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THE LINKED LEARNING APPROACH: A California-Based Reform Model Provides Direction for Transforming Teacher Preparation

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“Just as doctors must tie the latest medical developments within their specialty into their everyday practice, teachers brought into a Linked Learning classroom are expected to integrate industry updates within their discipline into their everyday curriculum.”

The traditional training options available to high school teachers need to be redesigned to better align teacher education with current high school reform efforts, according to a new brief from the Alliance for Excellent Education. The Linked Learning Approach: Building the Capacity of Teachers to Prepare Students for College and Careers argues that teacher preparation programs based on the Linked Learning approach offer a promising model for other school districts, states, and regions to create and sustain college- and career-focused learning environments.

This brief follows Preparing Students for College and Career: Linked Learning in California—the Alliance’s first Linked Learning brief released in March 2010—which explains the basics of a Linked Learning program, highlights promising models, and outlines the challenges and benefits of implementing the approach. Both briefs were made possible with the generous support of the James Irvine Foundation.

Launched in California, Linked Learning connects rigorous content material with real-world experience in a wide range of fields, such as engineering or arts and media, with the goal of preparing students for postsecondary education, work, and life. In both curriculum and structure, Linked Learning schools vary from traditional high schools and therefore demand a different type of teacher preparation that blends academic- and career-focused instruction.

According to The Linked Learning Approach, teacher-training programs with a Linked Learning focus build on traditional programs and are centered on four basic principles:

  • Creating an integrated curriculum that establishes a clear connection between college prep courses and career-technical environments.
  • Encouraging teachers to open their practice and collaborate with their peers.
  • Developing and implementing project-based lesson plans and pacing those projects in a way that engages each student in the classroom.
  • Establishing work-based learning opportunities such as internships or job shadowing.

“Just as doctors must tie the latest medical developments within their specialty into their everyday practice, teachers brought into a Linked Learning classroom are expected to integrate industry updates within their discipline into their everyday curriculum,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “In turn, this prepares students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed after graduation. It also provides an understanding of how their education will be applied in the workforce.”

The Linked Learning Approach concludes that meaningful support for teachers and leaders is crucial to school and student success in Linked Learning environments. Specifically, teachers require professional development opportunities to create curriculum that incorporates the role of academic content in business, industry, and community organizations. Another area where staff may need support is in developing partnerships with local businesses to offer students work-based learning opportunities. In Linked Learning schools, administrators also need encouragement and assistance to take on additional responsibilities outside the traditional school setting, such as ensuring the necessary physical infrastructures are in place, redesigning the school day, securing funds, and purchasing relevant technology.

The brief outlines four ways that federal policy can support and promote innovative high school reform models like the Linked Learning approach in California and around the nation:

  • Invest in aligning teacher education with high school reform efforts.
  • Encourage adoption of school-level strategies that promote a supportive environment for college and career instruction.
  • Invest in college- and career-focused education for district and school administrators.
  • Remove barriers and create incentives that promote new and innovative partnerships for supporting schools.

Download The Linked Learning Approach: Building the Capacity of Teachers to Prepare Students for College and Careers here

To read the Alliance’s first Linked Learning brief, Preparing Students for College and Career: Linked Learning in California, visit here

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