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Examining the Effect of Vocational Training for Disabled Young Adults on Workforce Preparation


Essayeditor    8 | -   Freelance Writer
Jun 26, 2017 | #1
CONCEPT PAPER - GRADUATE FACULTY OF THE SCHOOL OF BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY MANAGEMENT

Table of Contents
Introduction
Statement of the Problem
Purpose of the Study
Research Questions
Hypotheses
Definitions of Key Terms
Brief Review of the Literature
Historical Transitional Influences
Individuals with Disabilities Educational Act (IDEA)
Current Transitional Concerns
The Business of Producing Current Workforce Skills
Model of Learning: Mastery Learning
Transition
Research on Transition
Research Method
Operational Definition of Variables
Measurement
Summary
References

Introduction

Vocational Training StudentsFormal vocational training that enables young adults to produce or demonstrate current workforce skills presents most training programs with a great challenge. Vocational instruction is designed to address the needs of a diverse group of learners including young adults, high school dropouts, and individuals who do not attend a university after high school for a variety of reasons. Students with disabilities make up approximately 13.4% of the total public school student population in the United States (National Center for Educational Statistics). Many students with disabilities have difficulty obtaining employment after high school. The preparation of students with disabilities for employment after high school is important because these students are currently less employable than non-disabled students, and they make up a substantial portion of the population of students. If these students were better prepared for employment, they could help fill a gap in the labor market that exists for students with specialized vocational training.

As the current labor market in the United States requires youth between the ages of 19-23 to acquire more specialized training for businesses that demand higher levels of skill mastery, vocational instruction is changing to accommodate the needs of training organizations in specific career areas. As a result, Olsen (2010) stated that training organizations and traineeship or apprenticeship opportunities have increased their investment in college-aged students. The proposed quantitative study will be used to address specific issues related the effect of vocational training on the preparation of students with disabilities to achieve success in the workforce. Eggerth's (2008) theory of work adjustment is the underlying basis for this study because it focuses on the knowledge gap that exists between what students with disabilities are able to do and the requirements of the workforce.

Statement of the Problem

All American citizens have a right to a free and appropriate public education guaranteed by the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA (1975), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (Superfine). Furthermore, these Acts require that the educational services provided to students with disabilities are developed taking into account their employment after high school graduation (Sabbatino & Macrine, 2007). Given that students with disabilities have lower employment rates than non-disabled students after high school, the training given to disabled students to prepare them for the workforce requires examination.

Originally, vocational or technical training prepared learners for jobs that were based on hands-on skills which were learned and observed with the watchful eye of a certified, experienced trainer, not necessarily a professional educator. According to Blackorby and Wagner, only one-third of students with disabilities are ready to enter the workplace upon graduation. Thus, the problem to be addressed in the proposed study is that as many as three-fourths of all high school students with disabilities are inadequately prepared to contribute to the workforce.

Vocational training offers one possible mechanism to address this problem by providing students with disabilities with the skills they require to compete in the workforce. Eggerth's theory of work adjustment is used as the theoretical foundation for this study. This theory addresses the reasons for the gaps between what an individual is able to do and what is required in the workforce, such as the ability to comprehend basic instructions and the ability to get along with others and work in a social environment. Within the existing literature,; however, much of the focus has been on whether students with learning disabilities pursue higher education. In addition, other researchers have focused on the idea that students with learning disabilities need to be self-determined in order to overcome the obstacles created by having learning disabilities in order to be success after high school. In the proposed study, this theory will be extended by examining the possibility that vocational education can reduce the gap between the skills possessed by students with disabilities and the skills that are required for gainful employment after high school.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this quantitative, correlational study is to examine the relationship between of vocational training on the preparation of students with disabilities and success in the workforce. The population of interest in this study consists of students with disabilities aged 19 to 23 in the United States who have graduated from high school. The data from this study will come from the National Longitudinal Transitional Study 2 (NLTS-2), a longitudinal survey conducted by the National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER) and the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). The primary independent (predictor) variable in this study is whether or not the student attended a vocational school after high school. The control variables are the students' gender, race, family structure, and academic achievement. The dependent (outcome) variable in this study is the overall level of adaptive functioning skill possessed by the participants as assessed with the Scales of Independent Behavior (Bruininks, Woodcock, Weatherman, & Hill, 1996). This score is a composite of the individual's motor skills, social and communication skills, personal living skills, and community living skills. Adaptive functioning has been shown to correlate with employment status. Multiple regression analyses will be performed to determine whether or not attending a vocational school increases adaptive functioning while controlling for gender, race, family structure, and academic achievement.

