JVER v27n1 - Virtual Teacher Training Center: A One-Year Program to Transform Subject-Matter Experts into Licensed CTE Teachers

Volume 27, Number 1

Virtual Teacher Training Center: A One-Year Program to Transform Subject-Matter Experts into Licensed Career and Technical Education Teachers

Sylvia M. Twomey
Oregon State University


The 1998 report, The Quality of Vocational Education: Background Papers from the 1994 National Assessment of Vocational Education (NAVE) sounded an alarm over the growing shortage of career and technical education (CTE) teachers without identifying ways to increase the number of vocational educators. The Virtual Teacher Training Center offers a model for a one-year teacher education and licensure program offered via the World Wide Web. This program is designed to transform experienced workforce professionals into classroom CTE teachers. Participants gain knowledge of educational pedagogy while at the same participating in practical classroom experiences. The model includes descriptions of the courses as well as several hypothetical schedules for delivery of instruction within one academic year.
The Challenge: A Crisis in CTE Teacher Availability

In 1998, The Quality of Vocational Education: Background Papers from the 1994 National Assessment of Vocational Education (NAVE) was published by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education. The Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act of 1990 mandated this study. It encompassed a broad-based assessment of vocational education from a wide range of sources, both published and unpublished. Five of the background papers within the NAVE report focused on the quality of vocational education, and played a vital role in the formation of Volume II of the final report. These papers focused on teachers in vocational education, and outcomes of vocational and academic schooling. Two papers, both by Richard L. Lynch ( 1998a , 1998b ), particularly focused on the training of teachers in vocational education; Vocational Teacher Education in U.S. Colleges and Universities, and its Responsiveness to the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act of 1990 , and Occupational Experience as the Basis for Alternative Teacher Certification in Vocational Education . These two papers formed the primary impetus for development of this teacher training program.

Lynch's studies ( 1998a , 1998b ) sounded an alarm regarding an approaching crisis in the availability of vocational education teachers.

We are facing a burgeoning need for career and technical teachers to train potential workers, yet have fewer and fewer educators to train the teachers. Nearly 10% of colleges and universities have closed their vocational teacher education programs, and others haven't graduated a vocational education teacher in years. (p. 191)

However, the final recommendations by NAVE focused on implementing higher standards for vocational education, not on exploring ways to increase the number of vocational education teachers that were being prepared to teach.

In 1998 another study from the U.S. Department of Education, as a part of Title II of the Higher Education Act also sounded an alarm related to projected teacher shortages. This study warned that 2.2 million teachers would need to be hired by 2008. Looking back, the seriousness of the impending crisis in vocational education appears to have been underplayed. Whether this oversight was due to the breadth of the overall NAVE study blurring what was being said specifically about the crisis in vocational education, or whether this oversight was due to the depth of the U.S. Department of Education study such that vocational education, as one of many, got lost in the crowd, is difficult to say.

A number of external factors could have accounted for the inattention to the impending crisis in vocational education including rapid changes in technology and its application to vocational fields, and the diffusion of information technologies within the general workforce. Rapid loss of educational funding nationwide, and the continuing attitude that teaching is a vocational effort has meant that vocational teachers are doubly pressed to prove their professionalism and status at 4-year institutions where they are competing with academic disciplines for prestige, legitimacy, funding, and other resources. The more recent movement of integrating vocational subjects within academic disciplines in the name of broadening the capabilities of potential employees for the workforce is having the effect that academic considerations are subsuming vocational considerations ( CFDA, 2000 ; Lucas, 1999 ) and that teachers in traditional academic subjects are taking over teaching computer-related subjects as part of their subject-area discipline.

Endemic to the training of career and technical educators are several other issues. One of these is that career and technical education teachers must have practical experience in their subject-area field before their teacher education training, rather than afterward. Several years of workplace experience (500- 4,000 hours) plus a bachelor's degree in a subject-area, and then teacher training, can translate into an overall cost of training for a career and technical education teacher of $100,000 or more. It can also consume 8 to 12 years before a CTE teacher can step into the classroom ( Gamoran, 1998 ). Additionally, there are no bachelor's degrees for those who are in fields such as welding, auto shop, or the construction trades. This makes is impossible for people in these fields to enter a graduate-level teacher education program unless they have a degree in a related subject.

