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Business Education

Preparation Of Teachers

A person planning to teach business subjects in the twenty-first century faces a wide array of possibilities regarding the students, subject areas, school levels, and sites at which business subjects are taught. The routes to certification and licensure are equally diverse. The challenge in business teacher education is to provide viable paths for professional development and growth in settings that often require diverse technical skills and teaching competencies.

Business education as a field is part of two worlds that are sometimes viewed separately because of funding and licensing requirements. Business education is provided to meet both general education, and career and technical education needs. General education can further be divided between personal-use business skills and preparation for advanced study in business–two different types of goals. Calhoun and Robinson summarized these goals in 1995:

  • Specialized instruction to prepare students for careers in business.
  • Fundamental instruction to help students to assume their economic roles as consumers, workers, and citizens.
  • Background instruction to assist students in preparing for professional careers requiring advanced study.

Several statements from the Policies Commission for Business and Economic Education (1997, 1998, 1999) note that business education represents a broad and diverse discipline (perhaps field of study is a better term) that is included in all types of educational delivery systems: elementary and secondary schools, one-and two-year schools and community colleges, and four-year colleges and universities. For many business teachers, a new and growing site for work is providing training or human resource development services in industry. Business education can begin at any level; it can be interrupted for varying periods of time; and it will very likely be continued throughout the life of an individual. Business education includes education for administrative support occupations, marketing and sales occupations, information technology occupations, business teaching, business administration, and economic understandings. At the secondary level of education, business courses are generally electives for students.

History Of Business Teacher Education

The earliest teaching of business subjects in public grammar and secondary school dates back to the 1700s with the study of bookkeeping. Programs in private academies soon became popular in public high schools, especially for students who were not preparing for college. In the 1800s private business schools were also a large source of business preparation, and commercial teachers, as they were called, often were recruited from business colleges. The first collegiate institute to offer a program of preparation for business teachers was Drexel Institute in Philadelphia in 1898. One-and two-year normal schools came into existence in the early 1900s. From these informal to more formal preparation programs, two requirements were essential to ensure professional competency in business teacher education: on-thejob experience and attendance at a university or teacher's college. These two prevailing requirements continue in the early twenty-first century.

The purposes of business teacher education coincide with the general breadth of the field and the dual objectives of employment-related and general education. Sources of funding for education have affected how business teachers are licensed. Since passage of federal vocational legislation in the early 1900s, such as the Smith-Hughes Act in 1917, the George-Deen Act of 1937, and the George-Barden Act of 1946, up through the Vocational Education Act of 1963 and the Tech-Prep and School-to-Work legislation of 1990, 1994, and 1998, teaching licensure, as provided by the various states, is generally of two types: (1) standard licensure for teaching in the secondary schools; and (2) career and technical licensure for teaching in programs reimbursed by state and federal career and technical education funds. Career and technical education programs and their corresponding licensing requirements can exist at either the secondary or postsecondary levels. Initial standard licensing in the past has generally required the completion of an undergraduate program. This is changing for those programs that have moved or are now moving to a postbaccalaureate degree requirement for standard, initial licensure. Postbaccalaureate-or graduate-level licensing is particularly attractive to persons who already possess a bachelor's degree in business and then decide they would like to enter teaching.

Work experience has been considered an essential part of business teacher preparation. It is frequently required for a career and technical education license. However, work experience is not generally required for graduation from business teacher education programs. Opinions about the value of work experience are mixed. Teachers value their business work experience and believe it gives them confidence in their teaching, but John Burrow and Nancy Groneman found in 1976 that the amount or frequency of related work experience of business teachers has not been shown to result in greater teaching effectiveness.

