JVER v25n3 - Counselor Involvement in Professional Development and Preparedness for Roles in Tech Prep
Counselor Involvement in Professional Development and Preparedness for Roles in Tech Prep
Paula A. Puckett
Kellogg Community College
Debra D. Bragg
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
AbstractAn ex post facto survey design was used with secondary and postsecondary counselors situated within seven purposively selected community colleges in Illinois to examine relationships among their personal and professional backgrounds, professional development experiences, and perceptions of roles and responsibilities in tech prep. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics, Principal Axis Factor (PAF), and correlational analysis. Results show few counselors participated in on-going, experiential professional development approaches such as curriculum planning, study groups, or action research. Discrepancies emerged between counselor involvement in professional development approaches and their perceptions of the most helpful methods of professional development and preparedness for roles in tech prep. Qualitative results suggest these differences may be associated with the omission of counselors in decision making about professional development, limited resources to support counselor involvement in tech prep, and skepticism among counselors about the viability of tech prep benefits for all students.
Tech Prep and the Counseling Function
Tech prep is an initiative designed to reform the existing high school curriculum consisting of college prep, general education, and vocational education. To address his concern about poor quality secondary education, Parnell ( 1985 ) suggested that students be prepared for the technological developments of the 21st Century. He argued that administrators and teachers are needed to implement tech prep, but so too are counselors. Unique in its inclusion of counselors as primary contributors, the federal Tech Prep Education Act of 1990, Title IIIE of the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Amendments of 1990, focused specifically on counselors in one of seven essential elements. The counselor-specific element was extended in the Carl D. Perkins legislation of 1998 when it dealt with training designed to enable counselors to:
- provide information to students regarding tech prep education programs;
- support student progress in completing tech prep programs;
- provide information on related employment opportunities;
- ensure that such students are placed in appropriate employment; and
- stay current with the needs, expectations, and methods of business and all aspects of an industry.
In practice, state and local entities have been cognizant of the general framework of the federal tech prep legislation, but have varied greatly in how they implemented it ( Bragg, Layton, & Hammons, 1994 ; Hershey & Silverberg, 1995 ; Hershey, Silverberg, Owens, & Hulsey, 1998 ). Addressing concerns about the differences in tech prep implementation nationwide, the Office of Vocational and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education held a focus group involving several national experts to identify vital components of the tech prep reform. The group concluded "integrated learning, the use of applied curricula, heavy emphasis on career development activities, articulation between high schools and community colleges, and a 'reality base' for students developed through [the] workplace or other community work experience" ( Warnet, 1994, p. 2 ) are all integral to tech prep. Moreover, the focus group "emphasized that the attitudes and habits of teachers, administrators and counselors need to change and that a lot of staff training is needed to make that happen" ( p. 3 ). The counselor responsibilities mentioned by this group of national experts represent a significant departure from past roles often limited to scheduling, discipline, and informing students about four-year college options.
Smylie ( 1995 ) posited that there are conditions for the promotion of learning by professionals, calling for research to explore whether educators experience greater autonomy and choice in work roles when educational reforms occur. Tech prep calls for all educators, especially counselors, to engage in various roles and responsibilities, and they are to learn about them through professional development. Warnet ( 1994 ) stated that successful tech prep initiatives should involve everyone, but deciphering what the reform actually means for everyone poses a major challenge. Focusing on counselor roles specifically, Hoyt, Hughey, and Hughey ( 1994 ) recommended that "counselors change themselves in ways that will better enable them to play a proper and useful role in meeting career development needs through tech prep and other 'schooling-to-employment' programs" ( p. 2 ). The new roles and responsibilities proposed by Hoyt, Hughey, and Hughey include assisting all students with individual career plans, informing all students about career opportunities, and providing career development activities in the classroom. Professional development was seen as vital to ensuring that counselors would be prepared to perform these new roles.
Recent approaches to professional development appear to be closely aligned with adult learning and development theory. Smylie ( 1995 ) argued that adult learning theory should be applied to professional development within the context of educational reform. Andragogy, the study of how adults learn, is based on several the assumption that (a) adults have a deep psychological need to be self-directing; (b) adults come into an educational setting with a greater volume and different quality of experience than youth; (c) adults exhibit a readiness to learn that is linked to their need to know and be able to cope effectively with real-life situations; and (d) adults' orientations to learning are task- or problem-centered rather than subject-centered ( Knowles, 1970 ).
Over the past decade, administrators, teachers, and counselors have been asked to master new roles and responsibilities in order to implement various educational reforms ( Corcoran, 1995 ). Though any educational reform requires change, knowing how and what to change has not always been obvious ( Joyce, Murphy, Showers, & Murphy, 1989 ). Addressing this concern and anticipating the results of educational reforms, Cuban ( 1988 ) observed that reform movements "do not occur to parts of a system, but to entire institutions and to the people that inhabit them. Within education, change requires the integration of ideas and people to avoid superficial changes that disappear when personnel change or funding ends" ( p. 332 ). For any reform, imposing a profound and lasting impact on the educational system is most desirable but extremely difficult.
