In having a consistent understanding in regards to real world learning and its implications, we are able to achieve high outcomes for the project. By sending out a survey to all teachers asking them to define real world learning, we were able to gather their responses and create a focus group in order to produce an operational definition. That definition was refactored until we had reached a consensus and adopted the Mount Hope High School operational definition. Having a consistent and widely accepted definition meant that all staff members had the foundation to implement real world learning lessons and link students to opportunities.
Work-Based Learning Career Coordinator at Mount Hope High School (MHHS), Shana Bloom, explains:
My real takeaway is getting a clear framework and understanding as to how we can measure this– not to just anecdotally understand how this works. But branding it into the curriculum expands the value and impact. It excites students because they know when they get to this point in the school year, they know that they’re going to meet this person.”
1. Send surveys to teachers asking for their definition of real world learning
2. Create a focus group to zero in on a unified definition that connects with your district
3. Creating a brand around this idea so it provides personal impact among your team
We used the Nepris platform to connect students, teachers, and professionals so that lessons taught in classrooms were tied to the skills and knowledge necessary for the students’ future careers. Educators sent out requests via Nepris to the business community on topics such as linear equations in Algebra, Business Development, and Business and Marketing. Students were then connected with professionals who indicated they were able to provide lessons. Students prepared questions prior to the virtual sessions in order to help the professionals personalize learning on the indicated topics.
These video calls establish mentoring, solidify relevancy, and increase student learning outcomes. Bloom references a specific example:
A gentleman from a world famous beverage company talked about linear equations. He was maybe 28-30 years old. He shared how he was financially secure and these students saw the mentor they wanted to model themselves after. These are stories that our students might tell to their children.
Following the video sessions, students are excited about learning and feel more inclined to develop their own real world applications of topics covered. These connections create solid motivation for learning, and students are more likely to pay attention in class because the topics become relevant.
1. Look for technology platforms that help students connect with business professionals.
2. Find opportunities to reach out to community members while planning lessons.
3. Ask students to develop their own real world applications of topics covered during video chats.
Implementing real world learning can still be challenging because of the additional time required to change pre-existing curriculum and lessons. According to Deb DiBase, Principal at MHHS, “We’re trying to be as transparent as possible with the process and what the goals are. We’re trying to get buy in.” We held meetings so that staff could share their enthusiasm for the project at faculty and department meetings. These meetings allowed educators to explain their successes, failures, and address any issues as a team. Furthermore, we engaged other administrators and parents to develop community buy-in.
Following community buy-in, it is important to reach out to the state level to explain project goals. We connected directly with the Career Pathways division of the Rhode Island Governor's Workforce Board and found opportunities to advocate for real world learning at all school levels. This helped us develop a network of stakeholders who could weigh in and share their successes and challenges as well. We hope that this will ultimately improve the program over time.
1. Reach out to the state level and see what opportunities already exist to collaborate.
2. Develop a network of like-minded schools to connect with and share successes and challenges.
3. Find time to regularly connect with the network you’ve built.
One of our teachers, Wayne Lima, took the initiative to develop a presentation that shared the opportunities that Real World Learning provided to his students. He presented this at a school committee meeting and furthered the interest of stakeholders. Because he had implemented the program directly, he had firsthand knowledge of how the program worked and how students had benefited. Sharing those stories furthered the vision of real world learning by giving stakeholders a concrete example of the impact that the program could have.