Integrating Curriculum: Lessons for Adult Education from Career and Technical Education

This report describes and examines the integrated curriculum as a strategy that has been implemented in career and technical education (CTE) programs in high schools that holds promise for preparing students for career advancement and training or postsecondary education. 

K. Chernus
D. Fowler
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
MPR Associates, Inc.
Publication Year
Resource Type
Informational Material
Number of Pages
Product Type

Several definitions of an integrated curriculum are presented and the authors note that curriculum integration (1) combines academic and CTE content and work-readiness standards and (2) uses project- or problem-based learning that is relevant and context specific to students’ lives.

The authors discuss major elements, types, and initiatives of curriculum integration, course integration, and program integration. Employment-related concepts such as career clusters, career pathways, and multiple pathways are also discussed. Two models of curriculum integration used in secondary schools are highlighted and include the ConnectEd multiple pathways approach and the Ford Partnership for Advanced Studies (PAS). For each model, program components, outcomes, and the relevance for adult education are outlined. The authors also highlight several initiatives and promising practices that have been developed in adult education and these include the I*CANS: Integrated Curriculum for Achieving Necessary Skills, integrated theme-based instruction (ITB), the Integrating Basic Education Skills Training (I-BEST), project-based learning for adult English language learners, bridge programs, and workplace literacy and workforce basic skills education. The resource concludes with a description of three templates – course integration, cross-curriculum integration, and program integration – that may be relevant for the adult education field.

What the experts say

The major value of this resource is the extensive description and definition of key aspects of the process of integrating curriculum to ensure a smooth transition to post-secondary programs. There is extensive description and discussion of:

  • Integrated academic and CTE curriculum and the various ways of accomplishing this
  • Integrated theme-based instruction
  • Communities of practice for teachers
  • Multiple and career pathways
  • Bridge programs
  • Authentic assessment
  • Industry partnerships

The in-depth discussion of integrating math into meaningful authentic, problem-based learning demonstrates how this can be implemented (Stone et al.). There are also descriptions of five models of successful curriculum integrations. All of these efforts are major initiatives that involve significant investment of both Federal, state, and foundation money; and they represent a major challenge to the way ABE/ESL/ASE is run in many states.

The resource provides a broad source of programmatic information and hopefully sources of integrated curriculum that even under-resourced programs can mine. The works cited by Dirkx et al and the extensive math CTE project that can be found in detail on the National Research Center for Career and Technical Education (NRCCTE) website are valuable in that they provide an avenue for finding curriculum that has been developed as the result of large experimental research studies. Although the focus of this resource is CTE, it does have many aspects that hold promise and inform the entire field of adult education.

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