One way to bolster the long-term success of reforms is to provide professional development that encourages individual change or a "cognitive redefinition" ( Schein, 1988, p. 43 ) of beliefs and attitudes. McLaughlin ( 1993 ) contends that when educational reforms manifest themselves in the form of mandates only those efforts with the most complete, best integrated plans are likely to survive. McLaughlin's conclusion was not drawn hastily or without substantial evidence, rather it emerged after spending more than a decade evaluating the impact of professional development on various educational reforms. In their well-known study about change agents in the 1970s, Berman & McLaughlin ( 1977 ) examined professional development practices linked to educational reforms. Typical approaches to professional development of that era were in-service days or one-shot workshops used to remediate or improve the knowledge and skills of teachers, often yielding little evidence of long-term, sustained change. According to McLaughlin and Marsh ( 1978 ), this type of professional development was largely "ineffective and a waste of time" ( p. 70 ).
Since the 1970's, alternative models of professional development such as self-guided, experiential learning and faculty collaboration have been used in the context of educational reforms, producing more positive results ( Darling-Hammond, 1992 ; Fullan, 1991 ). Today, professional development can take many forms, ranging from highly focused training and skill development for individuals to experiential, collaborative efforts focused on strengthening interpersonal and group relationships. Professional development extends from being segmented (one-time) sessions to being more sustained, shared-growth experiences that are collaborative, experiential, and reflective. The emphasis of the latter approaches to professional development is to engage personnel in the change process to gain their support and help them to sustain changed practices over time ( Darling-Hammond, 1999 ; Darling-Hammond & McLaughlin, 1995 ; Guskey 1995 , 1999 ; Lieberman, 1995 ; Little, 1993 ; Smylie, 1995 ).
In their everyday practice, counselors at the secondary and postsecondary levels have multiple, conflicting responsibilities, from counseling students who want to attend college to acting as disciplinarians responsible for enforcing rules ( Gysbers & Henderson, 1994 ). Tech prep requires that counselors perform new roles and responsibilities that are not part of their regular routine, suggesting professional development may be needed to help them perform their work in more meaningful ways. Research shows that professional development activities addressing similar reforms have not been particularly effective if they focus on segmented (one-time) approaches. More collaborative, experiential strategies that engage practitioners over a longer time period may be more effective. However, it is not clear that local practitioners are aware of these findings and incorporating them into their professional development efforts. Even if they are, there is no information about their perceived impact on preparing counselors to perform new roles and responsibilities consistent with the tech prep approach.
Purpose and Objectives
Professional development approaches used historically to support educational reform have focused on short-term training and skill development for individuals, but recent research suggests more extended collaborative and experiential learning involving groups of professionals can be more effective. Adult learning theory suggests that professional development, if divorced from other personal and professional experiences, may not help counselors understand how to carry out new roles and responsibilities associated with tech prep. Research was needed to better understand how involvement in professional development is associated with counselor preparedness to carry out new roles and responsibilities. Understanding these relationships could provide valuable insights into how counselors should be prepared to contribute to tech prep in the future.
Specifically, this study attempted to address the following research objectives:
- Describe the personal and professional experiences of secondary and community college counselors engaged in implementation of tech prep.
- Identify professional development approaches in which secondary and community college counselors have participated, and determine counselor perceptions of the helpfulness of these approaches to understanding their role in tech prep.
- Ascertain secondary and community college counselor perceptions of the importance of various roles and responsibilities associated with tech prep and their preparedness to perform these roles and responsibilities.
- For the combined counselor group, identify factors associated with preparedness for roles and responsibilities, and determine the relationships between these factors and the perceived helpfulness of approaches to professional development.
An ex post facto survey design was used to address information pertinent to the research objectives. This design was chosen because direct control over the independent variables was not possible ( Kerlinger, 1973 ). A descriptive survey was used to identify the personal and professional experiences of the secondary and community college counselors, professional development approaches, and counselor perceptions of role and responsibilities in tech prep.
A mail survey designed to collect information pertinent to the research objectives was sent to secondary and community college counselors affiliated with seven tech prep consortia in Illinois that were recipients of postsecondary tech prep demonstration funds. These seven sites were selected because they were thought to provide the best examples of local consortia where tech prep implementation had occurred at a moderate to advanced level at the secondary and postsecondary levels. Ensuring that at least some tech prep implementation had reached the postsecondary level was necessary for this study because we wanted to describe counselor involvement and perceptions at both the secondary and postsecondary levels. The seven consortia purposively selected for this study were identified as postsecondary tech prep demonstration sites in 1995 and awarded a modest incentive grant to encourage advanced implementation of tech prep, including professional development. The consortia were located in rural, urban, and suburban regions of the state, and consortium enrollments varied considerably, providing a demographically rich mix of students in secondary schools and community colleges from throughout the state.
The entire population of 232 secondary school and community college counselors associated with the 7 tech prep consortia was surveyed. The Illinois State Board of Education provided a list of the names and addresses of the secondary counselors in the state of Illinois, and this list was reviewed to identify counselors employed at high schools identified with the tech prep demonstration grants. Community college catalogs were used to identify community college counselors. In the event that a current catalog was unavailable or did not provide the names of counselors, the director of counseling at the appropriate institutions was contacted, informed of the study, and asked to provide counselor names. All seven community colleges provided counselor names via one or more of these methods.
