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Work-based Learning
Winning Opportunities for Work-Based Learning


Creating Opportunities for Work-Based Learning in Business and CIS Courses: Interactive Paper #1

This lesson is an introduction to the basics of work-based learning and some ideas to help you begin to think about implementing it in your classroom. While it might seem like an easy shift to make, it is one that often eludes even the best of instructors. Just beginning to think about the concept and seeking effective ways of implementing these strategies is a very big step to take. You will find over 25 links to review and find interesting ways to implement WOW Learning!

Shifting Paradigm

The rapid pace of change occurring in society demand some corresponding changes in the teaching and learning going on in California Community Colleges.  The paradigms that worked so well during the latter half of the twentieth century may no longer be relevant for the new millennium. One of the major shifts is from merely providing instruction to actively engaging the student in learning. One of the ways that this is happening is the introduction of work-based learning components into rigorous academic courses.

Work-Based Learning is the experiential component of a student’s education. It is the process of linking the classroom with the workplace so a student has an opportunity to directly connect with the workplace. It allows a student to sample, explore and develop skills necessary to be successful in the work-based environment.  You can see some of the elements of work-based learning programs by reviewing this article.

Work-based learning is meant to increase student awareness of the expectations, dynamics and changes in the 21st century workplace. Take a look at this link that explains work-based learning. It is from Edith Cowan University in Australia. Does their definition of work-based learning concur with ours? In addition, scroll through this Connecticut site to get an idea of what they factor into their work-based learning programs.

Workplace learning provides meaning for students by linking the classroom to the world-at-large thereby narrowing the gap between theory and practice. Work-based learning refers to a variety of instructional strategies that link or connect learning from the classroom to the work world by applying the ideas and concepts from a course to work-based situations. These include actual experiences in the workplace like internships, job shadowing, community service, volunteering and mentoring. Take a look at this work-based learning brochure from the Pierce County Careers Consortium, it outlines some of the opportunities of work-based learning.

Work-Based learning is an exciting and effective way to strengthen education. Because work-based learning supports what is known about how people learn and is consistent with accepted career development theory, it provides educators with a valuable tool to extend and improve the teaching/learning process. Students learn information and then are given opportunities to practice, demonstrate or apply what was learned.
What Do Employers Want?

A professor from East Tennessee University was surprised when several of his top CIS students struggled to get the jobs they wanted upon graduation. Seeking to discover what held them back, he did his own study.  Here is what he discovered.

Dramatic changes in the workplace emphasize the need for highly skilled employees whose background includes both education and practical work experience.  Here is a list of skills employers are seeking.  Note that this university is in Wales.  Do these reflect skills U.S. employers seek?
In a recent ERIC article the author asserts that teaching and learning employability skills leads to optimal learning because the 5 principles of the high performance workplace correspond to the 5 principles of learning. Check out this idea as you skim the article, Employability Skills. Look at the section on "Implications of Learning." Note the 5 similarities! Do you agree with the author?

The 21st Century workplace is a global, technologically sophisticated, high performance operation. Note this quote taken from Alan Greenspan’s speech, "The Growing Need for Skills in the 21st Century." …These efforts recognize that technologically advanced learning must be grounded in real-world curriculums that are relevant to changing business needs and that it be provided in flexible venues that open access to development of skills to as many workers as possible. What skills are the relevant skills employers are looking to find in their new employees? Are you teaching these skills in your classroom?

You might be wondering, "Just what are some of the skills employers expect my students to possess? Is it possible to help develop any of these skills in my classes and around my course content?" Take a look at this career development site. When you arrive at the site you will have to click on Career Development and then Under Career Planning click on and print The Top 20 Skills. Review the list of skills and take the self-assessment. How did you rate? How many of these skills are you addressing in your course curricula? Any surprises?

Finally, here is one more survey that will help you evaluate skills employers seek and how they relate to your courses and your students. This survey is from the University of Minnesota Duluth. It is called the Transferable Skills Survey and when completed will provide some interesting information. Try it and perhaps you’ll consider having your students complete this and bring their results to class to discuss.

Competing for jobs in the 21st century places new demands on teaching and learning. Instructors must be cognizant of these demands and help prepare their students for success. Here are some ideas on just how to do that.

Where to Begin

There are hosts of learning opportunities that are designed to encourage students to connect to the workplace. These strategies will help you help students to begin making connections to the workplace where they can transfer what they learn in theory into the real world applications.

  • Guest Speakers from a business or industry in your community
    Including a speaker from an industry related to your subject matter provides students an opportunity to ask questions and hear about the workplace. Businesses are almost always excited about coming to a community college. However, it is important to use the visitor’s time well by developing an agenda, set of questions and topics you would like discussed. Make sure this is delivered to the guest speaker well ahead of time. From The Adjunct Professor’s Guide to Success is a quick list to use in preparation of guest speakers.

    In addition, prepare your class for the visitor to assure that an interested and informed audience will greet your speaker. From the Here is a site from UC Berkeley that will give you information on many work-based activities including guest speakers and workplace visits.

