The Content of Your School-To-Work Curriculum:

...Is it Good, Bad, or Do You Really Know?

Curriculum content is affected by a host of factors: the advent of national skill standards, the growing emphasis many local districts place on integrated school-to-work programs, and linkages between school- and work-based learning.

As a result, educators are often left with "how" and "why" questions about the quality of their curriculum content: "What should be in my school-to-work curriculum content?" "How can I evaluate curriculum content?" "Why should I assess my content now if all these other changes are taking place?"

These questions are all legitimate; all are relevant to educators addressing school-to-work concepts.

The curriculum reviewer who integrates relevant information (specific skills, diversity considerations, performance levels) and existing benchmarks of quality (Bonnet, in Brandt, 1981) is better equipped to soundly assess school-to-work curriculum and related products. This article examines benchmarks or indicators related to the content of school-to-work curriculum.

To provide you with benchmarks for assessing your curriculum content, several content indicators developed by the NCPQ are illustrated. The corresponding curriculum samples illustrate those ideals or values, and furnish you with ideas about how a content standard may be fulfilled in current school-to-work curricula.

NCPQ Content Standard and Indicators

Developed with input from professionals nationwide, the NCPQ Content Standard states:
"School-to-work curricula must focus on the integration of academic foundations with career development, life skills, and occupational competencies."

The language of the NCPQ Content Standard is supported by a selection of benchmarks or indicators, presented in question format. Illustrations of current examples (and/or discussions of quality exemplars) are provided as possible solutions to those questions. Working in concert, the standard, indicators, and examples can guide you in benchmarking the degree of quality in your school-to-work curriculum content.

Indicator 1: To what extent has the content incorporated appropriately validated skills, tasks, and/or competencies?

National studies, such as America 2000: An Educational Strategy (USDE, 1991) and A SCANS Report for America 2000 (SCANS, 1991) have identified essential skills for successful workforce training and development. To help ensure that curriculum content addresses the issues and skills raised in national workforce education studies, a school-to-work curriculum should address the following points:

The matrix that follows exemplifies the relationship of a curriculum content to that of the SCANS Foundational Skills:

Indicator 2: To what extent is the content sequenced from basic to more complex concepts or coherent clusters?

Curriculum content's learning objectives, outcomes, or concepts should be sequenced in a meaningful order. However, according to Boyle (1981), "[a] logical order from the sense of the discipline may not be logical from the standpoint of the learner" (p. 52). Keeping this sense of order in mind, examine your content and note whether the following characteristics are present as they relate to sequencing or clustering concepts:

Indicator 3: To what extent is the content presented in an interesting and appealing manner geared towards the diversity of learners?

In 1987, John Kellor developed the ARCS (Attention, Relevance, Confidence, and Satisfaction) Model. Kellor's model focuses on "influencing learners' motivation to learn, and for solving problems using learning motivation" (Smith and Ragan, 1993, p. 310). The model can be a useful tool for examining content and supporting instructional strategies. The model includes the following components:

In addition to fulfilling the examples excerpted from the ARCS Model, your curriculum content should actively represent learners of both sexes, and of various ethnic and cultural backgrounds. The content should be free of any bias.

Indicator 4: To what extent are career development, awareness, and mobility incorporated throughout the content?

When career values are reflected in curriculum content, students can see the connection of school-based learning to "real life." These integrated concepts assist students' adaptations to present and future career changes and requirements. The following example illustrates how these concepts can appear in the content of an existing instructional resource. The CIMC Forestry Curriculum Guide (1991) exemplifies an integrated career education unit (i.e., content) within a specific occupational curriculum. In addition to career references and resources in each unit, the Guide contains an entire unit called "Investigate Forestry Career Opportunities." The unit contains the following career-related components:

The unit itself depicts women in non-traditional occupational roles, uses culturally inclusive language, and offers the student a breadth of forestry-related career knowledge. In your curriculum content, are any of these types of career components evident?

Indicator 5: To what extent does the curriculum content integrate the following: vocational and general education skills, employability and life skills, diversity and commonality among people, and transferability of learned skills?

The following unit is excerpted from curriculum material developed by a high school in Brooklyn, New York. The material is designed for the school's integrated Health Occupations program. Besides addressing the technical aspects of the curriculum content, the content also addresses the diverse ethnicity of its students, through integrating vocational and academic skills, emphasizing life skills, and expanding knowledge about diversity among people and cultures.

Unit Outline - The Cycle of Life: Activities of Daily Living/Life Skills

Core Health Occupations Focus: How do microbes grow and spread? Students will:

Global Focus: How are Chinese medical practices different from Western medical practices? Students will:

English Focus: How effective is isolation used in isolation? Students will:

Math Focus: How can we calculate the rate of bacterial growth? Students will:

Meaningful Curriculum Evaluation:
Where Can It Lead You?

By documenting content examples that illustrate what we currently consider quality benchmarks, we hope that this discussion has provided a richer foundation for your efforts to assess school-to-work curriculum content.

Assessing your school-to-work curriculum content will require you to take a long look at what is currently in place, or what you want to have in place. Perhaps a check-list of indicators would be the fastest determinant of content status, but would it really capture a thoughtful awareness concerning the context of your curriculum content? Take the time: become intimately involved in assessing your curriculum components. Integral knowledge of the quality status of your curriculum content will not only benefit your learners, but will also engage you as a learner in quality school-to-work curriculum.

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