The Mail Survey Procedures
A modified version of Dillman ( 1978 ) total survey design method was used in the administration of the mail survey, involving two follow ups over a seven-week time period starting in January, 1997. Of the total number of surveys distributed, 148 were returned for a 64% return rate, comprising 120 secondary school counselors and 28 community college counselors. By level, 63% of secondary school counselors and 67% of the community college counselors responded to the mail survey.
Following the seven-week mailing period, a total of 25 non-respondents was randomly selected, contacted by telephone, and given an abbreviated version of the survey via a telephone interview. The 25 counselors solicited for the purposes of determining non-response bias represented over 30% of the non-respondents, as recommended by Dillman ( 1978 ). These 25 counselors were interviewed to determine whether there were differences between the respondent and non-respondent groups. A comparison of the responses of the two groups using t tests revealed no statistically significant difference on any of the items.
Instrument Development and Validation
Based on an extensive review of the literature and related instruments, the questionnaire used for this study was designed by the researchers to collect information pertinent to the research objectives. Part I of the mail survey focused on counselor professional experiences and personal background. Based on related literature (see, for example, Chenault, 1996 ; Coll & House 1991 , the survey collected personal and professional data (e.g., gender, age, ethnic background, number of years in counseling) as well as organizational data (e.g., number of students assigned, institutional support for tech prep).
Part II of the questionnaire centered on counselor participation in various professional development activities. Items were extracted from the literature focusing on professional development in the context of educational reform. Information regarding professional development associated with tech prep was also reviewed and utilized in the survey development process (see, for example, Bragg, 1995 ; Chenault, 1996 ; McCharon, 1995 ). Participation in professional development was defined in terms of whether counselors had taken part in any one or more of thirteen different types of professional development approaches, such as one-time workshops, structured observations, joint planning, site visits (see, for example, Smylie, 1995 ; Little, 1993 ; Darling-Hammond & McLaughlin, 1995 ). Respondents indicated yes or no as to whether they had ever participated in each of the thirteen types of professional development approaches. When respondents answered yes indicating that they had participated in an approach, they were asked to rate the helpfulness of each approach in assisting them to understand their role in implementing tech prep. A five-point Likert-type scale was used to assess helpfulness, with 1 being "not at all helpful", 2 being "fairly helpful", 3 being "somewhat helpful", 4 being "very helpful", and 5 being "extremely helpful". Open-ended questions included in this section asked respondents to describe the most helpful professional development approach in which they had participated, specifically asking respondents to address who was responsible, who participated, and what was learned.
Part III of the questionnaire focused on the level of importance and preparedness of counselors for carrying out 27 roles and responsibilities associated with tech prep. This section of the survey was drawn heavily from the doctoral dissertation work of Chenault ( 1996 ), after obtaining her consent to have the survey modified. Minor modifications were made to items and additional items were included based on related research (see, for example, Bragg, Layton, & Hammons, 1994 ; Hershey & Silverberg, 1995 ; McCharon, 1995 ). Respondents were asked to rate the importance of the 27 identified roles and their current level of preparedness to perform them. Both of these concepts were measured using a five-point Likert-type scale with 1 being "not important" or "not prepared", 2 being "fairly important" or "fairly prepared", 3 being "somewhat important" or "somewhat prepared", and 4 being "very important" or "very prepared", and 5 being "extremely important" or extremely prepared". To obtain pertinent qualitative data, counselors were asked to identify three roles most difficult to perform and explain why, providing details about these roles and responsibilities within the context of tech prep.
Validity and reliability
Before administration, the questionnaire was reviewed for content validity by an expert panel comprised of scholars whose work focuses on educational reform, professional development, and guidance and counseling, sometimes in the context of tech prep implementation. In fact, several experts whose research is cited in this article were members of the expert panel. Some practitioners were involved in the review process as well. With minimal recommended changes such as minor question re-wording, the questionnaire was mailed to a comparable group of secondary and postsecondary counselors whose consortia were not selected for study, and these individuals participated in the pilot test. Reliability tests were then conducted on the four major scales presented in the questionnaire. Reliability estimates for the four scales utilizing Cronbach's Alpha ranged from .67 to .94, indicating moderate to high reliability.
The data were tabulated and analyzed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) software for the IBM computer. To address the research objectives, descriptive statistics were used to analyze results for the two groups of counselors (secondary and community college) for the first three research objectives. Specifically, frequency distributions and measures of central tendency and variability were calculated. Combining the two groups so as to ensure adequate sample size, a Principal Axis Factor (PAF) analysis was conducted to ascertain latent factors evident in the "preparedness for role" scale. (Recall only 28 community college counselors participated in the study, making PAF analysis for this group alone untenable.) This form of multivariate analysis was chosen because of its ability to reduce a large pool of items into common factors that more concisely describe the phenomenon ( Gall, Borg, & Gall, 1996 ). Subsequent analysis involved correlating the aggregate factor loadings with perceived helpfulness of professional development approaches to reveal possible relationships between counselor perceptions of preparedness for tech prep and the helpfulness of various types of professional development. The meaning of the Pearson r relationships was interpreted as follows: weak (.30 or below), moderate (.30 - .50) and strong (over .50). Finally, a content analysis was conducted of open-ended responses following procedures specified by Krathwohl ( 1993 ) whereby the qualitative data were analyzed for recurring themes and organized under theme headings and percents of total were calculated.
