Technical Education and Its Importance in Pakistan
STUDENTS’ VIEWS OF CAREERAND TECHNICAL EDUCATION: A QUALITATIVE STUDY A Thesis presented to the Faculty of the Graduate School at the University of Missouri-Columbia In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts by ANGELA BROWDER Dr. David Bergin, Thesis Advisor AUGUST 2007 The undersigned, appointed by the dean of the Graduate School, have examined the [thesis or dissertation] entitled STUDENT’S VIEWS OF CAREER AND TECHNICAL EDUCATION presented by Angela Browder, a candidate for the degree of Master of Arts and hereby certify that, in their opinion, it is worthy of acceptance.
Professor David Bergin Professor Peggy Placier Professor Norm Gysbers ii ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to thank Professor David Bergin for providing me with support and guidance throughout my research. Through my experiences working with him I learned a great deal about the research process and how to structure my writing and feel better prepared to move forward with research in the future. I would also like to thank my thesis committee members who provided me with a lot of feedback on how to improve my research topic and gave me ideas to build on in future research studies.
A great amount of thanks goes to the schools sampled in this study. The director of the Area Career Center was very welcoming and open to my research topic allowing me to gain as much exposure to career and technical education and their students as I wanted.
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Without the ACC’s interest in my study this research would not have been possible. I also want to thank the local high school that allowed me access to a few students even though they had very demanding schedules. Gaining insight from Advanced Placement students creating an interesting element to my study that I have found very valuable.
Finally, I thank the University of Missouri-Columbia’s campus IRB who approved my research study TABLE OF CONTENTS ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS…………………………………………………………………………… ii LIST OF TABLES……………………………………………………………………………………….. iv ABSTRACT………………………………………………………………………………………………… v Chapter 1. INTRODUCTION …………………………………………………………………………….. Purpose and Research Questions …………………………………………………………. 2 2. LITERATURE REVIEW …………………………………………………………………… 5 History of Career and Technical Education…………………………………………… 5 Career and Technical Education Research ……………………………………………. 9 Sources of Influence ………………………………………………………………………….. 3 Cultural Capital…………………………………………………………………………………. 14 3. METHOD ………………………………………………………………………………………… 20 Site Information ………………………………………………………………………………… 20 Participant Information ………………………………………………………………………. 23 Procedure …………………………………………………………………………………………. 5 Data Analysis ……………………………………………………………………………………. 25 4. FINDINGS……………………………………………………………………………………….. 28 Student’s Views of CTE …………………………………………………………………….. 36 Sources of Influence ………………………………………………………………………….. 43 Cultural Capital and Views of CTE ……………………………………………………… 1 5. SUMMARY AND DISCUSSION……………………………………………………….. 54 REFERENCES ……………………………………………………………………………………………. 60 APPENDICES …………………………………………………………………………………………….. 62 Appendix A: Recruitment Forms…………………………………………………………. 63 Appendix B: Interview Questions………………………………………………………… 7 Appendix C: Supplemental Tables ………………………………………………………. 76 iv LIST OF TABLES Table Page 1. Participants’ High School Courses………………………………………………………………… 23 2. Participants’ Future Plans…………………………………………………………………………….. 24 3. Parents’ Education………………………………………………………………………………………. 4 4. Parents’ Occupation ……………………………………………………………………………………. 24 5. Career Clusters, Missouri Public Schools ………………………………………………………. 76 6. City Demographics……………………………………………………….. ……………………………. 77 7. Codes ………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 78 ABSTRACT The current study addresses students’ views of career and technical education at an Area Career Center in mid Missouri. Newer programs that combine career and technical education courses with traditional high school instruction can benefit students in allowing them to connect their academic training with real world careers and practical concepts. This study looks at students’ perceptions of CTE, the sources of influence they reported on their decisions to take or not take CTE courses in high school and the role cultural capital played in their views.
Utilizing a qualitative method of data collection eight high school seniors enrolled in either CTE only classes, AP only classes or a combined CTE and AP course load were interviewed about their views of CTE at the local area career center. All of the students were white and there were four boys and four girls interviewed in the study. Results show that all students in the study associated CTE with some form of hands on education, with students enrolled in CTE courses reacting more favorably to CTE instruction and its connection to careers and occupations.
The most significant influences on students’ decisions to take or not take CTE classes were their future academic or career goals and how CTE knowledge would or would not help them. Other reported influences include teachers, family members and personal experiences. Finally, the role of cultural capital in students’ views of CTE is explored reaching the conclusion that more data and analysis is needed to find more arguable claims. 1 CHAPTER 1: Introduction In this study, I interview high school students in order to understand their thoughts on career and technical education programs in high school.
One reason why this is important is that according to a 2002 survey by the U. S. Chamber of Commerce Center to Workforce Preparation, nearly 75 percent of employers report difficulty when trying to hire qualified workers. Forty percent say that applicants are poorly skilled and 30 percent say that applicants have the wrong skills for available jobs (The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) www. acteonline. org). I believe this means that career and technical education can play a vital role in helping promote this environment and help students succeed through hands on education coupled with challenging high school curriculum.
The current high school curriculum in the United States faces challenges with the No Child Left Behind legislation that mandates a standards-based education. This initiative makes career and technical education harder to promote in public schools because CTE courses are elective classes. It rests on the students to enroll themselves in courses that will provide them with the best preparation for post high school opportunities. In this study, I ask students about their attitudes toward CTE courses.
Research on comprehensive education programs suggests combining more rigorous forms of education, such as advanced placement (AP) with CTE (Association for Career and Technical Education, 2006; Stern, D. , Dayton, C. , Paik, I. -W. , Weisberg, A. , & Evans, J. , 1988). Because of this I include students who are taking AP courses in this study to gauge their responses to CTE. While government statistics show that most high school students 2 take at least one “vocational” course in their high school careers such as typing or home economics (http://www. ed. ov/about/offices/list/ovae/pi/cte/index. html), it seems unfortunate that high school students do not pursue a more advanced career and technical education if it is available to them alongside their academic coursework. Students who are interested in a more academic route with AP courses can balance their studies with career and technical coursework. While benefits of career and technical education can appear obvious to some, it is not difficult to understand the rejection of this alternative form of education when at least a college degree is becoming a requirement for the majority of jobs.
