Adult Career Pathways from Coast-to-Coast

Project Launches Online Training and Support Center

ACP Screenshot The Designing Instruction for Career Pathways project team is pleased to announce the launch of the project`s website, the Adult Career Pathways Training and Support Center. We invite you to visit and begin exploring, networking, and sharing your experiences in career pathways program development. Designed with state and local adult education practitioners in mind the website`s major content sections include:

  • Understanding ACP – Definitions, implementation support, policy brief
  • Resource Center – Bank of resources from the field sorted by resource type, including instructional resources, professional development, and support services
  • ACP Training – Technical assistance support in the form of online self-paced courses, conference presentations, webinars, and regional workshops
  • Community – Opportunity to network with colleagues on a variety of adult career pathways topics through online communities of practice

This is an archived newsletter from ACP-SC and is available for archival purposes only. Hyperlinks on this page may be broken or may no longer link to the content specified from within the original posting date.

Oregon’s OPABS Initiative Opening Doors to Opportunity for Adult Learners
OPABS Oregon’s
Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development (CCWD) is partnering with community college Adult Basic Skills (ABS) programs on the Oregon Pathways for Adult Basic Skills Transition to Education and Work (OPABS) Initiative. The state is hoping to accelerate the process of building a pipeline of ABS learners who are prepared to enter postsecondary education, training programs, and jobs in high-demand career areas.

Essential for the OPABS initiative is the development of a basic skills system that includes the development of formal connections to postsecondary education, learner support services, and One-Stop Centers to facilitate ABS learners’ transition to further education and employment. Judy Alamprese of Abt Associates has been Oregon’s primary consultant in the development of this model. ABS programs are now testing enhancements to these services that promote learner engagement in courses, encourage learners to consider postsecondary education as a next step, and develop an individual course of study that can maximize educational attainment.

The OPABS initiative has developed accelerated basic skills courses in math, reading, and writing for cohort groups at Pre-Bridge and Bridge levels (High Intermediate ABE through High ASE) that incorporate applied occupational content from the state’s high-demand industries like Health, Industrial and Engineering Systems, and Business/
Management. Lessons presented in these contexts familiarize learners with workplace terminology, authentic tasks they might perform on the job, and other aspects of employment in specific fields. Additionally, a college and career readiness course, focusing on reading skills and the world of work, assists learners in selecting a career focus. The course also includes learner preparation of an individual Career Pathway Plan that is updated as the learner progresses through academic courses. A second term of the course focuses on postsecondary experiential activities.

Three advising modules round out the OPABS resources to assist learners in understanding and completing college enrollment in postsecondary education.

More than half of the community colleges in Oregon are offering a version of OPABS in their ABS programs. Mt. Hood Community College (MHCC) in Gresham began implementation of OPABS in Fall 2010, with a Bridge Level cohort taught by Sue Byers and Donna Ball. The program was selected as the winner of the 2011 CCWD Noncredit-to-Credit Best Practices Award.

“Oregon recognizes that students taking Adult Basic Skills classes don’t always know what careers they’re interested in and aren’t always ready to commit to a specific track,” says Marc Goldberg, MHCC Dean of Adult Basic Skills and Workforce Development. This configuration of coursework and support services provides an avenue for students to explore different careers and college programs and develop their future educational and career plans.”


The website also features archived issues of ACP News, contact information for the project team, and a calendar of upcoming conference events so you can identify opportunities to network with the project team in person.

In future issues of ACP News we’ll highlight new website content and recent community conversations. In this issue, we want to jumpstart your connection to the site with a “getting started” introduction.

Getting Started with Your Member Account

To take full advantage of all the resources the site has to offer now and in the coming months, begin your ACP Support Center experience by creating a member account. The account is free and setup takes only a few minutes. Simply click on the blue “Register Now” button in the center of the home page screen and you’ll be taken to the online account registration form.
Register Now
Once you’ve submitted your account information, be on the lookout in your email in-box for a message from the ACP Support Center team. This message will let you know your account has been successfully activated and the system is ready for you to logon. Each time you visit the website, login with your username and password at the top of the screen to ensure you don’t miss any resources available only to ACP community members. It’s that easy!

OPABS takes the primary focus away from simply passing the GED and instead emphasizes the application of critical skills to further education and employment. While OPABS does assist students in achieving short-term goals such as passing the GED, completing the National Career Readiness Certificate, preparing to enter credit-level courses, and developing job search materials, the model also supports longerterm goals such as completing a college certificate and/or degree and solidifying employment in their chosen industry.