Even though there are an increasing number of workforce professionals coming out of industry into the teaching field, they are discouraged by the protracted period of teacher training, and the elimination of potential job sources at the high school level as vocational programs and courses, which are electives, are curtailed or eliminated ( Lewis, 2001 ). New CTE teachers who get laid off because of budget cuts are hesitant to wait out a summer to see if a job turns up in the fall when they can go back into industry immediately and make more money. This situation also contributes to the low retention rates of new teachers in vocational subjects.

At the same time, schools in outlying geographic areas with low enrollments often turn to academic-subject teachers to teach the few vocational classes they offer. These teachers may have little more than anecdotal experience with career and technical education subjects ( Lucas, 1999 ). In states where large urban areas have more jobs than teachers and more remote agricultural areas have more teachers than jobs there exists the perception that there is a shortage of jobs while at the same time there is the perception of a shortage of teachers.

The 2000-2001 edition of the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook states that career and technical education teaching positions will grow 10-20% by 2008. A comprehensive study to see what changes had occurred in the decade since Lynch's ( 1998a , 1998b ) reports, which were completed in 1990, is cited. The study confirms the predicted decline in our capacity to produce CTE teachers representing at least a 10% decrease in ten years. However, there had been no concomitant process developed to train replacement teachers. In the intervening decade, actual teacher preparation programs declined. This is shown by the NCCTE study that observed, "The profession is looking toward more distance education as a means to deliver education" (p. 49). Since 1990, "The number of career and technical education teacher preparation programs has declined about 11%" (p. 49). Plans to double their distance education course offerings via the World Wide Web in the next 3 years was reported by 44% of respondents to the CTE questionnaire, yet current programs remain very traditional in the structure and delivery of their courses. The ten years since the 1990 and 2000 studies appears barren in producing programs for preparation of new CTE teachers. As the 2000 study shows, there were only plans for offering programs on the World Wide Web. This effort will consume most, if not all, of those three years and, in the meantime, the shortage of CTE teachers grows.

Many reports agree with the conclusions in the 1998 NAVE report that vocational education should be more integrated with academic education. As the NCCTE (2001) report expressed,

Workplace skills need to be evaluated to determine which skills and experiences CTE educators need to have to maintain educational standards for technical competencies...these respondents seem to be in concert with the latest literature indicating strong support for themes like academic integration. (p. 51)

Depending on the way one interprets these findings, they could be viewed as another effort to make vocational education more academic and less vocational to the detriment of vocational education.

A study completed by the Vocational Technical Council (VTC) published in 2000 focused on establishing a process "that was consistent with the statewide skill standards projects…(Believing) that the only way to achieve creditable vocational certification would be to enlist the industry (community and technical colleges) in setting the standards/competencies for instructors" ( CFDA, 2000 , p. 1). The VTC report recognizes that career and technical educators of the twenty-first century require more than the skills of their profession and identifies those skills sets while at the same time reinforcing the fact that these educators must be thoroughly trained and adept in the vocational areas in which they are teaching:

The traditional ways of training people seem to be falling short. Although there are many reasons for this, a large part could be the disconnect between the workplace and the training institutions; be they elementary, secondary, or college, some schools do not have their fingers on the pulse of the changing economy and world of work. ( CFDA, 2000 , p. 5)

More courses, extended degree programs, higher degrees, and requirements for larger numbers of academic subjects within teacher education programs for career and technical education teachers will not produce knowledgeable subject-matter specialists anytime soon. On the other hand, no educator wants to respond with a short-term solution that may become a long-term problem.

However, there is a solution that can effectively and efficiently provide both a short-term solution and could become an integral part of a long-term one. In addition, this solution looks to new sources of potential teachers (subject-matter specialists from the work force), new ways of preparing them for the classroom (practical, experiential, reflective, and inquiry-based), and new technologies to deliver educational training for these newcomers (web- based delivery). This solution is the Virtual Teacher Training Center.

A Solution: The Virtual Teacher Training Center

The Virtual Teacher Training Center proposed in this article relies on two major foundations. First is an abundant source of experienced workforce professionals, trained and experienced in various vocational subjects areas who want to become licensed CTE teachers. Second is a flexible dynamic reconfigurable teacher education program of 27-33 credits that can be completed within one academic year using state-of-the-art Internet technology. These programs can be delivered to would-be teachers in their homes and communities at the same time they are gaining practical experience and student teaching near their homes with a cooperating or master teacher.

