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CTE InstructionCareer and technical education makes a unique and essential contribution to student learning. CTE is not a single subject area but a group of many distinct programs and courses that develop academic and technical skills in a variety of career areas. While technical skills, as defined in the workplace, are the core; CTE instruction also provides students with opportunities to apply and reinforce core academic content learned in other subjects. A third instructional component, called Life/Career, fosters the development of key behaviors and mindsets critical to career success. All CTE instruction blends these three instructional elements.

Five characteristics of high-quality CTE instruction are:

  • Alignment - The technical skills developed align with the tools and processes currently used in employment.
  • Relevance - Student work is based on real-world problems and projects.
  • Rigor - Students find the work academically challenging, requiring higher-level thinking skills.
  • Safety - Students follow established safety procedures to protect themselves and others.
  • Engagement - Students are mentally and emotionally connected to the work and exhibit behaviors that show continued interest in learning.

Following are several instructional tools to assist teachers and leaders in ensuring high-quality CTE Instruction.

ACTE Quality CTE

ACTE QualityThe ACTE published the Quality CTE Program of Study Framework published in 2018, which includes 12 elements for high-quality programs. One of these, Engaging Instruction addresses instructional strategies within a student-centered learning environment.

  • Program of study instruction is driven by relevant content area standards and learning objectives.
  • Project-based learning and related instructional approaches, such as problem-based, inquiry-based, and challenge-based learning, are fully integrated into the program of study.
  • Contextualized instruction results in students applying technical, academic, and employability knowledge and skills within authentic scenarios.
  • Instruction emphasizes the connection between academic and technical knowledge and skills, including through cross-disciplinary collaboration.
  • Instruction incorporates relevant equipment, technology, and materials to support learning.
  • Instruction is flexible, differentiated, and personalized to meet the needs of a diverse student population.
  • Management of the educational environment builds a culture of learning and respect.

The ACTE website on High-Quality CTE includes links to Instructional Strategies and Tools from several national and other state learning resources which are helpful in reflecting on instruction.

Rigor/Relevance Framework®

The Rigor/Relevance Framework is a tool developed by the International Center for Leadership in EducationRR Framework to examine curriculum, instruction, and assessment. The Rigor/Relevance Framework has four quadrants based on two dimensions of higher standards and student achievement: the Knowledge Taxonomy and the Application Model. The Framework is an easy-to-use model for planning instructional and assessment planning and for conversations on instructional improvement among teachers and administrators to increase rigor and relevance.

To learn more about the framework watch An Introduction to the Rigor/Relevance Framework or an excellent video explanation of the definition of rigor and relevance and an introduction of the Rigor/Relevance Framework. Take the Rigor/Relevance Reflection Survey which is a personal reflection survey on the level of rigor and relevance in your classroom for you to use in working toward Quadrant D learning.

CAREER Instructional Model

The CAREER Instructional Model is another set of tools to reflect on the quality of instruction and identifies six instructional elements that are essential to career readiness. CAREER is an acronym based on the first letters of these six elements.

  • Connect with RelevanceCAREER Model
  • Assess for Proficiency
  • Reward Creativity and Innovation
  • Engage as Independent Learners
  • Empower with Hope and Confidence
  • Rate Work Habits and Collaboration

Learn more about the CAREER Instructional Model in this video presentation.

For each element in the CAREER Instructional Model, there is an online survey for teachers to reflect on their instructional practices. The surveys are free and take less than 5 minutes to complete. They are meant to serve as a personal assessment tool. After responding to a series of characteristics with the degree to which they are in your practice, you will receive a report that summarizes favorable practices and offers suggestions on how to improve other practices

This CAREER model and the surveys give teachers a tool that can inspire outstanding instruction and surpass minimum teacher evaluation requirements. Working with these surveys can be a useful way to demonstrate growth in the profession.  For more information about specific research and practices related to the elements in the model, there are books/articles and videos on this resource list. 

Powerful CTE Instructional PracticesSREB Instructional Practices

The Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) has developed a framework called Powerful CTE Instructional Practices help teachers design authentic, challenging learning experiences that inspire students to solve complex problems, think critically, and master the standards-based academic, technical, and employability skills needed to earn industry and postsecondary credentials, secure good jobs and advance in their careers as lifelong learners. The practices include teacher behaviors, student behaviors, and artifacts in six elements; Culture of Learning, Plan with the End in Mind, Collaboration, Academic Integration, Authentic Learning, and Assessment and Feedback.