The purpose of the study was to explore and describe the cognitive levels of adult vocational education programs in Central Ohio. Data were collected by use of an interview schedule from vocational institutions that were cluster sampled. Findings from the study indicated that the instructors taught and evaluated adult vocational education programs in discrete or combinations of levels of the cognitive classification system taxonomy developed. The findings showed that the adult vocational instructors in Central Ohio had diverse professional and demographic characteristics which in various ways related to teaching and instruction at the vocational institutions. Correlations revealed a positive relationship between workshops and seminars the instructors had attended, and a moderate association between instructors' status and inservice training.
"The world of work is continually changing and it is the task of vocational education to equip students to function effectively within the world.... Teachers must actively encourage originality, initiative and thinking ability so that students will be able to cope with changes in their chosen occupation and in the total complex world in which they will live" (Allen, 1974).
The term cognition (Dejnozka & Kapel, 1991) is often defined by the branch of psychology from which it stems. Many cognitive psychologists restrict the definition of cognition to the higher mental processes such as knowledge, intelligence, thinking, acquisition of new meaning, generating plans, strategies, reasoning and problem solving. Many behaviourists, on the other hand, would restrict the term to conditioning, rote verbal learning, and other procedures or processes consistent with their approach to learning. Still other schools of thought have their specific and varied definition which generally implies the gaining of knowledge.
Winne (1985) described cognition to include the processes of perception, thinking, reasoning, understanding problem solving and remembering. Page et al. (1980) and Thomas (1992) referred to cognition as an umbrella term for the process of perception, discovery, recognition, imagining, judging, memorizing, learning and thinking by which the individual obtains knowledge and conceptual understanding or explanation.
According to Blishen (1969), cognition includes dimensions common to all types of knowing such as feelings, relationships, ideas, and the processes of imagining, judging, remembering, understanding, problem solving, and reasoning. Flavel (1977) posited that humans are cognitive beings and carry out a variety of mental operations to achieve a number of mental products. These operations, according to him, can be said to be cognitive.
A classification system developed by Bloom and his associates in 1956 indicated that the cognitive domain consists of categories built upon a hierarchy from simple to complex, ranging from knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Newcomb and Treftz (1987) consolidated Bloom's taxonomy to include the four categories of remembering, processing, creating and evaluating.
The concept of cognition has implications for learning and teaching. To a large extent, Sefert (1991) explained, students learn by acquiring and organizing knowledge. This process sometimes produces immediate or obvious changes in their behaviour, but more often merely sets the stage for such changes by making them more flexible in their choice of responses and courses of action. Such a view of learning assumes that human beings are more than just their actions: that they also think, remember, perceive, and become motivated.
Teachers can facilitate cognitive development among learners by using the instructional interventions and strategies recommended by Johnson and Thomas (1992): (1) helping students organize their knowledge, (2) building on what students already know; (3) facilitating information processing and deep thinking through elaboration, and (4) making the thinking process explicit. Teachers' behaviours will promote higher order thinking skills among students by using strategies such as (1) requiring justification for ideas and probing for reasoning strategies, (2) confronting students with alternatives and thought provoking questions, (3) asking open ended questions, (4) requiring students to be accountable for class discussion, (5) serving as a master of apprentices rather than a teacher of students, and using Socratic discussion techniques.
These strategies, as noted by Thomas (1992), help learners to move from basic skills and pure facts to linking new information with prior knowledge, from relying on a single authority to recognizing multiple sources of knowledge, and to moving from novice-like to expert-like problem solving abilities.
Purpose and Objectives
The purpose of the study was to explore and describe the cognitive levels used in adult vocational education programs in Central Ohio. Objectives of the study were formulated as questions and the answers to these questions were sought in conducting the study:
1. Do the adult vocational education instructions use each of the cognitive levels of the educational systems taxonomy developed by Newcomb and Treftz (1987) in isolation or in combination with others when: (1) they teach, (2) they ask questions as they teach, and (3) they evaluate educational programs of instruction?
2. What are the demographic characteristics of the instructors?
3. Are there any relationships among the instructors' demographic characteristics?
Methods and Procedures
The target population of the study was the vocational education instructors teaching adult vocational programs in Central Ohio. Due to the difficulty in getting a complete frame of adult vocational education instructors, 56% of whom were part-time instructors, it became necessary for the researcher to do cluster sampling of vocational education institutions rather than sampling the instructors. Data were collected from 32 out of 33 instructors who were teaching at the five vocational institutions that comprised the cluster sample. One of the instructors, for unknown reasons, declined to participate in the study.
The data collecting instrument was an interview schedule which was prepared by the researcher. The instrument was examined for content validity by five experts in the field and pilot tested for reliability. The pilot test yielded an internal consistency reliability coefficient of .90. Finally, the instrument was field tested to establish clarity and suitability. Appropriate adjustments were made in the instrument based on the field test result, which made it possible to produce the final instrument appropriate for use in collecting the data.
