Empowerment of the blue-collar scholar: the integration of instructor–practitioners in California community college vocational education

The purpose of this study was to identify faculty attributes that contribute to VocEd student success and to reveal potential strategies for the better integration of a growing specialized workforce segment within the California Community College system. System growth has come with institutional mission expansion and the proliferation of programs designed to prepare students for direct entry into both vocational and paraprofessional fields. Staffing these programs has driven demand for highly specialized faculty who teach part-time while remaining professionally active in their field. Despite elevated levels of practical experience, instructor-practitioners can enter the field of instruction inadequately trained in pedagogy. Management of specialized curriculum and student access can also be compromised with faculty less integrated into institutional culture. Research focused on faculty attributes, staffing practices, and the potential impact of improved integration of CCC VocEd instructor-practitioners. Research was approached through inquiry into the perspectives of stakeholders from areas of industry whose personnel fulfilment needs may be addressed by students served. The study relied on a mixed-methods design with participants responding both to fixed-response survey questions and open-ended areas of inquiry in a focus group setting. Quantitative and qualitative findings were analyzed concurrently to produce an aggregate findings package. Findings suggested that 1) among VocEd faculty in particular, relevance and currency of instructor skillsets and levels of field experience were vital, 2) delivery of curricular content was more important than faculty attributes, and 3) both traditional VocEd faculty and part-time instructor practitioners brought valuable attributes to the table.