Purpose and Research Questions Newer programs that combine career and technical education courses with traditional high school instruction can benefit students in allowing them to connect their academic training with real world careers and practical concepts. Research on career and technical education in the U. S. has a history of highlighting the faults of CTE education such as not delivering on its promises and in some cases being a one-way ticket to a working class life (Claus, 1990).
These out-dated reports are representative of Career and Technical Education programs in the older sense and not the newer, academically and career focused model being utilized in many high schools today. There is little research on why students take their chosen classes in high school and how students connect their high school curriculum to their post high school decisions and careers. There is also little research on how social class might impact students’ views and use of career and technical education.
In this study I addressed students’ views of current high 3 school career and technical education programs in an Area Career Center (ACC) in Missouri. Area career centers fall under the umbrella of CTE housing career focused coursework and training in a separate building from local high schools. I investigated how students’ reports of cultural capital seem to influence these views. I chose to conduct a qualitative study because qualitative research allows one to investigate the idiosyncratic meanings that people construct about their lived experience.
I was able to pursue in-depth reasons that the students give for their decisions, and was able to use follow-up questions to elaborate on understandings. The present study will address the following research questions: Research Question 1: How do students who are enrolled in CTE or AP classes perceive CTE? Research Question 2: What sources of influence do they report experiencing regarding academic versus CTE coursework? Research Question 3: What role does cultural capital play in students’ views of CTE coursework and their decisions to take or not take CTE classes in high school?
Limitations to the Study There were a few limitations to my method of recruiting students and the transferability of the findings. First, there are over 1100 students from the high school enrolled in CTE classes at the Area Career Center so eight participants is not a very representative sample of students. However, qualitative research methods required that I keep my participant pool small. Second, at the local high school, I did not have as much control over the students selected for participation as I did at the ACC. the site counselor who helped me in my recruitment process may have introduced bias into the process. Third, all of the participants were white and there were more males than females in CTE classes and more females than males in AP/Advanced classes. Also, the three AP students in this study were all interested in theatre, an area of study not offered at the ACC so there was probably a general feeling of lack of interest in CTE because no courses were offered in their specific area of interest. Future qualitative studies would benefit from more diverse students from underrepresented populations.
Also, because student recruitment took place in the spring, it was hard to recruit students, especially those enrolled in AP courses (either AP only or CTE/AP combined), because end of the year AP exams take place during the spring. Recruitment of students in the fall might create a wider participant pool. 5 CHAPTER 2: Literature Review History of Career and Technical Education Career and technical education began as vocational education in Europe in the 19th century in response to the increase in demand for skilled workers who were educated in industrialized professions.
Other factors that influenced the birth of career and technical education include the interest traditional European elites had in their children receiving both an education as well as certification in skills. They wanted their children to gain access to positions in law and theology, and the middle class parents wanted their children to attain the necessary educational credentials to help them enter careers in the civil service or managerial positions (Benavot, 1983). In the U. S. , federal funding for career and technical education was initiated with the passing of the Smith-Hughes Act in 1917.
Over the next 65 years and four modifications to the act in 1947, 1958, 1963 and 1968, career and technical education increased funding, expanded programs to improve in the areas of science, math, and foreign languages, offered support for technical occupations related to national defense, and included work study programs. In 1968, a National Advisory Council on Vocational Education was initiated to start collecting information about the progress and development of vocational education programs and students. In 984, the Vocational Education Act was renamed the Carl D. Perkins Vocational Education Act (Perkins I, P. L. 98-524). While continuing federal support for vocational education, it established programs emphasizing the acquisition of job skills through both vocational and technical education. The act also sought to make vocational education 6 programs accessible to “special populations,” including individuals with disabilities, disadvantaged individuals, single parents and homemakers, and incarcerated individuals. The Carl D.
Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act Amendments of 1990 (Perkins II, P. L. 101-392) made several revisions to the 1984 Act. Notably, the act created the tech-prep program designed to coordinate secondary and postsecondary vocational education activities into a coherent sequence of courses. Programs to eliminate sex bias were designed to prepare students for nontraditional training and employment (e. g. , training women to be welders or men to be nurses). Also, the law also required states to develop and implement performance standards and measures (e. . , program completion and job placement) to assess gains in learning and in program performance. The Perkins Act of 1998 provided specific federal assistance for secondary and postsecondary vocational education (Skinner and Apling, 2005). The reauthorized 1998 Act also made modifications to performance standards and measures of the 1990 Act. A core set of performance indicators were included in the 1998 Act that resulted in sanctions if the level of performance was not reached or increased funding if performance exceeded the requirements.
A key element of the 1998 Act was a greater focus on accountability with states required to “provide data for four core performance indicators focusing on: (1) student attainment; (2) credential attainment, (3) placement and retention, and (4) participation in and completion of non-traditional programs. ” (CRS Report for Congress) Under its most recent amendment in 2006, the Carl D. Perkins Act became the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act. The 2006 amendment showed one of the most notable revisions to the act since it was established by replacing the term ‘vocational education’ with ‘career and technical education. ’ This name change is especially significant in research on the influences student report in their decisions to take CTE classes because of the stigma associated with the world ‘vocational. ’ ‘Vocational’ education resonates with many as being representative of vocational education in the traditional sense and not academically focused or resulting in a college degree or high status occupations the way career and technical education can be perceived.
Changing the name could help change the image of CTE towards a viable and legitimate option for secondary schooling. The 2006 revision also set in place a system of accountability to coincide with the No Child Left Behind Standards mandated for public education in the United States. Under this system of accountability, academic attainment and graduation rates of students enrolled in CTE at the secondary level will be measured.
