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Using survey data gathered during Phase One of the study, eight two-year
colleges were identified for further in-depth analysis using qualitative
methods. Ten work-based learning programs in eight colleges, including health
and non-health programs in two of the institutions, were chosen using a
multistage selection process. The following five steps summarize the
The data collection was conducted by NCRVE project staff along with members of
the NCOE task force on work-based learning (chaired by Russell Hamm), creating
a team of ten data collectors. By combining the NCRVE researchers and NCOE
practitioners into one research team, we created a working partnership that was
valuable to understanding exemplary policy and practices associated with
work-based learning. The partnership between the NCRVE researchers and NCOE
practitioners provided a means of examining the relationship between theory and
practice inherent in work-based learning itself. For each site visit, we
assigned a team of two data collectors, optimally a pairing of an NCRVE
researcher with an NCOE practitioner.
- The population of two-year college work-based learning programs for Phase Two
of the study in 1994 came from a compilation of the survey data conducted in
Phase One of the study in 1993. In that earlier phase, survey respondents were
asked to give detailed information about their best health and non-health
work-based learning programs. These self-nominations were based on
respondents' assessments of existing work-based learning programs according to
the following criteria:
A total of 399 health work-based learning programs and a total of 322
non-health programs were described by the survey respondents. From this pool
of nominations, the work-based learning programs were screened further based on
respondents' affirmative responses to the following survey items:
- the existence of a formal structure for work-based learning
- commitment to work-based learning by various stakeholder groups
- a proven track record of successes
- innovative teaching and learning practices
- coordinated classroom and workplace learning
- integrated occupational-technical and academic instruction
- formal contracts or cooperative agreements with institutional partners
- formal governing/advisory board composed of institutional partners
- recognized credentials of occupational and academic mastery of completers
- Using these criteria to screen the population, a subsample of approximately
70 work-based learning programs was identified. These programs were classified
- whether the program was health or non-health.
- the work-based learning model being employed (e.g., clinical-professional,
- the year the program was established.
- Based on this classification scheme, the programs were analyzed further to
identify a mix of work-based learning programs that were also distributed by
- regions of the United States (e.g., Midwest, Southwest, Northwest)--to address
regional differences in postsecondary systems, labor markets, and so forth.
- rural (or small town) and urban sites--to address concerns about work-based
learning in areas thought to be the most difficult to reach according to the
- occupational-technical program areas (e.g., nursing, radiologic technology,
management, early childhood)--a priority was given to non-health areas because
of the lack of information about these programs, although a commitment was made
to select a few health programs for comparison.
- Using this classification schema and supplementary information provided by
the sites, 17 colleges were identified as deserving of further consideration
for the study. At this stage, all of the other detailed information collected
for each program was mailed to four members of the National Council for
Occupational Education (NCOE) task force on work-based learning, a key group
engaged in formulating and carrying out this entire study. Each task force
member was given a summary of the research objectives, the selection criteria,
and classification schema and asked to rank order the sites for field
visitation. Results of the expert panel showed a great deal of agreement
regarding the colleges and programs that should be visited. All four of the
task force members rated seven of the seventeen sites among their top ten.
Three other sites were rated in the top ten by either two or three of the
- Based on this ranking process, additional information was collected for the
top ten colleges identified by the panel of experts. Telephone interviews were
conducted with administrators of each of the colleges to attempt to verify
information supplied previously to the research team and to clarify any
questions concerning the local programs, policies, and practices. In addition,
personnel from state agencies and peer institutions were interviewed to
corroborate the exemplary character of the identified programs. Based on this
information, four colleges were disqualified, leaving six of the ten selected
by the expert panel. In addition to these six, two colleges were added to the
sample to strengthen the following areas: (1) the mix of
occupational-technical program areas, (2) the types of work-based learning
models, and (3) the regional representation within the United States.
Verification of the quality of work-based learning programs at these two
colleges was conducted similarly to other sites through a review of extant
survey data, analysis of supporting documentation, and telephone interviews
with site administrators and peer institutions. Selection of these two
additional colleges were confirmed by the NCOE expert panel.
