MEtaMorph: Early Signposts on the Learning Journey
In the State of Ohio, students must choose a career-oriented curriculum as early as 10th grade. With that in mind, and as part of its participation in the College and Career Transitions Initiative (CCTI), a team at Sinclair Community College created MEtaMorph, a career journey curriculum for 9th grade students.
The notion of career exploration in the 9th grade pays huge dividends to community colleges, in that future students learn what they need to know for occupations and why. Community college completion rates are alarmingly low; some studies show that only 14 percent of first-time, full-time freshmen in the community college finish a degree or certificate in 150 percent of time – that is, for a two-year degree, three years, and for a one-year certificate, a year and a half.
At every level, MEtaMorph is about transformation. It is a remarkable program that provides a guided career discovery experience targeted to ninth grade students. Conceived and developed in response to a career guidance gap at the 9th grade, MEtaMorph has evolved into a model for both collaborative curriculum development and integrated, simultaneous learning experience delivery.
MEtaMorph embeds career guidance tools and techniques within the framework of English language arts standards, and it uses a web-based delivery system. It emphasizes academic rigor, articulated performance standards, and the assessment of student capabilities in alignment with the No Child Left Behind Act.
What is MEtaMorph? It is web-based curriculum that can easily be adapted by other school districts nationwide. It encompasses thorough career exploration that includes assessments, high school planning, postsecondary planning, and career goal setting. It includes a unit that encompasses research and financial planning for college and other postsecondary options. MEtaMorph covers high school language arts competencies including researching, analyzing, reporting, essay writing, and critical thinking. It incorporates computer and internet competencies such as keyboarding, web searches, and links. And it includes a critical parental component that enhances communication at home regarding a student’s career goals.
MEtaMorph provides a context for life and for learning. For many students, it appears to be the first time they make the powerful link between education and work, and as a result, begin to take charge of their life and learning decisions. The curriculum encourages students to begin making a real, meaningful connection among their personal vision, their long-range career goals, and the educational pathway that connects the two. Equally important, students create their own customized plan of action to guide the important decisions they will begin making in the 10th grade.
The MEtaMorph development process started with the premise that educational transformations depend on academic rigor and well-defined pathways. A critical component of long-term success is the emphasis on educational pathways that relate to viable careers. Similarly, career guidance is fundamental to successful pathway implementation. The MEtaMorph development process, therefore, cannot be separated from quality pathway development. The project was developed and implemented, in fact, as part of Sinclair Community College’s College and Career Transitions Initiative site improvement plan, and it demonstrates that rigor in career decision making is as important as rigor in academics.
The MEtaMorph development process was a fast-paced, collaborative effort. The working team consisted of 23 people, representing five counties and nine school districts, as well as the Center for Occupational Research and Development and the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce. This team was led by the project director, who guided each stage of the project from startup through launch to ensure work was completed in one year.
The initial content development process was focused and accelerated. In one intense week, the cross-functional working team translated the curriculum flow into specific competencies, brainstormed lesson activities, identified relevant career-based websites to support the web-based activity structure, and flushed out lesson and activity content using the pre-established templates. Subteams of two or three teachers and career development coordinators collaborated to develop one lesson each from the targeted curriculum flow.
The purpose of the MEtaMorph curriculum is to provide 9th grade students with a targeted, challenging career exploration curriculum. The goal is to help them discover essential career information, develop higher-level thinking skills, and begin to make real life connections. These activities are crucial, since in the 10th grade, Ohio high school students must determine whether they intend to pursue a college prep, College Tech Prep, career-technical, or alternate education pathway.
MEtaMorph consists of seven lessons, i.e., an initial introductory lesson plus six content lessons. The unit requires approximately 15 45-minute periods, or roughly three weeks, depending upon the teacher, the students, and the environment. Each lesson includes assessment questions or tools, along with reflective questions designed to help students see how their career knowledge and vision are evolving. To analyze the overall effectiveness of the pilot content and strategy, pre- and post-pilot surveys were conducted, and these assessments will continue as MEtaMorph is implemented across more schools and districts.
The sequence of lessons moves from highly general, broad-ranging topics and thought processes to more specific education and career considerations. This pattern uses a whole-to-part strategy and emulates the module architecture developed with the National Science Foundation funding by the National Center for Manufacturing Education at Sinclair Community College. The curriculum structure and discovery-based approach reinforce the defined Ohio Graduation Test instructional strategy, which helps students begin to see their education and careers as a series of interconnected decisions and events over which they can exert influence and control, rather than a collect ion of random happenings.
The lessons systematically move students from career exploration that includes interest assessments to high school planning, postsecondary planning, and career goal setting. Every lesson requires basic language arts skills, such as researching, reading, writing, and using critical thinking to analyze the caliber of information viewed. As a whole, the curriculum incorporates a diverse range of language arts competencies that include using a variety of communication techniques, such as oral, visual, written, or multimedia reports. Because MEtaMorph is a web-based curriculum, students simultaneously develop and expand computer and internet competencies, such as keyboarding, conducting online research, and accessing and exploring related links.
A career journey theme emphasizes that self-discovery, education, and career preparation are ongoing processes. The theme also provides a connecting thread that ties the diverse lesson topics into a cohesive whole.
MEtaMorph was tested in a variety of schools using a disciplined pilot process. The primary goal was to determine if the new curriculum was sound, easy for teachers and students to use, and effective in helping students understand critical education and career options.
The pilot test findings were dramatic. MEtaMorph participants demonstrated significantly greater career awareness and planning knowledge after completing the web-based lessons and activities. The t-test results revealed a highly significant t-score. They also demonstrated significantly more career awareness than the 10th grade control group, which didn’t participate in the MEtaMorph curriculum.
MEtaMorph was significantly effective across student achievement levels. The English teachers reported that they found the material valuable, not only in developing career awareness, but also in developing students’ language arts skills. In addition, they reported that students enjoyed working with the materials.
The pilot test results are unequivocal. MEtaMorph works!
Additional information about the MEtaMorph curriculum, training opportunities, and pilot test findings is available on the Miami Valley Tech Prep Consortium website (www.mvtechprep.org). Additional comments and detailed feedback from students, educators, and experts can be viewed online.
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