Dick Jones, Center Specialist
April 30, 2018
Education critics point out that students today lack good work habits. This is not a new criticism! Historical quotes point out that for centuries adults have criticized youth as lazy, irresponsible and unfocused. Any valid criticism of youth work habits needs a basis of comparison; compared to what, in whose opinion, or by what standard? Vague, subjective comments on student work habits point out the difficulty in measuring this domain of learning and what the standards should be. We adults recognize the importance of positive work habits.
What is not debatable is that students need work traits to succeed such as collaborating with others, problem-solving and respecting others. To be productive in today’s workforce and achieve in college students need to show perseverance, responsibly complete tasks and manage time.
A recent study by the American Enterprise Institute reveals that the group of students in school who possess good work habits are in CTE classrooms. They are less likely than their peers to skip class or act irresponsibly. The study surveyed responses from the Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002, a federal database that tracked 15,000 10th grade students from 2002 to 2012. Surveys probed students' habits and self-concepts and asked teachers to describe student behaviors such as being attentive and completing homework. Students who take five or more CTE classes put more effort into routine tasks and persevere to graduate than peers who received little or no CTE. They also earn more by their mid-20s than their non-CTE peers. Students who take a lot of CTE courses in a full-time vocational-school setting are more likely to be working full time (and thus earning more) by young adulthood than peers at traditional high schools.
In summary, CTE course takers, compared to otherwise-similar students have, on average, higher non-cognitive skills, using the current work habits term of educator-researchers. The study, like most research, is unable to show that CTE develops these positive work habits or simply that students with more positive work habits gravitate to CTE. Indeed, CTE teachers should be proud of the characteristics of students they serve and if school leaders are looking for students to emulate, look within CTE. Beyond the research, it only makes sense that CTE does develop positive work habits where students have more opportunities, through hands-on projects, to demonstrate behaviors and receive constructive feedback from talented teachers. CTE deserved to be recognized for the contribution it makes to developing excellent student work habits.
More information on developing positive work habits is available on the NYS CTE TAC web page Life/Career Abilities.