Students in a P-TECH school need to “learn by doing” as much as possible. This occurs through the Workplace Learning curriculum, as well as in project-based learning opportunities in all core academic classes. Project-based learning focuses on real-world issues and teaches students how to collaborate and solve problems. Students learn how to build consensus and compromise as they elicit ideas and feedback. Developing these skills is vital to success in the workplace.
Student voice and choice are prominent within this instructional approach, where the teacher has a role more akin to facilitator. Teachers and students learn together, which helps students feel comfortable with adults as peers.
This democratized approach to learning helps students prepare for professional environments, where there might be little age difference between employer and supervisor, or where all employees are called by their first names, regardless of age or experience.
Industry Partners play a key role in the school’s project-based learning approach. They should work closely with high school and college faculty to connect academic content to real-world situations and to ensure that workplace readiness skills are also addressed.
Career Foundation Coursework
Career foundation courses are an example of project-based learning. These courses provide students with the knowledge and skills related to the school’s industry focus. They build on one another over the six-year model and involve a variety of enriching and engaging experiences.
Teachers, working with college instructors and industry professionals, design real-world situations to build academic knowledge and develop problem-solving, teamwork, and communication skills. Students have opportunities to interact with professionals as they also venture into businesses, college campuses, and the community as part of their learning.
Sample Career Foundation Pathway
At a school focused on careers in nursing and community health, for example, students in Year 1 will study the patterns and prevalence of disease in their school’s neighborhood. Acting as epidemiologists, the students construct community surveys to understand the issues around diseases. As they learn more about the diseases and the people afflicted, the students build their knowledge of medical terminology, types of treatment options, and gaps in services that may exist.
This learning happens through a well-constructed classroom curriculum. It also occurs through site visits to neighborhood medical centers, which provides students the opportunity to observe treatment of the diseases and efforts in public health outreach. Finally, students also engage with practitioners in the field and learn more about the career path of these professionals and how they deliver health services.
By Year 2, students will have sufficient background to propose new public outreach and awareness plans, as well as coordinated prevention plans.
These proposed plans will be assessed by a panel composed of high school and college faculty and industry professionals. Students working with public health professionals and community leaders will implement the most promising plan. Together, they will monitor this intervention, and construct pre- and post-assessments, as well as interim measures to test the success of the plan.
Students in Year 3 might have the opportunity to be certified phlebotomists as part of their college coursework and spend part of their school day at a medical center assisting nurses in drawing blood and checking vital signs.
In Year 4, Year 5, and Year 6, students will be engaged in practicum at increasing levels of challenge that give them valuable applied experience in their field. Nursing and community health students will be placed in health practicum experiences at the hospital, for example. Students will be supported and evaluated by the combination of the nursing program staff at their college, and by the supervising staff at their practicum placements. The final three years of the program are focused almost exclusively on the combination of work and coursework leading to the degree and certification in the field.