What are ‘Employability Skills’? That was one of my first questions heading into my student teaching placement at Mason City High School. According to MCHS and the rest of the district, Employability Skills are a set of standards that meet criteria such as responsibility, thinking creatively and critically, or being a self-directed learner, just to name a few. In other words, a skill set that is essential beyond graduation for any career or college. It is a way of assessing students outside of content knowledge and looking at their ability to be successful in a world after high school.I actually think this idea is brilliant. Too often there are bright students who don’t turn work in on time, for example. They meet all the criteria, they do well, but they can’t follow directions. Rather than give them a poor grade just because they turned in a late assignment, they can get marked down on their Employability Skills. Then, they still see consequences for not following directions, but it doesn’t affect their actual grade point.
For the Data Teams at MCHS [to read more about that, click here], our team has decided to look at the Employability standard that deals with communication, whether the student is communicating clearly and effectively with others. This includes taking initiative and talking to the teacher when he/she misses class, articulating responses to others in a discussion format, and following directions in communication-related assignments.
To incorporate this standard into my classes, specifically English 10, I decided to create a separate category of ‘Vocabulary’ that I would use to assess Employability Skills. ‘Vocabulary’ would be assessed at different times over the course of the quarter. I asked the students, first, to bring in two words they were unfamiliar with. Their job was to come in with the words and write them on the board. Doing this gave them 2 points in the Empoloyability category [marked in the grade book as ‘Productivity’ rather than ‘Required Assignments’]. We then found the definitions together as a class. The next time they had to take the words, write them on the board, pick two of their choice, and define. The third time they had to come to class with the words and definitions.
Each time I assessed the students, I increased expectations. I also made the assignments very clear to the students. The goal was to create a small assignment that could measure whether the students were following directions, taking initiative for their learning, and communicating their words and definitions to the class.
For future Employability Skills Assessments, I am going to create an online discussion board where students respond to one another as well as giving a response themselves. This way, I can see how they are conversing with one another, if they are using references to our text or class discussions, and if their responses are appropriate for the context.
I think this is an important aspect of the classroom and I am interested to see how the students respond and how their skills improve over the course of the next few months.