Teachers think often about how best to provide students with feedback that helps them continue to learn. This past year, as I considered how to foster the skills my students would need for the following year, I created a new final project and built up new ways to provide feedback.
The Dream Job
At Los Gatos High School, we have a four-year interdisciplinary pathway called LEAD@LG (Lead, Explore, Act, and Design at Los Gatos). I teach the ninth-grade English classes, and the students’ final project was to explore their dream job. I wanted students to have a personal job goal because supporting them in that future pursuit created authentic buy-in and allowed them to dream big. The students cared about researching the companies and analyzing the skills needed to achieve their goals.
After reading “How to Get a Job at Google,” students discussed the importance of soft skills and created cover letters and résumés for their dream job. The LEAD@LG pathway has five grading categories that align well with the soft skills reviewed in the article: knowledge and thinking, written communication, oral communication, collaboration, and agency. I gave students a résumé template organized with these categories at the top under a Skills section. For each category, they listed their projects that best showcased that particular skill.
Then they picked three projects they wanted to give more details about and featured them in the main section of the résumé and in their cover letter. These would be the projects they would reference during their interview with a community expert, which served as their final.
Finding experts who aligned with students’ fields of interest was key for this project’s success. I emailed the parents of our pathway, my fellow teachers, and other school and district staff to ask if they were willing to volunteer. I had plenty of willing participants who shared their fields of expertise with me, and then I split my classes of 28 students into four groups and assigned two interviewers to each group, doing my best to match up students and interviewers with similar interests.
Feedback: On the day of the final, interviewers and students were split among four office spaces in our building. These were real group interviews, and the community experts completed rubrics and shared feedback directly with students in person that day.
The rubric asked for feedback on the following:
- References specific examples
- Talks about specific soft skills the student developed
- Highlights strengths
- Answers questions maturely and provides insight
- Well prepared and professionally dressed
Students were excited and nervous before the interviews. When they returned to class, they shared how much it meant to them to have an adult in a field they cared about really listen to them talk about their goals and give them feedback. They were proud of themselves and the other students in the room and felt positive about the connections they had established. The “most initiative” award went to the student who had set up a summer internship with their interviewer.
The students wanted copies of their rubrics, so I scanned them using my phone and attached them in our learning management system. Then I added my own closing comments, including my hopes for each student for next year and their areas of growth that I was most proud of.
Since I didn’t sit in on the interviews, it was important that I do some pre- and post-interview work so students would know I heard them and didn’t base the grade purely on the rubric of an outsider. I had students practice interviewing with me before the final and gave them initial feedback scores. I also asked other students to give them feedback. I explained that their final interview could only enhance the grade they had already received.
After the interview, I asked students to reflect on their learning in videos created using Flipgrid. They spent three to five minutes addressing the following questions:
- After completing the interview, what are you most proud of?
- What would you do differently if you could do it again?
- What are some areas of growth?
- How do you plan to achieve them next year?
- What are you looking forward to in the summer?
Watching their reflections, I could see that students had learned about themselves and their peers. They reflected on the entire year and realized how far they had come, and set goals for themselves for next year. They received feedback from other students, from me, and from experts in their chosen field in writing and in person. It was a very meaningful way to close the school year.