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Small Steps Moving Toward Big Collaboration

High school leaders visiting a school with career academies or team teaching cannot help but be impressed with student engagement and enthusiasm for their projects. While this level of collaboration is impressive, the reaction is often that the level of collaboration might work in that school but certainly not with their school. Visiting principals reflect on how most high school teachers are comfortable with their subject and see little need to reach out to work with others. High levels of integration among academic and CTE teachers take time and must be a gradual process rather than a large-scale change. It is more effective to work gradually to elevate high levels of integration. The various models in the recently published Synergizing for Success: Academic and Career Integration for CTE give school leaders options to consider that might be easier and more effective to implement in their schools.

Leaders can also take small steps to gain a greater understanding of other teachers' instructional strengths and the importance of academic and technical courses in preparing students for career readiness. This blog offers some small steps as suggestions for working toward integration.

Cross-Subject Observations – Ask teachers to spend one or two planning periods on another subject. Asks CTE teachers to observe academic teachers and vice versa. Give teachers 2 or 3 simple things to observe and then collectively summarize teacher observations. Examples of questions are: What are observed strategies to increase student engagement? How does the teacher make the instruction relevant to students? What are effective teaching strategies you could adopt

Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) – Form PLCs that include subject and CTE teachers focused on common goals like improving literacy across the curriculum or integrating technology. The PLCs provide a structure for ongoing collaboration.

Joint Professional Development – Identify relevant professional development opportunities that bring subject and CTE teachers together to learn new strategies for integrating academic and technical content.

Employer Visitation Day – Identify several local employers to host short visits by small groups of teachers. Mix the groups with CTE and Academic areas. Ask employers to describe their business and the most essential skills for their employees. After visits, have teachers come together to share what they have learned and the lessons for the school’s programs.

Part-time Academic Coaches -Hire an instructional coach or retired Math or English teacher to observe CTE instruction and offer suggestions on how the CTE teachers might reinforce literacy and math in everyday instruction.

These can be small steps to open deeper conversations about more formal integration models and practices to benefit students and their preparation. If you have additional suggestions that worked in your school, add those in the comments.

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