This post is part of a series connected to the podcast Shift Your Paradigm: from school-centered to learner-centered. Lynn and I will be sharing our learning and thinking along the way and cross-posting to the Shift Your Paradigm site.
As we have become more proficient in the learner-centered paradigm through our work in the Salisbury Township School District, we have started spreading the learner-centered message!
In Episode 24, we had a wonderful conversation about learner-centered education, specifically, the World of Work initiative, with Dr. David Miyashiro, superintendent in the Cajon Valley Union School District in California, and Ed Hidalgo, Chief Innovation and Engagement Officer at Cajon Valley. World of Work is focused on designing career development awareness in K-8 schools to prepare teachers and students for the future world of work. We learn how the World of Work initiative is focused on the learner and has been one element in Cajon Valleys learning transformation.
Learner-centered leaders develop the resources, the people and the conditions necessary for transformation. In the case of Cajon Valley, the district developed the World of Work resources once the need for career awareness was identified. The board supported the development of the material resources with financial resources. David and Ed have developed their people in this process – helping learners and teachers uncover their own strengths, talents and values to amplify the why of how learners at all levels of the system fit into the future world of work. As leaders, they have also created the conditions that have allowed the people demonstrate their own agency and for the program to be successful. As David shared, “There are no passengers on this ship – we are all crew. We are all rowing.”
In a short period of time, Cajon Valley has moved from a technology desert to a digital environment under David’s leadership. This transformation was approached through a design process that engaged teachers. External partners such as TED.com and Google have helped accelerate and support the transformation.
The World of Work initiative is learner-centered as it is designed to help learners uncover their unique strengths, interests and values. What is at your core? What do you care about? What engages you? Answers to these kinds of questions lead to increased learner agency which is, and will be, highly valued in a world or work where employees are expected to manage their own careers.
Questions to ask learners: What is something you do really well? What is a strength you have on which you have recently been complimented? What do you think your work values might be?
The World of Work initiative is also highly personalized, contextualized and relevant to learners. The initiative has reinforced Cajon Valley’s greater WHY…. Happy students, building healthy relationships, on a path to financial and social well being. Every child will need some sort of job, business or career that will sustain them and a network of people that they can engage with once they leave secondary school. Career development is a whole new language for teachers, but it can be integrated into the work they do everyday. Revisiting the greater WHY has helped teachers think of the purpose of education beyond test scores in math and ELA.
The Holland RIASEC framework has been used in Cajon Valley as the foundation of the program designed for learners to find their people – to help them classify their interests. Once learners find their people, they will find their interests. In the World of Work curriculum, learners experience jobs on the RIASEC framework each year. At the end, learners use the TED talk framework to share their reflection. Putting them in this role is not only learner-centered but fosters the development of leadership.
The primary barriers to this work is time and a lack of understanding of how the economy has changed and will be changing between now and the time learners enter the world of work. The world of work has shifted since the current educational model was designed in the 19th century. The dominant paradigm of school is not designed for the success of all students. Business and industry is telling us we are not properly preparing our learners for success in the current and evolving economy and job market.
The World of Work resources are a scalable means of bridging the gap between K-12 and the world of work. Physical tools and the World of Work curriculum were developed by Cajon Valley. The board supported the development of these resources.
In terms of leading this work, leaders need a shift in mindset. Rather than thinking of themselves as principals, teachers or superintendents, a more realistic frame is as a company executive, rethinking the business model of public education. Do this by asking questions such as: What is the problem we are trying to solve? We hear about unfilled jobs, shrinking middle class, college graduates with no career in their major field. These things are the problems of K12. We may need to improve test scores, but there are larger issues included in our responsibility. And these larger issues should drive what we do.
We can blame policymakers for the shortcomings of our current system, but we need to do something from the ground up – rethinking the WHY of what we are trying to solve. We as leaders have the skills; we need to shift the mindset.
We can do this work – not more, but differently – when we collaborate with each other. Let’s let go of some of the things we think have to drive us. Refocus on the why and the level of engagement from everyone will rise. Let’s not tether ourselves to the local and state measures of the accountability movement.
Everyone has unique strengths and talents that are needed in the world. Moving to a strengths-based model from a deficit-based model will help every learner understand they have a place in the world.
Connections to Practice
- We have created a prototype for an internship program at our high school this semester. This is one way we are tapping into the strengths, interests and passions of our learners connected to their future world of work.
- Career awareness has become a component of our SPP score here in Pennsylvania.
- We have been having conversations around the greater WHY of transformation.
- Professional learning and the development of our people around the transformation has been important.
Questions Based on Our Context
- How will we expand our internship program next year?
- How can we engage our younger learners in planning for careers and the world of work?
- How would our learners answer these question: What is something you do really well? What is a strength you have on which you have recently been complimented? What do you think your work values might be?
- How can the RIASEC framework help us to create a personalized experience to meet the college/career standard in PA?
- How can we partner with outside businesses and organizations to learn what skills and dispositions are most needed in today’s economy?
- How does thinking about the future leverage transformation?
- What is the TedX literacy curriculum? How could our learners benefit from this tool?
- How do we engage policymakers differently in the work of transformation? What do we connect it to? Unfilled jobs? Shrinking middle class? Unfulfilled workers?
- What are we doing to uncover and release learner interests?
Next Steps for Us
- Evaluate our current internship program, planning for expansion on a larger scale.
- Work with school leaders to plan with intentionality how we can support our learners to think about the world of work beyond high school.
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