Contextualized Curriculum Overview

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, but they also provide family-sustaining wages and future employment opportunities. The one criterion 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 is 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 was piloted through Ohio Guidestone’s/Aspire Greater Cleveland’s Youthbuild program.

In 2018, Cuyahoga Community College developed and piloted the hospitality contextualized curriculum with a focus on non-native English speakers. The Literacy Cooperative and Aspire Greater Cleveland developed a Digital Literacy/IT contextualized curriculum in collaboration with DigitalC, the consortium, and IT intermediaries and trainers.

We work with our partners to train adult education and workforce development instructors and to evaluate how the contextualized curriculum compares to the traditional adult education curriculum. Results have shown the use of contextualized curriculum has reduced completion time of lessons and increased literacy levels in less time to meet the minimum requirements for employment or training.

In 2020, all lessons were updated and converted to an easy-to-use format. 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.