What did you teach today? What did you learn today? These are often the questions asked of teachers or students as school begins. Answers to both of these questions often describe the things of teaching and learning. The things typically include observable experiences such as operating equipment, sawing rafters, cleaning kitchen utensils, programming a robot or three-dimensional computer design.
Technical skills such as these experiences are the heart of Career and Technical instruction. It is natural to describe teaching and learning by novel and observable experiences. Less obvious, but perhaps more important are the Life/Career competencies which student develop while learning technical skills.
Teachers give students feedback on progress in doing a skill correctly. Also, teachers give feedback on how well students do that skill by demonstrating positive work habits and behaviors such as responsibility, perseverance, collaboration, or creativity. Whether these behaviors are called work habits, employability skills, soft skills, or 21st skills, these Life/Career competencies are essential skills for students to develop and carry forward into the workplace. Life/Career competencies are rarely crafted into stand-alone lessons but embedded into the everyday projects and work student complete in CTE.
Teachers help students develop these skills by defining them for students, creating ways to measure them and then nurturing them with students over time by setting expectations, and providing feedback. The CTE TAC website has several resources to support teachers in developing Life/Career Competencies, including assessment rubrics and links to instructional resources.
Perhaps the most important thing teachers can do is to talk about essential Life/Career competencies frequently. Remind students every day how their work habit skills evolve, and every project is an opportunity to showcase their positive traits. The CTE TAC has developed a new resource to assist you in those conversations about Life/Career competencies. The resource is in the form of an online magazine or flipbook links to dozens of news articles on the importance of Life/Career competencies. Share these articles with students, their parents, and colleagues as a way to expand the conversations about Life/Career competencies.
Following are ideas to TALK about important Life/Career competencies.
- Set aside time each week to discuss examples of one competency with students Let students choose an article to read, share and discuss
- Share article with colleagues and discuss at a staff meeting or professional development
- Share article with advisory committee members
- Assign students to lead a discussion on competencies of their choice
- Have students create pictures or video which depict examples of positive work habits.