Research Questions

These quantitative research questions once answered will indicate the success of vocational training on the adaptive functioning of students with disabilities. The first four research questions address the effects of four control variables on adaptive functioning, while the fifth research question specifically addresses the purpose of the study.

Q1. To what extent, if any, does adaptive functioning differ based on gender among students with disabilities between the ages of 19-23?

Q2. To what extent, if any, does adaptive functioning differ based on race among students with disabilities between the ages of 19-23?

Q3. To what extent, if any, does adaptive functioning differ based on family structure among students with disabilities between the ages of 19-23?

Q4. To what extent, if any, is academic achievement correlated with adaptive functioning among students with disabilities between the ages of 19-23?

Q5. To what extent, if any, does adaptive functioning differ based on whether students attended a vocational school among students with disabilities between the ages of 19-23 when controlling for gender, race, family structure, and academic achievement?

Hypotheses

H1o. Adaptive functioning among students with disabilities between the ages of 19-23 does not differ based on the gender of the students.

H1a. Adaptive functioning among students with disabilities between the ages of 19-23 differs based on the gender of the students.

H2o. Adaptive functioning among students with disabilities between the ages of 19-23 does not differ based on the race of the students.

H2a. Adaptive functioning among students with disabilities between the ages of 19-23 differs based on the race of the students.

H3o. Family structure is not related to adaptive functioning among students with disabilities between the ages of 19-23.

H3a. Family structure is related to adaptive functioning among students with disabilities between the ages of 19-23.

H4o. Academic achievement is not correlated to adaptive functioning among students with disabilities between the ages of 19-23.

H4a. Academic achievement is correlated to adaptive functioning among students with disabilities between the ages of 19-23.

H5o. Attending a vocational school does not affect adaptive functioning among students with disabilities between the ages of 19-23 when controlling for gender, race, family structure, and academic achievement.

H5a. Attending a vocational school affects adaptive functioning among students with disabilities between the ages of 19-23 when controlling for gender, race, family structure, and academic achievement.

Definitions of Key Terms

This section contains definitions of key terms used in this study.

Career pathways training. Career pathways develops educational opportunities that provide students the skills needed to gain entry-level positions (National Research Center for Career and Technical Education).

Free and appropriate public education. A free education to all American citizens and their children guaranteed by the IDEA, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

National Longitudinal Transitional Study 2 (NLTS-2). National study conducted with 19 to 21 year old students to examine their needs and outcomes as they move from high environment to work or tertiary education.

Standards-based education. Education designed to produce learning related to specific, Measurable criteria, in the workplace.

Transitional period. The transitional period refers to transition from the school environment to work or tertiary education.

Underprepared. In need of refresher coursework and/or close periods of observations until content mastery.

Vocational training. Training for a specific vocation in industry or agriculture or trade.