Findings and Discussion
Personal and Professional Experiences
The first research objective addressed the personal background and professional work experiences of counselors working in secondary schools and community colleges that were implementing tech prep. Survey results showed counselors were 54% male and 46% female; their ages ranged from 27 to 67 years. Secondary school and community college counselors were similar in age with the mean age of high school counselors at 48 years compared to 47 years for community college counselors. As a group, community college counselors were more diverse than the secondary counselors on race/ethnicity. Of the secondary school counselors, 94% were Caucasian, compared to 68% of community college counselors. Overall, counselors participating in the study were highly educated. Nearly all of the respondents held a master's degree or higher academic credential. In total, 83% of counselors reported having a master's degree and additional graduate course work. Paralleling earlier results obtained by Coll and House ( 1991 ), counselors did not appear to be opposed to continued learning. Open-ended responses from several counselors supported this claim. In fact, one counselor urged officials to "make tech prep education part of school personnel training programs," and another suggested that institutions "provide financial reimbursement for graduate-level [course] work."
Examining the professional work experience of counselors, the overall mean counselor-to-student ratio for secondary and community college respondents was 1 counselor for every 315 students. Though quite high, this ratio was slightly less than the findings of 350 students per counselor reported by Gysbers and Henderson ( 1994 ). Still, we wondered how counselors fulfill new roles and responsibilities associated with tech prep given these ratios. Respondents reported feeling frustrated with the high number of students they were serving, combined with the amount of time it took them to engage in new tech prep-related activities, such as developing individualized career plans (ICPs). Illustrative of the frustration counselors reported feeling working with tech prep, one counselor wrote:
Tech prep certainly has a place in today's career planning genre, [but] institutions [where] tech prep works best are ones that have career and college counselors, with no student loads, who can concentrate solely on delivering this information to students and parents. Tech prep to the true generalist counselor is just another of the tasks he/she must become 'expert' in and generally will not be done with consistency as the counselor tires to prioritize its relevance versus all the other relevant 'stuff' he or she does.
Examining the question of time devoted exclusively to tech prep, respondents were asked to estimate the amount of time they spend on tech prep activities on a weekly basis. To this end, secondary counselors reported a much greater amount of time devoted to tech prep than their community college counterparts, with secondary counselors reporting an average of 2 hours and 45 minutes per week compared to less than 10 minutes per week, on average, for college counselors. When asked to rate their personal and institutional support for tech prep, the two groups provided similar high ratings regarding their personal support (approximately 4.0 out of 5.0) but differed on their perceptions of institutional support. Community college counselors rated institutional support for tech prep higher than secondary counselors, 4.3 and 3.7, respectively. These results confirm previous findings obtained by Chenault ( 1996 ) suggesting that counselors receive a variety of messages about the value of tech prep, potentially influencing their commitment and involvement.
Professional Development for Tech Prep
The second research objective focused on counselor involvement in professional development and perceptions of the helpfulness of these experiences to understanding their role in tech prep. To address the first part of this objective, counselors were given a list of 13 professional development approaches and asked to indicate whether or not they had participated by circling yes or no. If they answered yes, they were asked to rate the helpfulness of the approach using a five-point Likert-type scale. Recognizing that results are limited to small populations of counselors, particularly at the community college level, we found similarities but also differences between the responses of secondary and community college counselors (see Table 1 ).
Looking specifically at secondary counselors, one-half or more indicated they had read newsletters, collaborated with colleagues, attended a series of workshops, and participated in site visits to local employers. Nearly one-half had attended one-shot workshops or participated in joint planning. Approximately one-quarter or less indicated involvement in the remaining professional development approaches, many of which require greater commitment and resources, such as planning curriculum, conducting self-directed projects, taking graduate school courses, and conducting action research. Though we did not know the exact types of professional development approaches offered, it is likely that few of these approaches were offered by all of the tech prep consortia being studied, explaining, at least in part, why counselors would not have participated in them.
Moreover, community college counselors showed less involvement in nearly all forms of professional development than their secondary counterparts, even though they worked in consortia receiving grant funds dedicated to advancing tech prep implementation. Nearly one-half of community college counselors indicated involvement in reading newsletters and attending one-shot workshops, which was a similar percentage as the secondary level. Substantially less involvement was reported in other professional development approaches. These findings concur with results of Hershey and Silverberg ( 1995 ) that show that counselors, particularly community college counselors, have little involvement in planning and few opportunities to participate in more intensive forms of professional development associated with tech prep. Results also tend to support a claim by Lieberman ( 1995 ) that counselors participate in "teaching as telling" methods ( p. 592 ) more than in experiential, shared-growth approaches. However, the study revealed some exceptions, particularly among secondary counselors, as collaboration among colleagues, attendance at a series of workshops, and site visits to employers were reported by about one-half of the secondary counselors and about one-third of the community college group.