The solution provided by the Virtual Teacher Training Center integrates a program of educational pedagogy and practical experience that is not dependent upon a bachelor's degree as a prerequisite. Of the three configurations suggested, one can provide a bridge from vocational training in the field, another from vocational training coupled with a community college degree in the field, and the third can bridge from a four-year degree earned at a university. The vital piece to all configurations is the workforce experience in the field. Using web-delivered instruction, programs like the Virtual Teacher Training Center provide potential career and technical education teachers with academic opportunities to synthesize their work-based experience with knowledge and practical experience in education and its pedagogy (see Figure 1).

The Virtual Teacher Training Center, by virtue of its delivery via the World Wide Web can reach populations who, for reasons of economy, time, or distance have been unable to enroll in traditional teacher preparation programs which are based at a fixed university site. Using the proposed program does not preclude more extensive academic training, it just does not make that training a necessary prerequisite to teacher education and licensure for experienced professionals.The proposed center can create a training arena where career and technical teacher education and licensure are not reliant on either an undergraduate or graduate degree program. Courses and experience from traditional and nontraditional sources can be applied as verification of subject-matter knowledge acquisition. Sources can be:

  • 2-year community college subject matter content,
  • training and experience in trades with union affiliation and instruction,
  • trade schools that focus on career and technical subject training,
  • workshops that function as specialized enhancement training,
  • on-the-job training from industries that provide detailed training to employees,
  • courses offered by industry training programs in specialist areas.

A web-based delivery system has greater capability than a bricks-and-mortar classroom to reach students who would be teachers, who have career and technical content knowledge gained in the workplace, who have content knowledge from vocational sources, or who have a combination of academic and vocational knowledge and experience. These students are generally older, often site-bound by jobs and family responsibilities, and may or may not have academic training in their subject areas but who have extensive practical experience. These are people who have worked in their specialty areas long enough to have gone beyond entry-level skills to supervisory and managerial levels. These are also students who may be living in remote or isolated areas where (a) schools have a scarcity of career and technical teachers and (b) where there are no colleges or universities located nearby.

Figure 1 . Turning Subject Area Specialists into CTE Teachers.

The Virtual Teacher Training Center makes several presumptions:
  1. Experienced workforce professionals have subject-area knowledge from their experience which is sufficient for teaching once they are trained in the pedagogy.
  2. A broad-based liberal education to the graduate-degree level is not required before a new teacher begins teaching ( Goodlad, 1990 ).
  3. A 1-year web-delivered course of teacher education coupled with site-based practical classroom experience and student teaching can provide a beginning teacher with experience and knowledge to be effective.
  4. Effective supervision of new teachers' performance can be accomplished through the combined efforts of on-site cooperating teachers and supervision (electronic or not) from the university site, or periodic university supervision on-site.
  5. Students who would be teachers can learn the fundamentals of education and its pedagogy via a series of courses that are inquiry-based and reflective, and delivered via a web-based program.
  6. Performance of new career and technical teachers trained in such a manner matches in quality the performance of teachers trained in traditional types of programs.
  7. Such a program may or may not need to remain in an academic setting but can be expanded to include community colleges or state-approved commercial or vocational teacher preparation sites.
  8. A series of bridges can be built in both directions to allow opportunities for workforce professionals without degrees to become teachers, and that teachers who have become licensed without bachelor's degrees in their subject area can be mainstreamed into bachelor's or graduate degree programs at some later time.
Discussion: Some Thoughts About Training CTE Teachers

Lucas suggests that there is nothing remotely resembling a national consensus on the best way to train teachers for the classroom, even among teachers themselves ( Lucas, 1999 ). As a result, any proposed solution to the teacher crisis will be plagued by the residual effects of our long history of separating academic training from vocational training, and the further separation of teacher training from training in specific academic subjects.

Historically, career and technical education teachers have come from the workforce. Beginning in the late 19th century, throughout the United States artisans and craftsmen were recruited to teach in vocational schools. This practice culminated in the Smith-Hughes Act of 1917. In the 1950s as demand for consumer goods increased and wages for blue collar jobs increased, training of workers had difficulty keeping pace. At the same time, college degrees became more accessible and educated status translated to trained. Workers who had formerly been known as blue collar could prepare for their professions with a college degree, which gave legitimacy to certain vocational professions. Concurrently, the number of vocational schools diminished and industrial arts programs blossomed at colleges. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s into the 1980s, students came into these programs in large numbers. College-based programs in career and technical education modified their curricula to meet the level of perceived substance and rigor of the more traditional science, math, and liberal arts programs ( Lucas, 1999 ).