BRIEF REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE



Historical Transitional Influences

Young adults in this country between the ages of 19-23 who are furthering their education through a vocational and technical training program will face many rigorous challenges before graduation and transitioning into the workplace. Transition between the secondary school environment and the workplace for students enrolled in vocational and technical training programs is not new and dates back to the turn of the century. Transition between environments was a concern with company management forefathers like W. Edwards

Deming and Frederick W. Taylor, as well as an influential progressive educator pioneer like John Dewey influenced the quality of management from a scientific perspective contending that a major factor in company profit and profitability rested on the shoulders of management and not on the entry level employee. Deming (2000) is famous for this quote, "The problem is at the top; management is the problem" (p. 122). Likewise, Taylor felt that the prosperity of the employer was connected to the prosperity of the employee for monetary reward along with company growth should be available to them both. However, Taylor is noted for his harsh demeanor toward the uneducated (p. 13). Taylor did come to realize that rather than dehumanizing the work and breaking the work down into smaller units to maximize efficiency and promoted teamwork. Encouragement of work based teams in which all workers could contribute was promoted. These new contributions increased worker morale, provided a sense of ownership, and improved management-worker relations.

On the other hand, Dewey advocated for the entry level employee to come to the employer with a certain set of learned skills, relevant in the workplace and not just in the classroom. Surely, the workplace has greatly evolved since the early 1900s, for most businesses now strive to maintain positive community relations since many of their employees many come from within the surrounding communities (Olsen, 2010).

Individuals with Disabilities Educational Act (IDEA)

The historical background of special education laws demonstrated a gradual progression from isolation and barring of disabled students to a movement toward their inclusion. Currently, the education of disabled students is driven by three legal imperatives, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the IDEA (1993), and the Americans with Disabilities Act. These laws provide the framework for a free and appropriate public education for students with disabilities. However, they do not address the student's needs for transition to the workplace explicitly. One study, which was also based on NLTS-2 data, found that students with disabilities had an increased likelihood of dropping out of secondary school if they felt that they were not being prepared for transition. Because of this, a reduced level of support for students prior to the transition period is likely to have negative effects on their transitional success.

The transitional period has always been a difficult one for most high school students, and evidence suggests that schools do not prepare them well for this transitional period. An early discussion of the role of special education in the transition from secondary school to the workplace found that there was little emphasis placed on providing students with skills needed for a successful transition. Using a meta analytic approach, as well as comparison of current training activities, Okolo and Sitlington (1986) noted that there were few schools that provided any type of transitional counseling or development. This study identified six different types of training and skills that should be provided by special education services in order to prepare for students for work, including occupational awareness and work experience, career and vocational assessment, job-related instruction in academic and interpersonal skills, support services for vocational programming, and work placement and follow-up services.

Current Transitional Concerns

Most company executives have high hopes for all vocational trainees and tend to compassionately maintain high standards and follow strict guidelines for this age group until they are hired. A separate review found that the transition from school to work continued to be problematic. This study found that there were some improvements in schools that mainstreamed students, increased systemic focus on career training and transitional outcomes, and included disabled and non-disabled students. This study identified two practices that had been used with good results in a number of studies: the use of supervised work experience and the integration of specific academic skills, job-related tasks, and people skills into the curriculum.

There are still issues with appropriate secondary school training and curricula for students with as well as without disabilities. This is particularly problematic with standard-based education as enforced in most vocational and technical training programs. Stodden et al. acknowledged that students with disabilities have complex and individual needs, and may require additional support from business managers and vocational training educators.

Olsen (2010) argued that supports are often missing or not sufficient to keep up with the needs of either students or educators. Odom (1994) noted that cultural literacy factors can affect a student's ability to read, write, and make sense of what is being taught through familiarity or small units of content. Odom further shared that with a wide range of cultural references and realistic support systems, students can learn to academically thrive in any given workforce partnership.

The Business of Producing Current Workforce Skills

Embracing a 21st century focus to improve the educational outcomes of vocational and technical training programs, administrators are reassessing their academic goals especially in terms of instructional learning objectives and community relations. The pedagogical approach for setting criteria has shifted towards a more global focus to incorporate relevant rigor, business partnering, and service quality guidelines. Simpson, Stahl, and Francis recommended eight best practice principles toward 21st century learning, one of which was adopting of a programmatic model that would emphasize the cognitive development allowing students to be more responsible for their learning. Support for educators in developing helpful classes and teaching methods is important, because this has also been shown to be a factor in likelihood to drop out. However, the unfortunate fact is that the level of support given to teachers in order to promote standard-based learning is not high enough to keep up with the needs of students (Pisha & Stahl, 2005). Pisha and Stahl further suggested the solution to use standardized curricula and textbooks in order to meet the needs of students, and to reduce the burden on educators for transitional planning.

