ERIC Identifier: ED389879
Publication Date: 1995-00-00
Author: Lankard, Bettina A.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Adult Career and Vocational Education Columbus OH.
SCANS and the New Vocationalism. ERIC Digest No. 165.
In 1991, the Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS),
U.S. Department of Labor, issued its report on the competencies, skills, and
personal qualities needed to succeed in the high performance workplace. This
Digest examines whether and how the SCANS report has influenced educational
reform in the United States and provided guidance to other countries.
Descriptions of various SCANS-related projects and their outcomes are presented
as evidence of progress toward educational reform.
The SCANS report challenged schools, parents,
and businesses to help all students develop competencies in the basic skills,
thinking skills, and personal qualities required for work in the current and
future workplace. It identified five broad categories of competencies that would
lead to successful transition from school to work (SCANS 1991):
--RESOURCES--Identifies, organizes, plans, and allocates
with others on teams, teaches others, serves clients, exercises leadership,
negotiates, and works with diversity
organizes, interprets, evaluates, and communicates information
complex interrelationships and can distinguish trends, predict impacts, as well
as monitor and correct performance
with a variety of technologies and can choose appropriate tool for task
The SCANS report recommended that these competencies be learned in context in
the environment in which they will be applied. Thus, the need for collaboration
between schools and employers became apparent, as did the need for educational
reform. Guided by these factors, vocational-technical programs have been
redesigned and efforts such as tech prep have been initiated to respond to the
STATE AND LOCAL EFFORTS
Since 1991, many educational
efforts have been initiated to incorporate the SCANS skills in the
vocational-technical curricula of both secondary and postsecondary institutions.
The Division of Vocational Education in the Idaho Department of Education, for
example, developed a curriculum framework for the state's vocational-technical
programs to address the training needs of employers and students. This
framework, developed by industry and education personnel, encompassed the goals
outlined in the SCANS report (Idaho Department of Education 1994).
Tech prep programs in many states have been developed around the SCANS
competencies. The Texas Education Agency and the University of Texas at Austin
developed a model that incorporates tech prep components and SCANS competencies
into their health science technology education program (McCarty et al. 1994). As
part of their tech prep project, 91 Indiana secondary and postsecondary
educators developed 50 application-based lessons during the 1993-1994 school
year. Modeled around the SCANS competencies, these lessons are designed to
bridge the gap students encounter when moving from school to work, focusing on
long- and short-term project topics such as "creating a videotape" (Indiana
Region 10 Tech Prep Consortium 1994).
Most tech prep efforts incorporate recommendations presented in the SCANS
report. For example, tech prep in Ohio is characterized by six benchmarks that
focus on SCANS competencies (Ohio Department of Education 1993):
prep programs will demonstrate systemic change at both the secondary and
prep programs will attract those students who are neither in college prep or
vocational programs and will provide expanded opportunities for students in
traditional college prep or vocational programs.
prep programs must demonstrate a partnership between secondary education,
postsecondary education, and business/industry and labor.
prep programs must develop in students the academic, occupational, and
employability competencies at both secondary and postsecondary levels that
prep programs include early career education, starting with the individualized
career plan in grade 9, and establish a tech prep path that arranges the study
of mathematics, science, communications, technology, and specific technical
skills in a step-by-step progression of coordinated curricula.
prep programs must prepare completers with the advanced skills necessary for
Other examples of state and local efforts to strengthen the connections
between school and work were featured by Meltzer et al. (1993). Two of these are
described here. The Critical Skills Foundation (Wheaton, Illinois) was formed to
"facilitate the development and dissemination of curricula and projects in which
students may practice the critical skills in the environment of a real-world
business partner" (p. 58). The foundation developed two approaches to teaching
critical skills. The SCANS-related field study projects have been conducted for
various businesses in the community and have led to the development of a
guidebook titled FIELD STUDIES AND APPLIED LEARNING FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS.
The applied learning/cooperative education projects featured the applied
learning approach, which emphasizes SCANS foundation skills as well as skills
and competencies in four different business sectors--office, retail,
restaurant/food service, and medical practices/clinics. This approach enables
cooperative education partners to teach the SCANS skills and competencies in a
real-world environment (ibid.).
Meltzer et al. (1993) describe Project C: Communities, Corporations,
Classrooms (Fort Worth, Texas) as "one of the nation's best examples of putting
SCANS into practice" (p. 62). This project conducted an analysis of 791 jobs,
involving over 3,000 employees in more than 300 Fort Worth businesses. After
identifying the job tasks and skills required to complete each task, the workers
rated the level of proficiency for each skill (and the level of education
required--secondary and postsecondary). As a result of this initial effort,
significant curriculum changes were made to incorporate the use of technology in
teaching math and science principles. Laboratories were also redesigned to
accommodate process-oriented rather than materials-oriented instruction.
Teachers now assign students problems to solve, rather than items to make. "One
task, for instance, was for students to design a child's toy with only three
specified constraints: the toy had to be something that could be pulled, have no
more than three moving parts, and use non-toxic materials" (ibid., p. 65).
INFLUENCING EDUCATION OVERSEAS
The Department of Defense
Dependents Schools (DoDDS) in Germany initiated Project SCANS Integration. This
project was "designed to explore how well all high school instructors would be
able to integrate the desired competencies into their courses and how well the
competencies could be rated and recorded for their students" (Ryan and Pritz
1994, p. 1). To begin the effort, a group of 42 DoDDS teachers was assembled for
a week-long workshop in Columbus, Ohio. During the workshop, the teachers began
to identify functional competencies from the curriculum in their specific
disciplines and then listed places in their courses where each of the SCANS
competencies might be learned. In subsequent sessions, the teachers explored and
achieved consensus on three competencies per SCANS category (within the headings
of Employability Skills and Interpersonal Skills) that they would address.
