DICP Resources: Designing Contextualized Instruction

This week the Career Pathways and the Postsecondary Completion Communities of Practice will be highlighting the resources from Adult Career Pathways dealing with Designing Contextualized Instruction.  As with the other topics we have featured from the Designing Instruction for Career Pathways (DICP) resources, we have a webcast, an online course, some articles from DICP newsletters, and several online resources to share from this collection.

The webcast is a panel discussion sponsored by the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) of the Department of Education (ED) and took place on September 26 of this year at the COABE 2013 Conference in New Orleans.  The webcast featured a panel of speakers: Cheryl Keenan, the Director of Adult Education and Literacy in the Office of Vocational and Adult Education in the U.S. Department of Education; Hope Cotner, Vice President of Community College Initiatives Center for Occupational Research and Development; and Carlynn Miller-Gore, ABE/ESL Instructor, Hubbs Center for Lifelong Learning, St. Paul Public Schools.  The webcast was moderated by Laura Lanier, Project Director, Designing  Instruction for Career Pathways.  Online, the webcast is presented in six parts.  In the first four parts, participants discussed their strategies, tips, and experiences in designing contextualized instruction. In the last two parts the panelists responded to questions from the attendees and the online audience.

The DICP resources on designing contextualized instruction that have been added to the Career Pathways resource collection are many!  Just limiting the search to 2009 and later called up 18 resources.  Many of these are specific to a particular career pathway.  There are food management, pharmacy, welding, certified nursing assistant, other health related areas, commercial truck driver, etc.!  Most of these specific resources are examples of lessons that teach a specific skill needed in that career cluster or pathway such as the lesson titled, “ABE Contextualized Math Modules: Driving a Truck—Reading Maps, Computing Distance, and Figuring Gas Mileage”.  There are additional resources that discuss contextualized instruction in general, and I’ll review those tomorrow.

As in previous weeks, please reply with any comments you have about the resources in particular or the topic of designing contextualized instruction in general, letting us have the benefit of your experience and expertise.


Donna Brian

SME Career Pathways


Searching the Career Pathways resources for “DICP” and “contextualized” yields several resources that are related to a specific career pathway or sector such as health care careers or welding, plus a number of resources that contain information about designing contextualized instruction generally.  (You can also find additional LINCS resources that were in the career pathways collection prior to the addition of DICP resources which are informative.) The links below will take you to the reviews of these resources and within the reviews are direct links to the resources themselves.  I have used some of the words from the reviews (in quotes).


Career and Postsecondary Pathways Bridged by Contextualized Education and Workplace Literacy

Dr. Thomas Sticht has been researching, writing about, and giving seminars about “functional context education” longer and more consistently than anyone else in the field.  This link gives you access to the “complete workshop slides from Dr. Tom Sticht’s seminar on functional context education (contextualized instruction) and workplace literacy in adult education. His materials offer a sweeping historical overview of research on the efficacy of contextualized instruction, national and international advocacy for its acceptance and implementation, and development of policies and programs supporting it.”


Career Pathways Toolkit: Six Key Elements for Success – Element Three: Design Education and Training Programs

The Career Pathways Toolkit provides a comprehensive guide to understanding, developing, implementing, and sustaining successful career pathways programs. We have featured this resource under several of the banners of discussion the last few weeks because it is so comprehensive and has sections on most of the topics we have been discussing.  Element Three has a section titled, “Design educational options that are progressive, modularized, accelerated, and contextualized,” and this section actually puts “designing contextualized instruction” in the context of the career pathways program.


GED Bridge to College Careers Program

“This is a Promising Practices description of the GED Bridge to College Careers Program at LaGuardia Community College. The program is 14-weeks long and serves adults, ages 19 and older, and integrates GED preparation with rigorous college-level material using a career-focused curriculum. Contextualized coursework investigates themes in health care or business, and the world of work, and is designed as a springboard to either college or vocational training.”  This resource demonstrates just how thoroughly contextualized instruction is integrated into, and is the basis of, LaGuardia’s program.


Getting Started Toolkit (Part 4): Curriculum Development and Student Support Services  

“The purpose of this toolkit is to assist programs in developing contextualized instruction and designing comprehensive programs with targeted student services necessary for the effective implementation of a career pathways system. … This implementation manual and accompanying web-based tutorial are the fourth in the series, Building Bridges for Career Pathways in Michigan. The resource first describes the philosophy and development of contextualized instruction which focuses on teaching skills in real-world contexts. In career pathways programs, basic skills are often contextualized in relation to a particular industry or career. Examples of contextualized lessons and full bridge programs are provided as models.”  In addition, one of the “tools” included in the toolkit is a seven-page annotated listing of online contextualized instruction resources.


Contextualization Toolkit: A Tool for Helping Low-Skilled Adults Gain Postsecondary Success

“The Contextualization Toolkit is designed to help community colleges and other educators serve low-skilled adults through the use of contextualized learning. This approach integrates career subject matter with precollege skills development, allowing adult learners to get started more quickly on their chosen career path. For designers and implementers of contextualized learning courses, this toolkit offers a guide to the key characteristics of contextualized learning, concrete steps to take when designing their contextualization approach, strategies to engage students, considerations related to promoting contextualized learning at their institutions, tools to guide their work, and models from the Breaking Through colleges.”


If you did not automatically connect contextualized learning with career pathways before this discussion, I’m sure you will now! 


Donna Brian

SME, LINCS Career Pathways

Thanks for sharing out these resources, Donna!

The DICP project also focused on the topic of contextualized instruction in a number of its newletters.

For example, in the September 2011 issue (Volume 1: Issue 3), an article, titled: Contextual Teaching Offers Engaging Strategies for Classroom Instruction provides a helpful mnemonic to remember five essential learning strategies - REACT (R - Relating; E - Experiencing; A - Applying; C - Cooperating; and T - Transferring). The REACT strategy offer an approach for implementing contextual teaching and learning. The article explains the REACT strategy and an example of how the strategy is implemented in the classroom. Read the full article here: http://lincs.ed.gov/publications/html/acp-newsletters/vol1issue3.html

Additionally, in the May 2013 issue (Volume 3: Issue 3), a special edition of ACP News was released that focuses solely on contextualized instruction. The issue spotlighted contextual instructional practices and programs in three states (Virginia, Minnesota, and New York) and professional development strategies employed to support teachers. To read the entire issue, visit: http://lincs.ed.gov/publications/html/acp-newsletters/vol3issue3.html


Once again, a full list of all the ACP newsletters can be found on the LINCS website here: http://lincs.ed.gov/programs/acp


Just adding that I ran across this article this week in The Atlantic that spotlights LaGuardia Community College and the contextualization of their GED classes to career pathways. With the release of the PIAAC, I've been seeing more and more articles about adult education in the press and it's great to observe this trend: http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2013/12/we-cannot-forget-people-who-did-not-graduate-from-high-school/282124/

More information about LaGuardia can be found in the May 2013 issue of ACP News.

Check out https://community.lincs.ed.gov/discussion/online-course-designing-contextualized-instruction

I just wanted to remind you of this course that was introduced to us back in September.  It is the last of this series of DICP resources that we have been highlighting for the last month.  Since I don't have anything to add to this summary that I-Fang gave us, I'm just adding this post to remind you that the course is available.  Her questions are good discussion starters, and with all of the other resources we have on this topic, it seems a good time to start this chat!

Donna Brian

SME Career Pathways