Work Study Practices help prepare students for the future

Skills like critical thinking, problem solving, and communication are embedded into curriculum, instruction, and assessment through programs like PACE

sanborn pace assignment
Sanborn Middle School students work on a PACE assessment.

Non-academic skills, like critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication are being cited by employers as some of the most important skills that students need to succeed in today’s evolving economy:

“A recent survey of 260 employers by the nonprofit National Association of Colleges and Employers, which includes both small firms and behemoths like Chevron and IBM, also ranks communication skills in the top three most-sought-after qualities by job recruiters. They prize both an ability to communicate with one’s employees and an aptitude for conveying the company’s product and mission outside the organization,” according to the Washington Post.

New Hampshire schools are recognizing this, and incorporating the “Work Study Practices” into curriculum, instruction, and assessment. With the Performance Assessment for Competency Education (PACE) program, these practices are embedded into assessments in the many NH districts. But according to Jonathan Vander Els of the New Hampshire Learning Institute, districts are continually learning how to best incorporate these practices to prepare their students.

In an article for CompetencyWorks, he describes how educators have refined the assessments to incorporate the practices and how they are integrated into other competency-based programs, like Extended Learning Opportunities:

The Center for Innovation in Education, with then Deputy Commissioner Paul Leather and Mariane Gfroerer, from the Department of Education, enlisted me to facilitate a small cohort of educators across PACE schools to begin to explore what it might look like to integrate our Work Study Practices into curriculum, instruction, and assessment within teachers’ classrooms.

Year 1 involved participating educators going through a facilitated 2Revolutions course module based upon the Essential Skills and Dispositions (Lench, Fukada, and Anderson, 2015). This course provided teachers with guided opportunities to explore and develop, based upon this resource, their own skill level related to Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, and Self-Direction, and better understand the progression of learning involved to go from Beginner to Emerging Expert within a given skill.

Teachers were then asked to “test” a hypothesis related to something they thought might make a difference for their learners within these essential skills. The resulting efforts produced rubrics, goal-setting exercises, explicit instruction of one or more of the WSP, as well as explicit inclusion of one or more of the WSP throughout a unit. All participating teachers (about 75) came together at the end of the year to “share their learning”. This became one of the strongest aspects of our approach, as participants “borrowed” ideas and artifacts from one another to assist in deepening their own work with their own students in the coming year…

The deeper we went, however, the more questions we began to ask. One of the questions we faced at the end of Year 1 was around scale. We wanted to continue to deepen the work of the cohort that went through the ES & D course, yet also provide an opportunity for new folks to access the course and other modules of interest. Again, the New Hampshire Learning Initiative partnered with 2Revolutions to develop differentiated pathways for teams in schools, based upon readiness, but also upon the unique strengths and areas for growth of each district.

As we headed into our third year this past September, we were explicitly integrating the WSP within all efforts. They are thoughtfully and mindfully woven throughout any of the competency-based efforts that are occurring in New Hampshire. Within PACE, they are being included as an integral component. Within our Assessment for Learning Project (ALP) effort, NG2: Collaborative Learning Design, they are integral in both the K-2 Unit Replacement work and the K-12 Student Exhibition work. In our career pathways, ELO, and CTE work, Work Study Practices are a major component of a student’s learning plan. In short, WSP are the gears that drive any of our competency-based and personalized efforts in New Hampshire.

I believe that the work that will be done this year specific to the Work Study Practices effort will have a great impact on how we support schools moving forward. For example, Epping School District, based upon their work within the WSP Cohort the past two years, developed a thoughtful and detailed plan to roll out Work Study Practices to their community (article on this work forthcoming), with students taking the lead on collecting evidence as demonstration of their growth within these competencies, shared at student-led conferences. We are beginning to look at student evidence of learning in an attempt to better understand the developmental progression of our learners specific to these competencies, and teachers are building and refining the rubrics to try to capture that learning in a meaningful way. And, we are closely monitoring the impact of student goal-setting, as we see this as an integral component of assessment FOR learning, with students being at the center of this process.

Source: Highlighting Deeper Learning Competencies in New Hampshire | CompetencyWorks