Belonging to a cohort has been a key component of learner success. “Students take courses together over two terms,” says Byers. “They buy into that, and they support each other, which helps everyone to succeed.” Jesse Schilling, an OPABS student who plans to enter MHCC’s welding program this fall, puts it this way: “It’s great. I’ve got an artificial family here who help me reach my goals.”

“This is direct, small-group teaching with a lot of accountability,” says Ball. “Most of the students will go on to MHCC to continue their studies, but some will go right to work. Our students range in age from 17 to 50 years old, with many different backgrounds, and it’s wonderful to see them succeed.”
Some ABS students entered the OPABS cohort with the primary goal of passing the GED and not much direction beyond this milestone. However, by the culmination of their commitment in OPABS courses, all students had a solid plan for the future that includes enrolling in certificate/degree programs to better their lives. To support each other through their transition to and retention in credit courses, the same cohort, including instructor Sue Byers, has chosen to continue meeting regularly.

Perhaps one of the greatest signs of OPABS’ success is that “it is gaining a reputation with other ABS students, and they are actively seeking early admittance to the next cohort. It’s really very exciting,” says Ball, grinning from ear to ear.

For more information about OPABS, please contact Mary Jane Bagwell:

Contributed by:
Mary Jane Bagwell, Director, Adult Basic Skills Education, Oregon Department of Community Colleges & Workforce Development, with contributions from Todd Schwartz, Mt. Hood Community College

Accelerating Opportunity Initiative Awards Grants to Eleven States to Transform Adult Education
Accelerating Opportunity: A Breaking Through Initiative is responding to the nation’s growing need for improved pathways from adult education to obtaining skills of value in the labor market. This Jobs for the Future initiative aims to drive economic recovery for individuals and communities by substantially increasing the number of adults who earn the credentials they need to be hired and succeed in family-sustaining jobs.
Logo: Accelerating Opportunity
It is more important than ever for adults to access college, quickly advance their skills, and earn credentials that lead to meaningful jobs where they live. A postsecondary credential is essential for

Submit a Resource

In addition to accessing resources from the field, as an ACP community member you have the ability to contribute resources as well. Spend time in the Resource Center and review some of the instructional, professional development, and support resources already submitted. Identify best practices your program has to offer the field and begin by organizing them according to the Resource Center categories. As our project title implies, we’re particularly eager to receive submissions from the field in the Instruction category. You can submit lesson plans, instructional materials, course outlines, and similar resources that would be useful for a practitioner designing courses for adult learners in career pathways programs. Be sure to submit instructional resources that feature career connections prominently, either as the occupational context for academic content or as the main content, delivered at a level appropriate for learners in an adult education delivery setting.

To get started with the submission process, be sure you’re logged in with your member username and password. Then, click on the Resource Center box and the “Submit a Resource” heading. You’ll first be asked to identify the category of your resource from a drop-down menu. Once you’ve made your selection an online submission form will appear. In the case of the Instructional Resource category you’ll be asked to describe the type of resource you’re submitting, the level of content, career cluster connections, approximate length of delivery, and several other questions that will help your colleagues in

Accelerating Opportunity website screenshot
securing jobs that pay family-supporting wages. According to recent estimates from the National Center on Education and the Workforce, by 2018 over 60 percent of available jobs will require postsecondary education. Job opportunities for people without a high school or postsecondary credential rarely offer wages that lead to economic security. However, many of the postsecondary programs that might lead to family-sustaining careers are out of reach for the 26 million adults without a high school credential or the 93 million adults with low literacy levels. They are unprepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education and training programs.

For these low-skilled adults who need to build their skills, the Adult Basic Education (ABE) system is the primary option, but it is a system that lacks the capacity to serve more than a fraction of its target population. Of those who do enroll, only a few advance their skills and transition to postsecondary credentialing programs in high-demand fields. To break the intergenerational transmission of poverty in America, Accelerating Opportunity seeks to fundamentally change the way ABE is delivered.

In August, Accelerating Opportunity awarded planning grants to 11 states — Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon,

and Wisconsin. These funds will support planning for the redesign of ABE and postsecondary programs to integrate basic skills with practical, occupational training. The goal of such changes would be to change the way ABE is structured and delivered at state and institutional levels, while ensuring that state and institutional policies encourage improved student outcomes in postsecondary credentialing programs. These outcomes can create successful pathways for lower-skilled adults that lead to economic security.

