Working together to improve educational opportunities for students: How do we create meaning for VET?
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This paper explores the institutionalisation of career and vocational education programs in secondary schools. In particular, the research represents the major findings of a doctoral study and investigates the institutionalisation of vocational education programs in six Western Australian government secondary schools. Five specific objectives formed the basis of the research. First, the study aimed to determine the meanings teachers construct for career and vocational education. Secondly, the direct effects of this personal construction of meaning on the organisational assimilation and institutionalisation of vocational education was examined. Thirdly, the study determined the relationships between these variables and fourthly, investigated the effectiveness of a causal model of variables using the method of path analysis. The fifth objective was to develop an instrument to measure the institutionalisation of these programs in secondary schools. Teachers' construction of meaning for vocational programs involved their perceptions of the curriculum as being divided between those areas which offered an 'academic' experience as opposed to those which were more closely linked to 'creativity'. This appeared to be the way in which teachers created meaning for a wide range of subject areas. While trends in school reform are conducive to new forms of vocational education, the two 'worlds' of academic and vocational education tend to remain quite distinct. This research indicates that locating the key to decreasing the bias some teachers have towards vocational courses could be compounded by the fact that the very notion of 'vocational education' does not even enter the psychological continuum for creating meaning in the first place.
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