Should We Do More to Connect School-Learning to Careers?

From a new study by the University of Maryland’s Michael Woolley:

Research and theory suggest that students learn more effectively when they perceive course content as relevant to their futures. The current research assessed the impact of CareerStart, a middle grades instructional strategy designed to advance the occupational relevance of what students are being taught in the core subjects—math, science, language arts, and social studies. CareerStart was introduced randomly in 7 of 14 middle schools in a diverse district with 3,295 students followed for 3 years. The analyses examined impact on end-of-grade test scores on math and reading exams. Findings confirm a significant treatment effect for math performance but no effect for reading performance.

The inability to raise reading scores in nothing new, but the math results are encouraging.  And though the gains were the result of a specific program, I think the best thing about “occupational relevance” is that even in the absence of a consistent instructional strategy it still ought to be possible to insert it into lessons. Over the course of an entire school year a short story or video here or there ought to have an impact on the way certain students view the importance of what they’re learning.

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