"Initial reactions of students and teachers to the integration of SCANS
competencies were clearly positive and encouraging, and they provided helpful
ideas and input to share with a new group of teachers" (ibid., p. 2).
A second group of DoDDS teachers was oriented to the process and the program
was pilot tested by them during the 1993-1994 school year. The results have been
positive. "Teachers have been open and articulate about their recognition that
changes in instructional delivery and assessment are implied by the program, and
they have known from the outset that they have the freedom as well as the
responsibility to determine what those changes should be" (ibid., p. 2).
Ryan and Pritz (1994) list some of the teaching beliefs that have guided the
program (p. 6):
gap has existed between employer expectations and an awareness of those
expectations by both students and educators; therefore, it is important for
educators to define expectations about employability and interpersonal
competencies and prompt student exploration of them.
should retreat from being the sole source of information in the classroom and
delegate more responsibility to students for their own learning.
forms of assessment are imperative to draw conclusions about competencies
earned; student self-evaluation and interactive assessment are helpful, as is
continuing rather than one-time assessment.
mastery of SCANS competencies and other curriculum objectives can be supported
by selecting supplemental instructional materials from authentic sources and
implementing cooperative learning strategies.
interdisciplinary approach is beneficial for students to recognize and practice
broader application of skills than in one course.
TEACHING THE SCANS COMPETENCIES contains
practical suggestions for applying SCANS in the workplace. Some of these
suggestions are described by Meltzer et al. (1993). Other ideas from this volume
include the following:
"SCANS in the Schools" (Copple et al. 1993) offers recommendations for
incorporating SCANS competencies into the curriculum, identifying issues likely
to arise and giving examples of application in the curriculum.
"Students Use SCANS to Explore Changing Jobs: Lessons of Indiana Plus" (Harr
1993) presents lessons that were developed through a statewide project that
could be replicated in other locales. This learner-centered project engaged high
school seniors in using the SCANS workplace-interview method to assess skill
requirements in local businesses. The seniors then communicated their findings
to middle school students. The student-to-student component of this project
resulted in several beneficial outcomes:
members felt a sense of mission in presenting important issues to younger
students and enjoyed opportunities to be creative in their presentation formats
younger students were more attentive because the presenters were other students
(and students who had gone through and beyond the middle school experience).
The program was considered successful as it attained its major objectives
5 teams averaged more than 40 interviews each in workplaces in their
increased skills and capacities in a number of critical areas, including
computer literacy, communications skills, teamwork, self-esteem, and time
added much to their knowledge of the world of work, a world from which they have
been cut off because there have not been enough school-work linkages.
"Preparing Limited English Proficiency Students for the Workplace" (Grognet
1993) is directed to educators who must teach the SCANS competencies in English
to first- and second-generation immigrants. It supports the value of the SCANS
report, which does not presuppose that students have proficiency in oral
English, stating that "by explicitly addressing the needs of limited English
proficient/language-minority students vis-a-vis the areas of English language
and culture, SCANS is helping to promote the concept of equal access to
educational opportunities for all American students" (ibid., p. 99).
Copple, C.; Kane, M.; Matheson, N.; Meltzer, A.;
Packer, A.; and White, T. "SCANS in the Schools." In TEACHING THE SCANS
COMPETENCIES. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor, 1993. (ED 354 400)
Grognet, A. G. "Preparing Limited English Proficient Students for the
Workplace." In TEACHING THE SCANS COMPETENCIES. Washington, DC: U.S. Department
of Labor, 1993. (ED 354 400)
Harr, J. "Students Use SCANS to Explore Changing Jobs: Lessons of Indiana
Plus." In TEACHING THE SCANS COMPETENCIES. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of
Labor, 1993. (ED 354 400)
Idaho Department of Education. IDAHO VOCATIONAL TECHNICAL EDUCATION
CURRICULUM FRAMEWORK. Boise: Division of Vocational Education, Idaho Department
of Education, 1994. (ED 374 325)
Indiana Region 10 Tech Prep Consortium. TECH PREP SCANS LESSON DEVELOPMENT:
REGION 10 TECH PREP. Bloomington, IN: Region 10 Tech Prep Consortium, 1994. (ED
McCarty, S. et al. HEALTH SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY EDUCATION (HSTE). A WORKING
MODEL. Austin: Extension Instruction and Materials Center, University of Texas,
1994. (ED 376 279)
Meltzer, A.; White, T.; and Matheson, N. "Implementing SCANS: First Lessons."
In TEACHING THE SCANS COMPETENCIES. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor,
1993. (ED 354 400)
Ohio Department of Education. SUMMARY OF FEBRUARY 16, 1993 WORKSHOP.
Columbus: Tech Prep Standards of Evidence Committee, Ohio Department of
Ryan, R., and Pritz, S. PROJECT SCANS INTEGRATION. FORMATIVE EVALUATION
REPORT. Columbus, OH: World Class Associates, 1994. (ED 374 214)
Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills. WHAT WORK REQUIRES OF
SCHOOLS. Washington, DC: SCANS, U.S. Department of Labor, 1991. (ED 332 054)