Contextualized Learning

A recent report by FutureWorks, prepared for The Cleveland Foundation, highlighted 18 occupations that are in most demand and the top 10 positions are in the healthcare, manufacturing, construction, and IT sectors; demand for computer and IT workers ranked number one. Not only are these types of jobs in demand, they provide family sustaining wages and future employment opportunities. The one criteria that prevents most low-literate residents, primarily in the city of Cleveland, from obtaining these positions is lack of education and training. This growing class of low-literate adults are excluded from job training programs that can help lift them out of poverty because they do not have the minimum skills required (usually an 8th grade reading/math level) to enter programs that would put them on a career pathway and help them earn family-sustaining wages.

The Literacy Cooperative works to integrate literacy into workforce development and align programs and partners that will assist our residents in connecting to training to fill the jobs in demand and to assist our partners with tools that prepare individuals for training. TLC has convened a consortium of adult education providers and workforce development organizations to collaborate on an industry-based curriculum for healthcare, manufacturing, hospitality, construction, and IT.

In 2016, TLC led the development of contextualized curriculum for the healthcare industry using employer-approved training materials from NewBridge Cleveland Center for Arts & Technology. The curriculum contains 40 hours of lessons to increase the math and reading levels of participants that are below 10th grade levels.  Manufacturing contextualized curriculum was piloted through Aspire at Lorain County Community College as part of a Manufacturing Readiness program. A second pilot began in the fall of 2017 at Towards Employment. Project Learn of Summit County piloted a blended session that includes contextualized curriculum lessons for both manufacturing and healthcare. Construction is the most extensive curriculum, 27 weeks, and includes components in math, reading and language arts, social studies, and science that prepares students for the GED. It is in a third year of piloting through Ohio Guidestone’s/Aspire Greater Cleveland’s Youthbuild program.

Our adult education consortium is developing IT and hospitality contextualized curriculum to assist individuals enter training and employment opportunities. Cuyahoga Community College is developing and piloting the hospitality contextualized curriculum with a focus on non-native English speakers. The Literacy Cooperative and Aspire Greater Cleveland is working with DigitalC and the consortium and IT intermediaries and trainers to outline the focus for IT contextualized curriculum.

We will work with our partners to train adult education and workforce development instructors and to evaluate how the contextualized curriculum compares to traditional adult education curriculum by comparing and measuring completion time of lessons and increases in literacy levels to meet the minimum requirements for employment or training. All instructors using the curriculum will be part of a three-year study that will be conducted by The Literacy Cooperative. The study will include surveys on the effectiveness of the curriculum, sharing aggregate classroom data on the progress of students when using contextualized curriculum, and the instructor feedback on the ease of use.

Our goal is to develop an effective literacy tool that has a consistent format, is web-based, and can be used to complement vocational training and on-the-job workplace programs.



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