Professional Development for Career Educators.
by Brown, Bettina Lankard
New approaches to career-technical education (CTE) such as school to
work, career clusters, and integrated curriculum place different demands
on career educators. What are those demands? How can career educators prepare
themselves to meet them? This Digest describes the new role of career educators
in providing career awareness, counseling, exploration, and guidance, as
well as successful professional development practices for career educators
CHALLENGES FOR CAREER EDUCATORS
Career education is intended to prepare students for a variety of career
and life roles, empowering them to construct their own career destinies
and encouraging them to recognize how various events and innovations can
lead to multiple careers over their lifetimes (CAREER GUIDANCE AND COUNSELLING
2000). This is not an easy task for career educators who, in response to
ongoing school improvement initiatives, must embrace new philosophies and
implement practices designed to engage an increasingly diverse student
population in meaningful, active learning and prepare them with the skills
they need to make successful school-to-career and career-to-career transitions.
To direct student learning for workplace readiness, career educators
must understand contemporary career development theories such as Social
Cognitive Career Theory, cognitive information processing theory, contextual
learning theory, and the values-based approach to career development (Beale
2001). These theories address the many ways that individuals develop new
knowledge and use information to make decisions and solve problems. "An
understanding of these theories and the contributions that each makes toward
defining developmental periods, stages, and needs" must be accompanied
by techniques for putting these theories into practice (Beale 2001, p.
4). Because some of these practices will be new and continually evolving
in focus and design, career educators need ongoing education and training
in order to engage in teaching and learning practices that support these
career development theories and to assume the new roles that have become
requirements for career educators: coach, collaborator, business partner,
and technology advocate.
ROLES OF CAREER EDUCATORS
Coach. As students are encouraged to construct their own knowledge through
engagement in and reflection on personal, school-related, and work experiences,
coaching has become a significant teaching strategy for encouraging such
knowledge development. To help students learn in the way they learn best--through
hands-on, experience-based learning--educators must be able to facilitate
rather than dictate learning. They must know how to formulate guiding questions
that will direct students to new discoveries about themselves, their learning
processes, and the application of skills in the workplace. They must know
how to engage students in productive small group work and motivate them
to work independently as well as in small groups (Railsback 2002).
To be effective coaches, educators need good interpersonal skills that
enable them to interact positively with students, parents, and the community.
Management skills, problem-solving skills, organizational skills, and ethics
are also important attributes for guiding students toward skill development
and school-to-work transitions (Greenberg 2001). Coaching to facilitate
new ways of teaching and learning, such as project-based learning, requires
educators to analyze tasks and skills needed to carry out a project and
facilitate the process by setting up a plan of action and implementing
and evaluating the project. In guiding students through projects, career
educators must be able to explain how the project will contribute to student
learning; facilitate decision making, thinking, and problem solving; and
instill in students a sense of personal responsibility, self-esteem, and
integrity (Railsback 2002). Most of all, effective coaches must be fully
committed to helping students find ways to "balance work, roles and responsibilities
with other life roles and responsibilities" (Engels and Harris 1999, p.
Collaboration between teachers is key to the successful integration
of academic and work-related education. A workplace-relevant curriculum
requires the collective knowledge, experience, and influences of teachers
in both discipline areas. Working as a team, academic and career educators
can collaborate on solutions to problems they face in the classroom and
act as peer advisors, providing information and feedback. They can identify
similarities in course content and redesign their courses around a common
theme that emphasizes the development of both academic and technical skills
(Smith and Edmunds 1999).
Rayman (1999) contends that teachers must not limit their collaboration
to intraclassroom endeavors, but must "forge cooperative relationships
with faculty, advising professionals, student affairs professionals, administrators,
parents, and student groups to take advantage of the multiplier effect
that such collaborative relationships can have in furthering our goal of
enhanced student career development" (p. 179).
Parents can serve as valuable contributors to career development when
they collaborate in the education process. At Swansea High School in South
Carolina, parents are given information about the three career pathways
their children might pursue--college preparatory, Tech Prep, and dual education--and
the career clusters and courses of study related to them. Advising nights
have been established to help parents review with students the next year's
educational plan. More than 85 percent of the parents attend these sessions,
thereby bringing together teachers, students, and parents for career-focused
collaboration (Southern Regional Education Board 1999). The percentage
of parents working with their children and a teacher-adviser to plan a
program of study has increased from 4 percent in 1990 to 80 percent in
Partnering between school and the broader community is essential if
the interests of business and industry are to be integrated with classroom
activities. Through such partnering, "responsibility, authority, and accountability
are shared by all partners" (Hoyt and Wickwire 2001, p. 241).
