Recent Blog Posts

Attending the Core Curriculum Institute

H2P LogoApproximately 65 representatives from 21 community colleges and 14 affiliate organizations attended the Core Curriculum Institute, led by the Health Professions Pathways (H2P) Consortium. The H2P Consortium, a recipient of a Round One Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant (TAACCCT), is comprised of nine community colleges in five states and is led by Cincinnati State Technical and Community College. Two major strategies of this consortium are to help establish a “competency-based core curriculum” for health professions programs in community colleges and in doing so, “galvanize a national movement to improve health professions training.” In their effort to galvanize the national movement, each of the nine colleges in the consortium brought at least one representative from another college not a part of H2P to expand the network and increase the opportunities to scale the adoption of core curriculum for health professions education.

Held September 24th, 2014, faculty, administrators, industry representatives, and leaders of health-related professional organizations shared models of health occupations core curriculum, previewed newly created open educational resources (OER) learning modules, and discussed national trends in credentialing. Of special interest to colleges just beginning the journey to establish a core curriculum, conference attendees brainstormed issues and problems and actively contributed to potential solutions to issues related to establishing a core curriculum.

As part of the third party evaluation team from the Office of Community College Research and Leadership (OCCRL) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and as a former health occupations instructor at a community college, I was fortunate to have participated in this ground breaking event. The concept of offering a standard core curriculum is a potentially transformative innovation for community colleges that are tasked with finding new ways to recruit more diverse populations, helping them make better informed career decisions, retaining them to completion, and more. These issues are being addressed by some of the early adopters of core curriculum.

Transformative innovations face many hurdles, and core is no exception.  The innovations this consortium is undertaking have the potential to transform healthcare education at a time when it is critical to better prepare diverse populations seeking credentials in the industry.  Meeting attendees discussed the obstacles of gaining faculty buy-in, expanding outreach and recruitment efforts, adding competencies requested by employer partners, and staying within program credit hour limits, to name a few. To add to the complexity, the consortium in its efforts to scale this innovation is addressing the issues associated with creating a core curriculum that is consistent across colleges yet flexible enough to accommodate specific college and employer needs. Within the nine colleges in the H2P consortium there is variability in the numbers of courses that comprise the core curriculum and in the content, though all colleges have crosswalked their curriculum with the Department of Labor’s Allied Health Competency Model. As a leader of the core curriculum movement, Sondra Flemming of El Centro College in Dallas, Texas, advised the attendees, “If Core [curriculum] is based on competencies, eventually it will all look very similar.”

Has your college attempted to scale a transformative innovation?  What barriers have you faced, and what successes would you like to share with our Transformative Change Initiative network?  We invite your input.

For more information about the H2P consortium and how core curriculum is transforming health occupations training, see OCCRL developed materials at and

Cathy ThumbCatherine Kirby is a research information specialist at the Office of Community College Research and Leadership (OCCRL), where she provides leadership in evaluation, research, and development projects related to the Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training (TAACCCT) grants and Perkin’s Programs of Study.

Moving STEM Forward in Career, Technical, and Adult Education Symposium: Reflections

Joel and Dr. Hackman

Pathways Resource Center Director Dr. Don Hackman and Pathways Resource Center Curriculum Specialist Joel Malin in Washington DC.

On September 29-30, Pathways Resource Center (PRC) Director Dr. Don Hackmann and I had the good fortune to attend the Moving STEM Forward in Career, Technical, and Adult Education Symposium, which was hosted by the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education (OCTAE) in Washington, DC. This symposium was focused upon discussing key issues in STEM, education, employment, and the economy, with a particular emphasis on the improvement and advancement of teaching and learning strategies in career, technical, and adult education. About 70 invited guests, representing a variety of key stakeholder groups from across the United States, were in attendance.

The symposium ended with small group brainstorming around three key questions:

  • What can be done to make STEM education more accessible to traditionally underserved populations?
  • What are the most significant barriers preventing alignment of STEM curriculum from cradle to career?
  • In what ways can employees take a more significant role in ensuring STEM education meets the needs of industry?

OCTAE officials have pledged to produce a summary document or framework in the near future, and also plan to bring this group together next year for a follow-up meeting. In the meantime, the highlights and most salient points can be quickly gleaned by searching on #octeastem from Twitter. Some of the most prolific posters were @prcIllinois (PRC), @STEMldr (Dr. Lazaro Lopez, Asst. Supt., D214), @ddimmett (David Dimmett, SVP and Chief Engagement Officer, PLTW), and @camsiemcadams (Camsie McAdams, Deputy Director of STEM, U.S. Dept. of Education).