These new accountability measures create a greater need for research on how students perceive CTE in order to discover additional methods for recruiting new students and drawing greater attention from parents who steer their children towards a more college prep, academically focused course load. If students’ decisions not to take CTE classes rests in their view that to go to college and be a doctor they have to take advanced high school classes and CTE doesn’t look good on his transcript, administrators can use this information to create better recruitment methods.
They can focus on educating students and parents on the goals of CTE and how these goals align with the traditional or advanced coursework. The subject areas most commonly associated with career and technical education are the following: Agriculture (careers related to food and fiber production and agribusiness); Business (accounting, business administration, management, information technology and entrepreneurship); Family and Consumer Sciences (culinary arts, management and life skills); Health Occupations (nursing, dental, and medical technicians); Marketing (management, entrepreneurship, merchandising and retail); Technology (production, communication and transportation systems); and Trade and Industrial (skilled trades such as automotive technician, carpenter, computer numerical control technician).
One difficulty in defining career and technical education coursework is the existence of district regulated definitions on what qualifies as a CTE course and how many courses a student needs to take to be classified as a CTE student. In the state of Missouri, there are 16 career clusters (See Appendix C, Table 1). “Career Clusters can give all students the academic preparation, guidance, careerrelated knowledge and flexibility to help them plan studies that are in line with their interests, abilities, and career goals.
The Career Clusters framework offers a practical way for educators in all disciplines to create relevant contexts for their students’ learning. At the same time, it reinforces the schools’ fundamental objectives of academic accountability and improved achievement for all students. ” (Source: Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Division of Career Education http://dese. mo. gov/divcareered/career_clusters. htm) In response to the need for a redesigned educational system in U.
S. public schools to fit the needs of the 21st century, the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) compiled a report on their views of how the remodeled education system should look (Association for Career and Technical Education, 2006). The report proposes that Career and Technical Education should be modified to do the following: (1) Support students in the acquisition of rigorous core knowledge, skills, habits and attitudes needed for success in postsecondary education and the high-skilled workplace, (2) Engage students in specific career-related learning experiences that equip them to make well-informed decisions about further education and training and employment opportunities, and (3) Prepare students who may choose to enter the workforce directly after high school with levels of skills and knowledge in a particular career area that will be valued in the marketplace (Association for Career and Technical Education, 2006).
Career and Technical Education Research Research on CTE tends to fall most often in two areas: the likelihood of students dropping out of school and how to serve at risk students (Plank, 2001; Stern, et al. , 1988; Catterall, 1986), and longitudinal effects of CTE programs (Plank, 2001; Arum & Shavit, 1995). In 1986, Catterall and Stern looked at the use of alternative high school programs in preventing students from dropping out.
They utilized the California sub-sample of the 1980 and 1982 High School and Beyond surveys (involving nearly 3,000 sophomores and 3,000 seniors) and studied the impact alternative education programs had on labor market outcomes for students. The High School and Beyond Survey in 1980 asked students how many courses they had completed in each of four CTE areas: business, office, or sales; trade and industry; technical courses; or other vocational courses. In addition to finding mixed support for alternative programs to prevent drop outs, they also found positive results on employment and wages.
Stern, et al (1988) conducted a study in California that yielded similar results. Their 10 research reported the results from the first two years of an effort in 10 high schools to replicate the California Peninsula Academies. The students in the Academy school were identified by school counselors as “low performance students” with a high risk of dropping out of school (Stern, et al. , 1988). They were then placed into the Peninsula Academy, which was a school within a school, for grades 10 through 12.
These low performing students took most of their remaining classes together at the school including coursework in English, math, and science as well as a course in the particular Academy’s focus (Stern, et al. , p. 163, 1988). The “Academy” model combines the core academic curriculum with technical instruction in a particular occupational field. Local employers representing that field participate in various ways by donating equipment to the school and serving as mentors to the students.
For example, Hewlett-Packard contributed computer expertise and hardware. The companies also provide summer jobs for some of the students at the Academy school. “Having a paid summer job which is related to the Academy’s instructional focus creates a powerful connection between school work and “real” work” (Stern, et al. , p. 163, 1988). Academy students generally compiled better grades and more course credits than students in comparison groups at the same high schools.
At three sites in particular, Academy students consistently out-performed comparison groups in the first two years. The authors also found that results were replicated at other sites and helped prevent students from dropping out of school. Claus (1990) conducted an ethnographic analysis of the student experience in a single CTE program, looking to answer two questions: (1) why did the students in the program report satisfaction and improved attitudes in association with their CTE program and (2) how 1 was CTE related to increasing the opportunity of these primarily working to lower class, academically-alienated youth? The CTE experience tended to reinforce class-related inequalities. “The ethnographic fieldwork and analysis suggest that while the students found their CTE program enjoyable and rewarding, this response was often rooted in a classroom experience which limited their development and reinforced their tendency toward working to lower class work and lives after school” (Claus, 1990, p. 13).
Arum and Shavit (1995) utilized the 1987 “High School and Beyond” data to study individuals’ early labor market outcomes after high school and their track placement while in high school. They found that “vocational secondary education is neither as pernicious nor as detrimental as some of its opponents have maintained. ” (p. 199) They found that CTE inhibited students in their decisions to continue on to college or achieve success in high prestige occupations, but also found that CTE programs serve as “a safety net for those high school graduates who are unlikely to go on to college. (p. 199) Plank’s 2001 report for the National Research Center for Career and Technical Education looked at the balance between CTE and academic course-taking during high school for members of a longitudinal study beginning in 1988 with their eighth grade year. The students in the study were broken down into four groups: purely academic concentrators, purely CTE concentrators, dual concentrators who took both academic and CTE course work, and a group of students who took neither the purely academic or CTE coursework.
