Educational discourse in the United States increasingly accentuates the importance of coupling secondary and postsecondary coursework with job training. Traditionally, the purpose of education in the United States has been conceived broadly, encompassing several goals, such as equity, civic participation, “whole-person” development, aesthetic appreciation, and greater cultural awareness. The renewed focus on equipping students with marketable skills is both a response to the globally-competitive labor market engendered by the Financial Crisis of 2008 and an implicit critique of the traditional American liberal education model.
With these trends in mind, researchers at the Pullias Center for Higher Education are currently studying new educational paradigms that are attempting to redefine career-oriented education for the twenty-first century.
Evolving from the philosophy that guided career-oriented academies (as advanced by the National Academy Foundation and in California, California Partnership Academies), Linked Learning is an educational initiative first piloted in California in 2009, which integrates academic instruction with technical curricula to foster real-world skills and facilitate work-based learning. The intent of Linked Learning is to prepare secondary school students for both college and career by providing high-quality academic instruction while facilitating relationships between students and adults through a variety of job-shadowing programs.
The relationships forged among coordinators and teachers that are at the heart of the Linked Learning distributed leadership model have not been studied. These sorts of relationships will need to be both scalable and sustainable if Linked Learning Pathways are to persist through institutional change and be viable in different educational and cultural contexts. Therefore, our research explored these multifaceted relationships by focusing on an urban California school district that is currently in the process of changing several of its long-standing California Partnership Academies into Linked Learning Pathways.