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Pennsylvania ACTE Fall 2016 Newsletter


Motivation Strategies for CTE


 Student Motivation

In Joey Fleck’s 25 years as a teacher, administrator, and teacher instructor, he knows how much motivation affects student success. 

Now as a competency based teacher education coordinator at Penn State, he also understands that motivating students requires a process a teacher can use. Something that encompasses the spectrum of motivational practices, that allows for follow through, and that works long term.

So Fleck developed a guide that breaks motivation into four parts, he calls it the C 3 Es.

Connect – To get students motivated, teachers must connect with them. It can be as simple as knowing and using all your students’ names. Fleck says discussions of interesting topics and recognizing students for things done outside of class are some good examples of making a connection. “It is not easy with 20 to 30 students,” he acknowledges. “But teachers should try to meet them where they are and find out what is going on with their students.”

Engage – Teachers can better engage students through relevance, says Fleck.  He advises that teachers need to show the importance of each skill.

Empower – Fleck explained that this piece is harder for CTE teachers because teachers want students to take over projects, but within the confines of what is safe. “A motivating instructor gives students room to learn and grow safely.” Empower also means that students need to have all the tools, equipment, and information to succeed. 

Encourage – Fleck advises teachers that encouragement should be specific. According to Fleck, encouragement works better if it is directed at an individual student’s efforts. “Say ‘Continue to focus on’ rather than just ‘Good Job.’”  He also cautions letting consistently top students slip by. “They also need to know that you notice their good work."

The Guide in Action

Charles Warren, building construction technology instructor at State College Area High School, has worked with Fleck on student motivation. According to Fleck, “he is a natural with student motivation.” 

Warren explains that he starts the school day with a connection called a bell ringer. It can be a pre- or post – test or simply an activity to get students started and puts everyone on the same page. After the bell ringer, Warren shows students a short video to engage them in the topic for the day. Then it is off to the shop or lab where students are empowered to work in teams to complete their projects. “It is the same first 20 minutes every day in my class, every year of the program,” he says. 

According to Warren, the encouragement piece happens throughout the day. “No one is wrong in my class. I might say, ‘That might not work in this situation.’ Even the toughest, off-the-wall answer, I will figure out how to make it fit.”

Warren also uses co-curricular activities to engage and motivate students. For example, he works with math teachers during his lessons on roofing to help students better understand the Pythagorean Theorem.  “Relevance really works well. When a student asks when am I going to use this, you have to provide a solid answer.”

Benefits of C 3 Es

Fleck and Warren view the C 3 Es as an action plan. “You need to ask how can I connect, engage, empower, and encourage,” says Fleck. “That is not to say that you have to use all four pieces all the time, but you will have a higher level of success with all four.”

“The stages make motivation almost like a flow chart,” explains Warren. “The teacher puts together the system and then the students work with the plan. It keeps everyone on course.”

Fleck adds that the C 3 Es strategy gives teachers an easy outline to follow. “You don’t have to be a great motivational speaker. You just have to apply these four areas to be successful.”

The C 3 Es also help teachers work on motivation throughout their class time. “It is something you incorporate from the time the students walk in the door until the time they leave,” Fleck says.

Once students experience a more motivational classroom, they can transfer these skills into the workplace. “A motivated employee is better able to relate to costumers, bosses, and other employees,” explains Fleck.

“One of the greatest benefits is that motivated students create a whole different classroom,” Fleck says. “Students have a desire to learn and try new things. There is a healthy level of risk taking. They’re not afraid to grow. They are focused on the positive efforts to achieve their goals. It is a whole transformation for students in the way they look at education and the possibilities to do well.”

Warren adds, “This system provides students with strategies they can use the rest of their lives. When my students come back from Penn State they say they have the tools to take a test, read a blue print, and get on in the workforce.”

-For More Information-

If you would like more information, including a copy of the C 3Es Guide, please contact Joey Fleck at jaf275@psu.edu.


Integrating STEM for Better CTE Preparation



Intermediate Unit 13 has one of the largest STEM teams, with a teacher for each area (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). Serving 22 districts, IU13 has worked on several fronts to bring STEM education to K-12 schools, better preparing students for career and technology education.

“CTCs are about the career and we focus on the education to get you to the CTC,” says Curt Funkhouser, the technology curriculum and instruction consultant in the IU 13 STEM team. 

The science curriculum and instruction consultant, Lauren Beal, agrees “At IU13, the STEM program builds interest in STEM careers. When a student pursues CTE, they will be better prepared.”

The IU13 STEM team works on several fronts to build STEM education in the Lancaster-Lebanon area’s school districts. They host and take part in STEM-based competitions, develop consortiums for professional development, and establish a leadership council for incorporating STEM in schools.

The Competitions

According to Beal, one of the ways schools start on their STEM journey is through student competitions. Beal works with a STEM Bowl competition for grades 3 – 5 that helps kick off a student’s familiarity with STEM. Funkhouser runs a grade 3 – 8 STEM competition where students develop a solution to a problem and create a web site to show their design process.

