Working to Learn: The Effect of Vocational Education on Working Class Student Engagement.
Gray, Julie Ann.
- Increasingly, districts are phasing out vocational education programs as the emphasis on standardized testing and measurable academic skills becomes stronger. Yet, these programs often fill an educational void for working class students, teaching them a specific, applicable skill set and locating their culture and knowledge within the institution of the school. This study explores how vocational e... read moreducation programs positively impact working class students' engagement. To investigate this claim, I collected qualitative data consisting of a five-month period of classroom observations and interviews with teachers and students in the drafting and machine technology shops in the Somerville High School Center for Career and Technical Education. Drawing upon pedagogical theories of student engagement of sociological theories of cultural capital and reproduction, this investigation demonstrates that because vocational education programs cater to working class youth in a way that traditional academic programs do not, they has a positive impact on working class student engagement. Pedagogically, vocational classrooms utilize the classroom-business model, authentic assessment, and active, independent student learning to provide students with applicable skill sets and tie abstract academic concepts to the real world. Sociologically, vocational education programs recognize the importance and value of working class cultural capital while simultaneously teaching students aspects of the dominant cultural capital that they need in order to advance socially and economically. Finally, vocational education programs provide a physical space within the school in which working class culture and capital is promoted, protected, and appreciated.read less