ERIC Identifier: ED425786
Publication Date: 1999-01-00
Author: Brewer, Jerrilyn A.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for
Community Colleges Los Angeles CA.
Integration of Academic and Occupational Education in
Community/Technical Colleges. ERIC Digest.
Community and technical colleges are facing increased external pressure to
design curriculum and instruction in ways that show students how to apply
concepts learned in both their occupational and academic courses. Teahen (1996)
contends that "vocational educators are criticized for providing overly specific
training, and academic educators are criticized for providing instruction that
is neither participatory nor connected to the real-world's requirements" (p. 3).
One solution to this dilemma is the integration of academic and occupational
education. This Digest cites a rationale for integrating academic and
occupational education, describes models for integration, outlines barriers to
integration, and suggests ways in which community and technical college leaders
can advance integration efforts.
RATIONALE FOR INTEGRATION
Integration of academic and
occupational education reinforces the shifting paradigm from teaching to
learning and requires that students become active participants in the
construction of their own knowledge. Badway and Grubb (1997) suggest that
integrating academic and occupational education broadens occupational education
and strengthens its connection to civic goals. Academic and occupational
integration has the potential to offer a broader focus for occupational
education and to offer opportunities for a more diverse group of students
(Illinois Task Force, 1997, p. 4). Copa and Ammentorp (1997) suggest that design
of the learning process - i.e., curriculum, instruction, and assessment - must
become more integrated and better suited to the specifications for learning
outcomes. They suggest that the learning process "engage the learner in inquiry
(research) and knowledge construction and that learning projects [are] connected
to the needs of the community" (p. 10).
The Commission on the Future of the Community College (1988) recommends that
community/technical colleges "integrate general education within the specialized
studies program--through interdisciplinary courses, special seminars, and the
like" and that the community college "should overcome departmental narrowness by
integrating technical and career studies with the liberal arts" (p. 18).
Edmonds (1993) states that there appears to be general consensus that
students in occupational programs need more than concrete skills to perform well
in the work force. She challenges faculty and administrators to "integrate
occupational programs and general education so that students see the
connectedness of their learning, practice problem solving, work cooperatively
with others, and construct and evaluate alternatives" (p. 85).
Integration can also help to move vocational education from traditional
narrow skills-training to education that prepares students to work in
increasingly high-skilled, technical work places. Jacobs (1993), calling for
American higher education to serve the changing interests and needs of U.S.
businesses, cites a "compelling need to move vocational education away from the
overemphasis on hands-on skills in order to develop programs that meet the needs
of employers" (p. 81).
MODELS FOR COMMUNITY/TECHNICAL COLLEGE INTEGRATION
variety of curriculum integration models can be used in community/technical
colleges. Grubb and Kraskouskas (1992) identify and describe eight approaches to
integration: general education requirements, applied academics courses,
cross-curricular incorporation of academic skills in occupational programs,
incorporating academic modules in expanded occupational courses,
multidisciplinary courses combining academic perspectives and occupational
concerns, tandem and cluster courses and learning communities,
colleges-within-colleges, and remediation and English-as-a-second language
programs with an occupational focus.
A variety of integration efforts have been implemented recently. Nicolet
Technical College identifies and assesses college-wide "institutional outcomes"
or "core abilities" in all college programs and courses (Bass, 1996, p. 4).
Every student in a program of substantial length is taught and assessed for
these outcomes before leaving the institution.
Delta College developed the Delta Bio-Ethics-Nursing 100 project as a
learning community where students participated in three courses--Introduction to
Health Care, Health Care Ethics, and College Composition I. Core abilities and
general education competencies were integrated and infused across all three
courses, common themes for linking and learning activities were shared in all
three courses, and faculty team-taught the courses (Jacobs & Teahen, 1996).
Albuquerque Technical-Vocational Institute brought together eighty faculty
from five departments to form integration teams. The goal of the project was to
enhance communication among departmental faculties, employers, and advisory
boards; to enhance both the general education and career education courses; to
produce materials that connected theory to practice; and to improve vocational
students' attitudes about required courses by presenting career applications of
educational content (McBroom, 1996).
