12 minute read

Vocational and Technical Education

Preparation Of Teachers

Most state and local education agencies in the United States have changed the name of vocational education to "career and technical" or "career technical" education to reflect a broader mission. The National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium indicated that career technical education "is provided in a variety of settings and levels including middle school career exploration, secondary programs, postsecondary certificates and degrees, and customized training for employees in the workplace. Career Technical Education also provides students and adults (1) the technical skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in occupations and careers, (2) the cross-functional or workplace basics necessary for success in any occupation or career (such as problem solving, teamwork and the ability to find and use information) as well as skills for balancing family and work responsibilities, and (3) the context in which traditional academic skills and a variety of more general educational goals can be enhanced" (National Association of State Directors of Career and Technical Education website). The term career and technical education, rather than vocational education, will be used throughout this article when describing current programs and activities.

History of Pre-Service Teacher Education

In 1914 a congressional Commission on National Aid to Vocational Education was established to study the skilled worker needs and report its findings to Congress. The findings of this commission resulted in the passage of the Smith-Hughes Act in 1917–the first federally enacted legislation to promote vocational education in public high schools in America. This act provided federal funds for vocational education at the secondary level in the areas of agriculture, trades and industry, and home economics.

The Smith-Hughes Act was also the first federal legislation to make funds available to train teachers. Sections 2, 3, and 4 in the Act authorized the use of funds to be paid to states for the purpose of paying the salaries of teachers, supervisors, and directors and in the preparation of teachers, supervisors, and directors. The George-Deen Act (1936) extended the coverage of vocational education to include distributive education. The George-Barden Act Amendments (1956) extended coverage to include practical nursing and the fishery trades. The Vocational Education Act (1963) included business and office education.

Vocational education teacher requirements have often required a number of years of experience in a craft or trade prior to being employed as a teacher. In some occupational areas, some alternative state certification schemes have allowed those without a college degree, but with extensive occupational experience, to teach vocational education courses.

The educational reform movement of the late twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first century has had an important impact on career and technical teacher education programs. Educational reform influences in career and technical teacher education programs include increasing technical and academic achievement; increasing assessment and accountability requirements; designing meaningful instructional tasks based on real world problems; using technology; teaching teamwork and collaboration skills; and developing leadership skills.

A career and technical education teacher must also be prepared to relate to an increasingly diverse student clientele in a manner that results in higher levels of academic and technical proficiency. Furthermore, these students need to be able to reason analytically, solve complex problems, and gather and process information and data.

Organization of Career and Technical Teacher Education

Land-grant universities, state colleges and universities, church-related colleges, and private colleges are important sources of career and technical education teachers. The majority of career and technical teacher education programs are housed in departments or colleges of education. However, they are also found in other colleges or subject area departments such as Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences; Business; Engineering; Human Ecology; and Professional Studies.

Career and technical teacher education faculties are charged with teaching both pre-service and inservice educational programs. Increasingly, colleges and universities are relying on adjunct and part-time faculty to teach career and technical teacher education courses. More programs are offering field-based courses in conjunction with public schools and distance education is also being used to deliver instruction.

Students are generally admitted to a career and technical teacher education program after they have earned at least a 2.5 cumulative grade point average. Other criteria for admission include requirements such as general education courses, work experience, letters of reference and successful passing of the Praxis I (academic skills) examination.

Career and technical teacher education programs include courses such as history and philosophy, methods of teaching, program planning, curriculum development, and field-based inquiry/student teaching. At the end of their pre-service program, students often must pass the Praxis II (subject assessments and principles of learning and teaching) test. Beginning teachers are increasingly required to pass the Praxis III (classroom performance assessments) examination by the end of their first year of teaching. The shortage of certified and/or licensed career and technical education teachers has resulted in the hiring of people from business and industry to fill teacher vacancies. Individuals from business and industry often have the technical skills required but lack the pedagogical skills and understanding needed to establish productive teaching and learning environments. People from business and industry entering teaching are often brought in under temporary licensure and required to obtain, within a specified time period, the educational competencies needed to succeed in the classroom. Individuals entering alternative licensure programs often have the option of being a part of field-based or cohort-based courses.

In-Service and Staff Development Programs

Career and technical education teachers are expected to meet their students' needs for career development, technical and academic achievement, and technology skills. Career and technical education students must also demonstrate higher order skills in reasoning, problem solving, and collaborative work. At the same time, teachers are faced with serving a more diverse student clientele. Finally, the rapidly changing workplace and technological revolution require ongoing curriculum revisions.

