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THE DIFFERENT CONCEPTIONS AND PURPOSES OF INTEGRATION

The conception of integrating occupational and academic education has not yet been given much thought at the postsecondary level. Most of our respondents were unsure what we meant by integration; almost none of them had thought about curriculum integration, and their responses in citing their own institution's efforts revealed that there is no consistent understanding of integration. In contrast to the secondary schools, where there is substantial discussion of curriculum integration in general and of the integration of vocational and academic education in particular,[31] most postsecondary institutions have not begun to think about what integration might be or why it might be valuable for their students.

The models of integration described in the previous section reveal a variety of practices, ranging from the incorporation of some additional writing in a conventional occupational course to substantial reorganizations of programs within clusters and learning communities. The underlying conceptions of integration also vary substantially among these models, and include the following:

This kind of introductory course is an example of another practice encouraged by the Perkins Amendments of 1990, which allows federal funds to be used for "programs which train adults and students for all aspects of the occupation" (Section 235). While the conception of "all aspects of the occupation" (also referred to as "all aspects of the industry") in the legislation is just as vague as the conception of integration, it can be interpreted as an effort to give students a broad view of the occupations and sectors they might enter so that they will be well-informed about the occupational choices they make and the avenues for mobility open to them. The career exploration modules that are part of introductory courses can be interpreted as one way of presenting "all aspects of the industry."

Evidently, the ambitions underlying these different conceptions of integration vary. Some of them make minor modifications in existing practices, while others fundamentally reshape how community colleges and technical institutes operate. Some aspire to teach students high-level academic skills and various higher-order skills, while others concentrate on the most basic skills for students who come to postsecondary education woefully underprepared. In our view, each of them has something positive to offer; compared to conventional practices, each has potential benefits for students, faculty, and the coherence of postsecondary institutions. From this vantage, it is inappropriate to label certain approaches to integration as exemplary and other as unacceptable. Rather, distinctly different approaches to curriculum integration exist with varying assumptions about what integration means, assumptions which ought to be explicit and carefully examined rather than covert.


[31] For example, the conception of integration has been promoted by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development; see, for example, the special "Integrating the Curriculum" (1991) issue of Educational Leadership as well as Fogarty (1991). Many schools (including middle schools) are experimenting with integration of science and math, the traditional math courses, of history and literature, and of other obvious pairings. The conception of integrating vocational and academic education is by now widespread among secondary vocational educators, partly because of the Carl Perkins Amendments of 1990 requiring integration. In part, the lower level of consciousness in postsecondary institutions about integration reflects the smaller federal vocational funding at the postsecondary level.

[32] At the secondary level, the collaboration of academic and vocational teachers is crucial in distinguishing the forms of integration that are relatively modest in their ambitions from those with the potential to reshape schools in substantial ways. See Grubb, Davis, Lum, Plihal, and Morgaine (1991).


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