This study was designed to assess and identify factors that make a vocational program successful. Using qualitative methods for collection and analysis of data, vocational instructors and students in programs identified to be successful were interviewed to better depict the classroom setting, teachers, methods, etc. of these successful programs. Participants included instructors of and students enrolled in secondary vocational programs in the state of Mississippi identified to be most successful according to C-PAS test scores in each of the following training areas: Building Trades (carpentry), Business and Computer Technology, Marketing Management Technology, and Allied Health. MS-CPAS test scores were analyzed to identify the highest performing schools in four vocational disciplines.
Several methods were used to gather information for an analysis to determine what factors are significant in making these programs successful. These methods included interviews, focus groups, and classroom observations. Focus groups were formed from students enrolled in said programs to gain information on student perception of the program. Guided interviews of the instructors of each program were conducted in order to identify teaching method, style, classroom and school environment, etc. Classroom observations were made to gain a third-party independent perspective of the programs. Using triangulation, the results generated from one method confirmed those of another. The researcher compared results from the observations, focus groups, and structured interviews. These methods identified factors that could be tested in order to replicate success in other vocational programs. These findings include, but are not limited to, the following: teacher quality, use of guided/leading questions, differentiated instruction, teacher enthusiasm, caring quality of the teacher, teacher's involvement with students, celebration of achievement, fun and interactive classroom setting, classroom management, student recruitment, C-PAS preparation, classroom interaction between students and with the teacher, and the classroom layout.
The findings from this study give school districts a framework by which to build their vocational programs. This study creates a foundation for further vocational research on the secondary level and provides support for researchers interested in showing the benefits of vocational education. Recommendations for further study are indicated.