Content, pedagogy, results: A thrice-told tale of integrating work-based and school-based learning

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University of California, Berkeley




Work-based learning programs can challenge the grammar of schooling by connecting students to opportunities outside the school, creating learning communities of students, teachers and employers, and integrating academic and occupational education. Although designed to change how students perceive the relationship between high school and life afterwards---college and work---do these programs actually affect students' understanding of schoolwork relationships? To answer the question a case study approach was used to study the details of a particular site. This research focused on a biotechnology education and training program that includes two years of science coursework at the high school level, a year of science coursework at the community college level, as well as summer internships for high school students and year-round co-op jobs for college students. A particular point of view is presented---that of the students. Data collection and analysis took place in four phases; Phase 1 included longitudinal cohort analyses in which persistence and attrition rates were calculated, industry participation was also analyzed; in Phase 2, written statements of 61 focal students were analyzed; Phase 3 consisted of 32 participant interviews; and in Phase 4, chapters were conceptualized and organized. Student perspectives add to the school-to-career research by revealing what students define as important experiences and opportunities. By focusing on what students learn (content), how they learn it (pedagogy), and what it means to them and the program (results), this study provides student perspectives on the promises of new forms of vocationalism. This research concludes with implications for designing and implementing career-technical programs. The central image that informs this work is that of students progressing on a career pathway. Getting on a path leads to particular outcomes (e.g., entrance to college, and/or finding a job in biotechnology). The path broadens as students have opportunities to gain laboratory skills, and scientific knowledge, and learn about careers in biotechnology. Supporting the progression on the pathway are the students themselves, by taking active roles in their own education, and the community of peers, teachers, and employers that offer help and guidance.


Unpublished doctoral dissertation