Effective Teaching Techniques for Contextualizing Instruction

It's National Workforce Development Month, so I thought this might be a good time to talk about doing workforce preparation activities in the adult education classroom and some tips for effectively contextualizing instruction to the workforce. 

First, I want to remind everyone about the LINCS self-study course Workforce Preparation Activities in the Classroom: Contextualizing Employability Skills for Deeper Learning which is loaded with some great resources and information.

Next, here are a few tips to keep in mind when planning a contextualized lesson:

  1. Know your learners' personal and workforce related goals.
  2. Gather current information about your local labor market.
  3. Make sure the lesson activities are relevant to your current learners AND align to the current needs of the local area's workforce. 

Finally, the WIOA definition for workforce preparation activities is as follows:

WORKFORCE PREPARATION ACTIVITIES (34 CFR 463.34) – include activities, programs, or services designed to help an individual acquire a combination of basic academic skills, critical thinking skills, digital literacy skills, and self-management skills, including competencies in: (A)Utilizing resources; (B) Using information; (C) Working with others; (D)Understanding systems; (E) Skills necessary for successful transition into and completion of postsecondary education or training, or employment; and (F) Other employability skills that increase an individual’s preparation for the workforce.

What concrete examples can you share of how you have successfully contextualized lessons that align to learner goals and help them be better prepared for the workforce?




The 2013 Contextualizing Adult Education Instruction to Career Pathways publication discusses using the ADDIE model to help determine what type of contextualized instruction will work best in your local area and how to design that instruction effectively. Some questions proposed in the design phase include:

  • What content will be covered? 
  • What skills and sub-skills do learners need to accomplish for the learning objectives?
  • What instructional strategies are best for encouraging learning in specific types (skills, attitudes, psychomotor, cognitive)?
  • What is the character of instructional delivery? Will there be projects, presentations, or collaborative work? Lecture, drills?
  •  Will instruction involve standardized tests or credentialing? If so, how can you integrate this with other authentic assessments? 

For those of you that have been contextualizing instruction, how did you get started? Did you ask some of these same questions? What other questions did you discuss?

For those of you that are new to contextualizing instruction, what content do you currently cover that aligns to local high priority occupations? If you aren't sure, which workforce partners in your One Stop can help you figure this out?

The Teaching Skills that Matter Toolkit  (TSTM) has 9 skills, 5 topic areas, and 3 approaches. One of the 3 approaches is integrated & contextualized learning. The other two are problem-based and project-based learning. Next month, several of the LINCS groups will be combining to do a live event focused on some of the contextualized TSTM lessons. We would like to hear from the adult education community before, during, and after this live event. HEre are some questions to consider:

What are some questions you have about contextualized instruction?

What has been easy and what has been difficult for you when it comes to planning contextualized lessons?

What resources have been most helpful for you around contextualized instruction?


We look forward to reading your comments in this discussion thread.