Making learning meaningful, purposeful and engaging – A Careers Task for junior high school students

I have been invited by CareersNZ to present workshops to Careers Advisors and Teachers at a number of their regional training days for schools. This reminded me of last year’s Careers Unit which teachers at our school were required to cover as part of the Year 10 Social Studies curriculum.  I saved this unit for very late in the year, when the students had just completed their end-of-year exams and were hanging out for the Year 10 Camps. By my reckoning, this must be the most unproductive teaching time, where the students are restless after a long year and it is easy to be tempted to “pacify them with inane tasks to keep them occupied until summer holidays (southern hemisphere). I had two weeks (eight lessons) to come up with something that would be purposeful, meaningful and engaging.

Confident, connected, actively involved, and lifelong learners

Key CompetenciesThe updated New Zealand school curriculum (2007) is built around five identified key competencies which are seen as the capabilities for living and lifelong learning. The intention is for schools to integrate these five competencies into every learning area or subject in order to achieve the vision for all students to become “confident, connected, actively involved, and lifelong learners.

The Task

Purpose:

I wanted to give my Year 10 students ideas about possible careers and to link their thinking and decision-making to their subject choices for the upcoming National Certificate in Educational Achievement (NCEA) qualification in senior Years 11-13 and beyond.

Linking to the key competencies

I set about utilising the digital technologies at hand, Google Apps for Education (GAFE) and Chromebooks, to create a task so that the two weeks would be used purposefully by being meaningful and engaging for students. I set about creating the task with these four principles in mind:

  1. Self Discovery & Personalised – for the students to become aware of and to think about their personal values, interests and skills along with the wide range of career possibilities available to them.
  2. Ownership & Self Management – for this personal awareness to lead to the students taking responsibility by making good choices themselves and to begin to track their own path.
  3. Participate & Contribute – for students to be actively involved in the task by engaging with information and creating new knowledge.
  4. Sharing with Others – students would engage with others around them while completing the task, but importantly they would all present their own Career of Interest to the rest of the class.

Task Description

The task had three elements:

Lessons 1-2 – students would complete a range of self-discovery activities
Lessons 2-3 – students would create a profile on the New Zealand careers.govt.nz website and do a “Career Quest” (jobs based on interest) activity. This involves answering 78 questions as shown. There were also number of other interactive tools for them to further explore.
Lessons 4-7 – after exploring the careers website students would identify the career of most interest to them and create a 2 minute slideshow to present to the rest of the class off a Google Slides template. The presentation would be followed by questions from other students. They were required to answer the two focus statements:
1. I am most interested in this career for these reasons
2. To pursue this career I would need to follow these steps

A full task description (adapted) can be accessed here

Career Quest

Student Outcomes

Google ClassroomAs Google Classroom was used to forward the task and template on to the students, it was relatively easy for me to track individual progress. Students were fully engaged with the task and enjoyed discovering the great resource provided by CareersNZ. In particular, they learned from creating a presentation along with the thought that went into effective delivery. The best outcome was the huge interest students showed in learning from others who presented different career choices and pathways to their own.

As many students were unfamiliar with presenter view we opted for them to create printed notes with their slideshow primarily providing supporting images. A copy of a range of student presentations are available here (students names removed):

  1. General Practitioner – Doctor  and  the student’s Presentation Notes
  2. Police Officer
  3. Marine Biologist
  4. Accountant
  5. Marketing Director
  6. Architecture & Trades
  7. Airplane Pilot
  8. Air Force
  9. Army Soldier
  10. Physiotherapist

Google Drive Folder(This folder links to the above files)

 

Summary

“Careers is all about students having their own sense of strengths and voice and responsibility. It is students taking greater control over choice and pathways. This aligns with the way we are increasingly working with technologies through 1-1 devices, participation and collaboration”

This task enabled personalised learning with students as the creators and presenters. It involved the students having:

  • A personal digital device (in this case a Chromebook)
  • which enabled ready access to information, activities and resources via the internet
  • including the Google Apps suite of tools which encourage creation & collaboration
  • and enabled the students to have anytime, anywhere access to their learning and tools

The end result was that the students, by completing this task, had become more confident, connected and actively involved in their lifelong learning pathway. It also emphasised that learning should be purposeful, relevant, meaningful, challenging, engaging and collaborative.

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