Collaboration between Teachers and Career Specialists in Middle School
By Courtney Mincey
Generating interest in career development in middle school can be a great feat. Many students are exceedingly concerned about their grades for high school promotion or scoring well on standardized tests and end-of-credit exams, instead of the connection between their learning and professional future (Mupinga & Caniglia, 2019). These standards that students place on themselves can sometimes be reinforced by teachers, as they are often encouraged to solely focus the curriculum on core standards instead of additionally helping students learn how to be successful in their professional future. To ensure that students are not only able to pass tests but are also preparing for their next steps in their career development, it is necessary for students to explore careers and the professional world, even as early as middle school (Mupinga & Caniglia, 2019). Gottfredson (2002) emphasized how vital the environment of a student is to their career development and how crucial exposure to professional opportunities is to their growth and future career success. The importance of having opportunities in career exploration in middle school is also combined with the necessary encouragement from professionals within their educational institution (Mupinga & Caniglia, 2019). The shear opportunities themselves will not motivate students; it takes the encouragement from teachers and parents to push students in building their professional self-efficacy.
The addition of Career specialists in schools could add value to the tasks of planning, instructing, and divesting knowledge for students. These trained professionals can help teachers connect the dots for students between academic progression, cognitive development, and vocational awareness. Piaget’s stages of cognitive development (Gould & Howson, 2021) are focused on building organic skills students have through their social interactions. Gottfredson (2002) believed in paralleling that natural cognitive development and social learning to enhance the student’s knowledge of the vocational world so they can began to understand where they could fit in. Through the application of career specialists, Gottfredson’s theory of circumscription and compromise (2002) can guide students’ visualization of their future professional self and the various pathways they can take or help them discover alternate pathways based on their vocational development.
Benefits of Career Specialist Collaboration
By collaborating with career specialists, teachers benefit in many ways, such as:
- Front-loading: Teachers will be able to accentuate the professional goals of students while teaching core curriculum by viewing results of many different career development assessments and aligning them for student motivation. Using this information, career specialists can bring in real-world elements, such as speakers, trainers, etc., to enhance the units in their respective courses. Gottfredson (2002) recognized that students developing cognitively also started to become aware vocationally. As students meet people from different professions, they start to visualize characteristics of themselves and peers within those professions.
- Co-Planning & Co-Teaching: Bandura (1989) documented how people use their observation of their environments and actions of others to pick up on social norms. Mupinga and Caniglia (2019) recommended integrating career awareness into core and academic arts courses so students can familiarize themselves with professional behavior early in their career development. Career specialists focus on supporting individuals at different developmental levels in understanding the world of work and how they best fit into that world. This expertise can be beneficial in the classroom, as career specialists can assist teachers with planning, as well as teaching lessons, pertaining to career development at the middle school level. Their capabilities allow them to take specialized content and enhance it with activities and materials to strengthen students’ professional knowledge and skills. Through incorporation of career development and teacher guidance of students effectively using creativity, the student’s self-efficacy, personal responsibility, and performance readiness can be built (Conradty & Bogner, 2022). Together, teachers and career specialists will enhance student learning, give exposure to vocational skills, and make school more engaging (Lapan et. al, 2016).
- Parent Engagement: It is the relationship with students and their parents that builds the strongest bridge between their motivation and confidence to professional development (Lim & You, 2019). The parental influence on career development in children helps to develop the first understanding of vocational qualities, such as attitude, skills, and interests (Gottfredson, 2005). It is important that parents educate their students on their professional experiences and expose them to other professional opportunities that allow them to have more opportunities to explore the professional world.
Partnership for Success
Ultimately, it takes a collaborative approach to career development within middle school so that students succeed. The professional attributes of students must be encouraged, cultivated, and developed by the entire collection of people who surround them the most frequently for them to be their best professional selves for years to come. As Gottfredson’s theory (2005) acknowledged, students’ initial acquaintance to the professional world will induce their organic skills and abilities. By taking advantage of collaborating with career specialists in middle school, the school environment can be tailored to the needs of all students, staff will be educated on how to optimize their teaching and learning using career development and parents will understand how vital their role is in the successful professional development of their child. Each role tied together can be a partnership to make the educational and vocational experience for students an engaging and superior one.
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Gould, M., & Howson, A. (2021). Piaget’s stages of cognitive development. Salem Press Encyclopedia.
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Mupinga, D., & Caniglia, J. (2019). What middle school students know about careers and the influences surrounding their choices. Journal of Technology Studies, 45(1), 36–45.
Courtney Mincey, Ed.D., is a Career Development Facilitator at Beaufort County School District and is a Master of Career Services. Contact: DrCourtneyMincey@gmail.com