Sunday, June 18, 2017

Michael Gessler Awarded Honorary Degree at USF

Provost Wilcox introducing Dr. Michael Gessler
Admittedly, Dr. Michael Gessler was a little nervous as Provost Ralph Wilcox was introducing him to the audience attending the Spring Commencement ceremony at the Sun Dome in the University of South Florida (USF) campus. Dr. Gessler was about to receive an Honorary Degree by USF and was wondering if his speech would meet the expectations.

The undergraduate graduation ceremony was held on Saturday, May 6, 2017 at 1:30 pm, and the recipients of an honorary degree are the highlight of the event, as they are expected to give a speech with inspiring takeaways.

USF President Judy Genshaft, and a distinguished party including college deans, vice presidents, faculty and alumni representatives were there serving as respectful witnesses. In front, there were over 600 graduates and thousands of their excited family and friends, all awaiting for his speech after his introduction. Dr. Gessler's speech was well received.

Nominated by the Career and Workforce Education program at USF, Dr. Gessler was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Education degree in recognition of his significant work in Vocational Education and Training (VET). Dr. Gessler is member of the Board of Directors of the Institut Technik & Bildung [The Institute Technology and Education] (ITB), and Professor in vocational and adult education at the University of Bremen. His areas of research interests are project-based learning and teaching, educational management, school-to-work transitions, work-based learning and innovations in VET.

During his visit to the University of South Florida to receive the honorary award, he conducted a presentation in the College of Education entitled, “Competence-Based Vocational Education and Training in Germany and the United Kingdom: Differences That Make the Difference.”

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Gessler for receiving an Honorary Doctor of Education award from USF in recognition of his outstanding work in VET.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

2017 Florida Teacher or the Year Finalist Shared Lessons Learned Teaching CTE

Donald Blake being introduced by Dr. Bill Blank.
Donald Blake, Instructor ar Marchman Technical College in Pasco County, shared the lessons he has learned over 30 years of teaching experience in career and technical education at the University of South Florida (USF) on Saturday, August 20th. He shared his teaching journey, from novice to master teacher, with a group of graduate students and faculty in the Career and Workforce Education program at USF.

The audience included graduate students pursuing a master's degree in career in technical education (CTE)  and doctoral students in career and workforce education, representing a diversity of backgrounds and settings in the field. For this group, having the opportunity to learn his teaching story would have been in itself worth attending. However, this was a rare occasion because Mr. Blake was selected this year as Pasco County Schools' Teacher of the Year, which had never been awarded to a CTE teacher. In addition, Mr. Blake was also selected as one of the five Finalists for the 2017 Florida Teacher of the Year award. But there's more.

Mr. Blake was coming back to his academic home as an alumni of the career and technical education program at USF where he graduated from about 30 years ago. To celebrate and recognize Mr. Blake's career and teaching award, Dr. Bill Blank, Professor Emeritus in Career and Workforce Education, was delighted to accept the invitation to introduce him at the gathering, and shared how motivated Mr. Blake was to join the teaching profession as an undergraduate student. 

As he shared the lessons learned over his teaching tenure, Mr. Blake noted that the research on competency-based learning was one of the foundations he used to become a successful teacher in CTE. He also noted that, a foundation of trust between students and teacher and using CTE to make learning relevant, are essential elements for bridging rigorous teaching and learning in schools. His story was inspiring as he received a standing ovation from the career and workforce education program at USF.

Mr. Blake teaches electricity at Marchman Technical College (MTC) in Pasco County. The Electricity Program provides students with the knowledge and skills required for planning, installing, and maintaining residential and commercial electrical systems. Regional, state, and national awards earned at skills competitions, and a 100 percent employment placement rate are evidence of the program's success under Mr. Blake's leadership.

The Career and Workforce Education community at USF is proud of Mr. Blake's achievement and hopes his work is further recognized during the process for selecting the 2017 Florida Teacher of the Year.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Fletcher and Hernandez Received NSF Grant Award

Drs. Victor Hernandez and Edward Fletcher
Despite the strong employment outlook, colleges and employers have difficulties finding students and workers in the information technology (IT) sector (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014). Reportedly, there are insufficient numbers of workers and students in the pipeline as enrollment in IT-related programs have declined since the mid-1980s (Engineering Workforce Commission, 2013; Wright, 2009). To increase participation in IT related programs and careers, reform efforts have focused on the reconfiguration of schools into IT theme-based career academies to enhance student motivation and academic engagement (Dixon, Cotner, Wilson, & Borman, 2011; Kuo, 2010). As such, the career academy model has grown in popularity as it has been found to positively contribute to student success (Kemple & Snipes, 2008; Stern, Dayton, & Raby, 2010). However, little is known about which organizational factors contribute to students’ college and career readiness in the context of IT pathways.

To address this void in research, Drs. Edward Fletcher and Victor M. Hernandez, received a 3-year grant award from the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program. The purpose of The IT CAREERS Project: IT Career Academy Research on Educational Experiences & Related Successes is to develop an understanding of how a “high fidelity” NAF career academy model influences student experiences, outcomes, and under what conditions. Dr. Fletcher and Hernandez will serve as Co-Principal Investigators in collaboration with Dr. Katherine Blasik, Assistant Vice President for Research and Evaluation of NAF academies.

Using a mixed methods approach, the research team will rely on extant student-level data from the NAF dataset and comprehensive site visit data to address three research questions:

  1. What is the nature of organizational and implementation elements (mission, curriculum and instruction, internal and external supports) related to the effectiveness of high fidelity IT career academies?
  2. What are the student indicators of college and career readiness (engagement, performance, transitions) resulting from participation in exemplary IT career academies?
  3. What are opportunities/conditions (key elements/best practices) for scaling up IT academies?

The project builds upon three foundational strands informed by: (a) the career academy model, (b) organizational principles, and (c) indicators of college and career readiness. The academy model has been found to reduce dropout rates, improving attendance, increasing student academic course taking, and producing positive labor market outcomes (Kemple & Snipes, 2008). To understand how academies operate from a holistic perspective, the research team will use a conceptual framework strand based on principles of school restructuring, and systemic change leading to program sustainability (Hernández-Gantes, Phelps, Jones, & Holub, 1995; Newmann &Wehlage, 1995; Resnick & Williams Hall, 1998; Ryan, 2011). In addition, the researchers will use three indicators of college and career readiness emerging from research conducted by the National Research Center for Career and Technical Education: student engagement, achievement, and transitions (Stone, 2013).

The project will also build upon a collaborative approach featuring a partnership between the University of South Florida, the National Academy Foundation (NAF), and three high fidelity IT career academies—adhering to the NAF model and each located in a different region of the country. A Mixed Methods Expert and Evaluation Team with expertise in the different components of the project, will provide critical reviews to ensure the intellectual merits of activities and outcomes.

The contributions of the research project are expected in a better understanding of student experiences and outcomes related to participation in IT career academies at the high school level. Moreover, distinguished models of effective implementation of career academy practices are particularly not well documented. The proposed research aligns and supports ITEST interests related to increasing awareness of STEM related careers, assessing student motivation to pursue aligned pathways based on interests, and exploring experiences of students in STEM related areas.
For further information about the NSF ITEST program you may visit the Innovative Technology Experiences for Teachers and Students page. Project details are available at the NSF project abstract page.

For information about the project, you may contact Dr. Edward Fletcher ( or Dr. Victor M. Hernandez ( For additional information about NAF career academies, you may visit NAF's homepage.