Authentic Learning in CTE: An Exercise Physiology Project Launch Combines Content, Data, and Real Athletes

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I have become a bit of a jack of all trades in the last four years, including becoming a career and technical education (CTE) teacher and now department chair. One of my goals this year was to increase my teachers’ capacity for innovative instruction and project-based learning (PBL). While some of my teachers need more traditional support for classroom management and instructional planning, I have several who are wading deep into the PBL waters. One such teacher is one of our health occupations teachers, Mr. S. Mr. S is teaching the third level class of the Healthcare Pathway named Exercise Physiology. The class can end in students achieving national certification as a personal trainer recognized anywhere and certifying them to work in any gym. The work is technical and heavy in vocabulary, jargon, and math, which can be off-putting for students no matter how engaged they are with going into the healthcare field. So Mr. S and I started planning a project that would authenticate the processes and jargon they were learning through application with very real clients–some of the school’s student athletes. Continue reading

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Under-prepared? Distracted? Overwhelmed?: The Role of CTE and Internships as Laboratories for Work and Life

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I feel acknowledging my blog’s sudden turn toward Career and Technical Education (CTE) and my state’s Work-Based Learning (WBL) program is important. I have a few ideas marinating for the blog concerning my more traditional focus on project-based learning and literacy, but for the next few posts, I am going to dive even further into reflecting on the role of students participating in CTE courses, internships, potential benefits, and what must be done for those benefits to materialize for more students. My first post on the subject was a few weeks ago. I lamented the challenges I saw my 11th and 12th grade students face to really prepare for an internship and the workforce. Today’s post has some similarities, but I now put the critical lens on myself and other CTE educators.

Why? Well as the title suggests, my WBL students this year are a combination of under-prepared, distracted, and overwhelmed. The first adjective is mine. I have to own my conjecture that my students are under-prepared based on my observations from the last month. I also own it because I am one of the reasons they appear unprepared. The second adjective society must own. I know I feel distracted. My phone distracts me; my email distracts me; television distracts me. But what my frontal lobe affords me that my students’ does not is impulse control. I can typically make a conscious effort to walk away from those distractions. My students, as a product of the world they inhabit (one they’ve had little say in shaping might I remind you), are distracted, but their distractions far outweigh mine as an adult. The last adjective belongs to them. They use this word to describe themselves. The reason I get most from my students to why they do not complete a task, communicate clearly, or avoid responsibility is they mention feeling overwhelmed.

So what’s the solution? We are. Educators are. I am. Continue reading