Magazine article Techniques

Comprehensive Career Development in Grades K-6

Magazine article Techniques

Comprehensive Career Development in Grades K-6

Article excerpt

ACCORDING TO THE AUTHORS OF HARVARD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF Education's "Pathways to Prosperity" report, "One of the most fundamental obligations of any society is to prepare its adolescents and young adults to lead productive and prosperous lives as adults. This means preparing all young people with a solid enough foundation of literacy, numeracy and thinking skills for responsible citizenship, career development and lifelong learning." (1) The phrase "all young people" here refers to those in the primary grades, as well as those at the secondary and post-secondary levels.

Although there is very little research in the area of career development in the elementary grades, in 1983, a team of researchers led by Robert E. Campbell from Ohio State University's National Center for Research in Vocational Education, determined five categories of student outcomes when children in secondary school were exposed to career development: "(1) improved school involvement and performance, (2) personal and interpersonal work skills, (3) preparation for careers, (4) career planning skills, and (5) career awareness and exploration." (2) Many scholars argue that career development should not be a by-product of education but part of its mission. The end result is to attain work, whether students enter the workforce immediately after high school or after college.

Therefore, career development should not be reserved solely for those who simply want to enter the workforce right after high school, but for all students and early enough so that they can begin to make informed decisions about coursework throughout their educational experiences. For some, this may mean a rigorous academic schedule in middle and high schools in preparation for a four-year college. For others, it may mean a less academic, but just as rigorous, curriculum in a career and technical education (CTE) program.

Earlier career development exposure could also help determine if a student should seek an education in satellite schools, such as those that major in the arts or science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs. Regardless, students in the primary grades need to know their options in order to explore and shape their interests and craft their abilities accordingly.

If the above weren't reason enough to start broaching the topic of career development at such an early age, a 2012 Gallup student poll of 500,000 students in grades five through 12 offers a compelling reason. The poll showed that student engagement drops off with each school year, peaking at the elementary grades (Figure 1). "Student engagement with school and learning is a gold standard that every parent, teacher and school strives to achieve. If we were doing right by our students and our future, these numbers would be the absolute opposite. For each year a student progresses in school, they should be more engaged, not less," (3) stated Brandon Busteed, executive director at Gallup Education.

Figure 1 shows that by the time students reach high school, their level of engagement dropped 32 percent. The primary level is an opportune time to introduce career development skills, and the place to begin is self-awareness or self-discovery. In doing so, by the time they reach high school, they know themselves and have an idea of their interests and abilities, which in turn should spark more engagement and interest because they have developed meaningful short-and long-term goals. …

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