Table 1 Counselor Involvement in Professional Development and Perceptions of Helpfulness to Role
Tech Prep Professional
Secondary Counselors Community College Counselors
Involvement in Tech Prep PD Helpfulness to Tech Prep Role Involvement in Tech Prep PD Helpfulness to Tech Prep Role No % Mean SD No % Mean SD
Read newsletters and brochures 78 68% 3.0 .92 11 47% 3.2 1.25 Collaborate with colleagues 62 53% 3.5 .91 8 34% 3.1 1.55 Attend a series of workshops 59 50% 3.6 .87 6 26% 3.7 .82 Participate in site visits to local employers 57 50% 4.2 3.11 8 34% 3.8 1.67 Attend a one-shot workshop 54 46% 3.3 1.07 14 47% 3.3 1.35 Participate in joint planning time with peers 45 40% 3.4 .96 6 26% 4.0 0.00 Participate in structured observation of others (e.g., teachers, business professionals, other counselors) 0 6% .6 .06 6% .2 .72 Plan tech prep curriculum 25 21% 3.7 1.06 3 13% 3.7 .58 Participate in tech prep study group(s) 17 14% 3.6 1.06 2 8% 2.7 1.53 Conduct self-directed project(s) 15 13% 3.5 1.06 4 17% 4.0 .82 Conduct action research (identify an issue, collect and analyze data) 11 8% 3.3 1.00 2 8% 4.0 0.00 Take graduate school course(s) giving formal graduate credit 8 6% 3.4 1.19 6 26% 3.5 1.38 Conduct independent refection (e.g., journal writing) regarding taken-for-granted practices 9 7% 2.9 1.36 1 4% 1.0 0.00
When asked to rate the helpfulness of the 13 professional development approaches in assisting counselors to understand their role in tech prep, most approaches were rated near the mid-point of 3.0, and only a few yielded mean ratings on either end of the continuum. Specifically, secondary counselors rated site visits to local employers as particularly high on helpfulness (4.2 out of 5.0), and they rated reading newsletters and brochures (3.0) lower, though a far greater percentage of secondary counselors (68%) had read newspapers than participated in site visits to employers (50%). Looking at the postsecondary level, several items clustered between 3.7 and 4.0 and were considered helpful, including three approaches rated at the 4.0 level: participating in joint planning, conducting self-directed projects, and conducting action research. However, similarly to the secondary level, fewer community college counselors had participated in these approaches which were perceived as most helpful.
To enrich understanding about the helpfulness of professional development, respondents were given an open-ended item requesting they write about the most helpful tech prep-related professional development experience in which they had participated. The written comments of counselors were wide ranging, with some reporting positive experiences and others negative. One counselor reinforced the utility of site visits to employers as the most helpful type of professional development. Site visits had helped this individual better understand "collaborative arrangements between education and business." Another counselor commented on the positive benefits of a graduate course titled "Advanced Tech Prep", claiming "the most positive aspect of the course was meeting and discussing tech prep with colleagues as there is little time otherwise."
Commenting on the lack of helpfulness of professional development associated with tech prep, one counselor said, "I feel as do many of the staff that tech prep is being rammed down our throat", suggesting limited discretion about participating in tech prep and possibly little involvement in decision making pertaining to it. Another counselor echoed this sentiment, and expressed a concern about a lack of communication and support, saying
[T]here seems to be little or no communication between teachers and administration and counselors and [the] regional [vocational] delivery system. Counselors have little release time for professional development or independent research. All our staff development is outlined and mandated by our administration with no room for suggestions.
Roles and Responsibilities Associated with Tech Prep
The third research objective secured information about counselor perceptions of various roles and responsibilities associated with tech prep. Based on a five-point Likert-type scale, counselors at the secondary and postsecondary levels rated the importance of and their preparedness for 27 roles and responsibilities. Results show that the entire group of counselors viewed all 27 roles as at least fairly important, whereas some were perceived as very important (see Table 2 ). Roles and responsibilities cited by both groups of counselors as most important were those centering around career awareness and development, including assisting students with career decision making, helping with individualized career plans (ICPs), informing students of career opportunities upon graduation, and facilitating student learning about career options. Descriptive results suggest some potential differences between the secondary and community college counselor groups. Looking at mean ratings, community college counselors rated roles and responsibilities associated with assisting all students with career decision making, administering interest and aptitude assessments, and providing career development activities in the classroom higher than secondary counselors. In contrast, secondary counselors rated such roles as informing all students about career opportunities at exit points, resolving scheduling problems between academic and technical curricula, and providing all students with information about tech prep higher than their community college counterparts.
When asked to rate their level of preparedness to perform 27 various roles and responsibilities, none of the mean ratings suggested secondary counselors felt either extremely well prepared or not at all prepared. Community college counselors responded similarly, though provided slightly higher ratings. Comparing mean ratings for the two groups, community college counselors tended to rate their preparedness for several roles higher than the secondary counselors, including such roles as assisting all students with ICPs, conducting assessment to help all students plan meaningful goals, conducting interest and aptitude assessments, and providing career development in the classroom. Resolving scheduling programs was a role that secondary counselors perceived themselves to be somewhat well prepared to perform, whereas community college counselors rated themselves as only fairly well prepared to perform.
Relationships Between Role Factors and Professional Development
The fourth research objective examined whether there were underlying factors associated with preparedness for tech prep roles and responsibilities. A second aspect of this research objective investigated relationships between latent factors and perceived helpfulness of approaches to professional development.