During the 1990s, business and computer Science curricula remained at the university level but industrial arts programs began to disappear as courses considered vocational moved down to the community college level. At the same time, many courses identified as vocational moved up from the high school level to the community college level. During this time the usage of computers, robotics, performance support systems, and computer-aided design and manufacturing meant that entry-level jobs became increasingly more technical. Simultaneously, workers with special skills knowledge were retiring ( CFDA, 2000 ; Gery, 1997 ; Raybould, 1995 ). As the twentieth century wound down, it became apparent that industry could not handle all the training of their own workers, and with fewer teachers to train workers, it followed logically there were fewer trained workers.

Skills Teachers Need to Teach Vocational Education Students

A number of surveys discussing the skills sets necessary for all teachers show considerable agreement on those skills required to be successful in any classroom:

  • extensive practical teaching experience as well as student teaching,
  • knowledge of classroom management, multicultural issues, theories of learning, methods of student assessment, application of theory to practice, human growth and development, curriculum and instructional design, and integration of technologies into the classroom,
  • ability to collaborate with colleagues, parents and community ( Holste & Matthews, 1991 ; NBEA, 1997 ; NWREL, 1999 ; Simpson & Sandidge, 1994 ).

The skill most commonly required and discussed was practical experience in the classroom and student teaching, surpassing academic skills for importance ( Lucas, 1999 ). However, vocational teachers need an additional skill; they need to know how to correctly operate the machines they are teaching students to use, and to stay current. CTE teachers need to

return constantly to a learning modality, not just back in industry but for reviewing and changing theoretical foundations for the subjects they teach in order to keep updated. This means that they will have to be able to access information in a variety of ways, including global information, process it quickly, and use it in teaching and learning situations. ( CFDA, 2000 )

The acquisition of a physical skill requires a different brain activity than cognitive-skills acquisition ( Bandura, 1986 ; Carlson, 1997 ; Fischer, 1999 ; Posner, 1988 ; Skinner, 1953 ). The School to Work Opportunities Act ( CFDA, 2000 ). Suggests that the dual requirement of staying current and maintaining excellence means that the future career and technical education teacher will have to be a generalist in order to meet the rapid changes in workplace ( CFDA, 2000 . However, at the same time workers of the future will need to be able to make specific application of the changes. This requires them to be the ultimate transformative learner ( Cranton, 1996 ; Mezirow, 1994 ).

Model for Virtual Teacher Training Center

A viable and functioning model for the Virtual Teacher Training Center already exists at Oregon State University in the School of Education. It is the Professional Technical Teacher Education Program (PTE) and is totally web-based. This program was designed and developed by Dr. Mark Merickel, approved by Oregon's Teacher Standards and Practices Commission (TSPC) in Spring of 1998, and began accepting industry professionals who wanted to be CTE teachers in the Fall of 1998. It began with 12 students, almost equally divided between professionals who wanted to be Business Education teachers and those who wanted to be Technology Education teachers, between males and females, having a combined average of industry experience of 8 years and mid-thirties in age. Presently, the PTE Program is in its fourth year with 32 students who are placed in high schools all over the state. The success of the online PTE program makes it an exemplary model upon which to base a hypothetical model for web-based teacher education and/or licensure.

Discussion of the Model

The courses proposed for the Virtual Teacher Training Center are not templates, but are models of the courses presently used in the online teacher education program. An underlying issue in the design of courses for web-based delivery is that the instructor is at a distance from the student, and as one teacher states, "I could not take the face-to-face class as I taught it and put it up [on the web]. It wouldn't work" ( Morihara, 2000 ). Also of concern is the issue of the impact of the technology on the content and student learning. Conclusions have ranged from no impact because the technology is just a delivery method and nothing more ( Clark, 1983 ) to discussions of the effect that media has on cognitive efficiency ( Cobb, 1997 ). Research on all of these areas is in process and will, no doubt, continue to be so. However, with Web-based instruction there are several attributes, which are an advantage because of those methods of instructional delivery; coursework can be scaled according to the level of skill acquisition-from novice to expert-within the confines of course content. This level of scaling is difficult to accomplish in a face-to-face class, but can be done relatively easily in the electronic environment where learners are working more independently.