Career and technical education teachers participate in professional development using a variety of techniques. These include techniques such as formal education courses, interactions with business and industry, workshops, seminars, conferences, literature, and networking with other career and technical education professionals.

Beginning career and technical education teachers, while facing the same expectations and demands required of all teachers, are also faced with the need to refine their pedagogical skills. Most beginning teachers are required to participate in teacher induction programs designed to help them survive their first year of teaching and pass the Praxis III (class-room performance assessment) examination. Often teacher induction programs are offered through cooperative efforts of local school districts, colleges and universities, state departments of education, and professional career and technical education teachers' organizations.

Major Trends and Issues in Teacher Preparation

Career and technical teacher education is affected by a number of trends and issues. Four of these major trends and issues are: approaches to teaching and learning, infrastructure, teacher licensure and standards, and innovative programs.

Approaches to teaching and learning. Behavioral, cognitive, constructivist, and contextual learning environments have all been used in vocational and career and technical education. However, the psychological approaches in career and technical teacher education changed significantly in the last half of the twentieth century.

From about 1920 to 1970, behaviorists such as B. F. Skinner theorized that human behavior was highly shaped by its consequences. Later, cognitive psychologists portrayed learners as being active processors of information and assigned priority to the knowledge and perspective students bring to their learning. Cognitive theorists stressed the role of thinking in the learning process and believed that the teacher was to provide learners with opportunities and incentives to learn. Cognitive development theorists have more recently taken a constructivist view of learning that incorporates learner-centered teaching practices, problem-based learning, contextual teaching and learning experiences, integrated academic and vocational curriculum, and authentic assessments. Career and technical education teachers, in working with their students, have routinely used learner-centered approaches.

Contextual teaching and learning represents yet another approach to teaching and learning used by career and technical education. Contextual teaching and learning encourages students to employ their academic understandings and abilities in a variety of in-and out-of-school contexts by asking them to solve simulated or real-world problems both alone and with others. Career and technical education teachers often use contextual teaching strategies to help students make connections with their roles and responsibilities as family members, citizens, students, and workers.

Infrastructure. High quality career and technical teacher education programs require personnel (e.g., faculty, staff, and students), productivity tools (such as curriculum, technology, professional development opportunities, supplies, and telecommunication technology), and physical facilities (buildings, libraries, classrooms, and laboratories). Unfortunately, higher education–for the most part–has failed to invest in career and technical education personnel, productivity tools, and physical facilities to support quality teacher education programs.

Teacher licensure and standards. The licensure of career and technical teachers varies greatly across states, and can be obtained in a number of different ways depending upon the requirements established by each state. Several types of licenses are available, including initial (or probationary), regular (or permanent), emergency, private school, and alternative. Although numerous routes are available to obtaining a teaching license, very little is known about the effects of these licenses on student achievement.

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards was created to recognize teachers who have been judged by their peers as being accomplished, making sound professional judgments about students' best interests, and acting effectively on those judgments. As of 2001 there were 342 Nationally Board Certified Early Adolescence through Young Adulthood/Career and Technical Education teachers.

Innovative programs. One of the major suggestions emanating from policy studies for improving education has been to ensure that students are achieving at higher levels of academic and technical competency. Career and technical teacher education has a long history of responding to national needs and initiatives. Among the newer developments in career and technical education are career clusters, career pathways, career academies, and exemplary programs and promising practices.

Seventeen broad clusters have been identified that include all entry-level through professional-level occupations. The goal for these career clusters was to create curricular frameworks designed to organize knowledge and skills in a relevant manner that would help prepare students to transition successfully from high school to postsecondary education and employment in a career area, or both. These career clusters include agriculture and natural resources; business and administration; education and training; health science; human services; law and public safety; government and public administration; scientific research/engineering; arts; audio/video technology and communication; architecture and construction; finance; hospitality and tourism; information technology; manufacturing; retail/wholesale sales and service; and transportation, distribution, and logistics.

Career pathways are a series of academic, technological, and occupational courses and other educational experiences with a career focus in which students participate. Through a continuum of career-focused programs, students are provided with multiple pathways to employment and postsecondary education. Career pathways include rigorous academics as well as technical skills, in order for students to be prepared for both postsecondary education and for careers.

Career academies align clusters of courses around specific career areas, with teachers collaborating to develop integrated academic and vocational programs in a personalized learning environment, delivered over a period of years. These academies are designed to increase engagement and academic performance, students' personal and academic development, preparation for college and work, postsecondary attainment, and successful employment. Many large city school districts, such as Philadelphia, are organizing schools around career academies.

