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The Changing Focus of Vocational Education In a community college in Michigan, there are two lunch lines in the cafeteria: one serves the regular $0.75 lunch; the other, for $1.25, serves a gourmet meal prepared by students in the chef training program. In a high school in Illinois, handicapped and other vocational students oper- ate a combination motel, restaurant, and gas station completely on their own. In another high school district, vocational students have built and sold 35 residential houses in the last 35 years, combining the efforts of students in drafting, interior decorating, sheet metal shop, and building trades. These are only three examples of scores of ways in which voca- tional educators are trying to meet their primary objective: preparing students for work. Vocational education is unique in a number of ways. It treats students as practitioners, preparing them for skilled entry-level jobs not requiring a baccalaureate. It offers training in specialized skills such as nursing, auto mechanics, and irrigation technology, usually in high schools or in two-year post-secondary schools. It frequently uses instructional settings other than (and in addition to) the traditional classroom. Its success in terms of placing students in jobs is highly dependent upon the economy. In high schools it serves primarily students of lower socioeconomic status and less academic ability than the general student population. This chapter sets vocational education in its social and historical con- text and presents the issues that have faced vocational educators and researchers. These issues are also discussed as they relate to present and future vocational education and its R&D. 7 J
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8 ASSESSING VOCATIONAL EDUCATION RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT BACKGROUND The notion that schools should prepare students for work is relatively new. Schools began to intro. Urn r.tir~1 cilhi-~t~ `~h;~h `',^~^ Am; Af1 ~ _ r~ ~^ -~VJ~ lay WE ~1 ~1~ to - train the hand as well as the mind," toward the end of the ninety enth century, when most young people were taking advantage of free public elementary education, and an increasing number were continuing through high school. Manual training, domestic science (home econom- ics), agriculture, and business courses attracted many students, and en- rollment in these curricula grew rapidly. Around the turn of the century, however, some of the manual training educators and many agricultural, business, and industrial leaders became aware of the need to prepare people for more specific occupations. The idea of developing vocational education courses for high school students who wanted to prepare for work grew from this need. Three pieces of legislation were critical in the development of voca- tional education: the Smith-Hughes Act of 1917 (P.L. 64-347), the Voca- tional Education Act of 1963 (P.L. 88-210), and the 1968 Amendments (P.L. 90-576) to the 1963 Act. The Smith-Hughes Act provided federal aid for vocational education offered by public secondary schools; this significantly increased the number of programs and students, from 160,000 students in 1918 to almost four million in 1960. Many of these students were adults who wanted better jobs. The Vocational Education Act of 1963 authorized increased funding for vocational education and also encouraged vocational education to shift to broader goals related to the development of human potential and long-term employment. Voca- tional education had been first offered in public schools in the United States during a period of thriving industrialism, when the needs of work- ers were considered to be secondary to the needs of the economy. At that time, vocational education accepted the short-term goals of meeting the rapidly changing demands of the labor market; it was less concerned with gradual trends in the labor market or with human needs. With the passage of the 1963 Act, the objectives of vocational education became much broader than they had been 60 years earlier. Because of the broad- ened focus and increased funding, enrollment in vocational education programs more than doubled in the next four years. The 1968 Vocational Education Amendments continued the emphasis on serving the needs of students. An important objective of the Amend- ments was to provide better service to the disadvantaged, the handi- capped, post-secondary, and adult students. The legislation also provid- ed support for the career education movement by stressing career plan- ning as well as employment preparation of students.
