Vocational Teacher Education - Separate and Unequal

By Cobb, Brian | Techniques, March 1998 | Go to article overview
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Vocational Teacher Education - Separate and Unequal

Cobb, Brian, Techniques

This is how Professor Richard Lynch, director of the School of Leadership and Lifelong Learning at the University of Georgia, recently summarized a series of studies on vocational teacher education:

Vocational teacher education in the nation's colleges and universities is "deteriorating and not responding meaningfully to general teacher education reform initiatives."

That's not the wild-eyed statement of some neophyte - Richard Lynch is a well-respected and longtime friend and professional in the field of vocational-technical education.

How, then, should vocational-technical educators react? The "deteriorating" part of Lynch's statement has been known for some time and documented in the form of reduced student enrollments, infighting among vocational education disciplines, elimination of vocational education departments and the like.

The "not responding meaningfully to general teacher education reform initiatives" does offer a place to start, however, with a hope of reversing the deterioration trend in vocational teacher education. I offer three observations that, while perhaps seeming radical and even heretical to the traditional vocational education community, do offer a jumping-off point for debate and discussion.

First, the decline of separate departments of vocational-technical education in colleges and universities, whose primary mission is vocational teacher education, is not necessarily a bad thing.

What would be negative is a decline in the relative number of vocational teacher educators, not departments of vocational education. I draw my rationale from the powerful and intuitively appealing trend for the integration of applied and academic instruction at the middle and high school levels. What better way to prepare teachers for this trend than unified departments of secondary or middle school education in colleges and universities wherein vocational, general and special teacher educators teach alongside each other?

With the inexorable and seemingly inevitable movement of technical skills laboratories from the high schools to the community colleges, departments of vocational teacher education are losing the raison d'etre for separate departmental status - technical skills preparation of future high school vocational teachers.

Second, the majority of the practice and delivery of vocational teacher education should occur in comprehensive high schools.

That observation rests on three powerful assumptions.

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