Finally, this literature review has demonstrated two factors. First, there is a lack of organized and standardized transitional programs for students with and without disabilities. Second, standards-based education has not been successful in meeting the needs of students while continuing to provide job training. Although there is some evidence of effective programs, there has been little comprehensive research conducted on what elements may provide a higher level of skill set mastery in transition than others. This is the gap that the current research is intended to fill.

Model of Learning: Mastery Learning

Pertaining to skill set mastery or mastery learning, John Carroll's model may be most commonly known for its categorizing of variables and explanations that influence training practices and classroom learning. Carroll's model is significant here because it concentrated on relating words and their meanings to cognitive concepts to aid each learner in the comprehension of assigned tasks or activities with the appropriate time allotment. This model is also important because it requires each learner to be actively engaged in class instructions to obtain skill set mastery. For Carroll, student involvement with assigned training tasks equaled or produced the students' ability to understand considering that they were given quality instruction.

Principles found in Carroll's model stem from Benjamin Bloom's mastery learning model. Bloom held that a student's aptitude for learning was a great indicator for achievement. Bloom's model stressed that each learner needed a stable learning environment with quality instruction, in addition to aptitude, in order to achieve. Developing a stable learning environment could be accomplished by providing quality instruction that: (a) organizes subject content into small manageable learning units; (b) develops specific learning objectives for each training unit; (c) develops appropriate formative and summative assessment measures; and (d) plans and implements group teaching strategies, with sufficient time allocations, practice opportunities, and corrective reinstruction for all students to reach the desired level of mastery.

Although there is no consistent model in use for the construct of learning disabilities, McKenzie (2009) indicated that a distinctive approach to measurement, rather than a lack of consensus regarding the general issue of learning disabilities, is behind this lack of consistency. This is why small units of subject content are relevant for the vocational/technical population. The recent operationalization of specific learning concerns has focused recently on differences in cognitive processing capability (Johnson, 2010). Given this generalization, it was noted that these methods have not obtained full currency, but Socratic questioning can prove to be essential, a fundamental component in the comprehension process. Considering all participants in the vocational or technical training setting, an instructor or business owner must present accommodations for all, and essential questioning techniques are relevant in both contexts of learning and employment productivity. Bloom (1968) stressed the fact that in the course of asking thoughtful questions instructors and employment managers can assess student retention.

Both vocational instructor and partnering employer can help them connect their thoughts and ideas with content concepts, and increase their awareness and critical thinking processes on the journey of exploring new levels of knowledge. Business partnering incorporates stages of transition. The journey through each stage requires them to assimilate the critical thinking processes involved as they are escorted through the vocational training. Each learner is presented with a way to show growth and preparedness for the transition.

Transition

Transition refers to the prepared learner gravitating into their actual assigned workplace, equipped with the vocational skill sets and business partnering dexterity. The young adult should be ready to now put all assimilated knowledge to work. The transitional period refers to details and time involved with each learner leaving the school environment and actually arriving into workplace or tertiary education. Transitioning from the vocational training center into the entry level position speaks to technical skill achievement, as well as academic student achievement. In this transitional period the technical and vocational training center and instructional cords are only partially severed. Lindstrom and Benz (2002) further noted that the transitional period is a dual process of assessment and coaching.

Most business owners desire that students to come to the entry level position as prepared as possible and acclimation to the workplace requires support as well. Partnering guidelines and company objectives are discussed and company standards are stressed frequently during this period of transition (Olsen, 2010). Transition is often seen as a three-stage process involving unsettled, exploratory, and focused stages of development (Lindstrom & Benz, 2002). Although the issues of a successful or unsuccessful transition are not clearly defined, the challenges presented to learners at this time are discussed in this review of literature, as well as the benefits of meeting company objectives early. Various studies have been conducted and have produced mixed outcomes, but high dropout rates reflect the students' need for more meaningful support (Dunn).