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The Changing Focus of Vocational Education ISSUES IN VOCATIONAL EDUCATION 9 Vocational education of the 1970s differs markedly from the program initiated in 1917. In 1974, there were 13.5 million students in vocational education programs, including the disadvantaged, the handicapped, and those needing more advanced specialized training in post-secondary in- stitutions. Vocational education programs are today more varied in con- tent, employ more sophisticated instructional methods, and attempt to teach much more than occupational skills. Vocational counseling plays an increasingly important role in vocational education, so that students can be better equipped to make decisions regarding occupational choice. The objectives of vocational education have been expanded since 1917. While a major objective is still to prepare people for work in order to meet the needs of the economy, a second objective, which emerged in the 1960s, is to increase the employment options available to each per- son. Vocational education has become concerned with developing flexi- ble occupational and decision-making skills so that students may choose any of several occupations after graduation. A third, usually implicit, objective is motivating students to learn basic academic skills. Researchers have done and continue to do investigative and develop- mental work to improve vocational education. (The Committee's review of R&D related to vocational education is presented in Appendix A.) Three particular lines of investigation have been pursued characteris- tics of students, instruction of students, and the relation of vocational education to work. First, vocational education researchers have tried to identify the characteristics of students being served by the programs so that the needs of the students can be considered when designing pro- grams. Vocational educators and researchers are sensitive to the need to serve all students, including women, minorities, the disadvantaged, and the handicapped. Second, vocational educators are concerned with the instruction received by students. Accordingly, research and development is carried out to make curricula flexible, to develop new programs in career education, and to compare the effectiveness of various modes of instruction. Third, vocational educators are concerned with the objec- tives of vocational education and the relationship between programs and the work place. Researchers use labor market information to adapt pro- grams to the demands of the economy. They study career development and guidance to increase the flexibility and decision-making skill of each student. They also evaluate vocational education to measure the extent to which those programs are meeting their stated objectives and to judge the appropriateness of the objectives.
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10 ASSESSING VOCATIONAL EDUCATION SEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT CHARACTERISTICS OF VOCATIONAL EDUCATION STUDENTS Tailoring Programs to the Needs of Students In light of the expanded objectives of vocational education, practitioners now generally believe that the characteristics and needs of students should be understood before programs can be developed to best meet students' needs. Several studies have shown that, compared with other students, vocational education students usually come from families of lower socioeconomic status and have less academic, especially verbal, ability. Their parents usually have received less education. It is not known, however, why students of lower socioeconomic status, lower oc- cupational aspirations, or less academic ability are in vocational educa- tion programs. Researchers have not determined to what extent students with these characteristics actively choose vocational programs over other programs and to what extent they are assigned by school administrators to vocational programs more often than other students. There seems to be a tacit assumption that these students are better prepared for work by vocational than general education since they learn skills for blue-collar jobs, which they are likely to hold because of their socioeconomic back- grounds. The implication that vocational education thus perpetuates so- cial class distinctions has not been investigated. It is also assumed that vocational students learn basic educational skills (the three Rs) better if they are enrolled in both vocational and general education courses because they are more interested in the con- text in which these skills are taught. Frequently, students who are ready to drop out of general high school programs are reportedly "turned on" by vocational programs and become enthusiastic students and pro- ductive workers. This assumption has not been questioned in a scientific manner. Equal Access to Programs Educators are now required to provide equal program opportunities to all students. Emphasis has been placed on minorities, the handicapped, the disadvantaged, adults, and more recently, women and those who do not speak English as their first language. Vocational education has been encouraged to eliminate sex stereotyping in programs and to provide equal access to programs associated with occupations that have been traditionally dominated by one sex. It is not clear to what extent this requirement is being met. There is some question as to how vocational education can best serve those students who have been socially and eco
