Mature Programs of Study: A Postsecondary Perspective

Project Overview

Principal Investigators

Corinne Alfeld
Research and Evaluation Specialist
National Institute for Workforce and Learning, FHI 360
Sharika Bhattacharya
Research Officer II
National Institute for Workforce and Learning, FHI 360

As programs of study (POS)/career pathways are relatively new, in name if not in practice, research evidence on their implementation and effectiveness is still in progress. NRCCTE-affiliated researchers at FHI 360 are conducting this study, which began in 2008, with the goal of examining “mature” POS-like sites around the country in order to learn about how they were developed and how they work. In particular, researchers are interested in learning about the processes, policies, structures, key players, challenges, and solutions involved in mature POS/career pathways.

Three community college sites were selected from an initial pool of eight potential sites that met study criteria for maturity, primarily consisting of evidence of a strong secondary-postsecondary partnership with students moving from the high school to the community college in a CTE program. The study uses a combination case study and backward mapping approach that was designed to examine and report how POS are developed and locally sustained.

Over the last three years, researchers have conducted site visits to each of the mature POS to interview administrators and faculty at the high school and college levels, as well as advisory committee members from the business community. Findings from these site visits indicate that mature POS sites had successfully surmounted various barriers to developing POS over a timeframe of at least nine years. Common key elements of these mature POS include: resources (primarily provided by the college) for staff dedicated to creating and maintaining POS relationships with high schools; active business and industry advisory groups; and uniquely tailored and flexible dual enrollment arrangements. At each site, high school and college leaders share a vision of seamless student transitions that ultimately benefit students, the college and the local economy.

Special Publications Related to the Mature POS Study:

Techniques Magazine (January 2012 Programs of Study Issue)

International Journal of Educational Reform (Spring 2012 Special Issue)