Academic Commons


Curriculum and Pedagogy to Integrate Occupational and Academic Instruction in the Community College: Implications for Faculty Development

Perin, Dolores

Students in community college programs designed expressly for career training are often academically under-prepared. Yet traditional academic courses may be ineffective for them because the content tends to be general rather than focused on career topics. The separation of academic and career-related content minimizes the likelihood of generalization of learning across the two contexts, so that, for example, writing skills developed in freshman composition class may not be applied in an allied health class. Further, given their educational histories and learning styles, students whose main objective is to prepare for a career may not see the value of general education (Grubb, Badway, Bell, and Kraskouskas, 1996) and may avoid taking academic courses altogether. A way around these problems is to integrate occupational and academic education. (By occupational education we mean associates and certificate programs leading to career entry or advancement.) Emanating from Dewey’s (1916) philosophy, integrated instruction makes academic courses more occupational and occupational education more academic. Academic-occupational integration is the fusion of reading, writing, English language, math, and/or critical thinking skills with career-related instruction. Integration is accomplished by linking or clustering courses, infusing academic instruction into occupational courses or vice versa, or adding components such as authentic assessment, career exploration, and work-based learning to traditional career-related education (Badway and Grubb, 1997). For the community college, integrated instruction promises both curricular and pedagogical reform. Curricular reform is possible through the synthesis of two normally disparate areas, and pedagogical reform occurs when teacher-centered instruction is replaced with more stimulating student-centered teaching. This Brief is drawn from a case study of seven community colleges that used curriculum and pedagogy to integrate academic and occupational education. The colleges were in urban, suburban, and rural areas in four states, two in the Northeast and two in the Midwest. The sites were selected based on the following criteria: (1) the institution was offering one or more integrated occupational courses; (2) the college considered the course(s) to be good examples of integration; (3) and the course(s) exemplified one of the curriculum integration models identified by Badway and Grubb (1997) or the Illinois Task Force on Integration (1997). Neither the colleges nor the states in which they are located constitute a representative sample. A total of 33 classes participated, of which 25 were observed. In addition, students in 23 classrooms completed an anonymous survey, and 137 individuals were interviewed, including 77 students, 40 instructors


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Community College Research Center
Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia University
CCRC Brief, 8
Published Here
April 4, 2014