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1 Highlights The Committee has found that the $250 million spent by the U.S. Office of Education on vocational education research and development during the last ten years has not had documented, widespread impact. Although the Committee did not have adequate data and models for a rigorous evaluation, the available data do not indicate that vocational education research and development (R&D) findings and products have had an in- fluence on the knowledge, skills, or employability of large numbers of students. The Committee believes that vocational education R&D shares with educational R&D a lack of both demonstrated impact on students and methods for rigorously measuring impact. There are several major reasons for the limited impact of vocational education R&D: · Priorities for R&D have been based more on political and bureau- cratic considerations than on the results of previous research. Further, priorities have changed frequently so that research on any given issue has not been continued long enough to yield results. There has been virtually no R&D on some important problems while research on other problems has been continued beyond the point of fruitful work. ~ Geographic restrictions on the distribution of R&D funds have re- sulted in the failure of the R&D program to adequately address problems of national or multistate scope and, sometimes, to fund the most qual- ified researchers.
2 ASSESSING VOCATIONAL EDUCATION RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT · There has been a lack of coordination of the separately adminis- tered parts of the federal R&D program. · Systematic and effective strategies have not been implemented for disseminating and encouraging utilization of R&D products and results. · There has been no systematic effort to maximize the impact of the vocational education R&D program, and the few attempts to measure impact have met with only limited success. The Committee believes that any program of applied R&D should emphasize maximizing and measur- ~ng Impact. ~ Most of the early expenditures were not used to produce usable R&D products but rather principally to develop R&D institutions and to train R&D personnel. This occurred because there were few trained researchers in vocational education and few social scientists knowledgeable about vocational education when substantial R&D funding began in 1965. The Committee has concluded that these deficiencies stem from a lack of coherent policy, administration, and leadership in the vocational edu- cation R&D program. The Committee believes that improvement in vocational education R&D requires, first and foremost, stable policy, leadership, and priorities. In this report, the Committee recommends specific ways to build a well- integrated system of vocational education R&D in order to improve the quality and impact of vocational education. The recommended plan for evaluation and changes in the management and structure of the R&D program are necessary if vocational education is to be continually im- proved by itS R&D. THE CHANGING FOCUS OF VOCATIONAL EDUCATION Since 1917 the primary objective of vocational education has been to prepare students for jobs in order to meet the labor market needs of the American economy. Beginning in the 1960s, vocational education be- came increasingly concerned with meeting the needs of its students and of society. For example, vocational education now makes a special effort to serve economically and socially disadvantaged students and to in- crease the flexibility of all vocational education students in choosing careers and changing occupations. Chapter 2 presents a brief discussion of vocational education in this country: how it differs from general education, how it has changed over the years, and what issues it faces today. Although vocational education R&D has touched on some of these issues, it has rarely addressed broad philosophical questions or played a significant role in clarifying major
Highlights issues. Instead, R&D has most often been concerned with more localized problems, descriptive studies, curriculum development, and demonstra- tions. Research on some important and difficult issues, such as measur- ing the actual benefits of vocational education, is nearly nonexistent. A review of R&D on nine major topics related to vocational education is presented in Appendix A. The Committee believes that the primary purpose of vocational educa- tion R&D iS the continual updating and improvement of vocational edu- cation programs. Vocational education R&D has been and should be ad- dressing questions and problems arising in the practice of vocational education. In addition to this supportive and passive role, however, the Committee believes vocational education R&D can and should contribute to the clarification of the purposes of vocational education and help the program adapt as society changes. Defining objectives, measuring the actual benefits of existing programs, and initiating exploration of new subjects in vocational education, rather than simply reacting to problems of existing programs, are important activities for the R&D program. Voca- tional education R&D should be applied R&D, as Congress suggests, but the term "applied" should be interpreted more broadly than in the past; vocational education research should include the development of re- search methods. (The history of vocational education R&D legislation and funding is summarized in Chapter 3.) ASSESSMENT OF VOCATIONAL EDUCATION R&D The Committee attempted to assess the vocational education R&D pro- gram by reviewing large-scale evaluations, by searching for examples of successful projects, especially those with objective measures of impact, and by interviewing people involved in the R&D Droaram. The results of that assessment are found in Chapter 4. 1 C, The Committee's assessment was hampered because the objectives of vocational education R&D have not been clearly defined. The Committee also had difficulty finding evidence of impact, partly because there are insufficient data to allow for a comprehensive evaluation of vocational education R&D. Impact measures have often been subjective and difficult to validate and have failed to measure the long-term effects of R&D. The Commissioner of Education should ensure that USOE develop a comprehensive plan for evaluation of vocational education R&D. The objectives of R&D should be identified in conjunction with an examina- tion of vocational education and its actual benefits. Evaluation criteria should be developed and a sample of projects should be extensively eval- uated. Longitudinal studies of vocational students and their employers
