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contextualization

This Brief, based on a longer review that considers the hypothesis that low-skilled students can learn more effectively and advance to college-level programs more readily through contextualization of basic skills instruction, presents two forms of contextualization that have been studied: “contextualized” and “integrated” instruction. There is more descriptive work on the contextualization of basic skills than studies with student outcome data. In addition, many studies with quantitative evidence on the effectiveness of contextualization have methodological flaws that limit conclusions. Further, only a small number of studies are with college students. However, despite these problems, contextualization seems to be a promising direction for accelerating the progress of academically underprepared college students. The method of contextualization is grounded in a conceptual framework relating to the transfer of skill and student motivation; practitioners who use it observe positive results, and the available quantitative evidence indicates that it has the potential to increase achievement.

2011
Dolores Perin
Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia University

Integration of academic and vocational curricula is missing from most American classrooms because integration that is rigorous, authentic, and sustained is much more difficult than most advocates imagine. The difficulty arises because teachers must do the following: keep integration sharply focused on clear, well-defined educational objectives; find legitimate applications that really excite students; and be able to meet the demands of time, expertise, and resources that are beyond the reach of most teachers. Academic and vocational curriculum should be integrated to increase student achievement, especially for those students who have not fared well in the traditional curriculum, and to benefit all students. Whatever form integration takes, it should begin by clearly specifying the educational goals: clearly targeted, well-defined educational objectives; use of academic and industry skill standards to direct integrated learning; and teachers who remain focused on primary learning objectives, so that any decisions to temporarily diverge from these aims are made consciously, explicitly, and with a better understanding of the costs of the benefits. Requiring increasing degrees of planning, coordination, and commitment, the four different forms of integration for teachers to consider are as follows: course-level integration, cross-curriculum integration, programmatic integration through career clusters and industry majors, and schoolwide integration, such as academies and other models.

2001
Gary Hoachlander
National Center for Research in Vocational Education, University of California, Berkeley