Breakout Session

Creating a Community of Learners Through a Hybrid Approach

Track:  Learning Innovations

Friday, November 30th, 12:00pm-12:55pm

The challenge: Respond to the need for a unique education program for Career and Technical Education (CTE) alternate route teachers dispersed throughout the state, simultaneously providing a rigorous curriculum and supporting these novice teachers in their first year of teaching.  The solution: Implement a hybrid course, combining weekly online assignments with one face-to face “Cohort Saturday” per month, using technology to foster deep learning, share key administrative information, provide alternatives for Saturday absences, and create a sense of community.

Join us to learn how this program is developing and supporting new CTE teachers while fulfilling NJ Department of Education requirements.


Linda Milstein
Vice President
Brookdale Community College

Bio / Expertise
Linda Milstein has led the development and implementation of the CTE Alternate Route Provisional Teacher Pilot Program.  She has played a leadership role for 10 years in the New Pathways to Teaching in NJ alternate route program, a statewide program delivered through a partnership between the state’s community colleges and New Jersey City University. Linda served as the Vice President for Outreach, Business and Community Development at Brookdale Community College for 15 years.


Nancy Wheeler Driscoll
Brookdale Community College

Bio / Expertise
Nancy Wheeler Driscoll has worked in education for more than 32 years, with 26 years as a high school CTE teacher of Communications in Cape May County. This fall Nancy has assumed the role of Director of Curriculum and Instruction for the Cape May County Technical Schools District.  She is one of the original members of the Curriculum Committee for the CTE Alternate Route Provisional Teacher Pilot Program and has instructed for that program since its inception.


Kelly Canonico
Project Coordinator
Brookdale Community College

Bio / Expertise
Kelly Canonico is the Project Coordinator for the CTE program and works closely with the instructors, the students and the technology staff to successfully implement all aspects of the program.


Presentation Content
Presenters will demonstrate how the use of technology has made it possible to deliver a rigorous curriculum statewide that translates into effective teaching for first year CTE teachers and to create a community of learners in each teacher cohort.

Description of project/solution:  Four years ago the NJ Department of Education instituted a new regulation requiring Career and Technical Education alternate route teachers to attend a 200-hour program designed specifically for them. This requirement reflected the increasing attention being paid to CTE, the recognition that a focus on applied learning was especially important for CTE teachers and the desire to provide an intense and thorough introduction to the teaching profession to these novice teachers, enabling them to be more effective in their classrooms and leading to increased teacher retention.  Considerations for the design of the program included the widespread geographical locations of the new teachers throughout the state, a recognition that many of the teachers would have no postsecondary education, a goal to create a supportive community for the new teachers and the desire to offer these teachers the opportunity to earn college credit towards an Associate degree through the alternate route program.

Because of Brookdale’s involvement in another alternate route program, New Pathways to Teaching in New Jersey, NJ DOE approached us to discuss how such a program might be developed. The idea of a hybrid program emerged quickly because it provided the framework for the coursework, allowed face-to-face interaction as well as learning and communication online, would enable the new teachers to understand how technology is being used in education and easily accommodated students from across the state.  Funded by NJDOE, the curriculum was developed by a Core Curriculum Committee over the course of a year and implemented the following year.  The Committee involved two CTE professionals, a Brookdale Education faculty member (to assure transferability to Associate degree credit) and a New Jersey City University faculty member who is responsible for the New Pathways curriculum on which the CTE program would be modeled.   Throughout its development the curriculum was reviewed and feedback provided by three additional CTE supervisors/teachers and the CTE Office at NJDOE.

To help students who were not familiar with using technology for learning, video tutorials are included to assist with questions of ‘how to’; every online session has required discussions; and the questions are designed to elicit reflective responses and to build relationships through online discussion of those responses. Online assignments include portfolios and work samples across various media including photos, videos, presentations, brochures and posters.  Rubrics and other assessment tools are used to clearly lay out expectations related to outcomes and to assure consistency of grading.  The first Cohort Saturday is used to orient students to the program and to the specific technology used.  In the program’s first full year, each Cohort Saturday has been videotaped and is available through Screencast to current and future students who must miss a session due to extenuating circumstances. Counseling regarding the credit option is made available via video conferencing.

Outcomes:  Student work is assessed throughout the course using the tools noted above. In addition an observation of each student delivering a lesson plan in their own classroom is conducted by an active or retired education professional from outside their district. This observation includes a pre- and post-conference with the teacher and utilizes a widely accepted framework for teaching and assessment of teaching, which is taught in the CTE curriculum.  Finally, an outside evaluator, hired as part of the pilot project, has conducted focus groups and surveys of students and their instructors in the program. This year the employing school districts will also be asked to respond to a survey.

Each of these methods of evaluating the effectiveness of the program has shown that 90+% of the students are successfully completing the program with a grade B or better, are transferring their learning to their own classrooms, and have found the cohort format to be critical in supporting them during their first, often overwhelming, year of teaching.

Although students told us they valued the connection with their cohort colleagues online and at the Cohort Saturday sessions, it was clear from their comments that they want more connection in the online portion. Although interaction online is built into the assignments, we have learned that defining a limited amount of interaction as “minimum” for an acceptable grade often results in students doing just that minimum.  We will find ways to encourage additional interaction in the future.

We had hoped to enroll at least 25% of those teachers who did not have a postsecondary degree in the credit option. That number was reached in the first cohort and but was lower in subsequent cohorts.  The requirements for completing the course on a noncredit or for-credit basis are identical, each student receives a grade and the tuition difference is small.  We plan to address this by a more proactive outreach to the prospective degree candidates, informing them of the benefits and support available to them.  Counseling through video conferencing will play a significant role in this outreach. In addition students can earn the balance of the Associate degree online, a format that is now familiar to them.

Relevance to other institutions:  Institutions utilizing, or seeking to utilize, hybrid formats, may benefit from hearing about the strategies used to develop and reinforce a cohort model that resulted in a community of learners, reflecting on their individual experiences, responding to a variety of teaching strategies and to in-depth content and sharing their learning with each other in order to be more effective in their new profession.


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