Career Development Project Promoting Lifelong Learning


The newly re-branded Career Development Services (CDS) Department of the HEART Trust/NTA, is developing a Career Development Policy that will become an integral part of the thrust to promote lifelong learning “from the cradle to the grave” among Jamaicans.
To this end, the Department, previously known as Professional Guidance Information Services (PROGIS), has embarked on infusing a new learning approach based on career development, being piloted as the Career Development Initiative Pilot (CADIP) Project into the secondary school curriculum.
“We are promoting lifelong learning because what we find is that persons who leave the school system without the qualifications necessary, it is very difficult to get them back in any learning situation. And it’s because of the experience they had while they were in the formal setting.”
“So we are looking at how can we change the experience they have from very early in the school setting to make school a pleasant place, so that even if they don’t do very well at the end of their years of schooling in a formal sense, then it would not be difficult for them to get back in a learning situation. And so when we talk about lifelong learning, we’re talking about from the cradle to the grave,” explains Vilma Freeman, Executive Director of Career Development Services.
The Unit says that this process of acculturation towards continuous learning will require the attitudes and mindset that can be acquired from the career-centric approach being pushed by the CDS/CADIP.
“For lifelong learning to make sense, we need to have a career development arm. Career development asks the question: ‘Who am I? Where am I going? How do I get there?’ With the labour market changing so rapidly, lifelong learning is now the solution, because getting there you really have to become a lifelong learner,” she emphasizes.
The project, launched in 2005, is being tested with two batches of students- one from Edwin Allen High School in Clarendon and the other from Cumberland High in Portmore, St Catherine – and will conclude its third and final phase in the upcoming school year.Using the methodology, teachers are encouraged to draw on students’ personal interests, learning styles, talents, strengths and weaknesses to guide the learning process.
Miss Freeman informs that the CADIP Project was designed following a visit to Jamaica by career consultant, Dr. Cal Crowe from Washington in 2004.
Dr. Crowe was invited to Jamaica by the PROGIS Unit to conduct seminars for principals, managers, education officers, counsellors, students and teachers’ colleges, explaining how career development can be integrated into the delivery of lessons in the education system. The aim was to involve teachers in the process.
The programme’s methodology, she explains, is “geared to finding out all the information about the student and then using that information in delivering what it is you are teaching them.”
Helping students to relate the information they learn in class to their lives is the main thrust of this approach, which she notes can be applied to all subject areas. “But it is for the teacher to understand the concept and infusing it into what it is they are delivering. What it really is is about relevance,” she stressed.
While at the seminar, the Principal and the Guidance Counsellor of Edwin Allen High and the Guidance Counsellor of Cumberland High expressed an interest in implementing the programme in their schools.
“Because of the interest of the principal and guidance counsellor, we chose Edwin Allen as one of the rural pilot schools, because we were looking for a rural and an urban school,” she explains.
Cumberland High’s Guidance counsellor, Valentine Hutchinson also invited the Unit to work with his school. “With all the (self-esteem) issues that surround students from Cumberland, we asked if he would be interested in the programme representing the urban school,” Miss Freeman notes.
After gaining the principal’s permission, the programme was launched at both schools using the Grade Seven batch of students. Grade Seven Nine was selected at Edwin Allen and Grade Seven Two at Cumberland High as control groups. The classes were selected because it was felt that the impact would be more identifiable. Pre-tests were administered to the control groups, as well as the class above and below in both schools.
The intention was to sequester the students, that is, keep them together throughout the three years, infusing career development methods into their lessons, and studying the effect of the programme over time on this group of students to find out its impact on their performance.
A post-programme test will be administered at the end of Grade Nine and compared with the pre-test students completed at the beginning of the pilot.
In May of this year, a meeting was held with the two schools involved in the CADIP Project to examine its findings.
According to Miss Freeman, schools were advised to keep the class together as a group for the three-year pilot period.
However, it was discovered at the meeting that at Edwin Allen High students were removed from the group because they were promoted. “Some persons have been moved from the group. Because their performance level was so high, the teachers felt that in order to keep them engaged and challenged it would not be wise to keep them in Grade 79. About three persons went to (Grades) 81 or 82,” she informs.
This left students who were not promoted feeling “cheated”. “We had to try and motivate the students again, (but).they’re kind of settling back down. But that was really disruptive in terms of what we had agreed to initially,” she points out.
However, she notes that the small number that was moved will not create any major dislocation in the programmes or have any long term effects on the outcome of the study.
The promoted students are still being mentored by the persons who were trained in the project, and still have contact with the pilot class, Miss Freeman explains.
Another problem that has also affected the programme was the movement of the teachers who were specially trained for the initiative. Some left the schools for various reasons, such as maternity and study leave. “So we had to constantly be training and retraining new teachers,” Miss Freeman notes.
She informs that the Department will endeavour to train all teachers in the pilot schools in the methodology for the upcoming school term in an attempt to offset future repercussions of this nature, as well as to expose more teachers to the model.
The importance of following the guidelines was stressed at a CADIP Project meeting, which was attended by more than 70 students. “We were going through the process of again reminding persons about their skill, strengths, and talents, their learning style their interests, and for both schools to understand the importance of doing that exercise,” she indicates.
Miss Freeman stresses that the benefits of the project can only be achieved if teachers closely follow the guidelines. One shortcoming was the discovery that not all students had gone through the process of identifying their skills, strengths, talents, and interests, which is a critical part of the procedure where students record what they have learnt and how they can use it in their journals. “On the basis of that information, the teacher should be able to assess whether she has taught or the student has learnt anything. It is an evaluation of what they are learning, because we want them to understand what they have learnt in light of how they can use it, and in light of the relevance to their every day life,” Miss Freeman notes.
Students also do observation and write reports. “It’s about questioning and thinking.. a lot of skills are brought into this process,” she adds.
She informs that the Department is making efforts to fine tune the teaching procedure, and has approached teachers’ colleges to offer career development as one of their core courses. “You need to have a course that teaches career development and how to infuse it or integrate it into the delivery of every subject area, so students see relevance and become engaged in the class,” Miss Freeman points out.
The CADIP organizers have put the proposals to the Consortium Institution for Teacher Education (CITE), the organization responsible for development and implementation of Bachelor of Education programmes in teachers colleges.
“We thought it was important for all teachers to be exposed to the career development concept and how to integrate it into the delivery of the subject area. So far they have been receptive. We have spoken to Joint Board as well,” she tells JIS.
In this aspect of the programme, Miss Freeman explains, teachers are encouraged to learn about their students on a personal level, and use this information to help raise their confidence and self-esteem.
She notes that the Department will be reviewing “some of the indicators that we have established in terms of measuring the success of the programme, and see where there are problems.”
One of the recommendations from the meeting has already been implemented. A National Management Committee, comprising staff from CDS, and a management committee (made up of teachers) for each school has since been established to coordinate responses to issues as they arise.
In the meantime, the CDS continues to facilitate teachers and students involved in the project through regular on-going sessions and resources such as textbooks, sample lesson plans, as well as relevant posters. Field trips are also recommended to help students “to understand what the world is about,” Miss Freeman says.
“If we can use the project to create an environment in which persons are comfortable in school, then we are now looking at making school different so that persons become engaged, challenged and would want to continue to learn,” she notes.
Following a meeting last month with the Rationalization Project Steering committee and the Department, the Ministry of Education and Youth has indicated that it will look at the model in more detail.
Follow-up meetings are planned with heads of sections in the Ministry to discuss the project with an objective to possibly adopting the model in all the schools, Miss Freeman discloses.

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