Career Simulations

Here is an article that we found online that describes the importance of Career simulations and how they can better prepare students for the workforce:

Career educators and counselors have long recognized that factual information about careers and employability skills, presented in traditional classroom formats, insufficiently prepares students to enter an increasingly complex workplace.

Various authors (e.g., Barth, 1984; Klausmeier & Daresh, 1983) have suggested that a shift toward a stronger experiential learning focus in career education could help students make the transition from fact-based learning about employment to skilled job performance.

These suggestions have led to an increase in experiential career education initiatives such as work experience, job shadowing, and co-op education. These programs offer many advantages; however, they are extremely complex to manage, are often difficult to access and may represent too large a leap from traditional classroom instruction for students with special problems or poor work histories (Price, 1991). The in-class employment simulation has been proposed to provide either an intermediate step between classroom instruction and work placement or a substitute for placement programs where these are not available (or where the student is not ready for them) (Cairns & Woodward, 1994).

To be useful, a simulation must model all of the important skills necessary for a successful transition to work and in subsequent employment maintenance. It must be sufficiently complex to be credible to students, sufficiently comprehensive to satisfy curriculum requirements, and sufficiently uncomplicated to be used by teachers who may be unaccustomed to experiential approaches to teaching and learning.

Effective work simulations offer the following features:

1. An accurate underlying model of the workplace, containing realistic representations of the workplace, a high degree of similarity between decisions in the simulation and those required in real-life, and realistic, real-life consequences.

2. Objectives which reflect desirable knowledge (facts, concepts, generalizations), skills (literacy, numeracy, self-management, problem solving), and attitudes (cooperation, leadership, initiative).

3. A method for assessing the learner’s entering behaviors, skill levels, and employment-related knowledge and attitudes.

4. Activities which engage and challenge the learner while providing opportunities for frequent, overt learner responses to increasingly complex situations; encountering the realistic consequences of personal decisions, evaluating these, and predicting future outcomes: receiving personalized and immediate feedback; reflective self-evaluation through student record keeping (journals or equivalent); instructor review of student progress; multiple evaluation methods built in to the work process, (e.g., teacher observation checklists, student journal writing or ‘lab’ reports, structured group discussions, and the use of videotaping; a positive record of extensive field testing, to allow potential users to evaluate the validity of the simulation for their context; a well designed and detailed instructor’s manual; sufficient structural flexibility to allow the simulation to be adjusted to meet the needs of particular teachers, counselors, and learners and availability of teacher in-service or other forms of support for teachers who are not familiar with the use of simulations in the classroom or with the specifics of one particular program.

The effectiveness of a simulation in a specific context will also depend upon a number of additional factors:

–Characteristics of the learning environment, such as the availability of adequate resources (classroom time, appropriate space) and materials to allow full use of the method.
-The goodness of fit between the larger curriculum learning objectives and the simulation design.
–The particular learner’s needs and characteristics.
–The teacher’s or counselor’s knowledge of, and willingness to use, experiential methods, including adherence to program instructions and effective debriefing procedures.

In Conclusion:
Educators are increasingly suggesting that individuals, especially those in secondary and post-secondary education, should have the opportunity to actively experiment with realistic problems as a principal approach to learning (Thatcher, 1990). Some elements of successful preparation for employment, such as resume writing and appropriate interview behavior, have traditionally been taught, at least partially, through the use of experiential activities in the classroom. However, a more comprehensive approach is needed to teach students to combine discrete skills into a smooth, personal work performance. A workplace simulation can be an effective way to bridge the gap between students’ initial cognitive understanding of employability skills and their full engagement in the workplace, with its attendant risks of failure and discouragement (Cairns & Woodward, 1994).

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