Student behaviors, often called soft skills, is the learning domain that significantly contributes to student career readiness and leads to future job success. Efforts to teach “behaviors” frequently lead to frustration and disappointment, not because they can’t be developed, but because objectives are vague or teachers often approach “teaching” this important domain of student learning in a traditional mode. Career and Technical Education instruction is a great place for students to demonstrate and improve these behaviors. The three key strategies for developing student behaviors are;
- Define — Begin with the End in Mind,
- Measure — Measure What Matters, and
- Develop —Nurturing Student Development of Life/Career Abilities.
This section of the website is designed to share best practices and resources for schools and teachers to be intentional and systematic in developing positive student behaviors, which we prefer to call Life/Career competencies.
The slide deck, Life/Career Abilities - Overview provides useful visuals to assist in presentations.
The white paper Life/Career Abilities Framework: Begin with the End in Mind helps educators define a list of life/career behaviors that can be readily observed. To develop Life/Career abilities, schools should follow the “begin with the end in mind” approach and be consistent in essential behaviors.
The Life/Career Abilities Framework is one listing of soft skills, which does include many of the behaviors identified in other standards and research. However, you may be interested in examining these other sources directly.
- Career Ready Practices (Career Clusters) — The Career Ready Practices component of the Common Career Technical Core was developed under the leadership of the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (now called Advance CTE). The 12 Career Ready Practices provide a framework for the developmental experiences necessary to becoming career ready in all clusters.
- U.S. Department of Education Employability Skills Framework — The Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education developed the Employability Skills Framework. It was guided by several career and technical education (CTE), adult education, workforce development, and business organizations. The framework is composed of nine key skills organized into three broad categories: Applied Knowledge, Effective Relationships, and Workplace Skills.
- ASCA Student Mindsets & Behaviors - The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) Mindsets & Behaviors for Student Success: K-12 College and Career Readiness for Every Student describes the knowledge, skills, and attitudes students need to achieve academic success, college and career readiness, and social/emotional development.
- Collaborative for Academic, Social & Emotional Learning (CASEL) — Social and emotional learning has become a popular topic in dealing with behaviors that can either positively support or negatively interrupt student achievement. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) is probably the nation’s leading organization advancing social and emotional learning.
The white paper Data Practices for Developing Life Career Abilities: Measure What Matters -- is an introduction to one of the keys in developing Life/Career Abilities (soft skills and non-cognitive skills). Schools cannot fully improve practices in facilitating student’s development of these skills until staff begins to quantify and measure these essential behaviors.
One of the powerful ways to both measure and develop life/career abilities is through the use of multi-level rubrics for agreed upon behaviors that students should develop. Successful Practices has developed a rubrics for nearly 100 important personal, work and career-related behaviors. These behaviors and rubrics are available in an online database which educators can browse and download a rubric they wish to use. Explore the Life/Career Competencies Rubrics. Here is link to a demonstration video on using the database.
Sample rubrics show how these selected performances could be used for student feedback tool on behaviors. First is one sample aligned with Career Ready Practices , another aligns with CDOS Credential, and another sample with typical Social-Emotional Skills.
There are also several commercial workplace readiness student assessments which include many of the life/career abilities. Listed are some of the most frequently used. These are only for information purposes and educators are encouraged to review them and select any that are appropriate to their needs.
- SkillsUSA Workforce Ready Employability Assessment
- National Work Readiness Credential (NWRC)
- National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) - WorkKeys (ACT)
- Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment Systems (CASAS) - Workforce Skills Certificate System (WSCS)
The NYS Education Department has done a comparison of these assessments as part of the options for students to earn a CDOS credential.
Life/career abilities cannot and should not be taught or tested in the same manner we handle other subjects. This presents a challenge but we must not ignore this domain because it is difficult to measure with traditional tools. Life/career abilities can be taught, but not in the traditional way. Begin to use a nurturer mental model to evoke the parental role in developing a child’s behavior. Using a nurturing approach is one way to define the teaching practices needed to develop students’ life/career abilities. The white paper Nurturing Student Development of Life/Career Abilities describes a framework for teachers to use in developing life/career competencies.
