ERIC Identifier: ED354283
Publication Date: 1992-11-00
Author: Berryman, Sue E. - And Others
Clearinghouse on Urban Education New York NY.
Integrating Academic and Vocational Education: An Equitable Way
To Prepare Middle Level Students for the Future. ERIC/CUE Digest, Number 83.
The need to prepare young people to fill the jobs needed by the changing
American economy is a problem of increasing concern. A large number of students,
who may not have the resources to go to a university but who certainly have the
ability to work well at decent-paying jobs, are tracked into a general high
school program. They are not provided with either the academic skills needed for
attendance at a junior or technical college, or the vocational skills for an
upwardly bound employment path. Moreover, such tracking perpetuates the
pervasive American problem of unequal educational and economic opportunity,
because a large proportion of these students are not white and middle class.
Ways to correct this inequity are now being explored, the result, in part, of
passage of the 1990 Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Act, which
funds (especially in urban areas) the development of programs to better prepare
public school students for work. The result is an effort to "build up the
middle"--of the U.S. work force and of the high school student body--by creating
a variety of education models that demonstrate how academic learning can be
applied practically to develop workplace competence and flexibility. One option,
integrating academic and vocational education, looks particularly promising. It
is described below.
CURRICULUM AND TEACHING STRATEGY
The integration of
academic and vocational education is a curricular and instructional strategy
that makes learning more available and meaningful to all students. A program of
sequential courses, it allows students to achieve vocational competencies as it
fosters learning of abstract or theoretical concepts under applied conditions.
Moreover, it replaces the job-specific instruction of traditional vocational
education, which limits students' employment opportunities, with contextualized
knowledge that provides students with a range of problem-solving and
Integration also fosters teacher collaboration in curriculum planning and
coordination of instruction. Finally, it involves the business community in the
program (Bodilly, Stasz, & Ramsey, 1992).
School organization for providing an
integrated education can vary. Grubb, Davis, Lum, Plihal, and Morgain (1991) and
Grubb and Stasz (1991) have identified viable models:
Incorporating more academic content into vocational courses. Vocational
education teachers use newly-developed curricula to infuse traditional
instruction with instruction to increase core academic competencies. Largely a
remedial program, it does not require new institutional arrangements.
Combining academic and vocational teachers to incorporate academic
competencies in vocational courses. Also remedial, here, academic and vocational
education teachers collaborate in developing curricula to infuse vocational
education courses with academic content.
Making the academic curriculum more vocationally relevant. Most commonly
accomplished through applied academic courses, this approach uses prepackaged
curricula to provide academic instruction in concrete subjects that demonstrate
their practical relevance. The curricula of vocational education courses remains
Modifying both academic and vocational curricula and curricular alignment.
"Aligning curriculum horizontally," vocationally-oriented material is
simultaneously introduced into academic courses and academically-relevant
material is presented in vocational courses through the collaboration of
academic and vocational education teachers. This model can affect all students
in the school. "Vertical alignment" integrates academic and vocational material
through a coherent sequence of courses at the program, rather than the course,
The Career Academy model. "Academies" operate as schools-within-schools. They
align clusters of courses around a specific career, with a group of teachers
collaborating on developing an integrated academic and vocational program for a
student body with whom they work over a period of years. This model allows
students to work with employers in industries related to the school's
Single-occupation vocational schools. These are self-contained independent
structures, functioning as career magnets that tend to break down the academic
isolation of socially and racially segregated neighborhood schools.
Replacing departments with occupational clusters. Here, in a structure
resembling schoolwide academies, traditional academic and vocational departments
are replaced by "clusters" organized by occupations. This model aligns a
coherent sequence of courses and allows greater collaboration on curriculum and
instruction among teachers because they belong to a cluster as well as a
Combining departments and occupational clusters. This program integration
strategy creates occupational clusters that cut across departments to result in
a program offering solid academic course work and sophisticated vocational
courses. It provides information about, and access to, local industry.
BENEFITS OF INTEGRATING ACADEMIC AND VOCATIONAL
Student Motivation. Integration is an ideal way to help schools
retain students not interested in the benefits of an academic education per se,
but aware of the advantages of entering the job market with skills.
Workplace Linkages. Program components that allow students to work provide
them with a needed income, hands-on experience in their chosen field, and
contact with employers who may offer them career path jobs after graduation.
