Academic journal article Community College Review

Eric Review: Integrating Academic and Occupational Instruction

Academic journal article Community College Review

Eric Review: Integrating Academic and Occupational Instruction

Article excerpt

"New vocationalism," the concept of integrating occupational and academic courses in order to enrich both liberal arts and vocational programs, attracted a great deal of attention during the 1990s. However, a number of barriers, such as faculty resisitance and a lack of institutional resources, have prevented widespread implementation. This article describes several case studies and pilot projects underway at community colleges and discusses the obstacles to implementation as well as proven strategies.


Among leaders in the field of occupational education, the decade of the 1990s was filled with discussions of the "new vocationalism"--the concept of integrating occupational and academic courses. Although such pleas have been made for decades, this new emphasis resulted from the 1983 report, A Nation at Risk, which criticized occupational education for focusing students too narrowly on low-skill, entry-level jobs. In response to that criticism, the National Commission on Secondary Vocational Education (NCSVE) in 1984 defended vocational education, but also noted that, "What is really required today are programs and experiences that bridge the gap between the so-called `academic' and `vocational' courses. The theoretical and empirical aspects of academic courses and vocational courses must be made explicit and meaningful" (cited in Roegge & Ferej, 1995, p. 14). A few years later, a document produced by the William T. Grant Foundation Commission on Work, Family, and Citizenship (1988), The Forgotten Half, asserted that one half of the students graduating from high school would not complete college but would need some advanced training to succeed in their jobs.

The Carl D. Perkins Vocational Education Act of 1984 and its subsequent reauthorizations called specifically for the integration of academic and occupational education, as did the School-to-Work Opportunities Act of 1994. The SCANS Report (Secretary's [of Labor] Commission on Achieving Necessary Skill), What Work Requires Of Schools: A SCANS Report For America 2000 (1991), asserted that what employers require of schools is to teach the students thinking, decision-making, and problem-solving skills to succeed in the workplace. In addition, the legislation for TechPrep also focused on the integration of academic and occupational education to prepare the kinds of thinking, decision-making, problem-solving technicians that the advanced U.S. industry would demand in the future (Pisapia & Riggins, 1997).

Given all these proclamations and pieces of legislation issued during the past 15 years, have occupational programs in the community colleges actually integrated academic and occupational education? This ERIC review looks at the progress made, focusing particularly on literature since 1995. For convenience in this review, the acronym AOI will substitute for the rather cumbersome term "academic and occupational integration," but it is not an acronym that appears in the literature.

Proven Pedagogical Strategies

The AOI concept is not new. As early as 1916, John Dewey argued for educating through the occupations. In the 1920s, Leonard Koos (1924) proposed that occupational efficiency and civic and social responsibility should become the guideposts for the curriculum in the newly formed junior colleges. Walter Eells (1931) and Jesse Bogue (1950) proposed similar ideas. In the 1990s, W. Norton Grubb took up the torch of the AOI concept. In 1992, he and Kraskouskas outlined the basic eight models of AOI in community colleges:

1. General education requirements that simply add academic courses to occupational programs.

2. Applied academic courses in which the abstract concepts of the academic discipline are applied to occupational examples and applications. One example is a physics course that uses industrial examples to illustrate basic concepts.

3. Cross-curricular efforts that incorporate academic skills into occupational programs. …

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