Data were collected by face-to-face interview. The researcher contacted each of the coordinators or supervisors of the adult vocational institutions that comprised the sample. The purpose of the letters and the phone calls were to explain the reasons for the study and to make arrangements for scheduling an interview with each instructor. Interviews took place prior to each class. The interview was audio-taped by the use of a portable tape recorder. In some situations where the instructors preferred not to be audio-taped, their responses were hand written in a note-pad.
Data were analysed with a qualitative data analysis approach (Frankel and Wallen, 1990). The use of this approach was facilitated by employing the following steps, (1) the researcher first transcribed the audio-taped and written data, which were later checked by an experienced transcriber for possible mistakes, and (2) the data were then coded into ordinal categories:
1. Remembering (R) 8. P + C 2. Processing (P) 9. P + E 3. Creating (C) 10. R + P + C 4. Evaluation (E) 11. R + P + E 5. R + P 12. R + C + C 6. R + C 13. P + E + C 7. R + E 14. R + P + C + E
The data in Table 1 describe the demographic and professional characteristics of the adult vocational instructors. The majority (59%) of the instructors were female, 45% were in the age group of 41 - 50 years, more than one-half (56%) had a BA or BS, 58% had 1 - 4 years teaching experience, 44% had academic preparation in the use of educational objectives, had attended inservice training programs (90%), workshops (71%) and seminars (64%) and 56% were part-time teachers.
Table 1 Demographic and Professional Characteristics of Instructors Characteristic f % A. Gender Male 13 41.0 Female 19 59.0 32 100.0 B. Age 21-30 2 7.0 31-40 10 32.0 41-50 14 45.0 51-62 5 16.9 (one missing case) 31 100.0 C. Educational Level High School Diploma 4 13.0 B.S. or B.A. 18 56.0 M.S. or M.A. 5 16.0 Phd or Ed.D. 1 3.1 Other 4 13.0 32 100.0 D. Years Experience Teaching Adults 1-4 18 58.0 5-9 8 26.0 10-15 4 13.0 16-22 1 3.0 (one missing case) 31 100.0 E. Instructors' Academic Preparation In Education Objectives Classification Systems Taxonomy No 10 31.0 Yes 14 44.0 I Don't Know 8 25.0 32 100.0 F. Professional Training Programs Attended by Instructors (1) Inservice Training Attended 28 90.0 Not Attended 3 10.0 (one missing case) 31 100.0 (2) Workshop Attended 22 71.0 Not Attended 9 29.0 (one missing case 31 100.0 reported) (3) Seminar Attended 20 36.0 Not Attended 11 64.0 (one missing case 31 100.0 reported) (4) Others Attended 4 13.0 Not Attended 22 87.0 (one missing case 31 100.0 reported) G. Status Part-time Instructor 18 56.0 Full-time Instructor 14 44.0 32 100.0
With regard to the correlations among the instructors' demographic and professional characteristics presented in Table 2, the data show that there was a positive relationship between seminars and workshops the instructors had attended (r = .70). Moderate associations were observed to exist between the status and the inservice training programs the instructors had attended (r = .41), the level of the instructors' education and their ages (r = .38), and the use of educational objectives, and the level education of the instructors (r = .39). All other associations among the other characteristics were either low (r = .29) or negligible (Davis, 1971).
Table 2 Correlations Among Characteristics Years Characteristics Gendera Age Degree Teaching Gender 1.00 .08 .08 .07 Age 1.00 .38 .02 Degree 1.00 .01 Years Teaching 1.00 Educational Objectives Training Workshop Seminar Other Status Educational Characteristics Objective Training Workshop Gender .26 .06 .04 Age .07 .06 .13 Degree .39 .15 .08 Years Teaching .23 .25 .30 Educational Objectives 1.00 .12 .24 Training 1.00 .26 Workshop 1.00 Seminar Other Status Characteristics Seminar Other Status Gender .06 .29 .13 Age .02 .11 .18 Degree .14 .05 .01 Years Teaching .03 .01 .26 Educational Objectives .31 -.12 -.02 Training .20 .11 -.29 Workshop .70 -.01 .41 Seminar 1.00 .03 .22 Other 1.00 .17 Status 1.00
Number of cases = 29 Coding: Males = 1: Females = 2
The findings in Table 3 present how frequently the instructors reported they taught, asked questions as they taught and evaluated programs at higher cognitive levels. The main reasons reported for teaching at higher levels of cognition, or at combination of higher levels of cognition, were to enable the adult learners to be creative and to remember (22%), to be creative (38%), and to remember, process, be creative and evaluate (22%).
