Blueprints for Building Curriculum

Article excerpt

INTEGRATING ACADEMIC AND VOCATIONAL CURRICULA CAN BE A DAUNTING TASK, ESPECIALLY IF YOU'RE STARTING FROM SCRATCH AND YOU NEED TO FACTOR IN ACADEMIC AND SKILL STANDARDS. THE CURRICULUM INTEGRATOR," DESIGNED BY A NETWORK OF EDUCATION GROUPS, AIMS TO GIVE TEACHERS A FRAMEWORK.

Curriculum integration can be a lot like building a house. Even the best materials and skills cannot produce a sturdy structure without a sound blueprint to follow. To help educators make sense of the mountains of government, association and industry standards, a group of education organizations joined forces to create the Integrated System for Workforce Education Curricula (ISWEC). Led by the Center for Occupational Research and Development in Waco, Texas, ISWEC has developed the Curriculum Integrator, a blueprint educators can use to systematically integrate curriculum while including academic and vocational skill standards. To make that possible, the Curriculum Integrator includes "Integrated Curriculum Standards" synthesized from three categories of standards-employability, occupational and academic. So far, CORD has released 149 integrated standards in three career clusters-Business, Marketing and Management; Engineering and Science; and Manufacturing and Production Technology. About a third of the standards are applicable to all three clusters and are identified as core standards. Examples of these include: listening, oral communication, teamwork, written communication, leadership and problem solving. Schools in 27 states participated in the system's development, and 14 pilot sites are testing sample curricula developed for the clusters.

The big first step

Take the Business, Marketing and Management cluster, for example. A comprehensive high school taking the big first step toward integrating academic and vocational skill standards in its marketing education program could employ the Business, Marketing and Management standards to build curriculum or apply the Curriculum Integrator to its own standards. The entire integration process takes eight steps. (See box on the next page.)

First educators must establish a curriculum integration team. In this case team members might be the high school marketing education teacher, an English teacher, a guidance counselor, the principal, a marketing teacher from the local community college and a representative from a local business specializing in producing commercial brochures. Together they will identify occupational areas of interest to students. The Curriculum Integrator further breaks down the Business, Marketing and Management cluster into five career majors-management, finance, administrative services, marketing and computer network systems. Under the marketing subhead, there are five occupational fields-advertising, public relations, real estate, fashion merchandising, sales and insurance. Team members can stick with the Curriculum Integrator model, which suggests projects that the teachers can use to bridge their curricula, or apply their own career majors or occupational fields to the cluster structure. If the team chooses to introduce more factors, then it will take the next step in the implementation process, which is to augment the standards database by localizing the integrated standards. The team will have to develop its own standards for any additional occupational fields.

If the team chooses or is able to stick with the Curriculum Integrator model, then it can skip step four entirely by using the standards provided. Here are some examples for the Business, Marketing and Management" cluster.

Marketing-Acquire, analyze and evaluate information to develop a marketing plan to promote or enhance sales of a product or service. Consider the cultural, economic, governmental, ethical and technological factors.

Business law-Analyze the relationship between ethics and the law and describe the sources of the law, court system structure and classifications of procedural and substantive law. …