  • Workplace Tours Provide Insight and Information
    Taking a class to a workplace is a little more complicated than having a speaker come to the class. But it can be done and if students are enthusiastic, it can provide them with great insight both into a specific industry and the workplace in general. Before taking your class, you will need to do some homework of your own. It may take a few phone calls and visits to find just the right company. Establish with the company exactly what you would like your students to see and make sure you understand the company’s rules and restrictions for visiting. Again, draw up a specific list that you and the company agree to for the visit. Outline the time commitment, and be sure to request a question and answer session in a quiet place with students and a company representative. Follow this up by sending an official thank you from the class to the company representative. (This is a great way for companies and employees to affirm their participation in community and college activities.) Here are some more ways teachers can facilitate work-based connections. 

  • imageInformational Interviews Involve Lots of Skills
    An informational interview requires that a student contact a professional to find out about specific careers. This contact can be made by phone or in person. The student and/or the instructor can help construct the questions. They shouldn’t be lengthy or complicated but address the information a student would like to have. Talking to professionals will provide students with real-world insights into the jobs that interest them. Here are some excellent suggestions and questions to use for informational interviews. When you arrive at the site look under the job search heading for informational interview. Want some more information to prepare your students?  Try this site and their tutorial.

  • Internships Can Be the Ticket to A Really Cool Job
    An internship is a carefully monitored work or service experience in which a student has intentional learning goals and actively reflects on what he/she is learning throughout the experience. In addition to the valuable real-world experience, students participating in the internship program earn credit! Find out how students can use internships to spring boards into the workplace. Read "Real Life 101."  Monster.Com has a student’s experience with an internship for you to review. And finally take a look at just one of the many employers offering internships to students.
  • Job Shadowing Experiences Have Enormous Benefits
    A job shadowing experience gives a student an opportunity to shadow a professional for a portion or entire day. These one-on-one experiences can help students expand their knowledge of career options and outlook, assist them in opportunities to evaluate their academic major in relation to career interests and give them a chance to network with alumni and employers. Here are some hints to an effective job shadowing experience. The University of Michigan has created information and forms a student can use for a job shadowing experience.  Why not take advantage of their creations and change or modify them to suit your purposes? After a student completes this unique experience have the student write a reflection on the relationship of the class to the workplace or prepare a short presentation for the class.

  • Coaching and Mentoring are Options
    Many doctors, lawyers and teachers have participated in programs where they worked with mentors.  Mentors are really teachers who are willing and able to share their expertise and experiences with a novice. Actually a mentor can be anyone who takes the time to teach a student about succeeding. A mentor gives imagestudents a chance to see how a successful person operates and provides a student with a clear picture of the habits and traits it takes to succeed. A mentoring relationship is on a one-to-one basis and will give a student a chance to receive advice concerning career major, job skills and personal development. Has mentoring changed in the Information Age? If so, how? Want more direction and understanding about the differences and similarities of coaching and mentoring? Check out the Coaching Connection. Coaching and mentoring are very big in business and industry as they seek to find effective ways to develop their employees.

  • Service Learning Is On the Agenda of Many Colleges
    Service learning unites community work with academic study and provides students with ways to incorporate both activities into a greater learning experience. A Service Learning project focuses on a community need that is organized into a project tied to clearly defined learning goals. Some service learning projects are tied to Habitat for Humanity and the Special Olympics. Service Learning is more structured than volunteer work because it has defined goals and requires student accountability for the learning. Cal Poly at San Luis Obispo has done lots of the work for you. Here you will find information and links to sites that will help you build a service learning project.  Check out Service Learning opportunities at this site.  Finally, if you are wondering about service projects appropriate to business and CIS courses review 101 Ideas for Combining Service and Learning.

  • Contextual Teaching and Learning Opportunities Abound
    Make an effort to relate your subject matter content to real world situations. Help students to make connections between knowledge and its applications to their lives as family members, citizens and workers. Get students to engage in the hard work that learning requires by making it applicable in a relevant situation. Call on students to engage in higher order thinking that uses critical analysis and creativity. Find the 5 teaching approaches that include context as a critical component by reviewing this Contextual Teaching and Learning Site.  This University of Wisconsin site has a wealth of information on contextual learning and explains some of the different strategies.  It is a great help when looking for new ways to expand and grow active teaching and learning situations.

  • Use the Socratic Method
    Work-Based Learning need not be complicated or time-consuming. By extending a lesson one step beyond, "… now exactly how would this be applied in a "real" work situation?" Questions like this begin to get students to focus out of the education box. Have students reflect on a lesson by answering or asking a question, participating in a discussion or writing a reflection on a work-based question, situation or application. Check out how simply Ruth Stiehl, author and professor, defines this simple practice. Here is more on Reflective Practice.

Adding work-based components to your courses need not be difficult.  Start out by inviting in a speaker from business or industry and build in additional components over time.  Making learning more relevant to the work world offers enormous opportunities for students.  So go ahead and WOW them!


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