Career educators can help local businesses by guiding students to develop
the skills these businesses have identified as crucial to their operations.
Businesses can assist educators by providing for them and their students
opportunities to learn about current workplace practices, job opportunities,
and necessary skills through internships, worksite experiences, job shadowing,
and mentoring (Smith and Edmunds 1999). Developing partnership arrangements
may pose a challenge to educators who have little experience in selling
to businesses the benefits of making social and financial commitments to
education. They need to learn strategies for linking with business personnel,
becoming personally acquainted with managers and personnel directors in
local businesses so that they can learn about career opportunities and
worksite experiences that will further their learning and enlist their
help in making those experiences available to the school community (ibid.).
Some level of technological skill is now required for most jobs. To
be an advocate of technology and to be able to motivate students to learn
the functions and workplace applications of technology, career educators
themselves must be technologically proficient. They must seek opportunities
to learn about, use, experiment with, and apply technology to learning
so that they can "integrate it into the classroom, align it with student
learning goals, and use it for engaged learning projects" (Rodriguez and
Knuth 2000, p. 1). A recent research study showed that teachers who received
technology training were "more likely to use and rely on digital content
for instruction and to spend more time trying out software and searching
for Web sites to use in class" (ibid., p. 2).
In school, technology must be used to "bolster instruction and help
students develop higher-order thinking and problem-solving skills" (ibid.,
p. 3). Since it supports student-centered instruction, technology enhances
the educator's role of coach and allows students to work collaboratively,
learning from each other and from their mutual discoveries. Technology
also makes it possible for teachers to work together on classroom projects.
However, knowing the value of technology for teaching and learning and
being a technology advocate are not the same thing. Teachers must be able
to use technology to assist students who have various learning styles and
special needs before they can advocate its value and motivate students
to embrace it.
TYPES OF PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
"Professional development is a key tool that keeps teachers abreast
of current issues in education, helps them implement innovations, and refines
their practice" (Cook and Fine 1996, p. 1). Because the roles of career
educators require interpersonal skills such as communication, cooperation,
negotiation, and teamwork, professional development must allow educators
time to learn, reflect upon, discuss, and debate with their peers the various
concepts and issues related to career development theories, teaching and
learning strategies, school-to-work practices, school/business linkages,
and technology use for career development.
Professional development cannot occur as a result of one-day workshops
or single training sessions. It must be ongoing, designed with teacher
input, foster critical reflection and meaningful collaboration, and allow
for follow-up and support that is sustained over the long term (ibid.)
Professional development can come in a variety of forms such as "mentoring,
modeling, ongoing workshops, special courses, structured observations,
and summer institutes" (Rodriguez and Knuth 2000, p. 4). It must provide
opportunities for teachers to explore new roles, develop new instructional
techniques, refine their practice, and broaden themselves both as educators
and as individuals. Beau Fly Jones contends that "effective professional
development is necessary for all teachers involved in educational reform"
(Cook and Fine 1996, p. 3). It must enrich teaching and improve learning,
support teacher development, be ongoing and long term, be job embedded
and inquiry based, support current beliefs about teaching and learning,
be clearly related to reform efforts, be modeled after learning experiences
considered valuable for adults valuable for adults, and support systemic
School-to-work, curriculum integration, and new career development theories
have implications for how career educators approach teaching and learning.
Professional development activities may enable them to broaden and expand
their expertise in performing their new roles and connecting education,
work, and career. Some strategies for the professional development of teachers
in school-to-work systems include the following (School-to-Work and Professional
Development for Teachers 1997):
* Professional development as a continuous improvement process
* Worksite experience
* Workshops and conferences
* Preparation for new roles in school-to-work governance
* Use of teacher networks
* Collaboration with teacher unions
Such professional development strategies should go beyond learning new
skills, encompassing formal and informal ways to help teachers develop
new insights into practice and new approaches to career-technical education.
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