Plank found the following: (1) academic concentrators showed the highest 1992 achievement, followed by dual (academic and vocational) concentrators, then students who fulfilled neither concentration, and then CTE concentrators; (2) almost all students were either in 12 postsecondary education or working, or both, in 1994, with academic concentrators most likely to be in full-time school and CTE concentrators most likely to be in full-time employment. The study concluded that further research is needed to determine what characteristics of CTE or academic ducation increase the risk of dropping out, and what types of integration of academic and vocational education are most successful. Gaunt and Palmer (2005) conducted a quantitative study that investigated students’ attitudes towards career and technical education (CTE), what influenced their views, and their course selection decisions. They utilized the data from a previous study in Michigan of over 450 high school seniors. The were interested in the career and technical education funding crisis that is occurring in the wake of No Child Left Behind.
Gaunt and Palmer (2005) found the majority of students citing social relationships with their friends and parents as the prime influencers of their views of career and technical education. In addition, students offered responses on how course structure, the benefits offered from each program, and advertising of the CTE programs affected their views of CTE. These results provide support for further research on the subject of career and technical education that puts an emphasis on academic training alongside CTE instruction in career-related fields.
What was interesting about Gaunt and Palmer’s (2005) data was that more than half of the students not enrolled in career and technical education courses saw the courses as helping students prepare for college immediately after high school in comparison to 81% of students enrolled in CTE courses who saw this same connection. More than 80 percent of both groups of students saw the ACC as preparation for work after high school and close to 80 percent of all students saw the ACC in Michigan as designed for students of all ability levels. 3 Utilizing a qualitative methods approach with open ended interviewing methods, my study gives the students a greater opportunity to express their views of CTE education and how they compare it with their purely academic coursework. Gaunt and Palmer’s (2005) research is a big step forward in literature on career and technical education and I hope the dialogue of the participants in my study help take research even more forward. Sources of Influence How students perceive career and technical education and the their high school coursetaking decisions can be attributed to a variety of factors.
In this study one of my research questions examined what are these factors and how do they influence student choices. Previous research on the influences students experience while choosing their high school classes include parents and friends, current labor markets, and school social networks including teachers and counselors. The most detailed account of influences that impact a student’s decisions to pursue a CTE curriculum in high school is Rossetti’s 1991 study about the influenced students who chose not to enroll in a Vocational School in Ohio.
While evaluating the external factors that contributed to students’ decisions to enroll in CTE classes, Rossetti found that friends were the most influential with fifty-three percent stating that they had consulted their friends. (Rossetti, 1987) The next most influential figures were mother/female guardian (49%); father/male guardian (44%); brother/sister (39%); counselor (35%); girl/boyfriend (32%); other relative (32%); teacher(s) (28%); and athletic coach(es) (21%). A report by Dunham and Frome (2003) took a closer look at the role teachers and 4 counselors can play in encouraging and influencing students in their high school course selections. Their results were similar to Rossetti’s (1991). Current labor markets can also affect a students’ decision to enroll in CTE coursework. A publication by the National Center for Educational Statistics reported “students may be more likely to concentrate in vocational areas that prepare them for occupations with increasing job opportunities” (p. 1). In the case of the current U. S. ob market, this would mean that students who take advanced courses in math and science and focus their studies towards engineering careers could be doing so not for their interest in those subjects but because they recognize the labor market’s shift to careers in engineering fields. This would also mean that these same students would specifically withdraw from involvement in courses focusing on low demand careers. This study was completed in 1998 and concluded that the reason for the decline in CTE courses was due to the job market not requiring those skills.
New forms of career and technical education need to emphasize academics and career training in electronics and computer fields because the job market has made a turn towards careers of a more technical nature. Social Class and Cultural Capital The theoretical framework of this study relies upon cultural capital theory. Cultural capital can be defined as “high status cultural signals used in cultural and social selection” (Lamont and Lareau, 1988).
According to Bourdieu’s definition, cultural capital “consists mainly of linguistic and cultural competence and that relationship of familiarity with culture which can only be produced by family upbringing when it transmits the dominant culture” 15 (Bourdieu, 1977). Cultural capital, according to Bourdieu, includes things such as going to museums, appreciating art and listening to classical music. “[Bourdieu] argues that individuals in privileged social locations are advantaged in ways that are not a result of the intrinsic merit of their cultural experiences.
Rather, cultural training in the home is awarded unequal value in dominant institutions because of the close compatibility between the standards of child rearing in privileged homes and the (arbitrary) standards proposed by these institutions. ” (Lareau, p. 276) In a dominant institution like education, the role of cultural capital translates to the practices of the school staff, teachers, organizational processes and authoritative relationships set in place as a method of exclusion for those who are unfamiliar with the institutional practices.
In the U. S. , children from high cultural capital backgrounds, according to cultural capital theory, have been taught directly or indirectly the value of raising one’s hand to be called on, working independently on homework assignments, and possessing a sense of entitlement to resources and extra help from teachers and other figures of authority (Lareau, 2000). It is argued that “children from higher social locations enter schools already familiar with these social arrangements” (Lareau, 1987, p. 88) and therefore succeed at a higher level than those not familiar with these practices. Being more familiar with the skills and knowledge valued by the dominant culture, students of the dominant culture are better able to adapt their skills to new settings to help negotiate their way to higher, more prestigious education and jobs. This creates a higher economic class position and allows their children to be exposed to the same culture, which is congruent with cultural reproduction theory (Aschaffenburg and Maas, 1997). 6 Bourdieu used the term “cultural reproduction” to describe the way society stratifies members of the population by reproducing the values, lifestyle and culture of the dominant classes which inadvertently leaves the lower classes at a disadvantage in trying to get ahead in academics and the workplace (Bourdieu, 1977). Paul Kingston (2001) criticizes cultural capital theory and cultural reproduction, saying that they account for only a small piece of social privilege and academic success.