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The Changing Focus of Vocational Education 1 '1 nomically disadvantaged. For example, how can vocational education take into account differences in the cultural values, especially those con- cerning work, of different ethnic groups and provide training to maxi- mize students' chances of getting and holding jobs? Rarely do teachers receive special training to help them meet the unique needs of different groups of students. (Suggestions for further research on meeting the needs of minority group members and women are contained in articles by Hamilton  and Roby [1976~.) INSTRUCTION OF VOCATIONAL EDUCATION STUDENTS Flexibility in Curricula The training needed by vocational education students has changed markedly over the years. With rapidly changing economic and techno- logical developments in business and industry, new skills are required and old skills become obsolete. Although substantial efforts have been made in R&D to develop a means for keeping curricula up-to-date and responsive to the changing needs of students, this remains a major prob- lem in vocational education. Institutional rigidity has sometimes resulted in the training of outmoded skills on obsolete equipment by teachers whose knowledge of~~ndustry Is not current. Further, it is becoming increasingly likely that people will change oc- cupations at least once in their lifetimes, so that vocational education programs should teach multiple and generalizable skills that will prepare people better for mid-career changes. The objective of training students for occupational versatility has not been easy to meet. Vocational educa- tion R&D has not successfully solved the problem of training people for the specialized technical skills required by certain occupations and, si- multaneously, preparing them for a broader range of job opportunities. Career Education Career education, a major R&D topic funded under the 1968 Amend- ments, has attempted to expand the boundaries of traditional vocational education. The essential concept of career education is that all students, not just vocational education students, should be exposed to career de- velopment opportunities throughout their school years and that every student should leave school with the skills necessary for job entry, wheth- er that student completes the tenth grade or a four-year college course. Career education ideally exposes students to the full range of career opportunities, helps them decide their occupational futures, and provides
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12 ASSESSING VOCATIONAL EDUCATION RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT education and training appropriate to their career choices. Career educa- tion includes vocational education in that occupational training for spec- ific skills is one of its essential elements, but it is also concerned with preparing all students to make career decisions and changes throughout their lives. Despite the heavy investment of R&D funds in career education pro- grams, research has neither established an empirical or theoretical basis for career education nor evaluated its effectiveness. It has not been deter- mined at what point in a student's education knowledge about jobs and careers should be introduced, when specialized skills should be taught, or how career education can be individualized for students with differing needs and ambitions. On-the-Job Training versus Classroom Training Another critical issue in vocational education instruction has been the identification of the advantages of classroom instruction relative to those of on-thejob training (which can take place under the auspices of the employer or in conjunction with school-sponsored cooperative educa- tion). Some have argued that training at the work site is the most effec- tive and relevant method of job instruction. In addition, if only a few students desire instruction in a given field, classroom training may not be feasible. On the other hand, classroom instruction has other advantages: job simulation minimizes penalties for error and allows students to learn at a flexible pace. The need to measure the advantages of on-thejob training relative to those of classroom training remains a challenge to vocational education R&D. VOCATIONAL EDUCATION AND WORK Objectives of Vocational Education The primary objective of vocational education programs has been to prepare students for occupations, with a recent emphasis on equality of access to programs. Some other objectives, benefits, and purposes of v~all~ll~1 <;uu`;aLlon nave oeen identified but not fully studied. Voca- tional education programs usually serve the perceived needs of students and workers as well as those of employers. Success is usually measured by the proportion of graduates who get jobs. The costs and benefits of vocational education and the distribution of these costs and benefits to the public and private sectors have not been investigated. Similarly, the distribution of costs and benefits to employees and employers has not Arm ~_~1 ~1 ~1 1
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The Changing Focus of Vocational Education 13 been studied. For example, training aviation mechanics in public schools reduces training costs for the private airline companies. (In theory, the more the training is specifically tailored to actual job requirements, the greater the benefit to the employer.) To the extent that competition exists among employers, the saving in private training costs from vocational education programs may be passed on to the consumers. The extent to which public vocational schools augment private profits or cause lower prices has not been measured. Vocational education can serve both public and private purposes. An example of a public ouroose for vocational education would be helping 1 1 ~ ~ ,& ~ people become responsible citizens by helping them to become responsi- ble workers. Training for citizenship, of course, is one of the principal purposes of schools in general. Vocational schools may have a particu- larly important role to play because there is evidence that people are more inclined to participate responsibly in democratic government if they have the experience of responsible participation at work. Democratic responsibility in the work place has been a major political issue in other industrial countries for years. In October 1975, the U.S. Congress established the National Center for Productivity and Quality of Working Life, to promote, among other things, inquiry into the possible benefits of increased participation by employees in decision making in the work place. In order to enhance their ability to participate responsi- bly at work, students in public vocational programs might be given op- portunities to learn, for example, what a corporation is and what a pro- ducers' cooperative is, how collective bargaining works, what the stock market does, and how time-and-motion studies are performed. They might also be trained in the skills required to own and operate their own businesses. Researchers should seek ways in which vocational education can help students achieve the level of economic literacy necessary to exercise their full rights and responsibilities at work. Job Placement Because job training has been a major goal of vocational education, there have been many attempts to maximize the proportion of vocational education graduates placed in jobs. Two complementary strategies have been used labor market forecasting and career guidance. Labor market information is used by vocational educators to predict future demand for certain occupations and to adapt programs to meet the demands. Many states have developed and are using their own labor market management information systems, but present forecasting meth- ods can be improved in at least three ways. First, labor market demand , . ,