Later this year, four to six of these states will receive implementation grants of $1.6 million each over three years to implement and scale up integrated college and career pathway designs that result in more ABE students completing credentials valued in the labor market. By 2014, the initiative will engage nearly 40 community colleges across the country as states and colleges scale up and sustain programs that give adults access to marketable credentials. By addressing policy, systemic, and programmatic barriers, Accelerating Opportunity will ensure that at least 18,000 students attain valuable credentials. They will earn 12 or more college-level credits, prepare to succeed in earning college credentials, and gain skills they need to succeed in family-sustaining employment.

Accelerating Opportunity represents an unprecedented philanthropic investment in Adult Basic Education. The initiative receives support from a strategic collaboration of diverse foundations, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, and the Open Society Foundation.

For program and implementation expertise, JFF has engaged three strategic partners: the National Council on Workforce

the field identify the best use of your resource within their own program. For instructional resources that have been successful in the field and are evidence-based, that is, based on proven practices, you`ll have the opportunity to submit your resource for expert level review, a “second tier” of review that could take your resource to the top of a search list. This level of review is optional but encouraged if your resource(s) meet the identified criteria.

The ACP Support Center will evolve and expand throughout the course of the three-year Designing Instruction for Career Pathways project. We hope you’ll agree that active participation – through both submission and use of Center resources – will enhance and grow career pathways programs for adult learners across the country.

So what are you waiting for … join us today!

Contributed by:
Hope Cotner, Vice President, Center for Occupational Research and Development

Education (NCWE); the National College Transition Network; and the Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges. The initiative builds on and takes to statewide scale a set of proven practices from Washington State’s I-BEST program and from Breaking Through, JFF’s innovative adult education collaboration with NCWE.

For more information on Accelerating Opportunity, visit

Contributed by:
Maria K. Flynn, VP of Building Economic Opportunity Group, Jobs for the Future

Contextual Teaching Offers Engaging Strategies for Classroom Instruction
At some point in their education, many adult students experience a disconnect between what they are learning and how that knowledge will be used in their future careers. This is particularly evident in gatekeeper academic courses such as mathematics, which are often taught in an abstract lecture or skill/drill format. Career-oriented coursework makes much more immediate sense to these learners. Why is this the case, and what can we learn from it?

An examination of the convergence of theories about intelligence and learning provides clues. Combine Gardner’s theory that the mind’s capacity for learning is much broader than traditionally assumed, Kolb’s assertion that individuals have a natural ability to learn through a variety of methods, and Caine and Caine’s studies that connectedness is a key to effective learning and the result is a set of precepts with which to work. In general, most people learn best when:
  • Course content is addressed in a concrete manner involving participation, physical or hands-on activities, and opportunities for personal discovery.
  • Concepts are presented in the context of relationships that are familiar to the student.
  • Ideas are presented via concrete, tangible examples and experiences (rather than solely through abstract models).
  • Interaction with other students — through study groups and teaming — is built in to the learning experience.
  • Understanding is emphasized over rote memorization of isolated fragments of knowledge.
  • Instructors recognize that the ability to transfer what is learned from one situation to another is a skill that must be learned.
A synthesis of these ideas leads naturally to contextualized teaching and learning theory. The contextual approach acknowledges that learning is a complex and multifaceted process that goes far beyond drill-oriented, stimulus-and response methodologies. Curricula and instruction designed around this premise are structured to encourage five essential learning strategies: Relating, Experiencing, Applying, Cooperating, and Transferring (REACT).

Relating: Learning in the context of life experience, or relating, places learning in the context of life experiences— everyday sights, events, and conditions.


Network with the project team at one of these upcoming conference sessions:

2011 National Career Pathways Network Conference

Orlando, FL
Designing Instruction for Career Pathways (DICP) session:
Friday, October 14
9:30 a.m. - 10:45 a.m.

2011 Colorado Adult Education Professional Association

Denver, CO
DICP session:
October 22, 2011
1:30 p.m. - 4:15 p.m.

2011 Council for Adult & Experiential Learning Conference

Chicago, IL
DICP session:
Wednesday, November 9,
11:00 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.

The process of relating provides a mental scaffolding of familiar situations on which new information can be hung.

Experiencing: Learning in the context of exploration, discovery, and invention is the heart of contextual learning. However motivated students may become as a result of other instructional strategies such as video, narrative, or text-based activities, these remain relatively passive forms of learning. Students understand and retain information more quickly when they are able to manipulate equipment and materials and perform their own active research.

