Academic-Occupational Integration as a Reform Strategy for the Community College: Classroom Perspectives
by Dolores Perin — 2001
Community colleges play an important role in educating the nation's workforce, and many students go to these institutions for occupational instruction in order to enter or advance in the labor market. However, community college occupational programs have been criticized for being narrow and insufficiently concerned with literacy and critical thinking. At the same time, academic instruction has been characterized as being irrelevant and unmotivating to students preparing for careers. Integrating occupational and academic instruction may help overcome these problems. A case study examined curriculum and pedagogy in integrated classrooms in seven community colleges in several states. Interviews with faculty and administrators identified purposes, advantages, and disadvantages of this approach. Drawbacks such as the large amount of effort needed to integrate instruction appeared to be outweighed by increases in student learning and faculty motivation. Classroom observations indicated variation in strength of integration, extent of student-centeredness, and explicitness of teaching. Findings suggest that integrated instruction has potential as an educational reform in community colleges but needs to be systematically evaluated. Further, the purposes of academic-occupational integration appear to overlap with those of remediation, suggesting that integrated instruction may be a productive way of addressing literacy weaknesses that are ubiquitous in community colleges.
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