Courses in the model program are grouped according to the basic skills that the prospective teacher needs before becoming a full-time teacher. These courses were designed to be inquiry-based and reflective allowing students the opportunity to synthesize knowledge from reading and research and to apply the results in their specific practicum environment. This factor personalizes the learning making it more authentic and memorable. As a result, each student's responses to activities are different because of their unique combination of experience, thinking, and learning. Students also share their knowledge and experiences with their peers in an online threaded discussion where they post their activities and responses to other's activities.

The courses in the model are designed around the following schema:

Students and learning . Courses in this category address the general topic of students, their diversity, and how they learn.

  • Diversity among students
  • Interpersonal communication
  • Thinking and problem-solving
  • Learning theory
Curriculum, instruction, and assessment . Courses in this category address curriculum, instruction, and assessment
  • Organization and management of the learning environment
  • Models of teaching, learning, and technology
  • Assessment
  • Curriculum and Instructional design
School, community, and professional cultures . Courses in this category address cultural contexts for teachers.
  • Students, families, and communities
  • School and workplace cultures
  • School law
  • Exploring new roles
Improving practice . Courses in this category address improving teacher practice through reflection, systematic inquiry, and professional activism.
  • Reflective practice
  • Action research
  • Leadership and the teacher

Each course includes 3-4 open-ended activities plus a capstone activity, all of which are posted to an asynchronous discussion forum. All students participate in discussion about their work with instructors and peers. Additional courses may be added, appended, or interfaced with those in the model allowing student learning to be scaled upward or broadened. For this reason, overall design of the course offerings is meant to be flexible and inclusive, with the intent of increasing students' competence, regardless of each student's locus.

Within the Virtual Teacher Training Center, an extensive list of resources accompanies the instructional content including web links, books, and journals. Additional facilities exist for evaluation tools for student self-evaluation, teacher evaluation of students, an online grade book, an open chat room, and a place for announcements. Delivery of such a program can be accomplished either through a virtual site constructed completely from HTML code or from one of several instructional delivery software packages currently available. Course content may also be provided or reinforced by software available from publishers on CD. If an instructional delivery package is used, a separate virtual home base site can be developed which provides students with other benefits for a virtual program:

  • A message center for notices relating to the program, information about the institution providing the program, transcripting, and other services.
  • Information about the licensing agency; licenses, forms, and renewals.
  • Links to forms required during the educational process; applications, and evaluations.
  • Links to resources like national library databases, web-sites, portfolios, and work samples.
  • Student-teacher evaluation forms for cooperating teachers to access and complete.
  • A general discussion forum where students can sit around the virtual lounge and chat.
  • Any other information which is desirable and necessary can also be included. Students come to see this site as a virtual home base for themselves in the program.

Concurrent with classes that students will be taking through the Virtual Teacher Training Center, students would be gaining practical experience in a high school near their home where they are observing and working with a cooperating or master teacher. Upon completion of their academic work and their practical experience, students complete their student teaching, take whatever tests the state requires, and become licensed. The purpose of the concurrent experiences of academic work and practical experience is to allow preservice teachers with classroom experience at the same time they are taking their academic preparation. This dual learning and practical experience aids in synthesizing the academic with the practical in a live learning environment under the supervision of a cooperating teacher. As a result, students completing this experience are prepared upon completion, both academically and experientially to begin teaching.

Translation of Courses into Programs

The Virtual Teacher Training Center proposes a one-year program of study (see Figure 2) using web-delivered instruction to train and license experienced workforce professionals to become career and technical education teachers in one academic year. This program can be utilized in conjunction with work experience alone, 2 years of community college career or vocational training, or a 4-year bachelor's degree in a career and technical content area. As proposed, the program includes 27-33 credits including academic work, practical experience in the classroom, student teaching, subject-area methods courses, and a course in work samples/portfolio.

Flexibility in Course Offerings and Delivery

An example of the Virtual Training Center program is presented in Table 1. Courses in the sample are based on quarter credits, each requiring 30-33 hours of work. For institutions on the semester systems, credits and hours required could be adjusted. Also, one-credit courses could be combined in various ways to accommodate graduation requirements.