Utilizing Principle Axis Factor (PAF) analysis with varimax rotation, six latent factors were extracted and all were interpretable. Together the six factors accounted for 65% of the total variance in the preparedness for role construct. All factor loadings above .40 were considered high enough to aid in the interpretation of the factors. This discussion focuses on one possible interpretation of the latent variables underlying the preparedness scale. The six latent factors were designated as follows: (1) provide student career orientation, (2) maintain internal and external organization relationships, (3) monitor programs, (4) communicate about tech prep, (5) be a curriculum innovator and (6) serve as the market connection (see Table 3 ). Though factor loadings were evident in these six areas, the first factor was the most prominent, by far, accounting for 44% of the variance in counselor preparedness for roles and responsibilities.
To explain further, the first factor was interpreted as providing all students with career-oriented information. Nine of the twenty-seven roles and responsibilities appeared in this first factor that was characterized by providing students with career orientation in several ways: assisting students with ICPs, devoting as much time working with community college as four-year college bound students, conducting interest and aptitude assessments to assist students in career decision making, assisting all students with career decision making, and conducting assessments to help all students plan meaningful educational goals. This factor also included providing information for students to consider alternatives to traditional career paths, informing all students of career opportunities at each program exit point, serving the needs of special populations, and assisting students with portfolio development.
Table 2 Counselor Perceptions of Importance of and Preparedness for Tech Prep Roles
Tech Prep Roles and Responsibilities Secondary Counselors Community College Counselors Importance
Mean SD Mean SD Mean SD Mean SD
Assist all students with career decision making 4.2 .87 3.9 .88 4.6 .48 4.3 .48 Assist all students with individual career plans 4.2 .79 3.8 .79 4.3 .52 4.4 .51 Use computer technology to help students learn about education and career options 4.2 1.14 3.4 1.15 4.1 1.13 3.2 1.13 Inform all students of career opportunities at exit points 4.1 1.14 3.8 .98 3.8 .44 4.2 .44 Provide information about alternatives to traditional career paths 4.1 1.06 3.5 1.06 4.3 1.0 4.0 1.00 Resolve scheduling problems between academic and career-technical curricula 4.1 1.31 3.6 1.31 2.2 1.22 2.3 1.22 Devote as much time working with career-technical students as 4-year college bound or transfer students 4.0 1.13 3.7 1.13 4.1 1.13 4.2 .44 Serve the needs of special populations 4.0 1.17 3.5 1.18 3.8 1.26 3.6 1.26 Conduct assessments to help all students plan meaningful educational goals 4.0 .98 3.5 .98 4.3 .52 4.4 .52 Work with business representatives 4.0 1.19 2.9 1.19 3.7 1.74 2.5 1.74 Conduct interest and aptitude assessments 3.9 1.18 3.5 1.19 4.5 .40 4.2 .40 Provide all students with information about tech prep 3.9 1.07 3.7 1.07 3.1 1.61 3.2 1.61 Explain to all students that tech prep options require high achievement 3.8 1.14 3.5 1.06 3.2 1.56 4.0 1.00 Think in new ways about curricular programs 3.7 1.06 3.0 1.06 3.4 1.05 3.3 1.06 Encourage students to take classes employing new learning approaches 3.6 2.56 3.2 2.56 3.5 1.20 3.6 1.20 Plan curriculum to facilitate student acquisition of basic academic skills 3.5 1.33 2.8 1.26 3.9 1.25 3.0 1.25 Provide career development activities in the classroom 3.4 1.24 2.7 1.24 4.1 .57 4.1 .57 Formulate a process for articulating credit 3.4 1.13 2.6 1.13 3.7 1.51 2.4 1.50 Recruit students 3.3 1.20 3.1 1.20 2.8 1.62 2.8 1.63 Participate in advisory committees 3.3 1.23 3.3 1.23 3.5 1.34 3.3 1.34 Communicate with other counselors to identify prospective students 3.2 .96 3.4 .96 2.9 1.73 3.1 1.30 Develop articulation agreements 3.2 1.18 2.2 1.18 3.5 1.43 2.6 1.42 Ensure students complete tech prep 3.2 1.13 2.8 1.33 3.4 1.41 3.0 1.41 Assist students with portfolio development 3.2 1.17 2.5 1.17 3.0 1.26 2.5 1.26 Provide inservice to other staff about business and industry partnerships 3.1 1.21 2.3 1.21 3.3 1.15 2.3 1.15 Collect information to support evaluation efforts 3.1 1.26 2.7 1.26 2.7 1.58 2.3 1.58 Assist exiting students with job placement 3.1 1.08 2.1 1.08 2.8 1.64 2.3 1.63
Table 3 PAF (Varimax Rotation) Factor Matrix Showing Factor Loadings and Summary Statistics for Preparedness for Tech Prep (TP) Roles and Responsibilities Item Factor Loadings I II III IV V VI
Factor I: Assist all students with individual career plans .77 .24 .19 .26 .19 -.12 Devote as much time working with vocational-technical students as 4-year college bound .74 .06 .45 .07 .05 .23 Conduct interest and aptitude assessments to assist students in career decision making .73 .11 .16 .06 .28 .13 Assist all students with career decision making .71 .22 .10 .36 .04 .06 Conduct assessments to help all student plan meaningful educational goals .68 .42 -.02 .19 .12 -.04 Provide information for students to consider alternatives to traditional career paths .68 .19 .35 .17 -.02 .19 Inform all students of career opportunities at each program exit point .57 .04 .09 .06 .11 .10 Serve the needs of special populations .52 .34 .62 .04 .28 .09 Assist students with portfolio development .40 .39 .31 .02 .43 .07 Factor II Develop articulation agreements .16 .77 .10 .19 .33 .13 Provide inservice to other staff about business and industry. .17 .73 .42 .27 .17 .14 Work with business representatives