In 1987, Arnold Packer, then of the Hudson Institute, visited me at the Applied Behavioral & Cognitive Sciences, Inc. (the ABC'S) in San Diego. At that time I briefed him on the work we had been doing on Functional Context Education (FCE) and gave him some materials about FCE. Later that year Packer sent a letter to me at the ABCS saying that, "I have just finished reading your "Functional Context Learning." It makes a great deal of sense to me and fits all my prejudices."
Three years later, on February 20, 1990, then Secretary of Labor Elizabeth Dole formed the Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills -SCANS. The Mission for SCANS was to "define the necessary functional and enabling skills which society must provide to every child by the age of sixteen."
Arnold Packer was asked to serve as Executive Director of the SCANS and I was invited to be one of the SCANS commissioners. At the first meeting of the SCANS I made a presentation about Functional Context Education and its application to preparing youth and adults with the basic skills needed for work. After that, the SCANS staff conducted studies of the cognitive science research literature related to the importance of learning in context, and a meeting was held with a number of cognitive scientists to determine the usefulness of FCE concepts. Based on that research, the Mission Statement for SCANS was drafted and stated that "We believe that these skills are best learned in context and especially in the context of realistic workplace problems. Thus the teaching of functional skills will require the most radical change in educational content since the beginning of this century."!
What is Functional Context Education (FCE)?
Functional Context Education is an approach to education that is based upon a cognitive science theory of cognitive development, learning, and instruction. The theoretical framework and the principles for applying this framework to the task of instructional development are discussed in this notebook.
Literacy is given special attention in FCE because of its importance to all schooling and instruction in our information age. A general thesis is that the idea that literacy is something one must "get" in one program, which is then "applied" in another is misleading. Rather, it is argued that literacy is developed while it is being applied. This means that for the large numbers of youth and adults who read between the fifth and ninth grade levels, literacy and content skills education can be integrated. Therefore there is no need for special "remedial" literacy programs to get students to "prerequisite" levels of literacy before they are permitted to study the "real thing."
In overview, education based on functional context theory includes the following conceptual framework: