Meeting Teachers’ Professional Development Needs for School-to-Work Transition: Strategies for Success

Publication October 1997

Described in this document are various ways the professional development needs of vocational and academic teachers who are preparing to engage in school-to-work transition activities can be met. Neither a prescribed set of tasks to be followed nor specific steps to be taken are provided. Instead, details are given about various professional development activities and their impact from the perspective of school personnel and workplace representatives. During our visits to eleven exemplary school-to-work community sites in 11 different states, we rapidly recognized that teachers’ professional development needs in school-to-work transition environments are much more complex than what is needed in traditional educational settings. We also observed that each of the sites visited had its own context, agendas, and policies. This meant teachers’ professional development needs in different communities might vary as a function of the particular setting. Thus, professional development activities focusing on school-to-work transition are often unique to a given locale.

At these sites, we had discussions with almost 200 people including teachers of vocational and academic subjects; educational administrators and counselors; and business, industry, and community representatives. People we interviewed at these school-to-work sites supported the notion that for professional development to have a positive impact on teachers and their students, the development process must be both comprehensive and long term. This process requires that a major investment be made in professional development that prepares both vocational and academic teachers for their involvement in school-to-work transition.

An additional focus is on the many professional development practices that can assist teachers in their professional development. Most of these practices are described in the words of teachers who participated in them or others who were aware of teachers engaged in different professional development practices. To aid in identifying promising professional development practices, they have been organized into the following 13 themes:

  • Professional Development Activities in the Workplace
  • Professional Development Activities in the Schools
  • Involving Students in Workplace Experiences
  • Gaining Work Experience
  • Visiting the Workplace
  • Taking Coursework
  • Participating in Conferences
  • Learning Through Students
  • Learning Through Student Organizations
  • Obtaining Materials and Equipment from the Workplace
  • Reading in the Teaching Area
  • Participating in School-Sponsored Professional Development Activities
  • Interacting with Workplace Representatives
  • Participating in Professional Organizations
  • Learning Among and from Other Teachers

Information about the practices was organized into themes based upon analyses of text transcribed from our interviews with various individuals at the participating sites.

The publication is organized into two main sections. In the first section, each of the 13 professional development themes is presented. Individually, the themes are described through statements made by educators; educational administrators and counselors; and business, industry, and community representatives. Their statements support the multidimensional profile of each theme. Collectively, the themes reflect the comprehensive nature of professional development for school-to-work transition. When taken as a whole, the themes present a convincing case for creating professional development programs for teachers of vocational and academic subjects in the long term rather than on a piecemeal basis.

In the second section, ways to provide school-to-work related professional development to teachers are discussed. Implications are organized so that consideration is given to teachers as learners. First, teachers can learn by informal means, formal means, or a combination of the two. Second, teacher learning can occur in different contexts, the most common of which are the school, the workplace, the community, and a combination of these. And finally, teachers may be encouraged to develop professionally through the use of intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. Merging the consideration of teachers as learners with a professional development framework resulted in the creation of a useful organizing scheme to employ when considering which teacher professional development approaches to use and when to use them. Several suggestions for using professional development to help teachers prepare for school-to-work responsibilities are then offered. The suggestions are organized around each of the four stages included in a professional development framework: (1) professional development needs, (2) focus, (3) delivery, and (4) impact.

Finch, C. R., Schmidt, B. J., & Moore, M. (1997, October). Meeting teachers’ professional development needs for School-to-Work transition: Strategies for success. Berkeley, CA: National Center for Research in Vocational Education.

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