The Design Challenge, for grades 9-12, requires students engineer a solution to a problem. The IU hosts the competitions and winners go on to a state-level challenge. IU13 is also working with a Sierra robotics competition. Students can use any robotics system to go through air, sea, and land challenges. 

The Consortium

Beal described the consortium as a membership-driven group where different levels of membership gets you different levels of service.  A fee is associated with joining the consortium, but all the money goes back to the districts for professional development. Consortium members can use one of the STEM Team members as a consultant to construct professional development opportunities for their schools.

One of the programs the consortium is involved with is the Pulse Program. The elementary-focused institute involves teachers in a two-week summer program. The program uses agriculture as a theme and brought it under the STEM context, discussing land and water systems, farm design, and other STEM-based features. The 33 teachers then developed professional learning groups to pull it all together into lessons.

Beal says that being involved in the professional learning communities also drives the type of professional development the IU offers. For example, literacy skills are also a big topic for consortium members. IU13 did some programs on how to write like a scientist and engineer, better incorporating literacy skills into the STEM disciplines.

Funkhouser’s work with teachers on STEM has shown great benefits. “A lot of schools enjoy the opportunity to learn and share. The teachers could be from one end of the county to another and they get to share resources and ideas.”

 “It really opens teachers’ eyes,” he adds. “Teachers think ‘Oh no, engineering. I can’t do the math. But they can do it and seeing it in the curriculum makes it easier for them.”

“We will meet them where they are,” Beal says of schools wanting to get started. “We help you set goals and get you where you need to go. The IU is the best place to start and find out what your needs are.”

“Teachers who take part in our professional development create some interesting STEM lessons,” Beal adds. “The more professional development the teachers receive, the more experienced lessons and activities they do with the kids. The real-world context then better equips students for the workforce and career and technology programs in high school.”



Teaching Mindfulness in the CTE Classroom



Focused, present students who are thinking critically may sound like a tall order for the beginning of the school year. However, many teachers have turned to a particular practice to help themselves and their students start off on the right track. It is called mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a therapeutic technique that requires a person to focus on the present moment, acknowledging how they feel and what they are thinking.  And many teachers have turned to it to help students, and themselves, prepare to learn.

Jane Brooker, a business educator at Penns Valley High School, is currently looking at mindfulness in her doctoral studies at Penn State.  

“Mindfulness started out for me as a business educator with my passion for employability,” she says. “I would always hear about the big need for soft skills and when I started researching, I found that mindfulness encompassed all of those soft skills.”

For Brooker, mindfulness consists of three main concepts: thinking in the present tense; being aware of your surroundings; and feeling accepted and not judging your feelings.

For example, Brooker thinks of differentiation as a form of mindfulness. “When a teacher is not mindful, they are not aware that a student isn’t getting it. They just keep doing things their way. But when you are mindful, you give students different strategies to reach the same goals.”

Brooker used journals in class to help her students become more mindful of their learning. “I found journaling to be a positive experience in the classroom,” she says. “I saw a difference in attitude in my students. Also, I learned a lot of positive things about my students and their characteristics through it.”

Another simple practice Brooker has seen others use is the Mindfulness Minute. Teachers will use a minute at the beginning of class time for students to sit silently, calming their minds to get ready for class. “Students really liked it,” she says. “They even ask for it when it isn’t done on certain days.”

Brooker feels that examples like the Mindfulness Minute, eliminate time issues for teachers. “A big complaint for some teachers is that here is another new initiative. Another thing taking time away from the core subject. But it is really something you can’t do without. It focuses students and gets them ready for the day.”

The benefits of mindfulness practice go beyond just increased focus. “Mindfulness is the base and foundation and the employability skills would be the outcome of that,” she says. “If a person has regular mindfulness practice, when they communicate they will look you in the eye, listen to what you are saying, and comment on the conversation.”

Brooker also says that students who participate in mindfulness practice can better stay on task and can delve deeper and think more critically about subject matter. She also mentions that mindfulness practices can be used as an intervention strategy, particularly for students with ADHD.

Brooker has also used mindfulness with other teachers. At the high school, teachers were guided in 10 – 15 minutes of silence after school. “It was great to decompress our day,” she said. 

Brooker says that the one thing to remember about including mindfulness in your classroom is that it does not need to take up a lot of your time and can be whatever you are comfortable with, whether it be meditation, journaling, or yoga breaths.  “It will simply become a part of your daily routine that prepares everyone in class for their time together.



For more information on mindfulness, please visit:

www.casel.org – The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, is a leading organization in research and promotion of social and emotional learning for preschool through high school.

www.care4teachers.com – Care for Teachers is a unique professional development program that introduces emotional skills instruction to help teachers better manage their own stress and also build resiliency in themselves and their students.

https://www.garrisoninstitute.org/  – The Garrison Institute works with people from a variety of fields to promote contemplative practices.

www.mindful.org – Free phone apps, guides, and articles to help you begin your mindfulness practice.

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