There are several curriculum and instructional programs both free and available for purchase that schools might consider in developing a system-wide approach to developing life/career competencies. This listing should not be considered an endorsement of any of these products. These links are provided for information only. If teachers are familiar with other resources to share, please contact the CTE TAC to encourage adding suggestions to this list.
- Bring Your A Game to Work — The Center for Work Ethic Development is helping organizations and individuals build work ethic by developing curriculum, certification, and support materials. Founded by author and speaker Eric Chester, The Center for Work Ethic Development is focused on the research and advancement of work ethic.
- Career Solutions Publishing — Career Solutions Publishing offers work readiness curriculums that focus on the soft skills employers identify as essential for winning a job and being promoted. Job Ready Career Skills, It’s for Real Workplace Ethics, Competitive Advantage, Career Launcher and Managing Your Money contain practical, appealing student content, and The Teacher’s Desktop that accompanies all online programs provides many teacher-friendly features to reduce the teacher’s time commitment.
- Edge FactorEdge Factor —Factor for Education is an online platform with engaging videos that includes inspiring stories and accompanying, turnkey resources to help schools showcase the relevancy and importance of CTE, describing career pathways, local employment opportunities and instill soft skills.
- Excellence Through Ethics - Junior Achievement has many excellent curriculum resources including these supplemental resources in ethics, finance, customer service and leadership.
- Growing Leaders — Led by Dr. Tim Elmore, author, and international speaker, Growing Leaders addresses practical life and leadership skills to young adults that will help them navigate through life. Products include several publications, videos, and online course materials.
- NecessarySkillsNow — This joint project by CORD, CSSIA, SCATE, and FLATE have assembled excellent resources for teaching Life/Career Abilities and developed postsecondary module for integrating technical and employability skills in cybersecurity and manufacturing.
- MBA Resources —MBA Research offers curriculum in business and marketing. Several of their learning modules relate to Life/Career Abilities, especially in leadership and ethics. Many of learning modules are developed through foundation funds and available free to educators.
- RealCareer™ Employability Skills Program -- The instructional resources provider RealityWorks has an instructional program around 20 soft skills including hands-on, activity-based experiences including student workbooks, instructor guide, scenario card, and presentation slides.
- Skills You Need — The Skills You Need website is authored in Great Britan and has a number of articles and self-assessments on life/career abilities. While they do sell some publications, the website offers a great deal of free information.
- Soft Skills for the Workplace — Goodheart-Willcox publishes a text to teach basic employability skills. Fourteen short, concise lessons provide information that can be integrated into any program. A free companion website provides additional activities for reinforcement. The book is also cross-referenced to Career Ready Practices.
- SoftSkills — WIN Learning is a provider of career readiness solutions that help districts prepare pathways for students’ futures, whether they are college, trade school, military or workplace bound. One of the courseware features is soft skills development.
- The Career Readiness Curriculum (CRC) — SkillsUSA's student-oriented career program includes personal, workplace and technical skills grounded in academics. This curriculum includes 29 lesson plans based on Common Core State Standards. It infuses 21st-century skills into student engagement activities. The Career Readiness Curriculum is a free member benefit as part of SkillsUSA professional membership dues.
- Today's Class — Today’s Class is an interactive online learning system for secondary schools, career centers, and technical colleges. In addition to several technical content areas, Today’s Class offers Workplace Readiness courses. The concepts covered include interpersonal skills, work ethic, reading and writing skills, and math used in everyday situations such as measuring distances or counting money.
- Virginia Workplace Readiness — The state of Virginia has a model of workplace readiness, developed extensive advocacy and instructional resources around workplace readiness and make available a workplace readiness assessment.
- Voyage — Voyage from Thrive Academics is an online program that guides high school students through the stages of college and career readiness while developing essential life skills needed for thriving in life. The fully animated, web-based program offers dynamic lessons in five modules that will teach students personal development, career planning, college planning, financial responsibility, and everyday living.
- Workplace Readiness — Conover Company, for over the 35+ years Conover has developed many assessment and training programs which include comprehensive management systems to track user progress and results. Topics include workforce development, soft skills, bullying, and social-emotional learning.