A collaborative curriculum

A collaborative series of curriculum design workshops uniting college faculty and industry specialists wrapped up the fourth and final session this week at the Kingsport Center for Higher Education.

These workshops provided four days of information through the organization DACUM – an acronym for Developing A Curriculum – for community colleges to train workers for emerging industries. The final session included panelists from Northeast State Community College, Nashville State Community College, Roane State Community College and Southwest Community College joining energy industry specialists via Interactive Television conferencing.

College faculty and energy industry reps collaborate on a curriculum to best serve students.

“The process helps to close the gap between what the instructor is teaching and what the graduate needs at entry level on the job,” said Northeast State President Dr. Janice Gilliam.

Certified DACUM facilitator, Jane Pendry, from Guilford Technical Community College, Greensboro, N.C., led sessions across the state to gather information for Energy Specialist, tasks to be mastered by student before graduating, and skills and traits for employees. Northeast State faculty and staff Cindy Tauscher, Advanced Technologies Interim Dean, Sam Rowell, and Business Technologies Interim Dean Danny Lawson engaged with industry experts at all three workshops to determine the best training content for students.

DACUM falls under the Community College and Career Training (C3T) grant program launched earlier this year by the Labor Department. DACUM uses a storyboarding process outlining what a worker does in terms of duties, tasks, knowledge, skills, and in some cases the tools the worker uses. Panelists assess and adjust this information on critical and frequently performed tasks and the training needs of workers.

College representatives listed tasks to be completed by entry-level worker as a lineman (energy distribution specialist) categorized in “bands.”  Industry experts and college faculty members discussed the bands and tasks to see what should remain, and in what order.

Faculty and industry representatives provided input about the teaching matrix.  This input leads to development of a learning matrix for each course. The college instructor will check off as student progresses through the course when each matrix task is mastered.  The collaboration between college instructors and industry professionals combines technical knowledge with practical application of that knowledge in the work environment.

The final matrix will be used to establish an Energy Specialist (electrical lineman, for example) curriculum at each college to meet their needs. Dr. Gilliam said pilot courses developed through the DACUM workshops would likely begin in the 2012 spring semester.

The Labor Department began awarding grants this year to support the development and improvement of postsecondary programs of two years or less that use evidence-based or innovative strategies to prepare students for successful careers in growing and emerging industries.  The Tennessee Board of Regents has not received notification on whether the grant has been awarded, but colleges are proceeding with implementation of these high demand certificates regardless of funding, but would be able to implement more broadly if colleges received financial support.

“Our plan is to place each program area offered by Northeast State on schedule over the next five years to have DACUM completed and programs updated. Then a follow-up DACUM review every five years, or more frequently to keep up with industry needs,” said Dr. Gilliam.

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