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Public Secondary School Teacher Survey on Vocational Education
NCES: 94409
February 1994

Integration and Coordination of Curriculum

Teachers were asked to report the percentage of class time spent on material in the areas of basic algebra, math beyond basic algebra, writing, biology principles, chemistry laws or principles, physics laws or principles, and occupationally related principles. The teachers also indicated whether they served as the main instructor when these materials were covered in class. Finally, teachers rated how prepared they felt to teach each of these subjects.

Time Spent on Various Subject Matter

The academic content of most vocational courses is quite limited. When describing the first course taught in their primary subject on October 1, 1992, only 10 percent of vocational teachers indicated that more than 25 percent of class time was devoted to writing assignments (Table 5). Even fewer (from 1 to 3 percent) indicated that more than 25 percent of the class was spent on problems using basic algebra (2 percent) or math beyond basic algebra (1 percent), biology (3 percent), chemistry (1 percent), or physics (1 percent). However, half (50 percent) spent more than 25 percent of class time on occupationally related principles.

Overall, the greatest difference between vocational and academic courses was in the amount of time spent on occupationally related material. While 50 percent of vocational teachers in vocational high schools spent more than 25 percent of class time on material involving occupational principles, only 5 percent of teachers in academic courses did so.

Differences in course content were found between vocational and academic courses. Some of these differences, however, are influenced by the fact that many of the academic teachers are reporting for classes in the specific subject area (for example, English, math and science teachers). When compared with teachers whose primary teaching assignment is not the subject of interest, fewer differences emerged.

More than 25 percent of class time was spent on writing assignments in 28 percent of academic courses, compared with 10 percent of vocational courses. This difference holds when vocational courses are compared with academic classes other than those in the language arts; only math teachers report less time spent in writing (6 percent; not shown in tables) than vocational courses.

Overall, a larger percentage of academic teachers reported spending more than 25 percent of class time using basic algebra principles (15 percent), compared with vocational teachers (2 percent). Likewise, a higher proportion of teachers in academic courses devoted more than 25 percent of class time to scientific principles: 9 percent for biology, 6 for chemistry, and 5 percent for physics. In contrast, only 3 percent or less of vocational courses involved scientific principles.

One difference was found when comparing vocational courses in vocational schools with those in comprehensive schools. Vocational students in comprehensive schools were twice (11 percent) as likely to have spent more than 25 percent of the class writing than those in vocational schools (5 percent).

Of particular interest was the percentage of vocational teachers indicating that no time at all was spent on problems involving much of the material covered in this survey. In one-half to three-fourths of vocational classes, no time was devoted to problems using basic algebra (58 percent), math beyond basic algebra (79 percent), biology principles (75 percent), chemistry (70 percent), and physics (68 percent Table A). However, most vocational classes involved a writing assignment (only 20 percent did not involve writing in some way) and in only 5 percent of vocational courses were occupational principles not broached.

Principal Instructor

In order to measure the extent to which team teaching is being used in vocational classes as one means of integrating academic and vocational education, the survey asked teachers to indicate whether they or someone else was the main instructor when each of these subjects was typically covered in class. In 88 to 98 percent of classes, vocational education teachers reported taking the lead as the main instructor for each of these areas. For math beyond basic algebra, 12 percent of vocational teachers indicated that some other teacher led the instruction when this material was covered in class (Table B).

Teachers' Preparation

Teachers were asked to rate their level of preparation to teach material in each of these areas whether or not it was part of the Curriculum in the classes they taught. This was examined to determine the extent to which vocational teachers are prepared to integrate or reinforce academic subject matter in their classes. A 4-point scale was used to determine the extent to which teachers felt prepared, with 1 indicating the teacher felt not at all prepared to teach materials in the areas, and 4 indicating the teacher felt very well prepared to teach the subject matter. Data are presented in this section and in Tables 6 and 7 combining 3 and 4 on the scale.

Overall, vocational teachers felt best prepared to teach occupationally related principles (91 percent). Between about half and three-quarters of vocational teachers also felt prepared to teach problems using basic algebra (51 percent) and writing (74 percent). Far fewer indicated that they felt prepared to teach math beyond basic algebra (29 percent), biology (36 percent), chemistry (25 percent), or physics (27 percent).

Little variation between academic and vocational teachers was found overall in the degree to which they felt prepared to teach different kinds of problems and materials. However, some differences were found among vocational teachers. Here, while the majority of vocational teachers (91 percent) indicated that they felt prepared to teach occupationally related principles, only 43 percent of academic teachers reported such feelings of preparedness (Table 6). Writing stood out as the one area that approximately three-quarters (77 percent) of all teachers (including 74 percent for vocational and 78 percent for academic teachers) felt prepared to teach. However, fewer vocational teachers in vocational high schools (65 percent) indicated such preparedness. Only about one-third (33 percent for biology, 28 percent for chemistry, and 29 percent for physics) of teachers in all groups felt prepared to teach scientific principles, and approximately half of all teachers (52 percent) reported feeling prepared to teach problems using basic algebra.

About half of all vocational teachers (51 percent) also felt prepared to handle problems using basic algebra, although fewer (29 percent) felt prepared to deal with high-level math problems. About the same percentage of academic teachers as vocational teachers felt prepared to teach basic algebra (53 percent), but they were more likely than vocational teachers to feel prepared to handle problems beyond the basic level (39 percent).

Vocational teachers as a group also indicated different levels of preparedness depending on their area of primary teaching assignment. To examine these differences, vocational teachers were divided into four groups: business/office education teachers; trade and industrial education teachers; technology education/industrial arts teachers; and vocational teachers teaching other subjects.

Overall, most vocational teachers, regardless of primary teaching assignment, felt well prepared to teach occupational y related principles (percentages ranged from 88 to 94 percent; Table 7). Business/office education teachers (79 percent) and those teaching other vocational subjects (81 percent) felt better prepared to teach material involving writing assignments than those who taught trade and industrial education or technology education/industrial arts (60 percent for each). However, fewer than 10 percent of business/office education teachers felt prepared to teach any of the scientific principles and were also less likely to feel prepared to teach math beyond basic algebra (19 percent) than their counterparts in trade and industrial education (32 percent), technology education/industrial arts (41 percent), and other vocational education (31 percent).

Technology education/industrial arts teachers felt more proficient than business or other vocational teachers to teach subject material involving physics and mathematics beyond the basic algebra level, Fifty percent of these teachers felt prepared to teach physics compared to 3 percent for business/office education teachers and 33 percent for other vocational education teachers. Additionally, 41 percent of the technology education/industrial arts teachers were prepared to teach advanced math compared with 19 to 32 percent for other groups.

Coordinating Curriculum

Teachers were asked how often they coordinate curriculum or team teach with other teachers. This would indicate some integration of vocational education and academic curricula.

Overall, only about 10 percent of teachers indicated that they typically (often or always) coordinate course curricula or team teach with teachers of English, mathematics, science, vocational education, or some other subject (Table 8). As might be expected, academic teachers were least likely to coordinate curricula or team teach with vocational education teachers. Only 3 percent of academic teachers interacted with vocational teachers in this way compared to the 5 to 13 percent of vocational teachers indicating they coordinated efforts with other subject area teachers.

Vocational teachers were most likely to coordinate with other vocational teachers. Over one-third (37 percent) of these teachers team taught or coordinated curricula often or always with other vocational teachers.