- Beyond the school gate
- Improving student learning
- Let's teach maths and science
- What's real in a virtual world?
- Careers and transition
- Curriculum for the 21st century
- Early childhood education & care
- Teachers and Teaching
Careers and transition
Jenni Proctor has developed a whole school career education program that starts in the early years of education and is built upon throughout the school years.
In the days, not so long ago, when ‘career’ would have been defined as the occupational path you chose as you left school and built upon until you retired, career opportunities were limited and making career decisions was relatively easy. Teacher? Nurse? University scholarship? Trade? Fate dictated the path for many of us, with little emphasis at school on the career choices that were being made.
Fast forward to now, and the world of work has changed irrevocably. We are aware that many of our students will work in occupations that do not yet exist, using technology that hasn’t been invented, and changing jobs with a frequency that only ten years ago would have been considered irresponsible and indicative of instability. In preparation for this world of work, our students will need a strong set of competencies that will equip them to succeed and to navigate the options and obstacles they will encounter. These competencies go beyond the traditional basics of education.
In response to this need, the Australian Government commissioned the Australian Blueprint for Career Development, a document that explains and presents a framework of life/career competencies across the lifespan, from early childhood through to adulthood. This framework is developmental and involves building personal management skills, an awareness of work in society and an understanding of how an individual can direct and manage their career. It is essentially a practical and purposeful framework for the social and personal development of each student. For someone starting to build or improve a program of career development in a school, this document provides invaluable guidelines.
Why start career education in primary school?
Traditionally, career education has been the domain of secondary schools. Parents, teachers and students recognise that in their final years at school, the students will be required to make decisions that will impact on their future, with seemingly unlimited possibilities. However, the ability to make considered decisions that reflect the uniqueness of each individual is not something that students magically acquire in year 12!
Foundational career development provides students with the best opportunity to lead productive and rewarding lives in the future. It answers the perennial ‘why?’ of education—‘Why am I learning this?’ If teachers consider that they are preparing their students for the future, then the foundations of career development become a logical and essential aspect of a student’s education, fostering motivation and self-knowledge, personal responsibility and social awareness. If the students understand that everything they are doing at school ultimately leads them towards the achievement of their own personal life dreams, how much more relevant learning activities become at all stages of their education!
An award winning program
At Mary MacKillop Catholic Primary School in Birkdale, Queensland, we have developed a career education program that is now part of the ethos and the conscious education of the school. Our career education program has been evolving since our first career awareness day in 2003 and has three major components.
- Competencies are integrated into the curriculum.
- We hold an annual career awareness day.
- The Real Game series is played in two grade levels.
As the program evolved we recognised that so many career competencies were already inbuilt in the curriculum and just needed to be identified and explicitly developed.
With an integrated approach to career education, career competencies are developed through many activities across all of the key learning areas and various programs in the school. It is not that we have added on career education as an additional subject area in an already crowded curriculum, but rather that we have recognised and made explicit the links between curriculum and career competencies, and built activities to develop career competencies within a curriculum context. An example is in year 2, the students used to do an integrated unit of work about ‘people who help us’. This has now evolved into inquiry-based learning about roles, responsibilities and rights, commencing with themselves, interviewing the adults in their lives (at home and school), stepping into the community to consider the people they see in local services and business, then finding out about a chosen occupation through scaffolded research.
Personal management is developed through the ethos and culture of the school: there are personal development, anti-bullying and behaviour management initiatives. Opportunities for student leadership, with a particular emphasis in year 7, empower the students to ‘Be Incredible’ and make a positive difference in some way at their school. Development of personal management competencies is at the heart of building self-efficacy, enabling our students to become fulfilled adults of the future, and is fundamentally part of the ethos of our school.
Through the use of the ‘Play Real Game’ in year 4 and the ‘Make it Real Game’ in year 6, the competencies required for career building are developed at an appropriate level for this age group of students. These games have proven to be very successful with teachers, students and parents and provide the basis for very rich integration and outstanding student engagement.
Career awareness day
Our annual career awareness day is the most visible of our initiatives. A three-year rotation of themes has developed, based on the co-curricula priorities of the Queensland syllabus—CLAN (celebrating literacy and numeracy), LLLIFE Expo (life long learning is for ever) and Futures Festival (future perspective and life skills). This day is a major event in our school year, and involves inviting members of the community into the school to talk about their careers. We have had between 20 and 30 presenters each year, organised into four 40-minute sessions. Students from years 3 to 7 rotate between presentations, and they are given the opportunity to choose which presentations they wish to attend. In reality, only year 7 are assured of their first preferences as there have been times when half the school has elected to attend the same presentation. (Pilots and anyone who works with animals are popular!) On the same day our early childhood classes have always been involved, with an emphasis on play-based activities focused on specific careers. This has been as varied as everyone participating in an ‘operating theatre’ in the classroom and children learning to do the jive.
Presenters at our career days are asked to reflect on the day’s theme in their interactions with the students, and this thematic curriculum link has had an obvious impact on students. The importance of mathematics and reading come to life for students when a pilot tells them its significance in his career, and being a lifelong learner is clearly illustrated when a scientist shows photographs of having to rapidly learn new skills to survive living in Antarctica.
The career awareness day has always commenced with an opening ceremony, usually involving some student performance prepared especially for the event. In 2006, as a middle schooling initiative, the year 6 students were involved in all aspects of the organisation and running of the day, including students who wrote, produced and presented the opening ceremony. This involvement of the students in planning and running the day came out of research suggesting that if middle schooling concepts were used to plan career education the students would be more engaged and it therefore would have more impact on their attitudes and learning. This was a most successful initiative, with year 6 students enthusiastic in their involvement and demonstrating a potential for leadership and organisation that had not been previously recognised.
Our school career orientation has started to permeate other aspects of school life, and in 2006 a ‘Visioning wall’ was created on a blank wall outside the library, depicting the concept that everything the students do at school is leading them towards their life/career. This was a cooperative project involving the art specialist, teacher librarian, classroom teachers and a parent who was able to utilise his professional and industry links to facilitate and enable this project.
This wall remains a constant visible reminder to all at the school that everything that students experience at school, all that they learn, their activities and their decisions, lead towards their own personal future. It is a discussion point for new members of the school community, visually confirming our commitment to the development of the whole student for their future, and therefore for their own personal career.
Career Clarity www.careerclarity.com.au
Further information about the Real Games programs is available at: www.realgame.gov.au/overview.htm
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