Dr. Hackmann and I left feeling validated for the work that PRC does, and that Illinois Race to the Top educators are doing, to address each of the above questions in our own ways within our state. We stressed to other participants the importance of intermediary organizations like PRC and the STEM Learning Exchanges to provide technical assistance and support to educators and to forge cross-entity partnerships. Meanwhile, we were heartened by the intense and sustained focus on equity. We are keenly aware of the importance of ensuring access and success for ALL students. We have found the Office of Community College Research and Leadership’s Pathways to Results process to be unparalleled as a resource to equity-minded educators.


Joel R. Malin is a curriculum specialist at the Pathways Resource Center. He is passionate about creating pathways to future college and career success for all students.  He would love to hear from you:


Upskill America: ED launches the Career Pathways Exchange!

Career Pathways ExchangeA storm of activity is occurring after the WIOA passage and the release of the Vice President’s Ready to Work: Job-Driven Training and American Opportunity report, making the national effort to advance career pathways more important than ever.

The Office of Community College Research and Leadership (OCCRL) was recently selected by the U.S. Department of Education as a partner in its new three-year career pathways initiative: Moving Pathways Forward: Supporting Career Pathways Integration. Throughout the next two years, we will contribute to the project’s free information service—the Career Pathways Exchange – to distribute evidence-based information on career pathways associated with Pathways to Results, the Pathways Resource Center, and the Transformative Change Initiative and other projects led by OCCRL researchers and staff.

Launching in October, the Exchange consolidates and distributes career pathways-related resources, events, and information from federal and state agencies and partner organizations. Subscribers can select to receive email digests on their topics of interest, including: Building Cross-Agency Partnerships, Identifying Industry Sectors and Engaging Employers, Designing Education and Training Programs, Identifying Funding Needs and Sources, Aligning Policies and Programs, and Measuring System Change and Performance.

For continued information about OCCRL’s participation in this nationwide federal initiative, please check out our website at  Also, be sure to find and follow the Exchange on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest to stay current on all the latest career pathways events and resources, as well as adult education and WIOA updates on the go!


Targeted sharing and dissemination: Part nine of the TCI blog series

This is the ninth post in a series about the Transformative Change Initiative (TCI) and is based on the 2014 TCI booklet. This post discusses the sixth guiding principle in the TCI Framework. Read the other posts in the series: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, and eight.

2013 evaluation collab

2013 Evaluation Collaborative Meeting in Chicago, Illinois.

Dissemination begins by assessing the ways potential user groups, sometimes referred to as stakeholders, implement an innovation and tailor it to promote scaling in other contexts. Bradley and others who have researched scaling in international contexts recommend:  “[T]ailoring of the innovation to fit target user groups;… [promoting] deep engagement with target user groups to ensure that the innovation is translated, integrated, and replicated effectively; and devolving of efforts to spread the innovation from the initial user groups to additional sets of user groups often through social and professional networks and relationships.”[1]

An ultimate goal of dissemination is to help potential users understand how implementation was carried out in the original context so that they can understand how to adapt and adopt the innovation in the new context.

Guiding principle 6

Who disseminates innovations in your context? How can they help potential users understand the original context of the innovation so that new users can understand how to implement in the new context?

dbraggthumbDebra Bragg, OCCRL director and endowed professor at Illinois, researches the transition to college by youth and adults, especially student populations that have not attended college historically.


[1] Bradley, E. H., Curry, L. A, Pérez-Escamilla, R., Berg, D., Bledsoe, S., Ciccone, D. K., Yuan, C. (2011, October). Dissemination, diffusion, and scale up of family health innovations in low income countries. New Haven, CT: Global Health Leadership Institute. Retrieved from

Evaluation of Employer Engagement

Transformative Change_Full Circle Logo_FINALThe Transformative Change Initiative (TCI) and Skills for America’s Future at the Aspen Institute hosted an event focused on the evaluation of employer engagement under TAACCCT. The meeting was held September 16th and 17th in Washington, DC. Attendees included third-party evaluators for Round 1, Round 2, and Round 3 TAACCCT grants who shared information on the nature, extent, and challenges of employer engagement evaluation. Special guests were Mark Mitsui, Deputy Assistant Secretary, US Department of Education and Erika Liliedahl, Senior Evaluation Specialist, US Department of Labor. To learn more about this topic, download the annotated bibliography created by TCI for this event.

Annotated Bibliography: Evaluation of Employer Engagement

51_thumbnailMarianne Peacock is the Project Coordinator for the Transformative Change Initiative at OCCRL. She can be reached at