He feels that there are too many variables under the umbrella of “cultural capital” (Kingston, 2001). In the United States it is hard to disagree with this notion because of a lack of consensus on what is valued by the dominant culture (Lamont and Lareau, 1987) and how quickly what is “popular” can change. The problem with Kingston’s views of cultural capital, however, is that he maintains cultural capital theory’s definition based on traditional definitions of Bourdieu (1977). Knowledge of classical music and attendance at museums are not the capital that most people in the U. S. efer to today when talking about the utilization of capital to get ahead or stay ahead in society, and this is one criticism of some versions of cultural capital theory; it has yet to be adapted to modern society. While Kingston does not support the theory of cultural reproduction or cultural theory, he does provide insight that is relevant. Kingston (2001) suggests that the simple possession of cultural capital does not influence one’s academic achievement, but rather the key issue is how this cultural capital is used. I find this statement to be more powerful than Kingston’s rejection of cultural reproduction theory.
In a study that examined SES, Schulenberg, Vonracek and Couter (1984) studied the influence of the family on vocational development. They focused on how the characteristics 17 of the family influenced the vocational development of adolescent children. Their definition of socioeconomic status incorporated elements such as parents’ education, income and occupational status. They noted that “if one were permitted only a single variable with which to predict an individual’s occupational status, it surely would be the SES of that individual family of orientation. ” (p. 30, 1984) Lareau’s (2003) work on social class influences on parental involvement in the educational experiences of their elementary school children emphasize the value of middle class parents’ “knowledge of the system” and the possession of cultural and social capital to yield positive educational outcomes for their children. Hearn (1991) also found an effect of capital in a study focusing on the relationships between high school graduates’ personal characteristics (ability, achievements, expectations, socioeconomic status, race-ethnicity, and gender) and the nature of the postsecondary institutions they attend.
Based on national data for students who attended college from the high school class of 1980, the findings suggest that nonacademic factors, particularly socioeconomic background, affected graduates’ postsecondary destinations. Lamont and Lareau (1987) emphasize the role cultural capital plays in American society, moving towards a more modernized definition of cultural capital beyond Bourdieu’s (1977) traditional and more European thoughts.
Lamont and Lareau’s research discusses how the dominant American culture puts greater emphasis on the access to goods rather than the actual consumption of goods emphasized in the French culture of original cultural capital thought. They recognize the methodological problems with Bourdieu’s original concept of cultural capital not stating clearly how to measure the weight of the each element of capital 18 (e. g. wine vs. sports) and taking into account the different social environments. What is valued by the dominant culture in the U. S. s always changing, and in order to make a clear representation of cultural capital, the theory needs to reflect what the current dominant culture values. Lamont and Lareau (1987) create a variation to the definition of cultural capital in response to the difficulty in making a clear understanding from Bourdieu’s original work. They recognize the idea of exclusion from jobs, resources, and high status groups as a vital component of cultural capital theory. They also define cultural capital as “institutionalized cultural signals, i. e. widely shared, high status cultural signals used for social and cultural exclusion. ” In this new definition they propose that ‘high status cultural signals” include attitudes, preferences, formal knowledge, behaviors, goods and credentials (Lamont and Lareau, 1988). An example of these high status cultural signals in practice in U. S. culture today is provided: “Owning a luxury car or a large house [possession of a good], being thin and healthy [preference and behavior], being at ease with abstract thinking [attitude], knowing how to send signals of one’s ompetence [behavior], being a good citizen [attitude], knowing the appropriate range of topics of conversation in specific settings [behavior], and having scientific expertise, and a well rounded culture [formal knowledge]” (Lamont and Lareau, p. 156, 1988) It could be argued that of these high status cultural signals, ‘behavior’ is the most important because it requires not only knowledge of high status cultural ideas and topics of conversation but also when and where to use it, or how to ‘activate’ the cultural capital. Unfortunately, 19 Bourdieu’s empirical work has not paid sufficient attention to the difference between the possession of capital and the activation of capital” (Lareau, 2003, p. 277). Schulenberg, Vonracek and Couter (1984) discuss how just possessing the SES background of a given class does not automatically provide access, that a person must also know how to act upon the presented opportunities. Families socialize their members on the activation of capital allowing the reproduction of values and lifestyles.
As an example, a child from a high SES family who is exposed to the culture of travel, books, music and museums, and then is instructed to activate these experiences in conversation about someone else’s travels to Italy or another person’s interest in a particular play, is socially rewarded by inclusion and knows to use this capital again in the future. Portes (1998) also comments about the understanding of activating cultural capital by stating, “social networks are not a natural given and must be constructed through investment strategies oriented to the institutionalization of group relations, usable as a reliable source of other benefits. (p. 3) 20 CHAPTER 3: Method This purpose of this study was to examine the perceptions students have of CTE courses, how these perceptions are related to socioeconomic factors of cultural capital and the influences they reported that impacted their academic and occupational decisions. To answer these questions I utilized qualitative interviews and observations and as described below. Site Information The local high school (LHS) used in this study is one of three high schools in a district of more than 16,000 students. LHS was hosen because it has the closest proximity to the Area Career Center (ACC), and is within easy walking distance for the students. LHS is composed as follows based on 2006 enrollment data: total enrollment was just over 1,717 with 81. 1% of the students identifying as White, . 3% Indian, 2. 6% Hispanic, 11. 1% Black, and 5% Asian. About 11% of students were on reduced or free lunch. The average attendance rate was 90. 9% with a lower than state average dropout rate of 3. 1% (the total for the state of Missouri is 4%) (http://dese. mo. gov/planning/profile/building/bp0100931075. html).
The primary site in this study, the ACC is a separate building from the rest of the schools in the district and houses most of the CTE classes in the district (some CTE classes are offered at the other high schools). The ACC serves all students as well as adults in the area. Enrollment data at the ACC are as follows: total enrollment for the 2006-07 school year was 2,204. For the 2005-06 school year, when there was a total enrollment of 2,308 students with 1,189 of the students coming from the LHS. The rest come from the other schools in the district. Of the 1,189 LHS students, 234 were classified as CTE concentrators.
