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Developing collaborative projects with employers

Inviting an employer to do a one-off talk to a group of students is very different to creating a collaborative project with an authentic challenge.
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GERARD LISTON: Inviting an employer to do a one-off talk to a group of students is very different to creating a collaborative project that allows students to encounter an employer in the context of a purposeful challenge. In terms of planning, the former can be slotted in between scheduled lessons. But the latter needs to be knitted into schemes of work and planned into learning outcomes. Creating a collaborative project should essentially achieve three things. It should tackle real problems and issues that have importance to people beyond the classroom– in this case, the partner employer. It should give students a chance to apply their learning using real information and making choices during the project.
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And it should have a tangible outcome– typically, showcasing students’ work. And it’s often knowing an employer will see their work that motivates them. The process requires creativity, a bit of lateral thinking, and probably preparation of some classroom resources. The employer may provide information and resources, either in person or remotely. Let me give you some examples. A window manufacturer helped fifteen year old students to learn about polymers by creating a collaborative project that asked students for fresh ideas about uses for their extruded uPVC. Working with enterprise Rent-A-Car, students were challenged to use their math skills and work out the best use of space for a new depot they purchased.
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And finally, a dental practice worked with a local school to develop teaching materials for science lessons, helping to teach a tricky part of the curriculum by giving the teacher videos and presentations that showed people working the dental practice using X-ray technology safely in their jobs.
Inviting an employer to do a one-off talk to a group of students is very different to creating a collaborative project that allows students to encounter an employer in the context of a purposeful challenge. In terms of planning, the former can be slotted in between scheduled lessons, whilst the latter needs to be knitted into schemes of work and planned into learning outcomes.
Shaping a purposeful challenge that feels real to students will require discussion with the employer to identify a relevant and current issue as the foundation for the task. The process also requires some creativity, a bit of lateral thinking and most likely the creation of some new classroom resources. Remember, this type of activity is also a good opportunity to reinforce the essential skills that we explored in Week 2. Teamwork, Creativity and Problem Solving are often involved in employer focused challenges.
The employer may provide information and resources either in person or remotely. For example, a video to set the challenge, a promise to come back and give feedback at the end of the project, with opportunity for the students to present, and perhaps a ‘VIP’ site visit for students who rise to the challenge.

Evaluate

Below are linked two case studies. Choose one of these case studies to review and share your thoughts below. In particular, we are interested in your views on the case studies strengths and where there might be opportunities to improve on their approach.
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