Using Faculty Inquiry to Deepen the Practice of Contextualized Teaching and Learning In Career Technical Education
Career technical educators have demonstrated how faculty inquiry can deepen the practice of contextualized teaching and learning (CTL) in the California community colleges. Five career technical education (CTE) programs participated in a faculty inquiry network (FIN) where they studied contextualized learning to better understand how to sustain student success. These teams were grappling with a variety of issues but found common ground as they looked more closely at their practice of integrating basic skills into their curricula.
CTE Inquiry Teams’ Starting Point
College of Alameda
The Diesel Mechanics department chair was frustrated with teaching. Enrollment was dwindling in his diesel mechanics program. He had worked in industry for over 30 years and was excited about bringing his wealth of information about diesel engines to a larger audience when he joined the faculty at COA. But the students were not prepared to read the text or to write reports well enough to be employable in industry. They needed to demonstrate that they read the material before the instructor was confident they could perform the lab work. At first, he thought that the students were not motivated. They weren’t engaged in the lectures and the instructor’s energy was being drained by having to repeat himself. His lectures felt long and tedious even to him, and his students weren’t listening.
The Laney FIN team is made up of faculty from theCarpenteria Fina project, a Career Advancement Academy that contextualizes ESL with Cabinetmaking instruction for non-English speakers. The team used their FIN project to test whether contextualized instruction was really making a difference for their students. Though the instructors were seeing some success, they had trouble describing what triggered it. They needed a better understanding of why certain techniques were more successful than others.
Los Angeles Trade Tech College
The Utilities and Construction Career Academy uses a team of two adjunct counselors who work closely with the surrounding neighborhoods to help students blend their daily life with their school life. What these counselors saw was that most of the instructors did not understand or have patience for the problems that the students faced in their every day life. The team engaged students in 3-D story and collected data from students using a number of lifestyle and learning style surveys. They then shared that information with their colleagues at the Academy, but there was no bridge between the faculty and the students. The counselors struggled to find a way to strengthen relationships between the students and the instructors, believing that doing so would improve student success.
Santa Barbara City College
The students enrolled in the Green Construction Trades classes were also enrolled in the Youth Corp and not ready academically or emotionally for the college classroom. The instructor struggled to find a way to reach these students because most of them were not interested in class work. He shot a significant amount of videotape to demonstrate the classroom struggles he faced. Through a series of missteps and restarts the instructor used his intuition, and help from his FIN coaches, to navigate through the issues he struggled with in class.
The Early Childhood Development faculty were concerned that their Latina students were not taking full advantage of the learning opportunities available to them, i.e., they often took one class or completed the lowest level certificate, would get a job but not continue their education or advance to higher level job opportunities. The team thought this was happening because their students had “low horizons” which corresponded with low literacy – that students who had less developed writing and reading skills also had lower career aspirations. The team’s hunches about “low horizons” did not prove to be true.