Course Content and Careers

Peralta Community College District, Alameda County CA

Building equity into learning as it relates to students’ fields of study and potential careers

Many students may not see themselves in the imagery and representation in their prospective disciplines or careers. Part of Peralta Community College District’s grant project was to encourage faculty to build more diverse representation into their curriculum for Career Technical Education (CTE) courses and support them in drawing connections among the course content, students’ lives, and their futures. This blog post will focus on the E7 criterion of the Peralta Online Equity Rubric, specifically:

  • What is the “Content Meaning” criterion of the rubric?
  • What research supports these criteria?
  • What are some practical strategies for how to apply this to different CTE disciplines?

What is Content Meaning?

The “Content Meaning” criterion of the equity rubric asks us to look at our course content and determine ways to make it personally relevant to students. More specifically, the criterion asks that this relevance is based upon students’ sociocultural background in connection with others. Sociocultural contexts consider the societal forces that impact our values, beliefs, and attitudes about learning and life in general. Making connections between course content and these value sets can make a tremendous positive impact on students’ ability to connect to the course material. For a course to be aligned with this category: Communications and activities draw connections among course content, students’ lives, and students’ futures.” For a course to achieve exemplary in this category, Students connect course content to their identities, backgrounds, and cultures, and/or the identities, backgrounds, and cultures of others.”

What does the research say?

Within Bloom’s taxonomy, three learning domains are identified: cognitive, psychomotor and affective (Pierre & Oughton, 2007). Within most curriculum design, the focus remains upon creating content that meets learning occurring in the cognitive domain, which often bypasses areas making content personally relevant for students. Reaching students at the affective domain helps with intrinsic motivation. The RSA Animate video below provides a rationale for why intrinsic motivation is important. Though the speaker focuses on the workplace, replacing “work” with “learning” makes the idea applicable to course design.

Overview Video of RSA Animate

This 10-minute video offers a powerful analogy for how an educator might consider designing content that moves away from the carrot-and-stick approach to learning. This approach follows a “learn-to-earn model” of design. Whereas we are suggesting within this module a “learn-to-learn model” of design that makes explicit the value and applicability of academic content to students’ ability to thrive. It’s no secret that students often struggle to engage with content that they feel does not impact their “real lives” or only satisfies a requirement. To increase engagement, create content that is relevant to students in the following ways:

  • Personally Relevant: In an article on relevant teaching, InformED editor Sara Biggs cites several research sources highlighting key attributes of relevant instruction, including building relatedness and offering student-directed assignments.
  • Culturally Relevant: Building content that clearly honors diverse voices and perspectives is paramount. This design should be explicitly stated within the syllabus and assignments.
  • Community Relevant: Incorporating some form of community involvement is another means of making instruction relevant (yes, even in an online course!). One way to incorporate community connected projects is through service-learning. On college campuses nationwide a tension exists between the idea that service-learning could be part of the curriculum that helps accomplish the cognitive goals of a course, as it’s often more associated with affective domain learning. Though the tension does exist, there is a significant body of research suggesting that reaching students in the affective domain is an effective means of teaching cognitive content. Some would even argue that both the affective and cognitive domains of learning exist on a continuum. Following this logic, affective domain learning is not the opposite of cognitive domain learning, rather the two interact to make content stick. Service-learning is a type of active learning that connects in-class work to students’ communities. Research shows that service-learning is one means of reaching students in the affective domain (Keazer & Roads, 2002).

Instructor Spotlights

Watch the videos below to see how three instructors from Peralta aligned their CTE courses with the Peralta Equity Rubric. In these spotlights, they will discuss how specifically, they have met the criteria for E7, providing content that is directly relevant to students’ lives. Click on the images to launch the videos!


Business Instructor, Alta Erdenebaatar, has a Google Maps-based discussion called your Favorite Entrepreneur, in which students are asked to identify entrepreneurs who have made an impact on their lives or communities. Watch her talk more about it in this 3-minute video.

Construction Management

In this 3:45 video, Construction Management Instructor, Melissa McElvane, discusses her final project in which students role-play three stakeholder roles in the construction industry to develop hands-on skills.

English for Speakers of Other Languages

Suzan Tiemroth-Zavala discusses how every activity in her Job Search course is meant to prepare students for skills they need to successfully get the job they desire. Check out this 4-minute video as she explains how she curates meaningful curriculum.


  • Brown University. (n.d.). Culturally Responsive Teaching. Retrieved from
  • Keazer, A & Roads R. (2001). The Dynamic Tensions of Service Learning in Higher Education: A Philosophical Perspective. The Journal of Higher Education. 72(2), 148-171. Retrieved from
  • Pierre, E. & Oughton, J. (2007). The Affective Domain: Undiscovered Country. College Quarterly, 10(4), 1-7. Retrieved from

Chelsea Cohen
CTE Pathways Grant Coordinator

Inger Stark
Peralta Professional Development Coordinator

Adrienne Oliver
Peralta Online Equity Initiative Trainer

Kevin Kelly
Higher Education Consultant

Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District or those of the California Community College Chancellor’s Office.