Trying on Work While Trying Out Minds

“The challenge in school to work programs” says Adria Steinberg of Jobs for the Future in her new book Real Learning, Real Work, is to create something that does not look like school, as teenagers now know it, or like work, as most of them experience it.” The Best work based learning strategies let students try on different work identities,s he concludes, while they learn the concepts, skills, and habits of mind that prepare them for college and careers. Jobs for the Future has identified three complementary strategies, she notes:

Project-Based Learning. Class or individual projects, jointly negotiated by students and teacher, in which students investigate an area of interest to them and important to the course of study. Work or community partners help provide context and information for the project and attend a culminating exhibition in which students present and exhibit their findings and result.

Work and Learning Projects: As part of a work-based learning experience students complete a project, in which they investigate an important issue connected to their work and make a contribution to their work site. Work-site mentors provide coaching and expert advice from the design stage thought he assessment of the project.

Field Studies: These investigations of complex, real-world problems are usually initiated by work or community partners hiring students as consultants to study or make recommendations on a specific design or problem. The partner acts as the “client” to whom students present findings, conclusions, and recommendations.