involved in TP .23 .62 .26 .35 .16 .13 Collect information to support TP evaluation efforts .22 .55 .50 .25 .19 .17 Provide career development activities in the classroom .36 .49 .13 .02 .45 -.03 Formulate a process for articulating TP credit .13 .48 .19 .27 .16 .21 Assist exiting students with job placement .18 .47 .27 .01 .31 .52 Factor III Resolve scheduling problems between academic and vocational curricula .25 .18 .73 .22 -.01 .06 Ensure students complete TP .24 .31 .62 .01 .26 .27 Provide all students with information about TP .15 .08 .46 .67 .35 .07 Factor IV Explain to all students that TP options require high achievement levels .22 .32 -.01 .80 .17 -.01 Communicate with other counselors to identify prospective students for TP .29 .34 .15 .60 -.10 .35 Participate in TP advisory committees .24 .24 .27 .41 .25 -.01 Factor V Think in new ways about curricular programs .24 .27 .04 .20 .68 .18 Plan curriculum to facilitate student acquisition and application of basic skills .07 .25 .29 .22 .54 .02 Factor VI Recruit students for Tech Prep Summary Statistics .16 .25 .46 .37 .14 .51 Eigenvalues 11.84 1.90 1.32 1.15 .72 .63 Percent of Variance 43.9 7.1 4.9 4.3 2.7 2.4
Note: Factor loadings associated with a similar factor are underlined in a cluster. All factor loadings over .40 are underlined. Factor loadings outside underlined areas indicate loadings on more than one factor.
Maintaining internal and external relationships with other levels of education and business was the second factor. It accounted for 7% of the variance in counselor preparedness and included developing articulation agreements, providing in-service to other staff about business and industry partnerships, working with business representatives involved in tech prep, collecting information to support tech prep evaluations efforts, providing career development activities in the classroom (implying relationships with instructors), formulating a process for articulating tech prep credit, assisting exiting tech prep students with job placement (implying relationships with business), and conducting assessments to help all students plan meaningful educational goals. This final role also loaded under the student career orientation factor, suggesting that it could be considered a part of both factors.
Program monitoring with particular attention to time was the third factor that accounted for 5% of the variance in counselor preparedness. The items included resolving scheduling problems between academic and vocational curricula, ensuring students complete tech prep, collecting information to support tech prep evaluation efforts, recruiting students for tech prep, providing all students with information about tech prep, devoting as much time working with community college as four-year college bound students, and providing in-service to other staff about business and industry partnerships.
The fourth factor accounted for 4% of the variance in counselor preparedness and centered around communication about tech prep, including explaining to all students that tech prep options require high achievement levels, provide all students with information about tech prep, communicate with other counselors to identify prospective students for tech prep, informing all students of career opportunities at each program exit point, and participating in tech prep advisory committees. This factor also has an element of inclusiveness about it similar to the first factor, in that an emphasis on all students was evident in two of the items loading on this factor.
Planning innovative curriculum appeared to be the theme of the fifth factor, accounting for 3% of the variance. This factor included thinking in new ways about curricular programs, planning curriculum to facilitate student acquisition and application of basic skills, providing career development activities in the classroom, and assisting students with portfolio development.
The sixth factor was that of focused on making market connections. It accounted for 2.5% of the variance in counselor preparedness and included assisting exiting tech prep students with job placement and recruiting tech prep students. These findings suggest an aspect of the counselor role involves influencing student decisions regarding education and work futures. Importantly, these are two of the counselor roles identified specifically in the 1990 and 1998 Tech Prep Education legislation, yet counselors may view this factor as relatively indistinct.
Relationship of preparedness factors to professional development.
Results related to relationships between the preparedness for role factors and helpfulness of professional development approaches were analyzed by conducting Pearson Product-Moment correlational analysis using the aggregate factor loadings and the mean ratings on perceived helpfulness of professional development scale. The correlation coefficients were calculated revealing 19 statistically significant correlations between the 6 latent factors and the helpfulness of 13 professional development approaches to understanding role in tech prep. Generally, results suggest 4 professional development approaches related to the preparedness for role factors, and these approaches were participating in site visits to local employers, attending a series of tech prep workshops, reading newsletters and brochures, and collaborating with colleagues about tech prep. These 4 professional development approaches in associated with most of the 6 preparedness for role factors, and they tended to be at a moderate level, though some were approaching strong relationships. Almost all were statistically significant at the .01 level.