Professional Development For Business Teachers

In addition to initial licensing, business teacher education has been a provider of in-service teacher education and graduate coursework for the completion of advanced degrees. Provision of professional development opportunities is the responsibility not only of colleges and universities that provide formal coursework, but also of professional organizations in the field. Although business teachers participate in a wide variety of business professional groups, three can be said to have a key interest in teacher preparation: National Business Education Association (NBEA, founded in 1878), National Association for Business Teacher Education (NABTE, founded in 1927), and Delta Pi Epsilon, the graduate researchfocused society of the profession (DPE, founded in 1936). NBEA and NABTE, respectively, are responsible for developing the National Standards for Business Education, which have directed curriculum development in the field at the K–14 grade levels, and Business Teacher Education Curriculum Guide and Program Standards for programs that preparebusiness teachers.

Trends In Business Teacher Education

There was a gradual and consistent increase in the number of business teacher education programs from the 1940s through the 1970s. Augmented funding from federal and state vocational legislation may have contributed to this. However, since 1980 several trends have been a source of concern: the shrinkage in the number of programs preparing business teachers in a time of teacher shortages; program responses to technological change; maintaining balance in business program offerings; and the use of technology as a form of distance learning.

In 2001 NABTE found that there were 124 institutions in the United States providing business teacher preparation by offering at least a bachelor's degree that meets the requirements of a "comprehensive" teaching license, or a license to teach the broadest range of business courses at the secondary level. This total of 124 programs compares to a high of 305 programs in 1980, an almost 60 percent loss of programs. A critical issue has been to understand reasons for program eliminations. Perhaps, when funds are being retrenched, teacher preparation program for courses that are generally electives at the secondary level are easier to eliminate than others. Retrenchment has been common as states have reduced or failed to increase funding to public universities.

This downward trend in program availability might justify the continued expectation of a business teacher shortage in the early 2000s. Because the demand for business teachers, in particular, parallels the demand for entry-level business employees, and the information technology area continues to be one of growth, a shortage of business teachers is a reasonable projection. Several states and professional organizations have implemented or are discussing alternative ways for teachers to become licensed more quickly than a four-year degree generally allows.

A major preoccupation of all business teachers is maintaining up-to-date programs with regard to information-processing technology. Demand in the workplace for employees in information technology jobs has made the provision of technical courses increasingly popular among students. Courses range from personal-use applications of personal computers through the preparation of employees to manage telecommunication networks.

As the demand for information technology courses increases, questions are also being raised about the too-early specialization of high school students for rapidly changing employment expectations. Further, interest in technical courses and technical certifications at either the secondary or postsecondary levels tends to reduce student time for other business courses and nonbusiness general education course work. Lack of more breadth may not only limited students' ability to understand business operations and the place of technology for meeting business needs, but it may also prevent broader understanding about the world and the diversity of options available for many life choices. Maintaining balanced curriculum choices for students is a challenge.

Not only must teachers be prepared to teach using current information-processing technology, programs themselves may be offered using telecommunications technology. Distance learning–the offering of selected courses or complete teacher-preparation programs over the Internet–is being viewed as one way to address a variety of challenges: the need to take full advantage of technology capabilities to serve the profession, the need to provide professional development opportunities for current teachers, and a way to counter the shrinkage of available teacher preparation programs for students across the country.

The ability to use technology to give students access to resources and allow communication with multiple groups of people makes telecommunications capabilities the new fad of the early twenty-first century. Too little is known about the outcomes of programs offered in part or in total by distance learning to be able to judge their quality. It is not known whether such new ventures broaden educational opportunities for under-served groups of people, or whether learning at a distance compromises learners' chances to actually become part of professional communities of teachers. Business teachers are not alone in experimenting with these new possibilities and their associated costs and risks.

