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Instructor Insight: Developing a Shop Class for the 21st Century

After years of being a shop owner and not knowing a better way, I developed my automotive class as I would a shop or service center with lots of employees. My class/lab reflects the world of work more than the average academic classroom.

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by Sonny Reeves
AYES Instructor

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This is the way I teach Automotive Service Technology in a Georgia High School secondary program.

The program is NATEF Certified www.natef.org and AYES www.ayes.org affiliated with good industry support.

Currently, Georgia requires four areas of the NATEF task list to be presented to the student. Most secondary programs do not have the contact hours for more course work. I have four 135 hour semesters and one 150 hour summer internship to do this in.

If you are teaching a post-secondary program, the method will work for you as well. I have taught at the post-secondary also using these same methods. This is not the only way or may not be the best way, or it may not meet your teaching style but it works for me.

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The freedom I have as an instructor, using this way of delivering instruction, giving me time to meet more of each student’s learning style is awesome. I like for the students to work and I have fun. If this is practiced in your class/lab and adjusted for your student’s needs then you will become the facilitator instead of the sole fount of all knowledge. Your students will become learners of their own right and you will have fun teaching.

After years of being a shop owner and not knowing a better way, I developed my automotive class as I would a shop or service center with lots of employees. My class/lab reflects the world of work more than the average academic classroom.

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As in the workplace, assessment is in the finished product. I use a hands-on performance test to prove mastery of the individual student of the task. I feel that the use of this style of rubric empowers the student to become a self learner with critical thinking skills instead of a recorder of facts for memorization and preparing for a pen and paper test.

I begin the class with a demonstration from the class site provided by the online course Argo in the course area of my lesson plan for the week.

See https://autoteacher.net/E_Learning.html for examples.

Note: All of my lesson plans are on the Georgia Dept of Education Peach State Pathways here: http://www.gactaern.org/curriculum_transsup.html

For example, I may use a web site as a “Spark Plug” for the student to visit while I get the day going. I use a lot of the web sites on the links at:  www.autoteacher.net

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I think I could teach for years and not exhaust all the resources in these sites. Our main resource is an online interactive learning management system with courses and modules based on learning by doing instead of reading, watching and listening.

The students are assigned interactive modules using virtual vehicle components and engaging course work that requires active movement to progress through the course from beginner level to master level.  Each student has access to our web site and a 24/7 sign in to our custom set up learning management system. Each student can have a separate learning plan or be in a class of students online.

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The course modules are easy to assign and they will not run out of modules to do online.  Students have access to all classroom resources and all the routine paperwork on the web site or I can download and print out for them the required paperwork for class; examples, Class Handbook, Home work assignments, Shop Rules, etc.

See https://autoteacher.net/Class_Papers.html.

Even if they don’t have a computer at home they have access to one in the Media Center and of course each student has a computer in the automotive classroom. I burn the syllabus, course description, handbook, homework assignments, and all required papers for the class onto a CD or flash drive for them if they want. Each student has a notebook to keep all class work, research paper work, documentation of lab work and performance tests.

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After about 20 minutes of learning using a “Smart Board”, LCD projector,  with an online  training module of my choice (I require notes each day for daily grade) I see eyes are getting sleepy, then I shift gears for the day’s assignment. A set of tasks for each week are assigned to the class which was divided into teams during the first week of school. Tasks are “Performance Tests” and these are NATEF tasks required for the course. 

This is “Beginning with the end in mind” by assigning the task to be mastered at the start of the lesson. Students have access to all their Performance Tests online for instruction on their computer. They will be challenged to compete as teams to solve the failure in the virtual vehicle in the online module using the classroom’s LCD and Smart Board.

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See video at https://autoteacher.net/E_Learning.html

After preparation and practice with the virtual modules online, I will have students in the lab on actual vehicles with failures and problems to solve in their teams. Peer teaching and students sign off on each others’ performance test keeps all active and engaged. 

The real world training modules and technical explanations can be absorbed by each learner at their pace. The tests are used as guides for learning, and an Assessment much like a job sheets.  The students print off the Performance Tests/Tasks sheets as needed and keep them in their notebook which remains in the classroom/lab.

