JVER v26n1 - Editor's Notes
James R. Stone, III
University of Minnesota
In this first issue of 2001, we have contributions from the immediate past president of the American Vocational Education Association (AVERA) and three sets of authors who bring international perspectives on postsecondary vocational education. These authors address three transcendent issues in career and technical education (CTE): the use of theory in research, persistence of students in postsecondary CTE, turnover and retention of postsecondary CTE faculty, and the formulation of adult career interests.
We begin with William Camp, immediate past president of AVERA, who discusses the kinds of theoretical frameworks provided in recent written and oral presentations of CTE research. He posits a three level framework for theory and suggests that most studies in CTE refer to theoretical frameworks at the level of substantive theory and argues against using the term "conceptual framework" in that context. A minimal expectation for a true theoretical framework would include a literature review that leads directly to and establishes a clear basis for the theoretical framework; a succinct and logical sequence of theoretical assumptions; a transparent connection between the theoretical framework and the purpose, objectives, questions, or setting of the study; and connecting the result of the study to the original theoretical framework. Camp concludes his musing on the current condition of CTE research by noting that the ultimate goal of researchers in CTE should be to relate our work to the larger community of research and theory. If we ignore establishing true conceptual frameworks in the name of expediency, we fail to meet our ultimate obligation as scholars.
In a different context, Chen and Thomas offer a study of persistence for students in Taiwanese technical colleges. The application of the persistence models developed in the United States were found to be useful in Taiwan to build models that can assist vocational educators to identify students who have a high likelihood of dropping out of technical schools. The set of variables, though not exactly mirroring those from studies in the U.S., adhere very closely. Of particular interest to American college leaders is the finding that the first and second semester GPAs significantly influence persistence, but participation in an academic remedial program does not. Also, students enrolled in occupational guidance programs have a higher probability of persistence than those who not so enrolled. These two findings raise important questions for those concerned with improving persistence in postsecondary CTE. There are gender effects as well. The authors found that male and female students leave college for different reasons (e.g., housing). Any program or policy, the authors argue, designed to increase student persistence should take gender differences into account.
Turnover and retention of technical college instructors in the United States is studied by Ruhland, a study that offers insight into a little examined aspect of professional development. She notes that high turnover coupled with expanded programming in two-year colleges is creating critical shortages of qualified technical instructors. Comparing technical college instructors who chose to stay with those who have chosen to leave, Ruhland found that those who stay in the profession are more committed to teaching but curiously, had a less positive first year teaching experience. Ruhland also provides a list of 15 reasons teachers cite for leaving. For those charged with recruiting and inducting postsecondary instructors, this list and her other findings will provide much to consider.
Athanasou and Cooksey investigate factors that influence adults' and older adolescents' interest in vocational education subjects in Australia. They examine 20 factors related to the course, ability, difficulty, relevance or importance of a subject, teaching quality, student effort, career and vocational interests, and demographic factors. They conclude that personal judgments of vocational educational interest are based more on career interests than on contextual/situational or extraneous factors. This demonstrates the importance of individual differences in determining why people choose to pursue vocational learning.
As I begin my second year as editor of the JVER , I am cognizant of the important role a research journal can have in improving the profession. We have an important reminder from a noted CTE scholar about the importance of theoretical constructions in our research. This is a significant message to those of us who conduct research and nurture young researchers. We have research-based recommendations for two-year college leaders on how to improve practice as they work to keep students in the classroom learning and instructors in the classroom teaching. Finally, we have research to support our understanding of how students come to choose vocational course taking.
However, as interesting as these studies are, it is even more interesting that they represent researchers from three nations. This illustrates again the worldwide importance of career and technical education.