Future Directions

Business teacher preparation continues to maintain a historical commitment to preparing teachers who have two basic goals: preparing students both for employment and for economic citizenship. They teach from the elementary, middle, and secondary school levels through the collegiate level in both public education and private training settings. Over the past two centuries, teacher preparation has progressed from informal on-the-job learning through four-year-degree and graduate-level licensing programs. Forces moving toward higher licensing standards are currently being countered by a shortage of teachers, which tends to create pressure to reduce licensing requirements. Nevertheless, changing technological capabilities require all business teachers to become responsible for doing more in the classroom as they teach about technology as a business tool as well as consider using technology as a teaching aid. Technology appears to be both part of a problem and part of the solution. It continually makes new demands on teachers' time and capabilities at the same time that, in the form of distance learning, it makes business teacher education opportunities available to more people when the number of traditional, campus-bound programs has been shrinking.


ANDERSON, MARCIA A., and SINHA, RATNA. 1999. "Business Teaching as a Career in the United States." NABTE Review 26:28–33.

BURROW, JOHN, and GRONEMAN, NANCY. 1976. The Purposes of and Competencies Developed Through Occupational Experience for Vocational Education Teachers. Lincoln: University of Nebraska.

BARTHOLOME, LLOYD W. 1997. "Historical Perspectives: Basis for Change in Business Education." In The Changing Dimensions of Business Education, eds. Clarice P. Brantley and Bobbye J. Davis. Reston, VA: National Business Education Association.

CALHOUN, CALFREY C., and ROBINSON, BETTY W. 1995. Managing the Learning Process in Business Education. Birmingham, AL: Colonial Press.

CURRAN, MICHAEL G., JR. 1996. "Business Education in the United States: 1993–1994 NABTE Survey Results." NABTE Review 23:3–7.

HOPKINS, CHARLES R. 1987. "Business Education in the United States: 1985–1986 NABTE Survey Results." NABTE Review 14:24–34.

HOSLER, RUSSELL J., and HOSLER, MARY MARGARET. 1993. The History of the National Business Education Association. Reston, VA: National Business Education Association.

LABONTY, DENNIS J. 1999. "Business Education in the United States: 1997–1998 NABTE Survey Results." NABTE Review 26:9–17.

MEGGISON, PETER F. 1989. "Business Education in Years Gone By." In Asserting and Reasserting the Role of Business Education, ed. Burton S. Kaliski. Reston, VA: National Business Education Association.

MCENTEE, ARTHUR L. 1997. "Business Education in the United States: 1995–1996 NABTE Survey Results." NABTE Review 24:4–7.

NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR BUSINESS TEACHER EDUCATION. 1997. Business Teacher Education Curriculum Guide and Program Standards. Reston, VA: National Association for Business Teacher Education.

NATIONAL BUSINESS EDUCATION ASSOCIATION. 1995. National Standards for Business Education. Reston, VA: National Business Education Association.

O'NEIL, SHARON LUND. 1993. "Business Education in the United States: 1991–1992 NABTE Survey Results." NABTE Review 20:5–15.

POLICIES COMMISSION FOR BUSINESS AND ECONOMIC EDUCATION. 1997. Policy Statement 60: This We Believe About the Professional Development of Business Educators. Reston, VA: Policies Commission for Business and Economic Education.

POLICIES COMMISSION FOR BUSINESS AND ECONOMIC EDUCATION. 1998. Policy Statement 63: This We Believe About the Relationship Between Business Education and Students' Transition to Work. Reston, VA: Policies Commission for Business and Economic Education.

POLICIES COMMISSION FOR BUSINESS AND ECONOMIC EDUCATION. 1999. Policy Statement 64: This We Believe About the Role of Business Education at All Educational Levels. Reston, VA: Policies Commission for Business and Economic Education.

POLICIES COMMISSION FOR BUSINESS AND ECONOMIC EDUCATION. 1999. Policy Statement 65: This We Believe About Distance Learning in Business Education. Reston, VA: Policies Commission for Business and Economic Education.

REDMANN, DONNA H.; KOTRLIK, JOE W.; HARRISON, BETTY C.; and HANDLEY, CYNTHIA S. 1999. "Analysis of Secondary Business Teachers' Information Technology Needs with Implications for Teacher Education." NABTE Review 26:40–45.


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