Applying: Learning by using new concepts and information in a useful context allows students to envision future success in postsecondary programs and careers, even if the situation is still fairly unfamiliar to them. In courses taught contextually, applications are often based on occupational activities— ideally authentic, non-contrived, realworld tasks. These contextual learning experiences can be augmented with presentations by guest speakers or firsthand experiences like plant tours.

Cooperating: Learning in the context of sharing, responding, and communicating with others is a primary instructional strategy in contextual teaching. Contextually-taught courses are often built around hands-on laboratory activities (and other group exercises). These are cooperative in that students typically work with partners to follow the steps in the lab protocol; in some cases, they work in groups of three or four. Completing a lab successfully requires delegation, observation, suggestion, and discussion. In many labs, the quality of the data collected by the team as a whole is dependent on the individual performance of each member of the team. The experience of cooperating not only helps the majority of students learn the material, it is also
consistent with real-world expectations. Employers value workers who can communicate effectively, who share information freely, and who can operate comfortably in a team setting. Instructors have ample reason, therefore, to encourage students to develop these cooperative skills while they are still in the classroom where the process can be facilitated.

Transferring: Learning in the context of existing knowledge, or transferring, builds upon materials and concepts that the student already knows. Learning to transfer previously learned information to new contexts helps students approach unfamiliar situations and problems with confidence.

In light of learning research the REACT strategies offer a natural approach for implementing contextual teaching and learning, but instructors and curriculum designers cannot assume students will enter classes armed with these tools. Instructors should not be surprised if students need to be taught how to carefully observe and record data, for example, or how to communicate effectively as part of a group. Learning contextually requires students to become active participants in building new skills and knowledge. The REACT strategies are designed to help them accomplish that regardless of their starting point.

Consider this example of REACT in action in which students learn about the physics and electronics concepts of thermal resistance.
  • Relating: The instructor asks questions and solicits responses from students about their experience with the phenomenon, e.g. sweaters, drink koozies, ice chests.
  • Experiencing: Students measure heat flow through an insulating jacket around a heat source.

  • Applying: The instructor talks about wall and air duct insulation, how a refrigerator/freezer works, and the insulating properties of window glass.
  • Cooperating: Students work in teams on activities and labs exploring thermal resistance.
  • Transferring: The instructor leads a discussion on the broad topic of resistance and students recognize that the concept extends beyond thermal resistance to mechanical, electrical and fluid resistance.
Another way of thinking about contextual teaching and learning asks instructors to examine the difference between traditional and contextual classroom practices.

Try the REACT strategies with your next course and share your experiences in one of the Designing Instruction for Career Pathways online communities of practice. Let’s get the conversation started!
For more contextual teaching suggestions, contact Ann-Claire at

Contributed by:
Ann-Claire Anderson, Senior Research Associate, Center for Occupational Research and Development

Traditional Model Contextual Model
Purpose Transmission of factual information Finding, developing, and applying knowledge to the real world
Organization Classroom isolated from the world of work; instructors and students work alone Classroom connected to the community and patterned after the workplace
Role of Instructor Transmitter of knowledge; expert Facilitator, coordinator; a knowledgeable guide to finding, developing, and applying knowledge
Role of Student Passive recipient of facts and information through lectures and text reading Active engagement in learning; student constructs learning through workplace-relevant activities
Content Subjects tailored for verbal and mathematical/logical intelligences Subject application tailored for multiple intelligences
Method Lecture; question and answer; little attention to variance in learning styles Inquiry, discovery, applied learning and methods
Assessment Testing of facts through paper and pencil (or computer-based) objective tests Authentic assessment of real-world performance tasks; demonstration of complex problem-solving; creation of portfolios of work; capstone project requiring synthesis of ideas

Logo: Adult Career Pathways

Phone: 703-688-ACP7 (2277)
Kratos Learning Solutions, ACP-SC Project
2920 South Glebe Road
Arlington, VA 22206

Disclaimer: The Adult Career Pathways (ACP) News is a publication of the Designing Instruction for Career Pathways (DICP) initiative and was produced by Kratos Learning Solutions, in partnership with the Center for Occupational Research and Development, with funding from the U.S. Department of Education (ED), Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE), under Contract No. ED-CFO-10-A-0072/0001. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent the positions or policies of the U.S. Department of Education, and no official endorsement by the U.S. Department of Education should be inferred. This document is in the public domain and may be reproduced without permission.