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I have a HP 9015 B&W printer that is cheaper to run than a copier. All class papers and performance tests are on the class server with hard copy files for back up in file cabinet. A quick look at the LMS, learning management system online and I know who needs instructor attention. I can see where all students are at any time during the course on their online course work.

I can even see which module is being used and how the student is doing in all of Bloom’s taxonomy. Online assignments can be quickly shifted as some students race ahead while others lag behind.

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Teams of students practice the tasks online after a thorough study of theory; then they can practice the tasks in the lab or challenge the other teams in performance of the tasks. Students use video to film their practice and videos are created to demonstrate mastery of the tasks.

Creating a video of their work or developing a training module in the lab is very uplifting for students and is the highest learning order for Bloom’s Taxonomy. The short videos of student practice are edited by the students and placed on School Tube www.schooltube.com if deemed worthy of recognition by the teacher.

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The creation of the video is the responsibility of the student teams. We use inexpensive Flip HD camcorders that are simple to use and edit.

I use a simple one page Performance Evaluation Rubric to evaluate the task or set of tasks. I give these Performance Tests to each student during the first week of the semester so they know what they are expected to do.

This is the “Beginning with the End in Mind’ way of teaching. The desired outcome is the mastery of the tasks on the Performance Test. 

It is important to walk them through the NATEF task list, how to print and use the Performance Test/Job sheets to practice.  The simple assessment form is an adaptable word document, and covers the Job/Tasks similar to how you would actually do the service in a real shop.

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Example: To service a disc brake I combine the tasks for: Writing a brake repair order, service of the caliper, rotor, wheel bearings and checking pedal height.

You need to combine the related tasks into a sequential order to suit your lab and resources. Ask your self  how you would do the service on a customer vehicle? Make it real! I like for each student to practice the tasks three times if possible. Each must have a team member sign off that they practiced the task properly with the other student.

Then if that student can not meet the performance objective for the teacher’s observation of the task both students are redirected and must practice the tasks until they are successful. The use of a hands-on Performance test meets the requirements of Standard 6 of NATEF Industry Certification.

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Some students do the tasks very well after much practice. Attitude defines the outcome and student progress is monitored in the lab by teacher observation. Being a facilitator of the learning environment provides you more one-on-one time some of our students need. You have the time to “Differentiate Instruction” and meet all those different learning styles of your students. I feel more learn this way than not.

Furthermore, I can prove they know what they are doing when they are done because of the hands on mastery recorded on the Rubric.

Each student keeps up with their tests, supporting documents and records the completion in their notebooks. You sign off after the observation of the student’s final practice. Security is maintained by knowing your students, and having the notebooks to back up what they say they did with Job Sheets signed by you. You will know who is working because now you have time to observe.

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The teacher learns to “Inspect what you expect” and must share this mindset on the student’s outcome.  I give very few written tests other than practice for the NATEF end of course test and then only to evaluate what I teach in theory.

The use of this method increases student engagement, learning and retention of learning. Critical thinking skills are required and encouraged by the use of a student focused assessment that allows the use of hands on performance of a skill set. I like the way this quote sums up the philosophy of the lab.

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“You can do the work of the mind without the hand, but not that of the hand without the mind.” – Danish Proverb

You and your administration have to decide. Implementation of a performance based, student focused class/lab may mean a major paradigm shift for all stakeholders. Go slow and move in a positive direction.

Positive comments welcome. E mail or call for more information.

Author Bio
Sonny Reeves is an Automotive Educator, Consultant to DOE, Schools, Colleges and Teachers
Sonny has co-owned and managed a Nissan Dealership; owned a NAPA Auto Care Service Center, and has been teaching Automotive Service Technology for fifteen years at the secondary level and two years post secondary. Sonny is currently an AYES Field Manager after retiring from his second Career Center in a NATEF certified program. He is ASE Master Certified (1975) and a NATEF ETL since 2000. In 2001 Sonny became an AYES instructor and was selected school system Teacher of the Year in 2003 and 2008 by two different school systems. His program was recognized by AIPC and ASE in 2003.

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He can be contacted at [email protected]  

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