Alliance teams map strategies to improve career learning

When teams in our Future Ready Alliance convened in October to plan career learning improvements for their districts and schools, a management consultant versed in organizational behavior coached them on making the changes without making waves.

“Trying to change things in schools is really hard,” said Wayne A. Jones, Senior Consultant with Social Science Consultants, adding that the job can be easier if teams first create a “culture for change.” 

“Creating psychological safety is the most important thing because it enables risk-taking and learning,” he said, noting that resistance to change boils down to neurobiology. Habits become hardwired in the brain so people need to accommodate change with new neural pathways. Because of that, changes of any kind can be both threatening and tiring.

Psychological safety can help alleviate both, Jones said.

The tips were welcome at a time when all schools are facing new standards around career education and gearing up for assessment against the state’s new “Future Ready Index,” which comprises a mix of indicators and incentivizes career awareness instruction beginning in elementary school.

The standards and the index figured into the projects most Alliance teams are planning for the year.

McKeesport Area School District’s team, for example, was working on a plan for “industry based learning” across grade levels, among other things.

Similarly, a team from South Park Middle School was working to incorporate strategies across subject areas and grade levels, such as thematic instructional units, that teachers can use to address each new standard.

South Park is one of three newcomers to the Alliance this year, along with teams from Mt. Pleasant and Montour school districts. Participating teams now hail from 17 districts in all.