Research on Transition

A number of other studies have been performed that explore the transitional period. Dunn (2004) found that students had a higher dropout rate if they did not feel prepared for transition, indicating that a higher level of support for students prior to transition was important to transitional success. This is problematic because other studies have revealed that many schools do not offer a high level of support during this period. The introduction of transitional planning into the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) required for compliance with Section 504 has been identified as an effective approach to improving the transitional experience for students with disabilities.

The NLTS-2 was designed to follow special needs students from the ages of 13-16 (beginning in 2000) through middle high and high school and into the transition into employment or higher education. The NLTS-2 was implemented to update the findings of the initial NLTS, a study that was conducted between 1987 and 1993. The NLTS-2 contained data that were collected in waves and that were spaced 2 to 4 years apart. The collected data in the NLTS-2 were based on school records; standardized test scores, student interviews, and various other sources. However, from a business perspective this study only produced large amounts of descriptive data, and as such further analysis is required in order to focus on specific areas of concern, such as transition into the workplace or vocational training with mastery level skills.

From a business perspective, McGregor acknowledged that work performances must be critiqued and entry level employees must be motivated (p.117-119). Likewise, since these young adults will be paid for their performance or work on the job, Deming (2000) affirmed that quality instruction should produce quality service (p. 144). For vocational and technical training professionals interested in building a positive learning atmosphere, a systems approach can be considered. This study suggests the consideration of learner-centered plans and learning components, in concert with teaching reflective business practices and standards. To integrate relevant content faculty should consider using two or more instructional methods to accommodate both direct and differentiated needs with a systems thinking perspective (Drucker).

This method demonstrates the gradual inclusion of a few of the seven improvements in the curriculum identified by Okolo and Sitlington (1986) that were successful in improving the success of transition; however, it continued to be difficult for learning disabled students. A 2002 review of the same situation found that there continued to be limited availability of programs, and that there was some overlap in availability but that it was not significant. Although this continues to be an area of study, the issue remains undecided. Therefore, performance results and research outcomes can show a linkage for training center and business criteria collaborations, for the betterment of vocational students, as well as those forthcoming.

Research Method

The purpose of this study is to examine the effect of vocational training on the preparation of students with disabilities to achieve success in the workforce. A quantitative, correlational research design will be employed. The relationship between attending a vocational school and adaptive behavior will be examined while controlling for gender, race, family structure, and academic achievement. The population of interest in this study consists of students with disabilities aged 19 to 23 in the United States who have graduated from high school. About 2.6 million students in the United States are classified as having learning disabilities (National Center for Learning Disabilities). Of that 2.6 million students with learning disabilities, only about 40% of them graduate high school. Secondary data for this study will come from the NLTS-2 (2009) will be used in this study. The NLTS-2 is a longitudinal survey conducted by the NCSER IES that uses random sampling to collect data on students with learning disabilities. The final sample consisted of approximately 3,000 students. The independent variable in this study is whether or not the student attended a vocational school after high school, and the dependent variable is the overall level of adaptive functioning skill possessed by the participants as assessed with the SIB-R.

Operational Definition of Variables

Gender. Gender is a dichotomous variable that will serve as a control variable in this study. Gender will be coded as 0 = male and 1 = female.

Race. Race is a nominal variable that will serve as a control variable in this study. Four race categories will be used: Caucasian, African American, Hispanic, and other. For the purposes of the regression analyses discussed below, three dummy variables will be constructed as indicators of African American, Hispanic, and other races, with Caucasian serving as the reference category.

Family structure. Family structure is a nominal variable that will serve as a control variable in this study. Family structure will be coded as a dichotomous variable coded as 0 = not a two-parent household and 1 = two-parent household. A two-parent household will be defined as a household in which two parents are present, and will include step-parents.