Based on the selection process, eight two-year colleges and ten work-based
learning programs were ultimately identified for the study. The following were
the selected colleges and programs:
- Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, Salisbury, NC - early childhood education,
using the clinical-professional and school-based enterprise models
- Wenatchee Valley Community College, Wenatchee, WA - tree fruit production,
using both the co-op and school-based enterprise models, along with Tech Prep
- Phoenix College, Phoenix AZ - management/marketing, using the co-op model
- Northwestern Michigan College, Traverse City, MI - resort management, using
the co-op and school-based enterprise models
- Delgado Community College, New Orleans, LA - culinary arts, using formal
apprenticeships, and radiologic technology, using the clinical-professional
- Columbus State Community College, Columbus, OH - culinary arts, using formal
apprenticeships, and nursing technology, using the clinical-professional
- Rock Valley College, Rockford, IL - manufacturing technology, using the youth
apprenticeship model, along with Tech Prep
- Tulsa Junior College, Tulsa, OK - manufacturing technology, using the youth
The data collection instruments and procedures used during each field visit
were based on information gathered during Phase One of the study, additional
information collected via a literature search, and previous field-based
research conducted by the project staff, especially from prior investigations
of Tech Prep programs (Bragg, 1992). A protocol was developed for the field
visit and consistently employed by all the teams. Using this process met two
goals: First, it ensured that a common set of questions and inquiries was
applied at each site. Second, using the protocol enabled the team members to
gather information consistently about organizational structures and operational
strategies to identify factors that contribute to exemplary practice. Also,
using the protocol enhanced the confidence among team members in their ability
to conduct the research study and contribute to the data collection in a
The protocol was based on the research objectives for the study, and it
contained a core set of research questions that provided the foundation for all
data collection activities (see Table 2). Once the core set of research
questions was developed, a list of potential interview questions was generated
for each specific stakeholder group associated with the work-based learning
programs. The questions were combined into a semistructured interview guide
for each stakeholder group. These groups were as follows:
- President and senior administrators of the college
- Program director(s)
- Faculty (occupational and academic)
- Counselors and support staff
- Employers (minimum of two) and workplace mentors
- Other groups (e.g., labor organizations, Chamber of Commerce)
What are the characteristics and mission of the
- Institutional characteristics, outcomes
- Funding levels and sources
What are the characteristics and goals of the
- What are the specific goals of the program?
- What was the motivation for starting the program?
- How does the program fit with the mission of the
college? Employers' missions?
Who are the stakeholders: Students, Faculty,
- Stakeholder demographics (e.g., age, ethnicity/race,
- For each, what is the role and experience with the program?
- What was
the motivation for getting involved with the program?
- What resources did each
group contribute and receive?
What are the components of the program?
model (e.g., co-op, youth apprenticeship) is being implemented? Why?
are the key components of the model?
- How does the model work?
- Who has
responsibility for the various components of the model?
- What is the past
experience with this model?
- How do the key components fit the local area
- What is particularly innovative about the model?
- How do the
following components fit?
- School-based learning components
- Connecting activities
What are the strengths and
weaknesses (obstacles) of the program?
- What obstacles have been overcome?
- What obstacles remain? How do you plan to approach them?
- What are the
obstacles to doing more work-based learning?
What are the outcomes/results of the
work-based learning program?
- What are the documented student outcomes of this
- Retention rates
- Completion rates
- Transfer rates
- Placement rates
- Licensure passage rates
- Job/career positions
- How are outcomes
(benefits) evaluated? How are negative outcomes handled?
- How is outstanding
performance/participation recognized (formally or informally)?
- What are the
other outcomes of the program? The college? Employers? Others?
- Relationships with board/community
- Changes in enrollment in other
- Economic development
- Human resource development
What lessons have
been learned about work-based learning?
- If you could do it all over again,
what would you do?
- What advice would you give to others just beginning a
work-based learning program like this one?
A pilot test was conducted in July 1995 with two programs at Columbus State
Community College (CSCC) in Columbus, Ohio. With preliminary methodology and
instrumentation developed, four members of the data collection team made a
visit to CSCC to investigate two programs: culinary arts and nursing
technology. Two full days were spent on site to collect data using the
protocol which was based largely on qualitative research methods described by
Patton (1980). Information gathered at the visit was based on the protocol and
research questions presented in Table 2.
Following this pilot test, project staff made final revisions to the data
collection protocol and the semistructured interview schedules. Also at this
time, brief paper-pencil surveys were created to collect data from persons
difficult to reach in sufficient number during the visit, especially students,
faculty, and workplace mentors. These surveys were intended for all faculty
and workplace mentors actively engaged in the program. In addition, the
research teams were given thirty student surveys and asked to collaborate with
the personnel at each site to collect information from a representative group
of students. (Sampling procedures varied because the programs varied widely in
student enrollments from only 10 to nearly 340.) The student surveys collected
demographic information and perceptions toward various aspects of work-based
In addition, a school-to-work assessment tool was created to provide a measure
of program quality independent from the observations made by local
stakeholders. The instrument provided a scaled response to identify the extent
to which various aspects of the STWO Act were implemented. In addition, the
instrument included a scale to indicate the level of quality of various
elements associated with the three components of the STWO Act: (1)
school-based learning, (2) work-based learning, and (3) connecting activities.
The instrument was completed independently by each research team member and
then the teams convened to discuss their observations. The teams were asked to
complete the assessment tool as a group, reflecting the consensus of all team
member responses. Both the individual team member responses and the group
consensus were contributed to the pool of data collected for this study.
