ERIC Identifier: ED346317
Publication Date: 1992-00-00
Author: Lankard, Bettina A.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Adult Career and Vocational Education Columbus OH.
Integrating Academic and Vocational Education: Strategies for
Implementation. ERIC Digest No. 120.
The integration of academic and vocational education is an educational reform
strategy conceptualized by vocational educators, supported by the business
community, and articulated by policy makers in the 1990 Carl Perkins Amendments,
which require that federal money be spent on programs that "integrate academic
and vocational education...through coherent sequences of courses, so that
students achieve both academic and occupational competencies" (section 235). It
is vocational education's attempt to improve the educational and employment
opportunities of youth who will face new technologies and business management
systems that demand high-level worker skills. This ERIC DIGEST reviews recent
literature on the integration of academic and vocational education, highlighting
the rationale, goals, and focus of integration efforts and describing eight
models of integration and elements necessary for success.
REASONS FOR INTEGRATION
Triggering the reform movement in
vocational education are the increasingly high dropout and illiteracy rates,
along with employers' criticisms that schools are delivering workers who lack
problem-solving abilities, higher-order thinking skills, and
communication/employability skills--all crucial for work in a global economy.
Vocational educators have been criticized for promoting overly specific training
and encouraging a dual structure that segregates vocational and academic
education. Academic educators, on the other hand, suffer criticism for providing
curriculum that lacks participatory forms of learning and opportunities for
students to connect learning to "real world" events (Grubb et al. 1991). In
addition, both academic and vocational educators are facing reduced enrollments
and program offerings and increased graduation requirements with external
pressures for accountability. Thus, the integration of vocational and academic
education offers an opportunity to effect change in an educational system that
is in need of reform.
THE GOALS AND FOCUS OF INTEGRATION EFFORTS
Regional Education Board (SREB)--a consortium of 14 member states--was formed to "develop, apply, evaluate, and advance approaches to strengthen students' basic
competencies in communications, mathematics, and science, and their critical
thinking and problem-solving abilities" (Bottoms and Presson 1989, p. vi). To
improve general and vocational education in high school, SREB worked with
vocational, government, and business leaders to "investigate over 25 high
schools; interview several hundred students, teachers and administrators; review
over 2,700 transcripts of high school graduates; assess over 3,100 vocational
completers on science; and follow up on over 1,700 vocational graduates one year
after completing high school" (ibid.). Their report presents the following
recommendations for raising the academic and technological literacy of high
pursuing a vocational major should be required to complete a
vigorous and coherent program combining academic and vocational study.
in the general curriculum for whom the pursuit of a
vocational major is inappropriate should be expected to
complete an upgraded program requiring them to study one or
more of the academic areas in depth.
Although the goals of all stakeholders in the effort to integrate academic
and vocational education are not identical to those of SREB, they generally
involve making changes necessary for reform--curriculum changes, organizational
restructuring, improved linkages with postsecondary education or employment, and
so forth. The State of Ohio, for example, has adopted a curriculum of "applied
academics" in which academic and vocational teachers from area vocational
schools and comprehensive high schools work together to develop integrated
curricula, often teaching as a team. The benefits of such integration efforts
are that they can establish relationships among teachers from academic and
vocational areas, enable schools to prepare students for clusters of related
occupations with varied skill levels, initiate the alignment and sequencing of
academic and vocational course content, and encourage the restructuring of
curriculum and course sequences along the lines of clusters or career paths.
MODELS OF INTEGRATION
Because there are varying purposes,
goals, and desired outcomes for integrating academic and vocational education,
various innovations and practices are being initiated in schools across the
United States. Grubb et al. (1991) identify eight integration models. These
models have many variations and suggest new ways for educators to think about
integration and about practices that can best help them meet the challenges of
reform. A brief description of the models along with their respective benefits
and limitations as presented by Grubb et al. (1991) is provided here:
Incorporating more academic content in vocational courses.
This approach involves vocational teachers in modifying vocational courses to
include more academic content. Benefits include the potential of increasing the
academic capacities of students to meet the technical requirements of business,
ease of adoption, limited additional expense, and remediation. However, this
model does not eliminate the segregation of vocational and academic courses,
teachers, or students nor does it affect the academic or general tracks.
Combining vocational and academic teachers to enhance academic competencies in
In this model, academic teachers cooperate with vocational teachers in
curriculum development and/or teaching to include more academic content in
either vocational courses or related applied courses. Benefits include the
presence of academic teachers within a vocational program to highlight the
importance of academic material and to give in-house remediation to certain
students. A limitation of this model is that it requires resources to fund such
programs. It also continues to segregate students in vocational or academic
tracks and offers some students a relatively low level of academic skills.
Making academic courses more vocationally relevant.
