We evaluated the effectiveness of the core freshman lessons by looking at process, perception, and outcome data for these lessons. The process data indicate that all freshmen had access to these lessons; absent students were offered small group makeup sessions by their counselors. The perception data provided helpful information on the effectiveness of the lessons. For each of the items on our surveys, the results on the post-test indicated that students gained knowledge, awareness and/or skills related to academic and career success as a result of the lessons. For example, we focused on Grade Point Average (GPA) in two lessons - Career Exploration (delivered in November) and Four-Year Curriculum Planning (delivered in January). The perception data gathered in January reflect the effectiveness of our curriculum, as the students retained an awareness and understanding of the impact of GPA from the earlier lesson. The outcome data results, however, were not what we had expected or hoped. Although we felt that the three core curriculum lessons were effective in teaching the targeted skills, mindsets, and behaviors, the data did not indicate a positive impact on student achievement. In fact, the semester GPA for all freshmen went down from an average of 3.18/4.0 for first semester to an average of 3.07/4.0 for second semester. We have discussed some explanations for this slight decline, and we plan to discuss possible changes in the core curriculum to better target Mindsets and Behaviors students need to earn and maintain good grades.
The results of these lessons will impact our school counseling program: we plan to make changes in content, delivery and timing and have also made decisions about which lessons to continue.
We are planning several changes in our career exploration lesson as a result of the perception and outcome data. This lesson included discussion of how to calculate grade point average (GPA), an activity about learning styles, and a career matchmaker inventory. Due to our desire to improve student achievement, we have created a separate GPA lesson for freshmen which we are delivering earlier in the semester so that students can implement strategies for improving their grades sooner. Also, we have expanded the learning styles activity into its own separate lesson because we noticed that students participated actively in this portion of the lesson and fully engaged in the discussion. The perception data also support this change. Our pre and post survey asked if students knew one strategy that matched their learning style. Before the lesson, 76% said yes; afterwards, 88.5% said yes. Clearly a large majority of the students were already familiar with one appropriate learning strategy. We also feel that learning just one strategy is an overly modest goal. We’d like students to consciously implement at least three different study strategies that align with their learning style. Ultimately we hope that expanding on this concept in a separate lesson this will positively impact student achievement. Another change we plan to make is in the focus of our career development curriculum for freshmen. In our pre/post test, we asked students to respond to this statement: I know what level of education I need to have in order to reach my career goals. Although the overall number of student responding “yes” to this statement went up, from 56.7% on the pre-test to 69.8% on the post-test, the number of students who answered “no” on the post-test was unexpectedly high given that this topic was taught in the lesson. We came to the conclusion that this survey item was based on the assumption that a student has career goals - which is a lot to ask of students in the fall of 9th grade. We plan to take a more open-ended approach to career exploration going forward. We have adopted a new career exploration tool called YouScience, which we will help us change our focus to identifying individual student interests and strengths in addition to exploring potential careers.
We plan to continue all three lessons with some modifications. As noted above, the first lesson has three parts which are now taught in three different lessons as a result of our observations and analysis of the data. We have also made changes in the Four-Year Curriculum Planning lesson to allow for a more open-ended goal-setting activity. We do not plan to make any significant changes to the resume lesson. We were pleased with the perception survey results and with the positive feedback we received on the video interviews of local employers.