Enhance Student Job Monitoring with Job Support Groups
Teachers can enhance student job monitoring with job support groups. Held weekly, job support groups can serve as in-school problem solving sessions. By using information gained through student job reports, in addition to input from the work experience specialist and the employer, the teacher can make the job support groups relevant to student needs. The teacher, as the group facilitator, assists students in the following areas:
- Looking critically at job performance.
- Sharing individual concerns.
- Relating experiences and outcomes to previous learning.
- Searching for solutions and alternatives.
- Reviewing important target skills.
- Developing individual action plans to promote job success.
Identifying Strengths — and Targeting Areas for Improvement
The teacher first determines which concerns need to be addressed. The teacher can then design a structured problem solving lesson to review students’ job performance, identify their strengths at work, and target areas that need improvement. With the assistance of the teacher, the students:
- Review two or three reasons why workers should evaluate their own job performance. The reasons for this might include avoiding mistakes, remembering to do assignments, solving problems, and making decisions on the job.
- Identify positive work experiences. For example, students may be proud of getting to work on time, asking for a change in schedule, or finishing all tasks. During the discussion, learned skills may be reviewed as they apply to new situations.
- Discuss the areas for improvement. Some concerns might include getting along better with another worker, asking for help, and dressing appropriately for work. For each concern, the teacher might have students suggest a variety of possible solutions, develop a list of alternatives, and prioritize the list. The group also might discuss when to follow through on suggestions. The group can use role playing to act out possible problem solving scenarios for the workplace. Students can try out various solutions and decide which are most effective prior to returning to their jobs.
Practicing Problem Solving at Work
Role play activities are essential when students are acquiring new skills or reviewing skills learned previously. When students practice problem solving at work, they must select and use skills that are appropriate to the situation. The teacher should first model the desired behavior by taking the role of the employee or worker, and the student initially should play the role of supervisor or co-worker. Scripts can be prepared for these role plays, or impromptu situations can be used. Students practice using skills learned during the instructional phase of the program while they observe and learn from watching one another.
The teacher should ask the students to analyze and discuss the interactions observed during role playing. Initially, the teacher might provide cues and prompts to help students choose different responses as they practice problem solving. Teachers provide ongoing feedback to help the students develop socially appropriate responses. The goal is for the students to learn how to apply social skills appropriately in a variety of job situations as they take turns in the role play activities.
For example, Sally had trouble getting to work on time. During the job support group meeting, the teacher asked the group which skills Sally should use to solve the problem. The discussion centered around reasons for being late, ways to avoid being late, and what Sally should do if she was late again. Role playing situations included using the telephone to call the employer, giving a clear explanation or reason for being late, and apologizing for being late. Structured practice such as this helps to reinforce skills that students have previously learned and provides the opportunity for students to select and apply them spontaneously.
Better for Students, Better for Teachers, Better for the Workplace
Student job support groups — and student job reports — have benefits for both students and teachers. They make it easier for students to perceive the connection between work experience and school, since job skills learned at school are placed in the context of real work situations. Students learn to identify and solve problems that may lead to job failure, and they also enhance their communication skills through discussions and role playing. Importantly, teachers can become more aware of problems encountered by students at work. This allows teachers a chance to intervene before the students lose their jobs. As a result, the total instructional process becomes more relevant to actual student needs in school as well as in the workplace.
Job-Related Social Skills (Third Edition) — available here — contains lessons and materials for using job support groups and student job reports when monitoring students on the job.