TABLE 1. A one-Year Teacher Education Program in a Virtual Teacher Training Center. Hypothetical Configurations for Offering 1-Year Programs.

#1 1 cr. Diversity among students
#2 1 cr. Interpersonal communication
#3 1 cr. Thinking and problem-solving
#4 1 cr. Learning theory and human development
#5 1 cr. Organization/management of learning environments
#6 1 cr. Models of teaching, learning, and technology
#7 1 cr. Assessment
#8 1 cr. Cirriculum and instructional design
#9 1 cr. Students, families, and communities
#10 1 cr. School and workplace cultures
#11 1 cr. School law
#12 1 cr. Exploring new roles
#13 1 cr. Reflective practice
#14 1 cr. Action research
#15 1 cr. Leadership and the teacher
Practical experience 0 cr. Practical experience observing in classroom with master teacher in preparation for student teaching
Teaching methods 1-3 cr. Methods of teaching specific subject-areas such as web-access, keyboarding, woodworking, & autoshop
Work samples & portfolio 1-3 cr. Work samples & portfolio reflecting academic work and student teaching-classroom experiences
Student teaching 10-12 cr. Teaching under mentorship of master teacher in classroom using lessons that student teacher has developed consistent with curriculum & subject
Total credit 27-33 cr. Variable depending upon implementation of program

The one-credit design allows greater flexibility in course offerings for both - teachers who are working toward a beginning license and inservice teachers who are working toward continuing licensure or are taking classes for professional development credit. The sample includes 15 one-credit courses for preservice teacher training, 10-12 credits of student teaching, 1-3 credits of subject-area methods of teaching, and 1-3 credits of work sample/portfolio.

Two possible configurations are presented in Figures 3 and 4, each designed to be completed in 1 academic year of full-time work. Courses in Figure 3 are completed in 32 weeks providing the student the full basic background training of teaching pedagogy, development of work samples, and extensive practical and student teaching experience. At this point the new teacher is ready to be licensed according to the requirements of the state- licensing agency.

Courses outlined in Figure 4 are completed in three 11-week blocks full-time blocks. In both Figures 3 and 4 all of the time during the last block is spent on completing subject-area methods and work samples/portfolios concurrently with student teaching.

Figure 2. Virtual Teacher Training Center 1-Year CTE Teacher Education Program.

Concurrently with coursework, students spend part-time in remote classrooms gaining practical experience. Practical experience in many cases is not for credit. In this example it is not nor is it included in the 30 credits of work identified in the program. Requiring noncredit practical experience is common practice in education and is an equivalent to lab experiences for potential teachers. Institutions adopting such a program should collaborate with local school districts asking the district to provide this practical experience for students as part of providing the master or cooperating teacher's time. However, the student teaching, which is full-time, is taken for credit. These credits are included in the program and would be transcripted.

The hypothetical programs depicted in Figures 3 and 4 reflect the flexibility that the Virtual Teacher Training Center offers. Major program strengths include:
  • one-credit courses encompassing the basic knowledge that entry-level teachers require,
  • independence from a traditional college/university semester or quarter system for time blocks,
  • independence from the traditional college/university system of prerequisite courses (if desired) of a bachelor's-level liberal arts degree,
  • longer practical experience in the classroom, and
  • dependence upon previously acquired subject-area knowledge from work and/or trade experience.
Weeks 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Block 1 #1
Practical experience in classroom with master teacher P/T
Block 2 #6
Practical experience in classroom with master teacher P/T
Block 3 #11
Practical experience in classroom with master teacher P/T
Block 4 Practical experience in classroom with master teacher P/T
Work samples/Portfolio

Figure 3. Possible Configuration for Varied Scheduling Possibilities: Full-time Program Based on Four 8-Week Blocks Adjustable Longer or Shorter.

It must be noted that the above suggestions and Figures 3 and 4 do not preclude a liberal arts education. What they do is remove it as a necessary prerequisite to the teacher education program offered in a Virtual Teacher Training Center. New teachers may continue study toward a degree or degrees after entering the classroom. The courses offered in the Virtual Teacher Training Center should carry course-credit with them, which new teachers can transfer into other degree programs if they choose. It is also recommended that student teachers completing this 1-year program receive a certificate of completion and that courses shown on this certificate are also on a transcript.

