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MN ABE News

A place to get ABE news from across Minnesota.


Experience the Benefits of Contextualized Instruction - By Stephanie Sommers, CCI Cohort Facilitator

Career-focused contextualized basic skills instruction is an approach to curriculum design that just makes sense for adult education. It recognizes that the majority of our learners do not come to us simply to earn a credential or to brush up on basic skills, but to be better prepared for their next step. The value of a contextualized approach is that learners do not have to wait until they have finished step one before they begin working on step 2. In other words, they can improve their basic skills while simultaneously learning specific career content that will make them more prepared for what comes next.

To plan a contextualized lesson, teachers focus on all of the skills that they would normally include, such as identifying the main idea and supporting details or understanding linear equations, but they create opportunities for the learners to practice these skills in a more meaningful way by putting them within a specific context. The context can vary depending on the specific focus of the course or the interests of the learners. 

If the course had a health care focus, for example, then the learners might read articles or watch videos about controlling infection or patient privacy laws and then summarize the main idea. The value comes from learners being able to very clearly understand how what they are doing in class will benefit them in the real world. When learners recognize what they are doing in class as being directly related to their goals, it often increases retention rates and leads to better overall outcomes.

CCI Cohort opportunity

Because of the many benefits to contextualized instruction, ATLAS and the MN Department of Education are continuing to provide training for adult education teachers who want to learn more about it. The Career-focused Contextualized Basic Skills Instruction (CCI) Cohort is a job-embedded professional development opportunity that is being offered again this winter and spring as a way for adult education teachers to learn more about the process and receive resources and support for developing contextualized lesson and unit plans. 

The application deadline is December 1, 2017 and the cohort kicks-off in January 2018. More information, including an informational flyer and the application form, is available on the ATLAS website.

You can also download the application here >>

Keep reading for an account of how one participant from last year described her cohort experience:

Welcoming Refugees into the Workforce with Career Contextualized Basic Skills Instruction
By Julia Wilber, Academic & Employment Navigator, MOC, International Institute of Minnesota

Work? Or School? At International Institute of Minnesota (IIM), we navigate this question with our students regularly. As a refugee resettlement center with Medical and Hospitality Career Pathways that emphasize workforce development, we are faced with the challenge of supporting our students in work and school simultaneously.

However, we believe that this is a false dichotomy—that it is not only possible to combine student professional advancement and academic scholarship, but that coursework combining the two amplifies students’ success in the American workplace. 

When I joined Minnesota’s first Career-Based Contextualized Basic Skills Instruction Cohort (CCI Cohort) in January, I was excited to meet many others who believe the same. In this five-month cohort, I learned how to make my lesson plans standards compliant, but even more importantly, how to craft a careful balance between academic and career skills when presenting material to my students.

Continue reading >>