Teacher educators also look for examples of high quality career and technical education programs to use as illustrations in preparing prospective teachers. Wesley Budke, Debra Bragg, and others identified exemplary and promising secondary and postsecondary career and technical education programs in 2000 and 2001. The exemplary secondary career and technical education programs included programs in culinary arts and hospitality services, digital design, tech prep electronics technology, welding technology fabrication, computer graphics design, computer network administrator, culinary academy, and early childhood education/careers in education. The exemplary postsecondary career and technical education programs included programs in associate-degree nursing, telecommunications, integrated manufacturing management, and refugee targeted assistance. This effort to identify and disseminate information about exemplary and promising programs is ongoing.


BERNS, ROBERT G., and ERIKSON, PATRICIA M. 2001. Contextual Teaching and Learning: Preparing Students for the New Economy. Columbus: Ohio State University, the National Dissemination Center for Career and Technical Education.

BROWN, BETTINA L. 1998. Applying Constructivism in Vocational and Career Education. Information Series No. 378. Columbus: Ohio State University, Center on Education and Training for Employment.

BRUENING, THOMAS H.; SCANLON, DENNIS C.; HODES, CAROL; DHITAL, PURANDHAR; SHAO, XIAORONG; and LIU, SHIH-TSEN. 2001. The Status of Career and Technical Education Teacher Preparation Programs. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, the National Research Center for Career and Technical Education.

BUDKE, WESLEY, E., and BRAGG, DEBRA D. 2000. Sharing What Works: Identifying Successful Programs in Secondary and Postsecondary Career and Technical Education. Information Series No.376. Columbus: Ohio State University, the National Dissemination Center for Career and Technical Education.

Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Amendments of 1998. U.S. Public Law 1105-332. U.S. Code. Vol. 20, sec. 2301 nt.

EDUCATIONAL RESOURCE INFORMATION CENTER (ERIC). 1998. Contextual Teaching and Learning: Preparing Teachers to Enhance Student Success in and Beyond School. Columbus, OH: ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career and Vocational Education and ERIC Clearinghouse on Teaching and Teacher Education.

George Barden Act Amendments of 1957. U.S. Public Law 84-911.

George-Deen Vocational Education Act of 1936. U.S. Public Law 74-673. U.S. Code. Vol. 20 ch. 541, 49 Stat. 1428 (20 U.S.C. Sec. 1241). et seq i.

JOERGER, RICHARD M., and BREMER, CHRISTINE D. 2001. Teacher Induction Programs: A Strategy for Improving the Professional Experience of Beginning Career and Technical Education Teachers. Columbus: Ohio State University, the National Dissemination Center for Career and Technical Education.

MCCASLIN, N. L., and PARKS, DARRELL. 2002. Teacher Education in Career and Technical Education: Background and Policy Implications for the New Millennium. Columbus: Ohio State University, the National Dissemination Center for Career and Technical Education.

ROJEWSKI, JAY W. 2002. Preparing the Workforce of Tomorrow: A Conceptual Framework for Career and Technical Education. Columbus: Ohio State University, the National Dissemination Center for Career and Technical Education.

SKINNER, B. F. 1953. Science and Human Behavior, 2nd edition. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Smith-Hughes Act of 1917. U.S. Public Law 64-347. (Vocational Education Act, 1917.) U.S. Code. Vol. 20, sec. 1145, 16–28.

Vocational Education Act of 1963. U.S. Public Law 88-210. U.S. Code. Vol. 20, secs. 1241 et seq.

Vocational Education Amendments of 1968. U.S. Public Law 90-576. U.S. Code. Vol. 20, sec. 6, 11 nt, 158 nt, 240, 241c, 611, 886nt, 119c 2119c-4, 1201, 1221, 1226, 1241–1248 and others; U.S. Code. Vol. 42, sec. 2809 nt.


NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF STATE DIRECTORS OF CAREER AND TECHNICAL EDUCATION. 2002. "Career and Technical Education: An Essential Component of the Total Education System." <www.nasdvtec.org>.

NATIONAL BOARD FOR PROFESSIONAL TEACHING STANDARDS. 2002. <www.nbpts.org/about/index.html>.

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION. 2000. "Career Clusters." <www.ed.gov/offices/OVAE/clusters/index.html>.



Additional topics

Education - Free Encyclopedia Search EngineEducation EncyclopediaVocational and Technical Education - Current Trends, Preparation Of Teachers, International Context - HISTORY OF