Weeks 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
Block 1 #1 #4 #7
#2 #5 #8
#3 #6 #9
Practical experience in classroom with master teacher P/T
Block 2 #10 #13 Methods
#11 #14 Methods
#12 #15 Methods
Practical experience in classroom with master teacher P/T
Block 3 Practical experience in classroom with master teacher P/T
Work Sample /
Note: 1 credit of coursework or student teaching = 30-33 hours of work.

Figure 4. Hypothetical Configuration for Example of Varied Scheduling Possibilities: Full-Time Program Based on Three 11-Week Blocks (adjustable for longer or shorter time)

Evaluation and Assessment

Not only is the design of a course for a web-based environment different from those for a face-to-face environment, but the evaluation tools must also be different. Michael Moore suggests that the realities of the separation of learner from instructor and instructor from administering agency means that success of any distance delivered system will be dependent upon and must rely upon an effective monitoring and evaluation system ( Moore, 1999 ).

In a web-based environment, most evidence of learning is presented by students in written form. Therefore, the preparation of students to produce quality written work is crucial; this has led many universities to reinstitute courses in basic writing and literacy skills for their graduate-level teacher candidates. In web-based environments portfolios have taken on a new role as a primary evaluative tool for both new teachers and for teachers working toward their continuing licensure.

Virtual Supervision

In many states, supervision of pre-service teachers is the responsibility of the program coordinators. In others, supervision is part of a separate unit involved only with supervision and advising, not with teaching classes to pre-service teachers. The issue in a web-based program is that students and teachers who would be doing the supervision are often separated by some considerable distance. This means that the program coordinator or other designated supervision person from the entity delivering the education program may be required to travel some distance to the student school site in order to do supervision. One possible solution to the distance issue and frequency of supervision is the use of a supervising contractor who may be a retired teacher. Or, this responsibility could be shared with or performed by someone who works for the school district where the is student is teaching.

All of these options have limitations to their effectiveness in supervising student teachers at a distance. Relying upon others to do the supervision leaves a gap in knowledge for the institution delivering the program that is required to verify that the new teacher has gained the skills that the program requires of them. Nor does it necessarily provide the licensing agency with an assurance that the program, which they approved, is assuring that the skills required have been acquired by the student whom they are being asked to license.

The Virtual Teacher Training Center could develop a process and protocol for online supervision using the tools of multi-media. This type of supervision must deal with a number of factors:

  • a designed and approved process for performing virtual supervision,
  • an elaborated protocol for the technology required to accomplish this feat,
  • capability from the institution to provide a variety of technologies for virtual supervision to and from a variety of schools which also have a variety of technologies,
  • capability from the classroom to provide at least one technology to participate in virtual supervision,
  • maintenance of a source of traditional supervision should a school not have the technology for virtual supervision or should parents object,
  • establishment of guidelines regarding the legal issues surrounding the capture and transmission of the student teacher's student's images, and
  • storage and archival of tape and video of student and student teacher images.

When one dwells on the issues involved in virtual supervision, the first instinct is to abandon the idea as too complex. However, with virtual delivery of instruction will need to come virtual support of students at a distance with services from the delivering institutions such as registrar, admissions, or transcripts. And, virtual instruction may also require virtual supervision.

Discussion as a Learning Tool in a Virtual Environment

Any discussion about offering virtual programs must address whether such a delivery method provides learning for students. Since students and teachers are at a distance from each other, the primary method used for learning in a web-based environment is the discussion that occurs between and among the teachers and the students in the virtual class.

Discussion in a virtual environment, whether it is synchronous (in real time similar to a face-to-face conversation) or asynchronous (delayed interaction similar to a letter) can be a powerful tool for learning. Resistance to this form of instruction comes from its basic challenge to our basic beliefs about communication and learning. These beliefs coming from our lengthy experience in traditional classrooms have become embedded in our concepts of what we feel is necessary for students to learn and teachers to teach. However, if web-based instruction is to gain its place among the honored and accepted methods of instructional delivery for teachers and learning environments, and for students of all types, these prejudices have to be examined because they set up a serious learning impediment for both teachers and learners.

