Underlying Mechanisms

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The literature was searched for evidence on the contextualization of basic skills instruction. Because there were few studies with college samples, research from elementary and secondary education was included as well. Studies were selected, by this experts https://customwriting.com/write-my-essay, if they contextualized basic skills instruction and used quantitative measures of student academic outcomes. Twenty-seven studies were found, 17 on contextualized instruction, nine on integrated instruction, and one on both contextualized and integrated instruction.


Quantitative studies of contextualized instruction were conducted with college academic programs (six studies), adult basic education (six studies), K-12 academic education (four studies), and elementary education (one study), but no studies were found for this form of contextualization with college or high school career and technical education (GTE) students. Four of the 10 studies on integrated instruction was with GTE programs, and the other six studies were with academic programs in elementary and secondary education.

Many of the studies had methodological weaknesses that limited the conclusions about the effectiveness of contextualization. The studies that offered the best evidence are summarized below. A detailed breakdown of findings is discussed in the full review.

All of the outcomes of contextualization for basic skills achievement were positive, although there was minor variation in outcomes for particular sub skills. For example, in a college GTE study integrating writing instruction in a business course, students improved their ability to write a business abstract but not to express business concepts in their own words. However, despite this, there is a trend in the research toward positive findings for basic academic skills, but not always disciplinary knowledge, for both contextualized and integrated instruction.

One of the assumptions underlying integrated instruction is that when basic skills instruction is incorporated in disciplinary instruction, ability in both academic skills and content knowledge should increase. However, of the five studies of integrated instruction that measured outcomes on knowledge development in a content area, two found no improvement in content knowledge. Both of these studies embedded math in occupational courses in high school GTE. Since strong claims are made for the advantages of combining literacy with subject area instruction, these mixed findings are disappointing and warrant further research.


When we embarked on this review, we were particularly interested in how contextualization might promote better outcomes among low-skilled college students. However, only two studies. Wisely and Jenkins, Zeidenberg, and KienzI provided data on college advancement. Wisely found that participation in contextualization was associated with the completion of developmental education courses and the speed of entry into, the performance in, and the completion of college level courses. However, these positive effects were limited to non-white students; no effects for contextualization were found for white students. Jenkins et al. found that adult education students who attended occupational classes that integrated basic skills instruction were more likely than adult education students who either did or did not enroll in a traditional occupational course to take subsequent credit-bearing courses, earn credits toward a college credential, persist to the next college year, as well as show greater gain in basic skills. Given college practitioners’ enthusiasm about the value of contextualization, it is unfortunate that more evidence is not available.

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