Professional development of both returning and incoming teachers is critical to the strategic direction of Career and Technical Education (CTE) centers across New Hampshire.

“We are developing clusters of teachers where what we are looking to teach is not content, but instructionally-based,” said Kirsten Soroko, who has been tasked with the responsibility to provide trainings statewide. “We want CTE teachers to get to know one another, talk pedagogy, and education within and outside their centers.”

Digging deep with CTE trainings

Noting there are 16 such clusters in the state, she has trained teachers in workshops and offered a Summer CTE Boot Camp with Concord’s Val Koch for those exclusively new to the field of teaching.

“There are many new teachers in CTE centers across the state—we had 23 or 24 at our Summer Boot Camp and half were missing because they were at work,” she added. “These new teachers know their industry, but they require guidance in trying to instruct students in that knowledge.”

Reflecting the latest trends in instructional pedagogy, Soroko said it is her job to help both seasoned and new CTE teachers understand the importance in cultivating Depth of Knowledge (DOK) in students. According to her, DOK may be broken down into 4 levels and refers to levels of complexity regarding knowledge as opposed to something quantitative in nature.

While DOK 1 refers to knowledge on a subject that is purely descriptive, DOK 2 through DOK 4 represent an understanding that correspondingly relies on the respective ability to compare and contrast, synthesize and postulate theories. To achieve these successfully deeper levels of knowledge, however, she said it is important CTE teachers recognize that not all students learn in the same way.

“Some learn visually, some are kinesthetic, while others are auditory learners,” she said.

Within these CTE professional development training initiatives, Soroko said she has keyed in on the idea of differentiated instruction in which teachers concurrently address the diverse needs of these students at the same time. According to incoming CTE teachers, the initiative is working.

“We looked at the Rigor Matrix at The Boot Camp and I understood it, but didn’t know yet how to apply it,” said Rob Clark of the Mount Washington CTE Center. “After today, I do understand it and can see where some of my lessons have landed on the Matrix and also realized some need to go further.”

Another area of focus is the need to develop curriculum maps, which one teacher from SAU 57 said he felt the training offered within his cluster will help him achieve.

“It complements the work we’re doing with project based learning to develop authentic projects,” said teacher Jeff Bratz. “That I could work-shop a current project in development with a different angle is beneficial.”

Regardless of the specific discipline within CTE, Soroko said the idea is to continue to provide opportunities to bring teachers together.

“Teachers tend to work on islands,” she said. “We need to talk standards and deconstruct our current assessments…The future of CTE education is very much in the hands today’s incoming current teachers.”

It is an exciting challenge many CTE teachers are ready to face, according to Robin Bartnicki of the Manchester School of Technology, who said she was very pleased at what she took away from workshops earlier this year. In particular, she said she now understood how to help students move diagonally down toward DOK 4.

“It’s more important to have the kids think through complex ideas versus difficult ideas,” she said. “I’m going to go back to my class and tell them what I’ve learned today, show them the materials and tell them that they need to be part of the process.”