Conclusion: Looking Forward by Looking Backward

In order to look forward with action, we need to look backward and re-think our traditional beliefs about what it takes to train teachers; beliefs which may be impeding our ability to apply new ideas and new technologies for solving problems in teacher education and licensure. We may need to take a different perspective in thinking about status, professionalism, methods of training and licensure, career or degree paths evolving from a teacher's entry point into teaching, and continuing professional development for career educators. We need to examine our beliefs and perspectives regarding:

  • new sources of potential teachers for career and technical education,
  • new methods of delivering teacher education using newer technologies,
  • shorter and/or alternative teacher education programs,
  • separation of preliminary teacher training from lengthy degree programs,
  • horizontal career paths for new teachers that would move non-degreed but professionally licensed teachers from initial licenses into and through degree-granting programs,
  • vertical career paths moving from novice teachers to expert teachers much as workers in the trades progress from apprentice to journeyman to master.

Obviously, serious consideration of these issues and accommodation to the needs that result must also be accompanied by several major perspective changes:

  • at the professional and community college level to provide additional basic skills work;
  • at the college and university level to allow for one-year alternative teacher education and/or licensure programs;
  • to implement policy changes at the state and national level regarding teacher education and licensure; and
  • to incorporate alternate sources of course and program work which satisfy these goals.
Use of Technology to Broaden Access

Technology has the capability to broaden access to education. The Virtual Teacher Training Center lends itself naturally to this inclusion and can provide access to a number of features and services for distant students that are readily available to on-campus students:

  • multi-media as an integral part of content delivery within any program;
  • web-based technology to extend learning in non-traditional ways to diverse audiences,
  • alternate licensure designs-horizontally, including transitional, preservice, and continuing licensure; vertically, including licensure-only, licensure and masters combined, and masters-only, as well as inclusion of undergraduate and non-academic work to satisfy licensure;
  • collaboration with on-campus services (registrar's office, admissions, and graduate school) for acceptance of academic work from non-traditional sources (i.e. University of Phoenix, private sources), work in life and cultural experience (such as teaching native languages on a reservation);
  • acceptance of non-traditional knowledge production;
  • electronic-learning collaboration agreements so that students from any state may take courses from any other state and have them transcripted by their home university for students to build credits toward licensure or a degree within the state where they reside;
  • collaboration among universities, community colleges, and professional organizations in development of content methodology available to all collaborators which may be used as required or as electives within the home universities' programs;
  • combined programs, electronically controlled, as a combination in-class and electronically delivered series of courses which combine university, professional, and community college courses to satisfy the training of the next generation of technology education teachers;
  • combined programs for continuing licensure that accepts 'credits' from a variety of traditional and non-traditional sources which lead to continuing licensure and/or advanced degree (if desired);
  • high intensity focus on non-duplication of effort and greater utilization of various on-campus and on-line courses across programs and disciplines where content area of courses is so similar that various programs and disciplines could use the same courses in their programs;
  • acceptance into degree programs of coursework done outside of bachelor's in content areas at community college level where no bachelor's programs exist in the individual subject area (technology);
  • web-based training, discussion, chat room, and instruction between faculty and remote local teachers in mentoring and supervision;
  • a cadre of web-pages which are accessible by more than one program, instructor, or course, broadening the availability for internal pages for linking, reduction in duplication of effort, broadening of knowledge base in all courses, and reduction in time required to maintain separate web pages which cover the same or related information.
A Change in Perspective

A number of the above suggestions require a change in perspective. We have made teacher education more academic than it needs to be for training entry-level teachers. Whether we have done this in the belief that the more education a teacher has the better teacher they will be or whether it is because educators themselves still long for professional status in universities devoted to academic subjects, it would be impossible to determine. At some point we need to examine the motivations behind this push to higher and higher academic degrees for entry-level teachers.

The Virtual Teacher Training Center allows us to focus upon something more pragmatic in order to resolve our current teacher shortage. It also allows to ask some thought provoking questions:

  • Are traditional ways of training students and teachers so much better than new ways that we are willing to reject the potentials of new technologies for delivery of instruction?
  • Does more heavily weighted academic study provide specific tasks such that career and technical education teachers are as effective in their classrooms as they would be from an alternative method of training which focused more heavily on workplace skill-related tasks and practical classroom application for their initial entry into the classroom?


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SYLVIA M. TWOMEY is PTE Program Coordinator, School of Education, 308G Education Hall, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97330. email: twomeys@orst.edu