Retooling" the Curriculum for CalWORKS

Jackie Butler, Welfare Reform Ad Hoc Committee

What is retooling?
How do you do it?
Why should you retool?

Curriculum should be timely and competitive. As faculty, we know we should constantly update course content, learning objectives, etc., but curriculum change is a time consuming process. Most of us wait until program review or some other type of college wide mandatory process before we make changes.

What is retooling? Retooling is taking a current, fresh look at what employers/industry expect from our graduates, and incorporating these expectations into the curriculum. The CalWORKS guidelines require curriculum that is competency based, industry driven, completed in less than eighteen months, and that works well for students, such as open entry classes.

How do you retool for CalWORKS?
The easiest way is NOT TO DO IT ALONE. Have a meeting with colleagues who teach similar courses and rewrite the curriculum together. Sound impossible? Six interior design faculty members from Southern California did just that, and developed a three tier program starting with a certificate, then an Associate degree, and finally the Bachelors degree. They would never have done this amount of work individually, but collectively it was less threatening, and actually intellectually stimulating.

Keep your advisory committee informed about what you are planning, and get input from them. Ask them to list the competencies (job skills) they require from a new employee in a variety of entry level positions. DESIGN CLASSES AROUND THESE COMPETENCIES.

Rethink the traditional 3 unit, eighteen week semester. Design classes that are SHORT TERM (for example, 1 unit class offered 6 hours a week for 3 weeks) and block these classes in time periods to meet the needs of working students and not the faculty.

CUT THE EXISTING NUMBER OF UNITS NECESSARY FOR A CERTIFICATE OR AA DEGREE INTO TWO OR THREE PARTS. Think in terms of six months, nine months, or one year and write the courses accordingly. Offer certificates of completion at each level.

Why should you retool?
1. CalWORKS students will add to your FTE.
2. You will get a great deal of professional pride in knowing your courses are relevant to the world of work
3. CalWORKS is just the first wave of changes in high education where educators will be held accountable for teaching real life skills - get a jump start on this.
4. It is exciting to be part of a new system - particularly when you work with other faculty and do not have to do all the work alone!
5. There is money to pay for curriculum revision so contact academic deans or the person in charge of CalWORKS at your college to get "retooled."

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