A CTE 21 concentrator is a student who has completed three or more courses in one area of CTE concentration. Access to the Area Career Center and the local high school was gained through approval from the district school board as well as the ACC director. I worked with the director of the ACC and the counselors to identify potential CTE classes from which to recruit students. In order to be able to compare CTE students’ views of CTE courses with AP students’ views of CTE, I wanted the students enrolled in AP classes to have similar interest in the CTE subject matter as those students enrolled in the identified CTE class.
To do this I identified CTE classes that consisted of similar content to AP course offerings. I used this approach because a student who chose to take an AP class in biology might have similar interest in a CTE class like Health Professions because the subject matter overlaps. In addition to discovering how students view CTE, I wanted to find out why one class would be more appealing to a student than another. I chose to recruit students from four classes at the ACC: Electronics, Health Professions, Graphic Design and Digital Media. All of the classes were majority seniors.
My motivation for choosing seniors was that they were far enough along in school to reflect on their experiences, and their post high school plans were much more definite than a junior or sophomore’s. Research on CTE discusses the role CTE has in preparing students for work environments and seniors are much closer to real world work environments than juniors or sophomores. I selected the Graphic Design and Digital Media classes because a lot of students enrolled in those classes also took AP classes at the high school and these classes were not offered in any form at the local high school.
Because of the overlapping interests I thought 22 these students would have similar motivations to take a CTE or AP course. However, no students from these classes ended up participating in the study. I approached the teachers of the identified ACC classes in early January, 2007 in a faceto-face discussion explaining the purpose and goals of my study. For the teachers who agreed to allow me to speak with their students, I conducted a 5-10 minute presentation to the students and asked for volunteers.
Students interested in participating filled out a contact sheet with their preferred contact method and a consent form to participate. Any students under 18 were provided a parental consent form for their parents to sign. I made five different presentations at the ACC and had 22 students volunteer. Of these 22 students who showed initial interest, six completed the recruitment process by returning their forms and following up with interviews. One of these six students was not included because he attended a different high school.
At LHS, I established contact with a counselor at the school who helped me gain access to students enrolled in AP courses only (non CTE students). Students were identified by their senior status and their AP course selections in either AP Biology, AP Algebra or Calculus or AP Literature. The AP Literature and AP English classes were a common course for students who took the Graphic Design or Digital Media classes at the ACC so I felt there was some overlap in interests by those students that I wanted to explore.
The site counselor identified fifteen AP only students and the information packets were provided to the students by the counselor. Of the fifteen students, six returned their consent forms and three of those six students responded to my initial contact for interviews creating a total participant pool of eight students (five from CTE and AP and three from AP only). 23 Participant Information There were eight participants in the study, all high school seniors, attending the LHS. All of the participants were white and included four female and four male students.
Below are tables describing each participant. Table 1 represents the participants’ current high school classes and previous CTE or AP classes they have taken. Table 2 represents the participants’ future plans including college and career aspirations. Table 4 represents the highest level of education received by the participants’ parents while Table 5 represents their parents’ current occupations. Table 1 Participants’ High School Courses Participant Name (coded) Mary *H. S. Course Emphasis CTE **H. S. Classes
Healthcare, Culinary Arts, Early Childhoods Electronics 1,2,3, Culinary Arts Intro and 2, Intro to Welding, Steve CTE Small gas engines, Greg CTE Electronics 1,2,3 and C++ Programming Electronics 1 and 2, Computer Technician Certification, C++ Mike Combined Programming, AP Psychology, AP Statistics Electronics Essentials, Electronics 2, Welding, German AP, Henry Combined Integrated 3 Honors AP/ AP Statistics, AP Lit, AP Euro, AP World, AP English, AP Tina Advanced Psychology, AP German AP Graphic Design, AP Drawing and Painting, AP World AP/ Lisa History, AP US History, European History, AP Literature, AP Advanced English Language, AP Drawing and Painting, and AP 3-D Design AP/ AP Euro, AP Literature, AP Calculus AB, AP US History, AP Rachel Advanced Language, English Language *H. S. Course Choice: CTE=Career and Technical Education student with no current or previous AP courses; Combined= Currently and previously enrolled in both career and technical education and Advanced Placement (AP) courses; AP/Advanced: Currently enrolled in AP courses with no current or previous courses in CTE **H. S. Classes: Current and previous course subjects in high school (grades 10-12) 24 Table 2: Participants’ Future Plans Participant Post High School Plans college majors) Mary Steve Greg Mike Henry Tina Lisa Rachel Local 4-year university (nursing) Local 4-year university (business marketing and management) Work for 2 years then local 4-year university (engineering) Local 4-year university (electrical engineering) 4-year, in-state liberal arts college (music technology) In-state fine arts college (theatre performance or theatre management/stage management) East Coast Art School with scholarship (studio art) East coast, small, liberal arts college (environmental policy and theatre) Future Career Plans Work as an RN then Nurse Practitioner Self employed business owner Wants to be an electrical engineer No plans yet Work in the production side of the music industry Work as an actor or graduate school Work in an art gallery, travel, set up a working studio Using college to decide what she will do in the future
Table 3: Parents’ Education Participant Mom’s Education* PhD Mary BA or master’s (unsure) Steve High school Greg Master’s Degree working on her PhD Mike Master’s degree Henry PhD Tina H. S. /some college Lisa High School Rachel *Education= Highest level of education completed Table 4: Parents’ Occupation Participant Mom’s Occupation College professor Mary Head of National Parent/Teacher org. Steve Rehabilitation program at local Greg university was working as a nurse Mike Teacher Henry College Professor (Public Affairs) Tina Real estate agent Lisa Branch administrator- Investment Co. Rachel Dad’s Education* PhD Bachelor’s degree High school PhD Bachelor’s degree Master’s degree H. S. /some college H. S. /some college
Dad’s Occupation Staff member at local university Construction Landlord for apartment complex College Professor (Business) Teacher Co-owner of a local business Banker Unemployed (on disability) 25 Procedure I interviewed participants over a one-month period. Three of the interviews took place at the Area Career Center, three at the University of Missouri-Columbia campus, one at the local high school, and one at a coffee shop near the high school. The interviews lasted about one hour per participant. [see appendix B for interview questions]. I started each interview with a small overview of the study. Each interview was audio taped using a digital recorder.
