The instructional approaches used in an integrated pathway model include team teaching, dual enrollment (with joint planning between basic skills and career/technical instructors) and contextualized instruction. In all cases, collaboration between basic skills and career/technical faculty members is critical.
Integrated instruction is the core of the Accelerating Opportunity model. Because the initiative integrates basic skills with career/technical content, students can more quickly raise their skill levels, earn credentials, and enter college-level programs. This approach draws heavily on the I-BEST model from Washington State, with its 50 percent overlap in instruction between the basic skills and career/technical components.
For a more in-depth look at integrated instruction, we recommend taking Team Teaching - Models and Practice, a free, self-paced online course from the National College Transition Network.
One of the biggest fears for technical faculty getting started with integrated instruction is that they will need to alter or reduce their learning outcomes. Part of the concern is that the integrated instructional model will reduce the amount of classroom time spent on developing the requisite skills, knowledge, and abilities. However, in a well-designed pathway, students should be able to meet the learning outcomes of the technical courses while simultaneously building academic skills. It is critical that the team teachers and relevant deans work together to ensure that the curriculum is designed to meet technical content goals and educational objectives while augmenting literacy skill development.
Planning time is critical! Faculty need time both before and during the semester to identify and share their learning outcomes and determine how they will be both combined and assessed. A positive unintended consequence of the planning processs is that CTE faculty gain a clearer understanding of literacy skill levels required throughout their program. Given that employers are forever demanding improved workplace-readiness skill development, this assessment helps CTE faculty develop curricula and strategies to improve students' skill levels to meet industry demands.
Contextualized instruction is another strategy for integrating career and technical content into Adult Basic Education. Chris Mazzeo describes contextualization as a “diverse family of instructional strategies designed to more seamlessly link the learning of foundational skills and academic or occupational content by focusing teaching and learning squarely on concrete applications in a specific context that is of interest to the student.” Contextualization provides an immediate application of learning to adults’ career and education goals, which can help students remain motivated to continue their studies.
Integrated Instruction vs. Contextualized Instruction
When developing integrated career pathways, it is important to understand the difference between an “integrated curriculum” and “contextualized curriculum": unlike integrated instruction, contextualized instruction alone doesn’t tend to allow students to earn credits towards a credential; however, many ABE instructors engaged in team teaching use contextualized instruction for the ABE-only portion of the course.
An integrated curriculum is the incorporation of reading, writing, or math instruction into the teaching of the technical content.
Contextualized curriculum involves the teaching of reading, writing, and math against a backdrop of specific subject matter to which such skills must be applied.
Research on the I-BEST model in Washington shows combining contextualized curricula with integrated instruction improves the success of low-skilled learners. In addition to the team-taught component of the pathway, CTE faculty and deans should also consider developing supplemental instructional programs that contextualized literacy and math instruction. Often, in cases where ABE students and traditional students are part of a mixed cohort, traditional students ask to access the supplemental instruction when they see their peers excelling academically.
In a dual enrollment model, students are enrolled concurrently in both ABE and career/technical courses. Dual enrollment for ABE students tends to be more effective when the two instructors are in regular contact with each other so that the ABE instructor knows what students are learning and so the career/technical instructor can alert the ABE instructor to specific challenges students are dealing with.
Dual Enrollment vs. Integrated Instruction
Dual enrollment models do not include any team teaching, but there is frequent collaboration between the two instructors to align course outcomes and learning objectives. In many cases the ABE courses are contextualized around the content of the career/technical course.
The GED or a high school diploma is now a prerequisite to receiving financial aid in the form of a Pell Grant. Thus, many Accelerating Opportunity programs will need to build in a component to help students prepare for the GED test. In some cases, the basic skills component of the integrated pathway program will suffice. In other cases, programs should provide students with additional help, either as an on ramp to the pathway or after its first segment as a bridge to the next step.
A contextualized GED prep option will help students earn that credential while preparing to enter the next phase of the career pathway. For example, students preparing for a career in health care could enroll in GED prep contextualized around a gatekeeper course in a health care field (e.g., anatomy and physiology). This would prepare them for both the GED test and that course. The GED prep course could also incorporate college-readiness (e.g., study skills, test- taking skills, time management) and prepare students to take the college entrance exam and place out of developmental education.