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Grant Helps Workforce Students CLIC

Lone Star College–Tomball students who join workforce training programs to learn a trade only to struggle – or even fail – due to fundamental learning problems will soon have the benefit of the Contextual Learning in Integrated Lessons (CLIC) program, which is funded by a $144,000 Perkins Discretionary Grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB).
The CLIC program allows Lone Star College–Tomball, along with grant partners El Paso Community College and Collin County Community College, to recruit and train teams of workforce and developmental reading, writing, and math faculty to collaboratively design contextual lessons to be used in each others’ courses, said Pat Stone, Lone Star College–Tomball Dean of the Education, English, and Mathematics (EEM) Division and Professor of Mathematics.

“Developmental faculty will benefit by having contextual lessons, and workforce faculty will benefit by learning how to teach reading, writing and math concepts in their courses,” said Stone. “All faculty will benefit by incorporating research-based learning techniques in their courses.”

The grant, which was awarded in January and will last through August, has each of the program partners supplying two advisory panel members (one each from workforce and developmental education), three faculty pairs, and a trainer for the CLIC Training Conference, which was held in Houston in early March.

CLIC melds together three components: Workforce/Technical Education, which provides training and qualification for entry into the workforce; Academic Education, which provides instructional support in fields such as reading, writing, and math to support student learning; and Accelerated Learning, which draws on the latest research on learning and the brain to design instruction that actively engages learners.

CLIC Project Director and Developmental Studies Professor Pamela Womack said the CLIC program stems from the recognizable points in workforce program curriculum where students are prone to get stymied and thus fail to progress due to misunderstanding or reading, writing, or math concept. CLIC involves identifying lessons and learning objectives in workforce programs that are “choke points” for students and developing new strategies and lessons based on best practices of instruction.

“For example, we have office technology students who fall behind using math formulas in the Excel program, not because they don’t know how to use Excel, but because of the math. So, what the CLIC program will suggest is to bring in a math faculty as a partner to help the students develop those math skills. This will help them get over that hurdle and on their way to successfully completing the program,” said Womack.

“Another example would be in the Machining Technology program. This is a program that requires students to be able to read and comprehend massive and complex instruction manuals in order to operate the machining equipment. If they are lacking reading comprehension skills, it could be enough to keep them from successfully completing the program. Again, what CLIC will do is bring in a reading teacher to partner with the machining teacher and develop lessons that teach students in the machining program how to read, understand, and remember the information in the manuals. The machining faculty know all about machines, but they aren’t trained how to teach reading, so that is what the CLIC program does, brings together both elements to ensure student success.”

A key part of the program, said Womack, is documentation. CLIC participants will document all case studies through recorded lesson plans and video-taped lessons, and the process of recruiting and engaging faculty in the project will be documented, as well.

The ultimate goal, said Womack, is student success.

“It would be very easy as an instructor to just keep teaching the same way and not worry about whether workforce students pass the program, to take the ‘I’ll get a new group next semester’ attitude,” said Womack. “But at the heart of all of this is caring about student success. At the community college level is closely associated with their identity. Programs like CLIC enhance student success. At the community college, that is why we are here. Every student who succeeds is a changed life.”

Lone Star College–Tomball is a member of the Lone Star College System. Lone Star College System comprises Lone Star College–CyFair, Lone Star College-Kingwood, Lone Star College–Montgomery Lone Star College–Tomball, six satellite centers and The University Center.