Linking School-Based and Work-Based Learning: The Implications of LaGuardia’s Co-op Seminars for School-to-Work Programs

Publication March 1998

One of the key challenges in vocational education is how to effectively connect school-based and work-based learning. This monograph describes the mandatory cooperative education program at LaGuardia Community College in New York City, and the series of seminars that integrate school-based and work-based learning. In the seminars, students examine a variety of issues related to work in general, the organizations in which they are placed, and the ways in which their academic preparation is applied at the work site. Because the multiple elements of a successful program have been considered carefully at LaGuardia, the seminars provide a model that is equally applicable at the secondary or postsecondary levels.

This college is explicit about the role of work-based learning: “LaGuardia’s educational philosophy is that learning takes place in many different settings both in and outside the classroom.” Cooperative education is mandatory for all full-time students at LaGuardia, including a course that prepares students for their first co-op placement; planning sessions with a faculty advisor; three internships or placements; and seminars which are taken in conjunction with each internship.

There are three distinct levels of seminars. The first and third may be specific to a student’s chosen area of study, or may be generic, focusing on common workplace issues. All students take the second seminar, “Fundamentals of Career Advancement,” which focuses on using the workplace to gain information about skills and personal requirements for upward mobility. The seminars allow students to actively explore careers; to master skills and competencies common to all jobs; and to explore social, ethical, political, and moral themes associated with working.

While the structure and role of the co-op seminar is sound, its effectiveness also depends on other factors. These include the background and training of the instructor, his or her understanding of the seminar’s purposes, the instructional methods used, and the integration of the program into the larger college curriculum. The study concludes that the work-based component must become so central to the educational purposes of institutions that, even in times of scarce resources, it becomes as unthinkable to give it up as it would be to abandon math, English, or science.

Grubb, W. N., & Badway, N. (1998, March). Linking school-based and work-based learning: The implications of LaGuardia’s co-op seminars for School-to-Work programs. Berkeley, CA: National Center for Research in Vocational Education.

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