Well, it’s that time of year again. Each spring I present my students with my traditional Career Investigations unit, which culminates with research papers and presentations. What’s new this year? Well, I have overhauled the unit, broadened the scope, and placed more ownership of the assignment onto my students. I have turned the research paper assignment into project-based learning. For those of you who are not familiar with project-based learning, you might assume that the assignment is merely to complete a project. However, there is much deeper learning and extensive planning involved.

When I plan my classes, this unit looks like it lives at the end of the course. In reality, we work on it all year long. Throughout my Dreamer to Achiever course for teens and young adults, I guide my students in developing their self-awareness skills. At this point in the course, they have identified their preferred learning styles, explored their strengths and struggles, identified their core values, and taken interest surveys. Now it is time for them to answer the question, “What will you do after you graduate high school?”

For this unit, it is important to me to give students as much empowerment as possible. That’s why I provide a guiding question from which the students create their own, individualized essential question. I simply ask, “What will you do after you graduate high school?” This is a very motivating question, speaking to the students’ own lives. They are quite invested in finding their answers. What started out as a school assignment for a grade grows deeper and more personal, with questions about where to live and what type of education or experience to pursue. Students ask themselves, “Do I know what career path to take? How do I find the right college? Should I take a year off from school? Should I jump right into a career?” The possibilities for an essential question are limited only by the students themselves.

With ample opportunities for student choice, as well as checkpoints and documentation for accountability, my students are empowered to take this unit where they want it to go. I am excited as I watch my students learn and grow.









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