at the postsecondary level (Baker, Rouche, & Gillette, 1990).
Similar to the bachelor's programs, graduate teacher education programs have decreased the requirement of occupational education courses in the last eight years. Also, evaluation and supervision course requirements have dropped. It could be that topics of evaluation and supervision are included in other courses. In parallel with the undergraduate trend, the number of institutions requiring an adult learning course has increased. Again, understanding the student population one will teach seems to be of growing importance.
O'Banion (1997) has indicated that instructors need certain pedagogical skill sets to be successful as postsecondary teachers; however, this study could identify only 13 degree-granting institutions in the United States that offer programs specifically focused on teacher preparation for two-year colleges. The hiring requirements of college instructors and university professors should be analyzed to determine if there is a demand for such programs that is perhaps not being met. Another question that needs to be addressed in future research is whether instructors with teacher education preparation fare better than those individuals who have only a degree in their technical field, or no degree. A case could be made that it is beneficial for instructors to have not only technical field experience/education, but also to have those skills associated with quality teaching (O'Banion, 1997). These programs could help provide the skills needed for individuals who are aspiring to teach in a two-year college setting.
The information obtained from this study can be used by states that are either thinking of credentialing two-year college faculty or deciding to reduce or eliminate credentialing. The information provided can be employed as a means for determining the credentialing status in other states. Agencies can use the information as a guideline to what other states are requiring. The teacher education program results can be used by colleges and universities that are interested in comparing their course requirements, changing their course requirements, or building initial programs. This study could help to validate curricular decisions and provide information to decision makers for future considerations.
This research was funded by the University of Akron College of Education Fund for Faculty Research and Development.
Olson is Professor and Chair of the Department of Curricular and Instructional Studies at the University of Akron.
Jensrud is an Assistant Professor in the Technical Education Program at the University of Akron.
McCann is a Doctoral Candidate in the Technical Education Program at the University of Akron in Akron, OH.
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