I modified the interview questions after interviewing the first three participants because my focus shifted towards more in depth questioning on issues of cultural capital. Despite my follow up emails and phone calls, this resulted in two participants who lack complete data for SES and cultural capital. In addition to interviews, I conducted approximately 30 observations at the local high school and the ACC from September, 2006 through May, 2007 in 10 minute to one-hour increments. I conducted approximately 2000 observation minutes in the LHS and the ACC. The observations were conducted both formally during scheduled site visits and informally during scheduled meetings, interviews and visits to the sites to pick up papers or answer questions.
The observations allowed me to experience the differences between an AP class environment and a CTE classroom environment. I had no prior experience inside a CTE classroom, and the ability to see this method of instruction gave me a better frame of reference for CTE. Data Analysis I transcribed the recordings immediately following each interview and in some cases a few days later with the assistance of a computer software program called Transcriva. I used a 26 software program called HyperResearch for data analysis. In the coding process, I started out by looking at the data with my three main research questions as a reference: How do students who are enrolled in CTE or AP classes perceive CTE courses? What sources of influence do they report experiencing regarding academic versus CTE coursework? ; What role does cultural capital play in students’ views of CTE coursework and their decisions to take or not take CTE classes in high school? Second, using these three master codes, I identified all data related to these codes, finding over 100 smaller codes in the interview data. Third, I organized these smaller subcodes into matching code categories to identify repetitive and overlapping codes in the data. Fourth, I created a master code list of just under 100 codes and analyzed the data again to ensure accurate coding. Fifth and finally, I organized the data into 120 sub-codes.
These subcodes were hierarchically represented in the six major data codes of 1) Student Characteristics, 2) SES/Cultural Capital, 3) Views of School (including CTE and AP classes), 4) Influences and Motivation, 5) Performance and Skills, and a sixth code for the miscellaneous codes [Refer to appendix C]. Observation data were not coded but will be used to help in the discussion and analysis sections. I chose to use markers of cultural capital such as parent’s education and occupation, neighborhood, home resources such as books and computers, travel experiences, out-ofschool activities, language use, and participant-reported family interactions.
I chose this approach because reports of social class in my study come from the participants themselves who are high school seniors and who cannot speak factually about the actual economic position of their family. However the participants can discuss the 27 occupations of their parents, describe the neighborhood they live in and their home environment, report on the activities and experiences they engage in, and discuss their future plans beyond high school. With this knowledge and the previously cited literature on cultural capital I should be able to say something about the role of the participants’ background plays on their academic decisions. 28 CHAPTER 4: Findings The purpose of this study was to discover 1) How do students who are enrolled in CTE or AP classes perceive CTE? ) What sources of influence do they report experiencing regarding academic versus CTE coursework? 3) What role does cultural capital play in students’ views of CTE coursework and their decisions to take or not take CTE classes in high school? I begin with a detailed account of each participant in the study including his or her background, family makeup and instances of cultural capital. Then I discuss students’ views of CTE and their reported influences on their decisions to enroll or not enroll in CTE courses. MARY, CTE Concentrator Of all the participants in this study, Mary has the clearest view of her future and is the most focused on pursuing education and experiences that will serve her in her future career as a nurse. She omes from a background of highly educated parents, has worldwide travel experience, and describes her family’s economic position as being in the middle. “Just middle class. I mean we could afford the huge house you know, incredibly brand new house if we wanted but we spend our money on traveling instead. ” In the past she has been involved in career oriented clubs associated with her school and has put in a lot of volunteer hours with the local hospital in addition to the hands on experience gained from involvement in her career classes at the ACC. At home, Mary has access to a computer, TV, encyclopedias. She refers to her parents as “a good resource to have. ” She often talks with her parents about her classes and 9 the observations she makes while working at the hospital. They have recently been engaging in conversations about her upcoming college experiences. It appears that she has a good relationship with her parents and family and spends lots of time with them. “As a family, we’ll take weekend trips to the lake and shop, go out on a boat, we eat dinner together; we do spend time together at home and we’ll watch movies or play card games. ” Mary also has a younger sister who is studying abroad as part of a high school exchange. STEVE, CTE Concentrator Steve doesn’t have as strong of aspirations as Mary for his desired future career as a self-employed business owner.
Steve’s parents are both employed with college degrees and have built a home in a “nice and relaxed” neighborhood. Steve’s concept of his family’s economic position is somewhere in the middle as well. “I mean we make this amount of money but we don’t have a lavish lifestyle. I mean I don’t have a brand new car, my brother is not gonna get a brand new car um, we don’t have a huge house, I mean, it’s a big house compared to what a lot of people live in but it’s not like we live in a four story house, we don’t have a three car garage, we don’t have a pool. I mean everything is nice. ” Steve wrestles for the LHS; he coaches youth soccer; likes to work on cars; and is involved in a career skills club as well as Boy Scouts.
