Message from the President: Pretesting (November 2022)

11.15.2022 | Credentialing, News, Newsletters

Fall/Winter 2022 Newsletter

A focus on continuous improvement is a key factor in the successful advancement of society. Energy shortages are one relevant example of technological advancement. There is significant interest to move toward renewable sources to address this challenge. In the western parts of the U.S., there has been strong emphasis on installing offshore wind turbines. A challenge exists, however, because the depth of the Pacific Ocean increases quickly from the coastline moving west which means that wind turbines cannot be anchored to the sea bottom due to depth. As a result, wind turbines must be attached to a floating platform. The level of engineering and technical knowledge and skill for this undertaking can be mind-boggling. Yet, it is our CTE students that will solve these problems, build these systems, and maintain their operations.

The application of emerging technologies as well as the adaptation of existing technology is a highly sought-after skill and one of the foundations of career and technical education (CTE). This forward-thinking approach is one reason that over 75 percent of our nation’s secondary students participate in some form of CTE. Being a successful student requires great teachers and great teachers are only successful if they are equipped with the essential tools and resources to ensure instruction is successfully fueling the minds of the next generation of innovators.

In our last newsletter, we focused on a standard included in ACTE’s “Quality CTE Program of Study Framework,” focused on “Prepared and Effective Program Staff.” We reminded readers that a portion of this standard involves using evidence-based skills and knowledge. NOCTI believes a great teacher is a reflective teacher, but unless evidence exists, there may be limited opportunity for reflection. There are a variety of evidence sources but one that remains helpful to CTE teachers is technical skill assessment data. NOCTI recognizes this benefit through its suite of standardized reports. In this newsletter issue, we are focusing on the value of pretesting. In the education realm, a pretest is a tool that evaluates the preparedness of students for further studies. Let’s discuss how teachers can use data from pretests to enhance every learner’s journey.

One primary use of pretest data is to establish the baseline of a group of learners. Most CTE programs involve a longer time commitment, usually two to four years, which allows learners to gain confidence in their technical fields. By using a pretest early in the learner’s journey, a teacher can gauge the current state of technical skill competence at both an individual and classroom level. For example, students in one health career program may come from an area where the major employer is the local hospital. In this situation, pretest data may show that students have an above average understanding of health terminology. Armed with this knowledge, great teachers can adapt their lesson plans by increasing instructional time in other content areas and reducing the focus on health terminology.

A second use of pretest data is to utilize data for individualized instructional planning. Perhaps in the example above there were two learners who didn’t have as solid of an understanding of health terminology that was observed in other students. Great teachers would design individualized learning pathways to equip those learners with the skills needed to be successful.

Great teachers also use research to enhance their skills. Research tells us that instructional efficiency is increased when learners are engaged in designing their own learning plan. There are benefits of having an initial diagnosis of an individual’s strengths and challenges in a technical content area and then using data to develop a plan to enhance technical achievement in a particular career path.

An additional advantage of utilizing pretests is based on the experience itself. Many CTE programs involve a certification assessment at the program’s conclusion. Often, these assessments consist of 100+ questions and are administered online, in a timed environment. A pretest administered early in the instructional process familiarizes students with the testing environment but in a lower-pressure environment.

A primary goal for great teachers is to review longitudinal pretest data. By comparing several years of data, a teacher can annually evaluate the needs of incoming learners to determine how needs may have changed. The reflective teacher can use this data to design more effective instruction based on the shifting needs within their community!

The 2022-23 CTE year is underway, and we hope you will reflect, diagnose, and prescribe a plan that continues to move your learners, your institution, and CTE forward. Have a great year!

John Foster