Dick Jones, Center Specialist
May 22, 2017
Learning in context is a popular expression in academic subjects such as Math and Science to describe the concept that students are more engaged in learning subject knowledge when they understand the “context” of how that knowledge is applied and used. Acquiring bits of knowledge in abstract without context is boring and unappealing to many students.
Career and Technical Education can contribute to learning in context through Integration of academics. There are three reasons why integration of academic should be a priority. The first reason why integration of academics is important recognizes the value of learning in context. When teachers work together to combine academics and CTE, they can achieve engaging learning experiences in which students are more likely to be motivated. This type of instruction has shown consistently to yield greater results by making appropriate connections between academic and CTE instructional areas.
Second, in recent accountability measures, schools are expected to increase student academic achievement as measured by standardized tests. Increasing achievement in these foundation areas of English, Language Arts, Mathematics, and Science is not the responsibility of any one subject area or one teacher but requires an entire school effort with all teachers contributing to that effort. CTE teachers should be a part of that overall improvement effort.
A final reason why integration of academics is important recognizes the rapid acceleration and the complexity of work. Being successful as an entrepreneur or an employee in the workplace requires individuals to handle complex tasks and continually learn new skills. CTE does not simply train students a few technical skills they will use to hold a job for an entire career. They will need to continue to learn over the course of a career. Strong foundation academic skills in communication and computation are critical to success in the rapidly changing workplace. By CTE teachers and academic teachers working together, they were able to draw on the strengths of each of their experiences to create rigorous learning experiences in which students enrolled in CTE, not only develop technical skills but acquire and apply their academic skills they will need to be lifelong learners.
One of the most exciting examples of learning in context and integration of academics in the blended teaching model Contextualized Learning Concepts developed by teachers in Loveland, Colorado. These two program blend Geometry with Construction and Algebra with Manufacturing. The NYS CTE Technical Assistance Center has promoted this program professional development and curriculum in New York through several events. A session scheduled June 26-29, 2017 at Questar BOCES.