Seminole Community College created a course called "Technology and the
Humanities for the 21st Century" which it requires or strongly recommends for
associate degree programs. The course examines how technology interacts with
culture in the modern world as well as technology's connection to the past
Kirkwood Community College secured a National Endowment for the Humanities
grant for interdivisional faculty from career programs and liberal arts to
create three interdisciplinary humanities courses on topics of special interest
to career students: Working in America, Technology and the Human Condition, and
Living in the Information Age (Prager, 1994).
BARRIERS TO INTEGRATION
Barriers to integration are many
and varied and pose challenges to colleges wishing to move ahead with
integration initiatives. Examples of barriers include (Teahen, 1996, p. 16):
universities' lack of acceptance of transfer credit for "new" courses,
reluctance of faculty to change, pervasive disciplinary specialization, lack of
leadership in support of curriculum reform, lack of support from administrators,
lack of knowledge of how to integrate, perceptions of status differences between
academic and occupational faculty, and lack of resources for release time,
planning, and professional development.
Each of these barriers presents special challenges and requires college-wide
commitment to engage in substantive efforts to integrate academic and
ROLE OF ADMINISTRATION
The literature documents
administrators' key role in effecting the integration of academic and
occupational education. According to Schmidt, Finch, & Faulkner (1992),
"Administrative practices and procedures were viewed as contributing to
cooperative efforts, curriculum strategies, and instructional strategies by
fostering a positive climate for integration. Numerous instances of
administrative activities could be linked to integration" (p. 57). Schmidt et al
identified eight subthemes which emerged as effective administrative practices
fostering integration efforts: facilitating the integration process, dealing
with administrative constraints, handling teacher concerns, learning from
experience, scheduling/organizing classes, dealing with teacher resentment,
involving teachers, and seeking administrative support.
The Illinois Task Force on Academic/Occupational Integration (1997)
concludes, "Advancing academic and occupational education within the community
college requires the commitment of leadership to nurturing an environment that
supports innovation and to providing resources that support planning,
development, and implementation" (p. 17).
The integration of technical and academic
curriculum will allow students to become more active participants in their
learning. Furthermore, graduates will gain concrete skills, such as literacy,
needed in today's work environments. Numerous models exist for the successful
integration of occupational and academic curriculum despite the internal and
external barriers which exist. The support and leadership of administrators is a
critical factor in successful integration efforts.
Badway, N. & Grubb, W. N. (1997). Curriculum
integration and the multiple domains of career preparation: A sourcebook for
reshaping the community college. Berkeley, CA: National Center for Research in
Vocational Education, University of California at Berkeley.
Bass, H. G. (1996). "Curriculum advancement for work force colleges: The
Nicolet College process." (ED 405 919).
Commission on the Future of the Community College. (1988). Building
communities: A vision for a new century. Washington, D.C. American Association
of Community and Junior Colleges.
Copa, G. H. & Ammentorp, W. (1997). A new vision for the two-year
institution of higher education: Preparing for a changing world. Berkeley, CA:
National Center for Research in Vocational Education, University of California
Edmonds, C. F. (1993). General education in occupational programs: The
barriers can be surmounted. New Directions for Community Colleges, 81, Spring,
pp. 85-91. (EJ 464 450).
Grubb, W.N., & Kraskouskas, E. (1992). "A time to every purpose:
Integrating occupational and academic instruction in community colleges and
technical institutes." Berkeley: National Center for Research in Vocational
Education, University of California at Berkeley. (ED 350 405).
Illinois Task Force on Academic/Occupational Integration. (1997). Blurring
the lines: Integrating academic and occupational instruction at the community
college, Springfield: Illinois Community College Board.
Jacobs, J., & Teahen, R. C. (1996). "We're doing it: Michigan models for
academic and occupational integration." (ED 399 997).
Jacobs, J. (1993). "Vocational education and general education: New
relationship or shotgun marriage?" New Directions for Community Colleges, 81,
Spring, pp. 75-84 (EJ 464 449).
McBroom, G. (1996). Liberal arts vs. vocational education: An Olympian
balancing act. (ED 394 580).
Prager, C. (1994). Harmonizing general education programs in career and
professional curricula. (ED 367 401).
Schmidt, B. J., Finch, C. R., Faulkner, S. L. (1992). Helping teachers to
understand their roles in integrating vocational and academic education.
Berkeley: National Center for Research in Vocational Education, University of
California at Berkeley.
Teahen, R.C. (1996). "Curriculum models: Integration of academic and
occupational content." (ED 399 998).