In order for our students to be able to develop an academic plan that supports their career goals, they need to have a career goal. By the end of the 2015-2016 school year, our goal is to see 80% of our students in grades 9-11 able to identify at least one career goal of interest to them, and as a result, enroll in one course that reflects their current career goal in the Fall 2016 semester. We will be reviewing their first semester report cards (SY 2016-17) to determine if our goal of was met.
Our classrooms range from 15-60 students at any given time. While this format is useful for relaying general information that will apply to all or a majority of our students, it doesn’t provide our students with specific knowledge regarding areas in which they may require or desire additional information. We are therefore constantly on the lookout for activities that will pique our students unique interests, specifically in a small group format where those individual interests can be addressed more effectively. After all, we are not a traditional brick and mortar school, and therefore we have some measure of flexibility in how we choose to meet the needs of our students.
Career exploration is one area which is difficult to teach in a classroom format. Our students’ interests are widely varied when it comes to careers, but it can be difficult for them to recognize how their own skills, abilities, and passions align with the multitude of careers available. The Internet provides them with a wealth of information, but that experience can never duplicate experiential learning. We encourage students to begin narrowing down their career interests by grade 10 so we can begin looking at colleges with programs supporting those career interests in grade 11. We therefore decided to create a small group career counseling opportunity to address the needs of students who were having difficulty identifying a specific career interest.
Students identified their current career interests via a survey distributed to our grade 9/10 students on Oʻahu. (We offered this only in our Oʻahu region as a pilot program.) Students who were unable to identify a career interest, and students whose career interests appeared to be widely disbursed were invited to participate in this opportunity. A total of 18 students accepted the invitation, and our grade 9 and 10 counselors were assigned to deliver this group. Students participating in this group came from those counselors’ caseloads, and we felt the pre-existing relationship our students had with their counselors would help support our group’s goals. Our vision was to give our students the opportunity to explore careers they might be interested in pursuing; to gain useful information about the various careers at each organization; and to use this opportunity as a resource for developing their own future career plans. We partnered with various community stakeholders to coordinate and plan our small group career field trips. Over the four-day activity, students spent two hours each morning in the classroom and spent the remainder of the day at each selected site, engaging in group and self-reflection activities, tours, and experiential learning.
Students also completed daily assessments which we used as to determine if our small group goals had been met, and an additional assessment at the conclusion of the small group activity. Data collected from our students indicated that the small group career exploration project provided valuable information for our students as they explored these various career fields. 100% of students agreed or strongly agreed that this small group activity provided them with insight that would help them to develop their own career plan; an average of 77% were able to identify at least two skills and abilities that align with specific careers we looked at, and 100% were able to identify at least two careers they were interested in pursuing as a career choice.
It is evident that small groups do work, and can produce positive results for our students. Our challenge has been to find different ways to conduct additional small group learning situations for our students, given the restraints we face as an out-of-school program which include not having access to our students during the regular school day. We will continue to gather data regarding the needs of our students that can be best addressed in small group situations, and will continue to implement these types of opportunities whenever needed.