Summer CTE Reads: Techniques Year in Review

July 10, 2024


Let’s linger in the summer sun a little longer. Techniques: Connecting Education and Careers has prepared the perfect poolside reading list. Our 2023–24 Year in Review features some of the most engaging content we’ve published in print and online since the fall of 2023. Each year, in Techniques, we celebrate the strength and successes of high-quality CTE, and we’ll continue to discuss the common challenges educators face.

Read Techniques: Year in Review, 2023–24

Build trust and relationships.

The core needs of students — physiological requirements, safety, love/belonging, and esteem — must be met before they can learn to their fullest potential. Teachers must also have their own core needs met before they can properly educate their students. Family members must have their needs met before they can support their children’s educational endeavors. And community members must have their needs met to fully support a school system. But what does it take to put it into practice in the context of our schools?

Building trusting and equitable relationships between administrators, teachers, staff, students, families, and the community is the first step in any successful plan to enact real change, bringing everyone together around common goals. READ MORE

Focus on human skills.

Automation in a global economy is creating thousands of new jobs that require an entirely different type of worker. No longer is it enough to memorize facts, solve equations, and operate tools and equipment. Machines can do that far faster and with more accuracy than any mere mortal. Instead, employers need employees who can “use their knowledge and skills — by thinking critically, applying knowledge to new situations, analyzing information, comprehending new ideas, communicating, collaborating, solving problems, and making decisions.”

We commonly refer to these as employability skills: work habits, attitudes, character traits, and competencies that are broadly applicable and transferable. These skills shape how employees work both on their own and with others. READ MORE

Get outside.

Families, including youth, have rediscovered the outdoors as a place to enjoy leisure activities. And as a result of this boon to the outdoor recreation economy, there are more career opportunities. When most people think of the outdoor recreation economy, they think of frontline workers in familiar places: a ranger at a national park or a retail associate at their favorite gear store. But many might be surprised to learn that the outdoor recreation economy encompasses everything from private industry (manufacturing, retail, services) to the public sector (government agencies, tribal nations, community development) and nonprofit, advocacy, and trade groups.

The future of the outdoor recreation economy is dependent on making clear educational pathways available for students. Educators are starting to address this growing opportunity. READ MORE

Reach new heights.

Brightly decorated balsa wood gliders soared through the air. Video cameras documented launches, flight paths and time aloft. Working in collaborative teams, student aeronautical engineers designed, constructed, tested and redesigned their vehicles to stay in the air the longest. Laura Doyle’s high school engineering students learned how gliders work. They discussed the forces of flight, and they used the prototype glider templates as a rough guide. Students must change the design in some way, so that the entire class isn’t making the same prototype. And they must justify their iterated designs through research.

These are the kinds of challenges that CTE educators seek out: real-world, standards-based, and engaging to spark learners’ creativity and innovation. Educators like Doyla search for constructivist experiences framed in problem-based scenarios. READ MORE

Define excellence in CTE.

The modern workforce requires proficiency in technical skills as well as in empathy, resilience, communication and active listening. And the intentional integration of employability skills development within career and technical education programs is starting to bridge achievement gaps. Research has shown that emotional intelligence (EI), defined as “the ability to perceive, manage and regulate emotions,” can have a profound impact on a learner’s academic achievement. Thus, integrating emotional intelligence within CTE promises to cultivate meaningful relationships and a more dynamic, responsive and empathetic learning environment.

At ACTE’s CareerTech VISION 2023, IMAGO asked, “What innovative strategies is your district implementing?” The ensuing dialogue was promising, shedding light on how emotional intelligence is transforming the student experience. READ MORE

Embrace research to effect change.

Instructional leadership must be transformational. Leaders are tasked with creating solutions based on problems, questions, and needs and developing processes that work for their schools, districts, and regions. Their role is multifaceted and complex. One end of a CTE leader’s work is anchored in developing the knowledge and skills of their teachers. And on the other end, the need to ensure students are prepared to enter the workforce.

Just as CTE teachers bring a wealth of experience into the classroom, students have varying backgrounds, understandings and motivations for taking CTE courses. Thus, in order have a positive effect on student learning experience, researchers have proposed that we must focus on three critical elements: changing views of learning, sharpening teachers’ instructional knowledge, and enhancing students’ knowledge and abilities related to academic and industry standards. READ MORE

Tell stories that matter.

“When I started high school, I was a solid academic student; however, I lost my way. I began to struggle academically because I was too busy chasing girls, success in sports or popularity. Over time this approach left me feeling disconnected. I didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere. I became a loner,” wrote Donald “Diamond Don” Walker, of CAST. “Suddenly, I was going nowhere fast. Then I learned about a radio station course offered through my high school’s CTE program. I had always been interested in radio, so I signed up.

“Nothing was more exciting than going to my fifth hour CTE course every day. Creating elements for different radio programs. Creating assets and drops and stingers. Then, senior year, my friend and I got our first radio show! On Monday nights, 8:00–10:00 p.m., we played house music and mixes. We took live calls and gave shoutouts, and it was fantastic!” READ MORE

Center community needs.

Educators in southwest Colorado go directly to Native American learners rather than requiring students to come to the community college campus, where they often face cultural and logistical barriers to access. Education leaders have cultivated strong relationships with the Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute tribes of the Ute Nation. And recognizing the flaws in the traditional educational model, they continue to emphasize that the challenges lie in the structures themselves.

Increasing opportunities for Ute students benefits not only them, but the surrounding communities as well. And the same can be true for rural communities across the nation. Innovative, community-centered education starts with asking questions and seeking to understand the unique needs of the people. READ MORE

Lia Milgram is senior managing editor for ACTE.

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