Summary, Conclusions, and Recommendations
Counselors involved in this study were employed in secondary schools mostly, but also community colleges. A slight majority of the counselors were male, and all were highly educated and appreciative of opportunities to learn. Though the majority of both groups of counselors was White, more community college counselors were members of ethnic/minority groups than secondary counselors. Looking across the groups, time was a constant concern in their professional lives. On average, the counselors operated with ratios of 1 counselor to 315 students. They were candid about the limited time they were able to devote to tech prep, with both groups reporting well under 10% of their work week dedicated to tech prep activities. More time was spent on tech prep-related activities by counselors at the secondary than the postsecondary level, with almost 3 hours per week reported by secondary counselors compared to 10 minutes per week by their community college counterparts.
These results support earlier claims by Bragg, Layton, and Hammons ( 1994 ) and Hershey and Silverberg ( 1995 ) that counselors receive little release time for professional development. Numerous counselors commented that they disliked mandated approaches to professional development, suggesting voluntary participation in professional development may be more conducive to their learning how to perform tech prep roles and responsibilities. These results also parallel a long-standing conclusion of Knowles ( 1970 ) that "Adults tend to avoid, resist, and resent situations where they feel they are treated like children--being told what to do and what not to do, being talked down to, or judged. They resist learning under conditions that are incongruent with their self-concept as autonomous individuals" ( p. 40 ). Mandating adults to learn is particularly ineffective if they do not believe the initiative behind the reform effort is stable, as illustrated by the following quote,
Tech prep in theory is a wonderful idea--a way to mesh learning and experience, especially work experience. There seems to be lots of resistance from faculty in all areas. Most people I know are waiting for tech prep to phase out and the next new initiative to phase in, as so many other ideas have come and gone.
Possibly because of time constraints but also because of what tech prep consortia have offered to them, counselors have participated in a fairly limited range of professional development approaches, with the most passive option of reading newsletters and brochures as the most prevalent form of tech prep professional development identified by respondents. About half of secondary counselors and fewer community college counselors indicated that they had participated in more experiential and collaborative forms of professional development, including site visits to local employers, collaboration with colleagues, and participation in a series of workshops. Other approaches such as planning curriculum, participating in self-directed projects, and conducting action research were reported by only about 20% or less of the respondents. In assessing the helpfulness of various types of professional development approaches, results support the literature ( Darling-Hammond, 1999 ; Guskey 1999 ; Lieberman, 1995 ; Smylie, 1995 ) that states that counselors perceive professional development that involves more experiential and collaborative learning opportunities as more helpful than segmented, one-time strategies. For example, curriculum planning and attending a series of workshops were two professional development approaches rated relatively high by both groups of counselors compared to segmented strategies, such as one-shot workshops and independent reflection.
Results suggest counselors viewed a wide range of roles and responsibilities as at least fairly important to their participation in tech prep, and they felt neither extremely well prepared or not at all prepared to perform these roles and responsibilities. Though impossible to confirm because of the limited sample associated with this study, findings suggest that the work of secondary and community college counselors differs, though similar roles carry over from the secondary to postsecondary level, such as assisting students with career decision making and providing information about alternatives to traditional career paths. Still, secondary counselors rated roles such as resolving scheduling problems between academic and technical curricula higher on importance than community college counselors, suggesting a one-size-fits-all approach to professional development is not likely be effective. In providing professional development for counselors, careful attention should be paid to the unique knowledge and skills needed to operate at the secondary and postsecondary levels.
Providing resources and support for counselors to participate in professional development is necessary, yielding real and significant benefits to them. If counselors are to participate in more time-intensive and collaborative professional development approaches, they need to have input into their planning and adequate time to participate. They need to be supported in engaging with their peers in approaches to professional development that they perceived as helpful and conducive to helping them develop valued roles and responsibilities. Professional development approaches that are collaborative and on-going such as curriculum planning, action research and structured observations may prove successful to helping counselors perform new roles and responsibilities with more confidence and competence. Counselors are not adverse to learning about tech prep. In fact, most would appear to welcome the opportunity to learn more about it, particularly about career counseling that is at the heart of many of the roles and responsibilities associated with tech prep. This sentiment is captured in the remarks of one counselor who said,
Those of us who are good at what we do and have spent a professional lifetime successfully working with students and their families want to keep abreast of technological and curricular innovations and enhancements. We are in it and have been in it for the long haul.
Finally, results from this study confirm most secondary and community college counselors favor learning more about tech prep, but approaches to professional development are often lacking or perceived as ineffectual. New professional development avenues need to be created to support counselor involvement in tech prep "for the long haul." Through the creation of professional development approaches that help counselors learn new roles and responsibilities, counselors may be able to make a larger and more meaningful contribution to tech prep, and eventually they may also have a greater impact on their students as well.
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PAULA A. PUCKETT is assistant to the provost and director of institutional research and effectiveness at Kellogg Community College, 450 North Avenue, Battle Creek, Michigan 49017, [E-mail: email@example.com ]. Dr. Puckett's research interests include institutional effectiveness, assessment of academic achievement, and educational reform.
DEBRA D. BRAGG is associate professor, Human Resource Education and Educational Organization and Leadership, College of Education, Room 345, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, Illinois 61820, [E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org ]. Dr. Bragg's research interests include student transition from high school to college, tech prep education, and assessment of other public policies that link academic and vocational education.