In the past he has worked in retail, run his own lawn mowing business, and has about six months experience working in a specialized sports store, an experience that has influenced his desire to pursue a career as a business owner. Data on cultural capital are limited for Steve because he was one of the first participants interviewed in this study and he was not available for follow up questioning. 30 Greg, CTE Concentrator Greg is the only participant in the study with no immediate plans to begin college after graduation from high school and falls at the lowest income level compared to the rest of the participants. Greg’s parents each have a high school diploma and according to Greg, they make around $25,000-$30,000 a year combined which he classifies as middle class. I guess, middle class is becoming even larger but, the upper class is the total family income annual family is upwards of $60,000 and then the lower class are the people who get downwards of $10-15K annually and I think, I’m not quite sure, my parents get about $30, between $25$30k a year, combined. ” Greg’s mom is employed with a rehabilitation program with the local university and his dad is the landlord of an apartment complex. Greg’s home is the top floor of the landlord’s living quarters that he shares with his parents and younger sister. Greg is not close with his family. “If I don’t have work I pretty much come home, go into my bedroom, and come out only if I have dishes or if I have trash I take out the trash. If I run into someone in the hallway or going down the stairs I might say hey, how was your day but there’s really not a conversation. They occasionally take trips together but his goal is to move and get a place of his own. Greg is not involved in any school activities and spends his free time either working at a local grocery store, playing his guitar or hanging out with his friends talking or playing hacky sack. Though he is not starting college in the fall, Greg is planning on saving up for two years and then going to college to major in engineering. 31 Mike, Combined (CTE and AP) Like Steve, Mike was one of the first participants interviewed and was unreachable for follow up cultural data. His parents are highly educated like Mary’s with both having PhD’s His mom is employed as a nurse and his dad as a college professor at the local university.
His reference for how much money his parents’ make is related to the forms he had to fill out for college applications where he checked the “over $100,000 income box”. In his neighborhood he identifies his family as less well off compared to the neighbors. “Everyone [in the neighborhood] is kind of more well off that we are but it’s kind of obvious, people are driving these expensive cars and uh, definitely, we’re comfortable, so, but we, uh, we don’t have a lake house, we don’t have fancy cars, so we’re not quite, we’re not upper class but we’re close…” Though he has plans to major in electrical engineering, Mike has no career plans beyond college. “In five years I probably I see myself out of undergrad. It depends on how much I like college.
I might go in for more school or, uh, work, it’s, there’s lots of options there’s always, there’s military, the peace corps thing, uh, um, more school, but most likely just a job right out of engineering, having to do with electronics probably, electrical engineer. ” In school, Mike is involved in cross-country and track. He previously held a job in construction Henry, Combined (CTE and AP) Henry’s experiences in school and preparation for his future career are similar to 32 Mary’s except he has chosen to include AP courses in his schedule. Henry plans to pursue a career in the music industry with hopes of one day owning his own production company.
To prepare for this career, Henry has focused his ACC classes primarily around electronics CTE coursework and pursued advanced courses in math as well as a foreign language to “open up more career opportunities” and to travel…I mean that just broadens my horizon. ” Henry’s parents are both college educated, both with a bachelor’s degree and his mom with a master’s. His mom is a teacher and his dad is an auto claims adjuster. He classifies his income as “around $100,000 a year”. “I think my dad makes like 60-65 a year, my mom makes 40-45 a year. I don’t know how that will stack up to most people. I think we’re maybe in the upper middle class a little bit I guess. ” He also lives in a nice neighborhood with a couple of “decent size houses. ” Henry is very involved in activities both in and out of school.
He used to wrestle for his high school and now runs on the track team. He plays in the school band and outside of school he’s involved in Boy Scouts and volunteers with out-reach programs for kids in the city. He also works part time. In talking about his relationship with his family, Henry comments that they travel together and there is time set aside each week to spend together to watch a movie or eat together and they spend a lot of time traveling through the country. He says that the lines of communication with his parents are open, “Pretty much any question I have my mom will answer it to her, to the best of her knowledge, anything, doesn’t matter what it is.
My mom is pretty open…she’s like they’re gonna find out sooner or later at least we can tell them what’s right about it instead of learning about what’s wrong and then them using it (drugs?? )… So, they’re pretty informative and open with us. ” 33 Tina, AP Coursework Tina’s view of the world is structured around upper class ideals. She believes that there is one way to achieve success through life. She is the only participant whose parents are divorced, and she lives with her mother. She hopes to use her experience in theatre and AP coursework to pursue a career in acting or theatre management. Though she mentioned a step-sister, she did not mention a step father so all references to her father are her birth father.
Her mom has a PhD and is a professor at the local university and her father has earned his master’s and is co-owner of a local business. Tina’s mom lives in an urban neighborhood. Their home is filled with books on history, politics, religion and other non-fiction works her mother uses for her research. “The fiction books” are in her and her sister’s room or over at her dad’s house which is out in the county, where there are big houses, big lots. She classifies their incomes separately: “Um, well my parents are divorced and my dad is co owner of his own business so I know that he makes more money than my mom cause she works at a university. My mom, we’re probably lower middle class and my dad’s probably upper middle class but other than that I don’t really know. Though her parents are divorced, Tina appears to have a balanced relationship between them that benefits her in the area of cultural capital. “At my dad’s house we try and eat dinner together every night and at my mom’s house we eat dinner together but it’s not necessarily like the same thing…we plant flowers, he also lives close to a bike trail so we go on family walks with the dogs. We go to concerts…my dad gets tickets to stuff at [the 34 university] so we’ll go to that…” Tina also engages in conversations about current events and listens to NPR with her dad. Tina does not work because her parents believe that school should be her full time job.
Tina fills her free time on stage acting or managing productions, and when she travels, there is always a purpose in mind such as visiting family or touring colleges. Lisa, AP Coursework Lisa will attend a prestigious art college upon graduating from high school and has aspirations to work in an art gallery and set up a working studio of her own. Lisa’s parents are divorced like Tina’s, but neither of her parents graduated from college although they both have completed some coursework. Lisa lives with her mom and sees her dad often but did not mention if her mother had remarried. She made reference to discussing what her dad “did in court” but when asked her father’s occupation she said he was a banker.
It can be assumed that her mother remarried to a lawyer but that Lisa has had a long relationship with him that he refers to him as her “dad” along with her birth father who she mentioned as being single. Her parents’ reasons for leaving college were referred to as “family related. ” However, even with