Training of Data Collectors
Once the data collection instruments and procedures were finalized, the team of
ten researchers met for a training session. The training was conducted over a
two-day period in late August 1994 in Chicago, Illinois. It provided the
- an orientation to the goals of the study
- a means of sharing major findings, conclusions, and recommendations from Phase
One of the study
- clarification about policies, terminology, and practices considered integral
to work-based learning for this study
- a general understanding of the STWO Act and the importance of examining
elements of the legislation in relation to this investigation
- a discussion of the issues pertinent to existing work-based learning programs,
particularly those linked to various models (e.g., youth apprenticeship, co-op)
and urban and rural locations
- an in-depth understanding of the site visit procedures and data collection
- instructions and requirements for creating a case study report for each site
- the schedule of activities for the remainder of the project, including the
site visits and debriefing session
The Field Visits
During September and October of 1994, the NCRVE-NCOE research teams conducted
site visits to seven two-year colleges. Each visit was conducted over two days
or more, typically involving 10- to 12-hour days of on-site interviews and
observations. On each site visit, the two-year college and at least two
employers where students were actively engaged in work-based learning were
visited. In addition, other organizations critical to operation of the
program(s) were sometimes visited such as a local Chamber of Commerce or labor
In each visit, persons affiliated with the key stakeholder groups were
interviewed. Personal interviews were conducted individually or in small
groups, depending upon the persons being interviewed, the confidentiality of
information sought, and the accessibility of the interviewees. Data collected
via the interviews were recorded in written notes. In nearly all cases,
cassette tape recordings were used as an additional source of documentation.
Survey instruments, along with pre-addressed and stamped envelopes, were
distributed to students, faculty, and mentors to supplement the on-site data
collection. Based on a compilation of all of this data, each team was
responsible for drafting a case study report to document what was learned in
relation to the research objectives. The format for the case-study reports
paralleled the research protocol used in the data collection activities. The
following are the primary sections of the case studies:
The process of analyzing and reporting data for this report was a bit
unconventional because the data collected via the eight field visits resided
primarily in the heads of the ten members of the research team. Although we
did require extensive note taking, and tape recording when possible, much of
the understanding and interpretation resided within the people themselves.
Therefore, to aggregate the major findings across the sites; to identify common
patterns, themes, and issues; and to generate conclusions and recommendations,
the ten-member research team was convened for a debriefing session. Draft
copies of each case study report were prepared and shared with the entire team
for assistance in the debriefing process. Later, after the session, each team
finalized its case study report, providing the basis for this document.
- Institutional Characteristics and Mission
- Program Characteristics and Goals
- Program Components and Outcomes according to School-Based Learning, Work-Based
Learning, and Connecting Activities
- Strengths and Weaknesses/Lessons Learned
After the data was collected in late October 1994, all ten data collectors
gathered for a one-day meeting held during the fall conference of NCOE in
Chicago, Illinois. This session was designed to assist in finishing the
individual case study reports as well as to provide a forum for discussion of
the major findings, conclusions, and recommendations of the study. The group
discussion was facilitated by the project co-directors using a protocol
developed prior to the session. The protocol involved having each research
team provide a brief description of major findings, lasting no more than 30
minutes per presentation.
Following the overview given for each program, the discussion focused on
identifying factors thought to be associated with exemplary work-based learning
policy and practice. These factors were defined with examples shared by
individual researchers, and then the group was polled to determine the
incidence of the factors within particular programs. When the factors seemed
to be representative of all or nearly all of the sites, the factors were
defined in a way that was broadly representative of what was observed across
sites. Ideas that seemed more idiosyncratic were not discarded, but recorded
to assist in further interpretation of the data or in generating future
research and policy questions. At the completion of the day-long meeting, the
research team had generated an extensive amount of information about two-year
college work-based learning policies and practices useful in addressing the
study's research objectives. The final part of the discussion centered on
issues and concerns evident in the work-based learning programs studied. All
ideas generated by the research team were noted on flip charts to assist in
data analysis during the meeting and during later report writing. The entire
session was video and audio taped to assist in documenting the event. The
authors of this report took primary responsibility for synthesizing and
reporting the ideas generated during the debriefing session.
Preparation of this Report
Following the debriefing session, each team of data collectors finalized its
case study report and transmitted the report and all information pertinent to
the research to the NCRVE-University of Illinois site. Then, all case studies
were organized into a common format and edited. Draft versions of each case
were mailed to the field-study sites for verification of the accuracy of
information. In addition, notes and audiotapes obtained during the debriefing
session in Chicago were transcribed, reviewed, and used as a basis for the
findings and conclusions presented in this report. A draft of the final report
was shared with each member of the research team for review and critique.
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