Equity. Integration can help offset stratification and discrimination in
schools and the work force. It offers students identified as lacking basic
academic and higher order thinking skills a meaningful education instead of
relegation to a low track program that could compromise their future
opportunities (Stasz, 1992). Since the majority of those low tracked are
students of color, limited English speaking, and poor, providing integration as
an alternative to tracking not only eliminates a stigma that could further
impede their ability to learn, but provides them with skill training to help
them compete successfully for jobs with more advantaged applicants.
Educationally Rich Learning. Integrating vocational and academic education
provides students with educationally rich and problem-centered learning
(Berryman & Bailey, 1992). Following the principles of the cognitive
apprenticeship model, integration is an effective curricular and teaching
strategy that allows students to develop the cognitive skills needed to apply
academic learning to practical situations (Collins, Brown, & Newman, 1989).
Changes in School Organization. Integration works well in a variety of school
settings, although it works best when academic and vocational education teachers
collaborate and use a specially developed curriculum to maximize both areas of
learning. Integration programs provide models that can be replicated for other
courses of study, and they can offer large comprehensive high schools an
attractive model for restructuring into smaller units.
Qualified Work Force. Absent the apprentice and training programs of the
past, employers seeking to fill middle skill level jobs with ever-changing
duties, look to U.S. schools to produce a qualified work force. They need
graduates who not only can accomplish discrete tasks, as traditionally educated
vocational education majors could, but who have problem-solving skills that
allow them to be flexible when carrying out aspects of their jobs. Students who
complete integrated education programs are most likely to meet current and
future employer needs.
While the benefits noted above
suggest that schools should move toward integrating academic and vocational
education, there are important constraints that may have to be overcome first.
The following changes must be made.
Student Orientation. Students will need to assume more responsibility for
their own learning; learn in less structured situations; work in teams with
resources more common to non-school settings; and apply their knowledge.
Curriculum and Assessment. Some integration models require new curricula and
even a new way of combining areas of study. Multiple choice tests do not match a
learning paradigm that stresses the ability to apply knowledge, and standardized
assessments for new competencies have not yet been developed. Similarly,
post-secondary schools may not have a system for assigning credit for applied
Teacher Roles. Some models require teachers to develop new areas of
expertise, to learn new teaching methods, and to work more collaboratively with
School Organization. Schools will have to accept the equality of academic and
vocational education. They may have to alter certain traditions, such as
departmental divisions, the 50-minute instructional period, and the length of
the school day. Some such changes may be impeded by state regulations, union
contracts, and fiscal constraints.
The potential benefits of an integrated academic and vocational education
program--particularly to minority and poor students--are great. So, while the
obstacles to implementing the program may seem formidable, the efforts made by
policy makers and administrators to surmount them may very well be profitably
Berryman, S., & Bailey, T. (1992). The
double helix of education and the economy. New York: Teachers College, Columbia
University, Institute on Education and the Economy.
Bodilly, S., Stasz, C., & Ramsey, K. (1992, May). Policy implications of
integrating academic and vocational education: An interim report. Working draft.
Berkeley: University of California, Berkeley, National Center for Research in
Collins, A., Brown, J. S., & Newman, S. (1989). Cognitive apprenticeship:
Teaching the craft of reading, writing and arithmetic. In L. B. Resnick (Ed.),
Knowing, learning, and instruction: Essays in honor of Robert Glaser. Hillsdale,
NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Grubb, W. N., Davis, G., Lum, J., Plihal, J., & Morgain, C. (1991). The
cunning hand, the cultured mind: Models for integrating academic and vocational
education. Berkeley: University of California, Berkeley, National Center for
Research in Vocational Education.
Grubb, W. N., & Stasz, C. (1991). Assessing the integration of academic
and vocational education. Berkeley: University of California, Berkeley, National
Center for Research in Vocational Education.
Stasz, C. (1992, January). Integrating academic and vocational education: A
synthesis paper. Paper prepared for the National Center for Research in
Vocational Education, University of California, Berkeley.
This digest is based on a paper prepared for the National Center of Research
in Vocational Education, "Building the Middle." To order the paper, please
contact NCRVE, University of California, 1995 University Avenue, Suite 375,
Berkeley, CA 97404.