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14 ASSESSING VOCATIONAL EDUCATION RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT forecasts should attempt to take into account the extent to which wages and working conditions will change if more or fewer workers are trained. Second, program planners and researchers should recognize that labor market information from various vocational education districts must be coordinated in some way because workers move from place to place. Third, since macroeconomic or institutionally oriented employment poli- cy affects total demand for labor, it should be taken into account in labor market forecasts. Career development and guidance strive to meet the needs of individu- al students while they are enrolled in programs and after graduation. The overall goal of career guidance is to improve the ability of students to make career decisions. Traditionally, guidance counselors waited until students came to them with career or job problems. Now some counsel- ors are trying to anticipate and prevent problems by providing students with career information and decision-making skills that will reduce the frequency of decisions based on incomplete information or inappropriate choice strategies. Educational personnel are increasingly concerned with providing stu- dents more information on available instructions and training programs. Students might find it helpful to learn about the experiences of graduates and dropouts from these institutions. At present, there is more informa- tion available to help institutions select individuals than to help individu- als select institutions. The effects on students and institutions of the availability of this information is not known. Evaluation of Vocational Education Programs A necessary step in improving the connection between vocational educa- tion and work is evaluation, which measures the extent to which pro- grams are meeting their stated objectives. Past evaluations of vocational education programs have rarely been adequate. The studies most often cited as model evaluations generally need improvement. Larger and bet- ter-designed samples, more appropriate experimental and questionnaire design, better measurement of criterion and background variables, and more suitable statistical techniques could strengthen future evaluations. Further, some believe that current evaluations over little assistance to the vocational education policy maker, curriculum developer, or teacher because the criterion measures inadequately reflect program success: evaluators have most often measured success in terms of initial job place- ment, which is determined by many factors, including the availability of jobs, the social status, personality, and intellect of the student, and chance. The existing criterion variables could be supplemented with new
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The Changing Focus of Vocational Education 1 C measures of other aspects of program success, for example, job satisfac- tion, job turnover rates, the socioeconomic mix of students, and changes in student self-perceptions. CONCLUSIONS The issues facing vocational education also affect other behavioral and social sciences. In the past, vocational education researchers have been able to draw on the work of social and behavioral scientists in areas such as human learning and development. However, in some cases, vocational education R&D has proceeded without the benefit of established social and behavioral science theories or an extensive knowledge base. The Committee hopes the education and manpower work program of the National Institute of Education and the research program of the Depart- ment of Labor will provide support for the development of coherent theoretical perspectives leading to more useful applied research in voca- tional education. In addition to the exchange of knowledge and theories on substantive issues, methodological advances made by other social science researchers can benefit vocational education researchers. However, existing R&D methods have sometimes been inadequate or inappropriate for use in vocational education. In order to meet the methodological needs of vo- cational education R&D, the USOE definition of applied research should be expanded to include the development of research tools. In the past 60 years, vocational education has broadened its objectives in response to changes in American society. Enrollment in programs has expanded to include groups of students never before served by vocation- al education. Diverse needs of students have been addressed as societal pressures demanded. In the future, vocational educators and researchers may want to take a more active role, anticipating altered demands of the labor market and of society. Most of the past research in vocational education cannot be general- ized beyond the immediate situation that was studied. Questions with far-reaching implications have not been investigated; for example, alter- native instructional settings have not been successfully compared, highly flexible and generalizable curricula have not been developed, and the objectives of vocational education have not been carefully examined. If research is to improve the education of vocational students, it must be more far-sighted, expanded in scope, and improved in quality.
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