4 ASSESSING VOCATIONAL EDUCATION RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT should be conducted, and those studies should include measures of stu- dents' job satisfaction, continuation of education, job mobility and wag- es, employers' satisfaction, and savings in training costs. Because vocational education is relatively new and rapidly changing, the ongoing program of R&D should be supplemented by a panel of con- sultants appointed by the President and charged with studying all voca- tional education, including its R&D. This panel should be convened every five years to study vocational education and its R&D. ADMINISTRATION OF THE VOCATIONAL EDUCATION R&D PROGRAM In Chapter 5 the Committee presents its description and assessment of the administration of the vocational education R&D program. The Com- mittee recommends many changes in the program's structure and man- agement that are intended to result in an integrated R&D system. These changes are designed to meet several goals: (1) to facilitate communication and coordination among parts of the R&D program and to define the roles and interr~lnti~nchinc Omens ;~; tutions involved in the program; (2) to ensure that long-term problems, especially those of national and multistate scope, are studied; (3) to ensure that the needs of groups such as minorities, women, the disadvantaged, the handicapped, and those who do not sneak English as their first language are addressed; ~Eva EVER 111~ ~1- (4) c, to minimize political and bureaucratic influences on R&D priori- ties and distribution of funds; (5) to increase the coverage, quality, and utility of the information collection and retrieval system; and (6) to increase the extent and quality of dissemination and utilization of R&D results. 1 These six goals are not ends in themselves, but are means that, in the Committee's judgment, will lead to improved vocational education R&D and service to students. The Committee's major recommendations on the administration of the R&D program are summarized here. Consolidation of Parts of the Vocational Education R&D Program Con- gress should consolidate research, development, and demonstration (Parts C, D, and I of the 1968 Vocational Education Amendments) in new legislation and in the structure of the U.S. Office of Education. Research should receive at least 20 percent of the funds appropriated.
Highlights r Commissioner's Share of Funds National or multistate problems should be addressed by the Commissioner's share of funds (50 percent) while states should continue to address state and local problems. The current geographic limitation on awards of the Commissioner's share should be removed. Procedures for Setting Priorities The Commissioner of Education and state directors of vocational education should initiate a rigorous system of setting priorities, using continuing advisory groups and management information systems to determine long-range plans for R&D. More input from researchers should be considered in establishing priorities. National Vocational Education R&D Centers The Congress and the Com- missioner of Education should ensure the continued existence of at least one national vocational education R&D center, which should receive long-term support for addressing national and regional problems, includ- ing those identified by the centerts). The centers should coordinate their work with the research activity within the states and should assist in disseminating research products and training R&D personnel. Information Collection and Retrieval The Department of Health, Educa- tion, and Welfare (HEW) should support a comprehensive and well-inte- grated information resource system linked to a dissemination network serving practitioners. A clearinghouse for vocational and technical edu- cation should include the abstracting and indexing functions of Ab- stracts of Instructional and Research Materials (AIM/~) and be well coordinated with other vocational education R&D activities. Every voca- tional education R&D project should be required to submit final reports to Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) and AIM/ARM. Pro- vision needs to be made for collecting and disseminating audio-visual materials. Information Analysis The Commissioner of Education should establish an information analysis program to transform R&D information on crit- ical problems into appropriate forms for diverse user groups. This pro- gram should provide interpretations useful to each of those groups of users. Effective dissemination techniques should be developed and im- plemented for these products. Utilization A significant proportion of federal R&D funds should be des- ignated for dissemination and utilization, under the direct responsibility of the Bureau of Occupational and Adult Education of USOE. In conjunc :@
6 ASSESSING VOCATIONAL EDUCATION RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT tion with the information resource system for vocational education, a comprehensive dissemination and utilization plan involving the national R&D center~s), research coordinating units, state and local education agencies, and other organizations should be developed. User training programs should be conducted to improve the flow of information from the resource system to practitioners.