Academic achievement. Academic achievement will be used as a control variable in this study. This is a continuous variable. The NLTS-2 assessments included the administration of math, reading, vocabulary, science, and social studies tests, and a composite measure based on the average of the students' achievement in these five areas will be used as the measure of academic achievement.

Attendance at a vocational school. This is the primary independent variable in this study. This is a dichotomous variable and will be coded as 0 = no attendance at a vocational school and 1 = attendance at a vocational school.

Adaptive behavior. Adaptive behavior will be measured with the SIB-R. The SIB-R provides a variety of scores related to adaptive functioning for individuals with disabilities. The total adaptive behavior scores will be used in this study. This is a continuous variable.

Measurement

Permission to conduct this study will be obtained from the Northcentral University Institutional Review Board prior to implementation of the research procedures. Data will be extracted from the NLTS-2 database for the variables of interest in this study. The data that will be collected from the NLTS-2 via a restricted data use license issued by the NCSER IES . The NLTS-2 study has included a wide range of measurements including the use of surveys and test instruments, standardized testing scores, student, teacher, and administrator interviews, assessments, and other observational variables (NLTS-2, 2010).The data will be analyzed using the SPSS computer program. Initially, descriptive statistics will be computed for all study variables including means and standard deviations for all continuous variables and frequencies and percentages for all categorical variables.

Inferential analyses will be performed to test the null hypotheses of this study using two-tailed tests and an alpha level of .05. In order to determine if gender has an effect on adaptive behavior, an independent samples t test will be performed. A one-way ANOVA will be performed to determine if the four racial groups differ in terms of adaptive behavior. An independent samples t test will be performed to determine if students from two-parent homes and other types of homes differ in terms of academic achievement. A Pearson correlation will be used to determine if academic achievement is related to adaptive functioning.

In order to determine if attending a vocational school has an effect on adaptive functioning among students with disabilities between the ages of 19-23 when controlling for gender, race, family structure, and academic achievement, a multiple regression analysis will be preformed. Although descriptive statistics and correlational analyses can provide some insight into the general outcomes of the study, they cannot identify the complex interrelationships among the independent and dependent variables. Regression is a more useful approach that will help the researcher to identify the specific relationships and the strength of these relationships between the variables. Specifically, regression analysis will be used to determine how much of the variation in adaptive behavior can be accounted for by the attending a vocational school when controlling for gender, race, family structure, and academic achievement (Kahane, 2001). Sirkin (2006) also acknowledged that multiple regression analyses could be performed so that the relationships between the independent and dependent variables can be examined independently of the control variables.

Summary

The transition from high school to the work force for students with disabilities between the ages of 19-23 is the focus of this study. To successfully complete this transition, students require certain skills, assessed through a measure of adaptive behavior in the proposed study. According to McGregor employing a systems thinking approach such as business partnering considers student requirements, as well as employer requirements as they relate to quality service and profitability. For example, to incorporate useful and meaningful content, in concert with essential classroom instruction and vocational training practices, instructors employ a systems thinking approach by allowing familiar or relevant business professionals to assist with teaching content knowledge.

These professionals can bring in current examples or tools to clarify skill set mastery. Business professionals who are willing to enter the classroom to work with the course instructors will leave a positive or negative lasting effect on each student in that class. In this context of this setting, quality service criteria and business efficacy can come together and illuminate good business practices and perspectives for each learner.

This section, therefore, has contained a presentation of the approach that will be used in this quantitative study of collecting data. The purpose of the study is to examine the effect of vocational training on the preparation of students with disabilities to achieve success in the workforce. This proposal has included a discussion of the specific research questions and hypotheses for this study, as well as research method to be applied in order to achieve the purpose of this study. The proposal has also included information on why this research is important, in order to identify one of the main elements of experience of students with or without a learning disabilities in the American educational system.

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