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The Bridge Between Elementary School and High School – Middle School Career Education

Middle School is a bridge and threshold between Elementary School and High School, a time of transition.

Need for Middle School Career Education

Middle school career education lays the groundwork for future career development by helping students achieve the following goals:

  • Knowledge of personal characteristics, interests, aptitudes, and skills
  • Awareness of and respect for the diversity of the world of work
  • Understanding of the relationship between school performance and future choices
  • Development of a positive attitude toward work (Developmental Career Programs 1998)

Without Middle School Career Education, students fail to build a foundation and the connection between high school academic subjects, potential careers, world of work, and post-secondary training. As a result, students have poor self concepts, possess poor intrinsic motivation, lack self awareness, and make limited career choices.

Eventually, some of the students who fail to participate in a career education program drop out of school.

Benefits of Middle School Career Education

Middle School Students who complete career education programs have the following positive outcomes –

  • Enhanced understanding of the world of work leading to an openness to an increased number potential careers
  • Improved skills to make informed decisions and complex career information problem solving
  • Enhanced academic, personal, and teamwork skill development
  • Increased career awareness, self-esteem, clearly defined goals, a sense of direction, and motivation to persist and attain a post secondary education and training

National Career Development Guidelines – Career Education Model

Teachers and counselors use the National Career Development Guidelines (NCDG) to create middle school career education resources, career self assessment tests and tools. Career knowledge, skills, and decision-making processes use the NCDG Guidelines.

The NCDG Guidelines have three domains, goals, and indicators of mastery under each career development goal.

The three domains are:

  • Personal Social Development (PS)
  • Educational Achievement and Lifelong Learning (ED)
  • Career Management (CM)

The learning competency stages are:

  • Knowledge Acquisition (K). Middle school students at the knowledge acquisition stage expand knowledge awareness and build comprehension. They recall, recognize, describe, identify, clarify, discuss, explain, summarize, query, investigate and compile new information about the knowledge.
  • Application (A). Middle school students at the application stage apply acquired knowledge to situations and to self. They seek out ways to use the knowledge. For example, they demonstrate, employ, perform, illustrate and solve problems related to the knowledge.
  • Reflection (R). Middle school students at the reflection stage analyze, synthesize, judge, assess and evaluate knowledge in accord with their own goals, values and beliefs. They decide whether or not to integrate the acquired knowledge into their ongoing response to situations and adjust their behavior accordingly.

An example of the Personal Social Development domain are:

  • PS1.K2 Identified your abilities, strengths, skills, and talents.
  • PS1.A2 Demonstrated use of your abilities, strengths, skills, and talents.
  • PS1.R2 Assessed the impact of your abilities, strengths, skills, and talents on your career development.

Key elements of Middle School Education Program

Based upon the National Career Development Guidelines, the key elements of a middle school career education program increase students’ awareness of their own interests and help them learn about a wide variety of occupations. The key elements of Middle School Education Program include –

  • Career exploration resources – Tests, web sites, books, and software
  • Interest inventories
  • Career portfolios
  • Field trips
  • Curriculum
  • Career days
  • Community partnerships

Career Tests

Middle school career tests provide information on the relationship between job interests, key characteristics, college majors, hobbies, abilities, and related careers. According to research, middle school students use career tests to identify the three high career activity interests, and the three low areas of interest. Avoiding low interest areas is far more important since low interest areas minimize personal motivation.

Career Portfolio

As a second key element, career portfolios record the journey from school to post secondary training and/ or the world of work. Career portfolios are a collection of –

  • Vision, goals, and dreams
  • Important resource people and contacts
  • Major career exploration goals and objectives
  • Learning activities, skill practice, fieldwork, interviews, opportunities and work experience
  • Personal, academic, and social strengths
  • Evaluation of skill and personal development performance in the major areas of career development
  • Junior high school courses liked most or least and the success in such courses
  • Extra curricular activities, e.g Sports, athletics, arts, computers, music, dancing, literature, writing, and speaking, and acting and success in such activities
  • Three high or low career interest activities and general aptitude areas
  • Three high potential job opportunities

Community Partnerships

In addition to career tests and portfolios, community resources served key elements. Examples of community resources and partnerships are –

  • Field trips to colleges, universities, community businesses and agencies
  • Community resource speakers
  • Career Services advisers, coaches, or counselors
  • Career awareness fairs
  • Special collaborative programs (Smith 2000)

Community resources and partnerships provide opportunities for students to explore the world of work. Community events expand the students’ understanding of job duties, work place skills, and the relevancy of school subjects. Middle school career education program provide students with awesome opportunities to gain self awareness as well as to explore and understand the world of work. Career exploration resources, career portfolios, community partnerships and career days create invaluable experiences.

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