Table 3 Cognitive Levels of Instruction, Questioning and Evaluation Cognitive Levels Use for Use for Instruction Questioning f % f % 1. TO REMEMBER (R) 3 9.0 4 13.0 2. TO PROCESS (P) 1 3.0 1 3.0 3. TO CREATE 12 38.0 10 31.0 4. TO EVALUATE 0 0.0 0. 0.0 5. TO R + P 0 0.0 0 0.0 6. TO R + C 7 22.0 7 22.0 7. TO R + E 0 0.0 0 0.0 8. TO P + C 0 0.0 1 3.0 9. TO P + E 0 0.0 1 3.0 10. TO C + E 2 6.0 0 0.0 11. TO R + P + C 0 0.0 0 0.0 12. TO R + P + E 0 0.0 0 0.0 13. TO R + P + E 0 0.0 0 0.0 14. TO R + P + E 0 0.0 0 0.0 15. TO R + P + C + E 7 22.0 8 25.0 16. TO R + P + C + E 0 0.0 0 0.0 TOTAL 32 100 32 100 Cognitive Levels Use for Evaluating F % 1. TO REMEMBER (R) 1 3.0 2. TO PROCESS (P) 1 3.0 3. TO CREATE 13 41.0 4. TO EVALUATE 0 0.0 5. TO R + P 0 0.0 6. TO R + C 11 34.0 7. TO R + E 0 0.0 8. TO P + C 0 0.0 9. TO P + E 0 0.0 10. TO C + E 0 0.0 11. TO R + P + C 0 0.0 12. TO R + P + E 0 0.0 13. TO R + P + E 0 0.0 14. TO R + P + E 0 0.0 15. TO R + P + C + E 5 16.00 16. TO R + P + C + E 0 0.0 TOTAL 32 100
As regards to asking questions at higher levels of cognition, the instructors gave the following reasons: (1) to find out whether the adult learners were creative in given responses (31%) and (2) whether the learners could remember and be creative in their answers (22%). The reasons the instructors gave for evaluating the programs at higher levels of cognition were to determine whether the learners can remember and be creative (34%), and whether the learners can be creative at the end of the program of instruction (41%).
The outcomes of the study have indicated that adult vocational education instructors in Central Ohio have diverse professional and demographic characteristics which in various ways might relate to teaching and learning in the vocational institutions. The study also revealed reasons instructors reported they taught and evaluated adult vocational education programs at higher cognitive levels or combinations of cognitive levels of the educational classification systems taxonomy. Studies by Pace (1991) revealed that learners, teachers, the school, the classroom and the community are nested in a hierarchy of systems. One level can modify the other from bottom up or from top down. In the nature of things, however, whether it is in the centralized educational system, as it is in most European or Third World countries, or in a decentralized system as it is in the United States of America; the individual classroom teacher has been observed to be powerful and often relatively free in determining what occurs in the classroom. The researchers believes that the level of the teacher's competence is an important determinant of the success or failure of any attempt to implement a program to teach and evaluate learners at higher levels of cognition.
If vocational education for adults is to move beyond just distributing facts, psychomotor skills, or distributing basic information, and develop higher level cognitive abilities as was suggested as optimal by several authors (Allen, 1974; Sefert, 1991; Newcomb & Trefz, 1987); then greater attention must be given to developing teachers competent in cognition (thinking), metacognition (thinking about thinking) and epistemic cognition (thinking about one's system of thinking and organizing knowledge) in the teacher preparation and inservice education programs. Indeed, this is a dimension of moving into "teaching" and "beyond merely telling" in the educational environment. Even lesson planning should be designed with an awareness of the levels of thinking that will be used by the instructor as well as the levels of thinking that should result in the learner because of exposure to the teaching. Developmental psychologists have previously noted that one's capacity to develop thinking abilities does not retrogress with progression from adolescence to adulthood. Adult learners must also change their ways of thinking and knowing to advance in today's workplace just as the profession is challenging the development of secondary or post secondary students.
Due to increasing demands on students in the work place (SCANS Report, 1991) for thinking skills (creative thinking, decision making, problem solving, visualizing, knowing how to learn, and reasoning), for personal qualities (responsibility, self-esteem, sociability, self-management and integrity), and for basic skills (reading, writing, arithmetic, mathematics, listening and speaking); the following recommendations are offered:
(1) Policy research is needed to examine the goals and system-wide characteristics of vocational education and its relationships to other employment-related education and training systems for the purpose of assuming continued relevance and effectiveness of the vocational education enterprise in a changing societal context.
(2) Research is also needed to validate a system that would enable teacher educators to prepare vocational education teachers competent to teach at higher levels of cognition.
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Dr. P.J. Squire, Department of Agricultural Education, Extension and Economics, Botswana College of Agriculture.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Squire, Department of Agricultural Education, Extension and Economics, Botswana College of Agriculture, Private Bag 0027, Gaborone. E-mail: PSquire@temo.BCA.BW.…