Friday, June 13, 2014

The Value of Experiential Learning

During my first semester supervising student teachers while at Central Michigan University, a very good student teacher that I was supervising declared to me during his exit interview that he decided he did not want to be a teacher. Four plus years, numerous of hours of study, significant financial output and here he was, about to graduate, and the most significant thing he learned was what he did NOT want to do for a living.  He contacted me several months later after having taken a real estate class at the community college, to let me know he was a realtor. 

I was reminded of this young man during a meeting this week where I learned about the EXCEL program (Experience-based Career Education and Learning) offered within the Las Cruces Public Schools.  The EXCEL program provides opportunities for students to explore careers through real work work experiences within the community.  This program is a collaborative effort between the Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce, local employers, educators and government agencies with the ultimate goal of helping high school graduates improve their work readiness skills. 

I believe there is another value to this program.  This program allows students to explore careers in low risk ways.  Students have the opportunity to work in a real world setting in a sector they think may be of interest to them.  Additionally, they can receive up to two elective credit hours from Doña Ana Community College at no cost to them.  During their experience they can decide if this is the career for them.  If they decide this is all they hoped it would be, they can pursue the type of education necessary to obtain the degree, certificate or credential necessary to enter to job.  If they decide this is not the career for them, they can begin anew exploring other opportunities for their future.  The students gain job readiness skills, they gain real work experience, and they form conclusions within a low risk setting. 

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