At a Glance
In response to a decline in students’ NOCTI performance, a multi-school, collaborative approach to professional learning was organized for instructors in one program area.
Following a change in the NOCTI Homeland Security assessment, a decrease in student performance was noticed at several southwestern Pennsylvania career and technical centers. Further, most of the region’s instructors for this program are former firefighters who may need assistance in teaching the law enforcement portion of the exam. In response, Parkway West Career and Technology Center Director Dr. Darby Copeland recommended that Career and Technical Distinguished School Leader Dr. Mike Curley facilitate professional learning for his and other Homeland Security instructors in the region. Dr. Curley organized a two-day meeting for instructors from nine CTCs. Release time and a substitute teacher was provided by each CTC. Participating instructors represented the following CTCs:
- Parkway West Career and Technology Center
- A.W. Beattie Career Center
- Pittsburg School District
- Forbes Road Career and Technology Center
- Butler County Area Vocational Technical School
- Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Center
- Steel Center Area Vocational Technical School
- Connellsville School District
- Greene County Career Center
The first day focused on examining NOCTI assessment data from a statewide and individual CTC perspective. This process was made easier by data reports generated and provided at no cost by Todd Luke, President of MAX Teaching. Through careful data analysis, instructors identified twelve skills/duty areas in need of improvement. The remainder of day one was spent discussing ways in which each instructor taught these specific skills. Importantly, instructors whose students responded correctly to questions relating to the identified NOCTI skills described the way in which they teach those skills. To conclude, each instructor selected one or two of the identified skills and agreed to find/develop resources (e.g., lesson plans, handouts) to more effectively teach the skill(s). It was agreed that they would bring these resources to the next meeting. The second meeting was dedicated to sharing and reviewing these resources, which were also curated into a Homeland Security Program NOCTI Test Prep Kit.
While the two-day professional learning activity was deemed a success, it was not without some challenges. For example, five of the nine participants completed the day two assignment. To increase efficacy of the activity, the following steps are recommended:
- Identify CTCs whose students performed well on the NOCTI assessment areas identified as troublesome among these instructors. Request their lesson plans, resources and instructional strategies and distribute them to the professional learning activity participants, advising them to integrate the practices into lesson plans they develop for the day two assignment.
- Provide and require instructors to utilize a lesson plan template; using a consistent format ensures that all aspects of the plan are included.
- Enlist a curriculum specialist or CTDSL to review (and recommend changes where appropriate) each lesson plan before it is shared on day two.
- Develop and distribute in advance an agenda for the professional learning activity with clearly stated expectations.
As a result of this collaborative professional learning opportunity, Homeland Security instructors discovered new ways to teach skills deemed problematic for their students. They further reported that the experience was very beneficial and helped break the sense of teaching and learning in isolation. Spring 2018 NOCTI result data will determine if this activity has a positive impact on students’ NOCTI assessment performance. CTC directors in southwestern Pennsylvania wish to expand this professional learning model to other program areas.
Dr. Mike Curley, CTSDL