Potentially all students (vocational and general track students) are targeted
for this approach that involves academic teachers in modifying courses or
adopting new courses to include more vocational content (for example, adopting
applied academics). Benefits of this model are that off-the-shelf curriculum
materials are available and a coherent sequencing of courses is possible.
Limitations of this model are that it changes academic courses but does not
touch vocational programs, nor does it encourage cooperation between vocational
and academic teachers.
Curricular "alignment": modifying both vocational and academic courses.
This approach is designed to change the content of both vocational and
academic courses and to consider the sequence of courses rather than viewing
courses as individual and independent offerings. It requires cooperation between
academic and vocational teachers and fosters team efforts. Benefits of this
model are its flexibility, low cost, and potential for coordinating existing
teachers and courses rather than requiring new high school configurations. It is
an attempt to create a coherent sequence of courses for vocational education
students rather than modifying existing individual courses that are independent
of each other. A limitation is that the alignment is vertical, leaving the
sequence of academic courses unchanged and failing to require regular contact
between vocational and academic teachers.
The senior project as a form of integration.
This approach involves both academic and vocational teachers in organizing
curriculum around student projects. Getting teachers to collaborate in
developing new courses or modifying content is the primary benefit. Limitations
are that the effects on integration may be small and the vocational content nil.
The Academy model.
In this school-within-a-school concept, four teachers typically collaborate
and team teach in math, English, science, and the vocational subject that is the
core of the Academy. Each group of students studies these subjects with the same
team of teachers for two or three years in the Academy and takes all other
subjects in the regular high school. Benefits are sustained contact between
teachers and students, smaller class size, teacher commitment to the Academy
model, and connections with firms who are linked with the program. This model
offers substantial opportunity for both horizontal and vertical alignment as
teachers can coordinate the topics they teach and adjust the sequence of topics
over time. Limitations are that students are frequently segregated in the same
ways evidenced through tracking, the process is costly, and it requires
Occupational high schools and magnet schools.
Occupational high schools have been relatively successful at integrating
vocational and academic education, particular when teachers keep in mind the
goals of the school and the ambitions of the students. Magnet schools, although
involving students interested in specific occupational areas, have not been
conducive to integration in that the schools often are involved in solving
problems of racial desegregation. The benefits of having occupational high
schools include the potential alignment of all courses with emphasis on specific
occupational areas and opportunity for academic and vocational teachers to
Occupational clusters, "career paths," and occupational majors.
Occupational clusters can be used within both comprehensive high schools and
specialized vocational schools. Teachers usually belong to occupational clusters
rather than conventional academic or vocational departments, thus facilitating
collaboration. Benefits include the creation of coherent sequences of courses
that encourage students to think about occupations early in their high school
careers and the bringing together of students from very different backgrounds
and with varied ambitions. The career paths offer opportunities for contact with
potential employers and with educators at postsecondary institutions. A
limitation of this model is that it requires a school with a well-developed
vocational program that provides substantial offerings in each of the
ELEMENTS OF SUCCESS
The appropriate model for each state,
district, school, and area must be determined after considering existing
programs, local labor markets, and student needs. However, several elements of
success have been identified (Stasz and Grubb 1991; Pritz 1989):
and commitment from all levels
support from district administrators and state
resources for funding
training and retraining
time for implementation
For further information on alternative implementation strategies and
abstracts of exemplary programs, see Pritz (1989).
Bottoms, G., and Presson, A. IMPROVING GENERAL
AND VOCATIONAL EDUCATION IN THE HIGH SCHOOLS. SREB-STATE VOCATIONAL EDUCATION CONSORTIUM APPROACHES FOR ACHIEVING GAINS IN THE MATHEMATICS, SCIENCE, AND COMMUNICATIONS COMPETENCIES OF STUDENTS IN GENERAL AND VOCATIONAL PROGRAMS. Atlanta, GA: Southern Regional Education Board, 1989. (ED 319 950).
Grubb, W. N.; Davis, G.; Lum, J.; Plihal, J.; and Morgaine, C. "THE CUNNING HAND, THE CULTURED MIND": MODELS FOR INTEGRATING VOCATIONAL AND ACADEMIC EDUCATION. Berkeley, CA: National Center for Research in Vocational Education,1991. (ED 334 421).
Pritz, S. G. THE ROLE OF VOCATIONAL EDUCATION IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF STUDENTS' ACADEMIC SKILLS: AN IMPLEMENTATION GUIDE. INFORMATION SERIES NO. 340. Columbus, OH: ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education, 1989. (ED 326 692).
Stasz, C., and Grubb, W. N. INTEGRATING ACADEMIC AND VOCATIONAL EDUCATION: GUIDELINES FOR ASSESSING A FUZZY REFORM. Berkeley, CA: National Center for Research in Vocational Education, 1991. (ED 334 420).