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Partnerships In Contextualized Programs

October 17, 2012<?xml:namespace prefix = o /?>

Partnerships in Developing Contextualized, Integrated Vocational and Basic Skills Programs


Tom Sticht                                                                                                                                                                                           International Consultant in Adult Education



The Quebec English Literacy Alliance posted an article headlined “Partnership is the Foundation for Successful Contextualized Learning”. ( Based on research from the National Research and Development Centre (NRDC) for Adult Literacy and Numeracy in the United Kingdom, the article makes the point that vocational programs that embed and contextualize basic skills (language, literacy, numeracy-LLN) instruction had higher retention and course success rates. The article also says that “…one key observation is that to successfully create a contextualized learning program, a partnership must be formed between the literacy practitioner and the vocational education teacher.”

This is a critical point in creating contextualized and integrated ABE/ASE/ESL  career  pathways for adult learners. Basic skills teachers and vocational education teachers need to work together to identify the aspects of the vocational education and training which might pose particular problems of LLN for learners. In the terminology of Functional Context Education, this need is expressed in a principle for course development for under-skilled adults which states that program developers need to  Integrate instruction in reading, writing, arithmetic, and problem solving into academic or technical training programs as the content of the course poses requirements for information processing using these skills that many potential students may not possess; avoid decontextualized basic skills "remedial" programs (facilitates in-course learning; motivates basic skills learning; reduces instruction time; develops "learning to learn" ability ).”

The article from the Quebec English Literacy Alliance goes on to say “Learners want to succeed in their chosen vocation, the trades want qualified students, and essential skills practitioners want to expand their reach in the community. Contextualized learning is the answer. Literacy practitioners are in the best position to initiate and create contextualized learning programs in collaboration with local vocational education centres. Creating a successful contextualized learning curriculum requires additional time and effort, but the results justify the investment.”

Additional information about the United Kingdom research can be found at  in a 2007 report entitled “You wouldn’t expect a maths teacher to teach plastering… Embedding literacy, language and numeracy in post-16 vocational programmes – the impact on learning and achievement.”

For more information about Functional Context Education see the following two notebooks which I have used in my workshops on contextualized teaching and learning in integrated vocational and academic education program.


1. Functional Context Education: Making Learning Relevant (1997 edition). Eight chapters including The Power of Adult Literacy Education, Some Challenges of Diversity for Adult Literacy Education, Views On Contemporary Cognitive Science, Introduction to Functional Context Education, Functional Context Education and Literacy Instruction, and four case studies in applying Functional Context Education to the design of programs that integrate (or embed, contextualize) basic skills and vocational or parenting education (workplace literacy, family literacy).


2. Functional Context Education: Making Learning Relevant in the 21st Century (2005 edition). Functional Context Education (FCE) materials available online in several nations, the Adult Literacy and Life Skills (ALL) survey, National Adult Assessment of Literacy (NAAL) survey, FCE in historical perspective, (1860-Present) including Paulo Freire and Learner Centered, Participatory Literacy Education. Methodologies used in adult literacy research for determining what is relevant to youth and adult learners; five case studies illustrating the application of FCE in parenting, vocational training, and health literacy.


Tom Sticht





Donna Brian's picture
One hundred

Thanks for sharing and summarizing, Tom.  These are all good resources for us to know about and use.  I just spent more time than I intended  exploring them!