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Member Kudos: Marketing at H.H. Dow High, Midland Public Schools

2015 Education Excellence Award Recipient

DashBoard, Aug. 19, 2015

The 20 recipients of the 2015 MASB/SET SEG Foundation Education Excellence Awards are some of the greatest examples of unique and innovative public school programs in the state of Michigan. Over the next few months, MASB will share the details of each program from their applications, presented in alphabetical order by district. This week we highlight the Marketing program at H.H. Dow High in Midland Public Schools.

Description: The Marketing students at H.H. Dow High embarked on a project-based learning unit with the driving question of “Do you have what it takes to be the next Apprentice?” Knowing that the popular television show, The Apprentice, is essentially a lengthy task-based interview, students were challenged to prepare for individual and team interviews with business representatives. The project incorporated required technical skills affiliated with the employability unit such as:

  • skill and interest assessments
  • identifying multiple sources of career information
  • researching labor market information
  • identifying career training, education and certification requirements
  • developing career goals, objectives and strategies
  • identifying positive work behaviors and qualities necessary to gain and retain employment
  • developing a career plan and portfolio with a resume, references, letters of recommendation, employment application, honors, activities, awards and volunteering
  • identifying professional attire appropriate for an interview
  • successfully completing an interview

Additionally, developing skills in communication, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration were a central focus of the project and critically important to employability. A unique feature of the project was the level of interaction students had with local business representatives. This occurred throughout the learning process with expert presenters and mentors and culminated with actual interview day.

Funding/Resources: During the summers of 2013 and 2014, the marketing teacher participated in district-sponsored PBL workshops. The 2013 professional learning session provided a strong foundation in PBL resulting in the development of an initial unit. During the 2014 professional learning session, the teacher expanded her knowledge and practice resulting in the development of an Interview Day PBL unit that targeted technical standards and 21st century skills while connecting 91 marketing students with the business community.

The greatest resource for the Interview Day unit was the business community with many representatives serving as classroom presenters and interviewers. Interviewers from the community were employed by a variety of businesses, such as large corporations, franchise businesses, local small entrepreneurs and retired human resource personnel.

Interviewers were recruited by the teacher with assistance from the Midland Area Chamber of Commerce. Guest speakers from Northwood University, Men’s Wearhouse, small business owners, Baker College, Davenport University and Full Sail University served as expert presenters, engaging students in career search activities as well as practice interview questions and creating portfolios. Funds were used to purchase professional portfolios for students so they could appropriately present their resume and supporting documentation during the interview process.

Outreach: The learning goal listed on the board each day for the project was the following: To obtain a job over your peers by having superior communication skills, critical thinking skills to answer interview questions and a professional portfolio.

Using the hit TV show, The Apprentice, the teacher engaged students by having them predict who would hear “You’re Fired.” The communication, critical thinking and real world critique required by this activity fostered essential business skills in all students.

Prior to beginning the project, guest speakers from the Art Institute, Baker College and Full Sail University facilitated classroom discussions about careers, job outlooks and college costs. During this period students:

  • Understood the many career options, the likelihood of working in that industry based on workforce data and trends, and the education required for particular careers.
  • Identified a career option: Throughout the lessons and affiliated activities, such as job shadowing a professional in the field and guest speakers that highlighted many different career opportunities.
  • Researched the importance and impact of body language and communication skills. These frontloading lessons were critical in setting the stage for the Interview Day PBL unit and for overall student success inside and outside of the classroom.

A Northwood University representative kicked off the Interview Day project. The speakers focused on the importance of the 4C skills in obtaining and maintaining a job. Through engaging activities, students asked questions pertaining to employability skills, interview practices and other aspects of employment. The speaker played an interactive interview game in which students used 4C skills to build on the answers of other students to create quality questions.

  • Students realized the need to cultivate inquiry skills in order to perform well in an interview and employment setting. Additional opportunities to hone 4C skills included:
  • Daily interview question activities. Students realized the importance of thinking quickly, critically and creatively to formulate responses, while communicating in an effective and professional manner.
  • Collaborative partnerships. Students paired to craft creative and professional question responses. Observers were asked to discuss the responses and provide feedback pertaining to the content, body language and voice.
  • Interviewing techniques. Students researched and asked questions using the STAR interview technique.
  • Group interview experience. Students practiced group interview skills and recorded the interviews for future reflection and analysis opportunities.

Creating an employment portfolio was a critical project requirement. Students completed the following elements:

  • Resume development: Served as an opportunity for self-reflection as students began to realize gaps in their employment experience, volunteer activities, academic preparedness and school involvement. This resulted in students becoming more involved and engaged in a variety of activities and several seeking actual employment.
  • Obtaining letters of recommendation: Students learned how to properly request a letter of recommendation verbally and by submitting a written request including key points of evidence the writer could choose to incorporate into the letter.
  • Work reflection: Students included work samples for various classes, evidence of experiences with student clubs, sports, volunteer activities and employment.
  • Web page development: Students created professional Web pages using the popular Web page development site Weebly. They used the documentation from their hard copy portfolio and included all aspects of their Web page.
  • Other forms of communication: To round out the importance of professional communication, students were challenged to create an appropriate outgoing message for their voicemail, create an email address that was for professional use and an appropriate email signature.

The capstone of this project was for students to participate in a mock interview with representatives from local businesses and attend a seminar.

  • Students received a minimum of two individual interviews and one team interview: Students showcased their skills and presented themselves in a professional manner.
  • Students also participated in a seminar: From an industry expert students learned more about how to communicate during phone interviews and created a LinkedIn page.

This unit stood out above typical classroom work by giving students powerful experiences with immediate feedback. The overall project provided a variety of opportunities for students to develop and exhibit 4C skills while gaining the technical skills needed for success in employment situations.

Results: The use of the PBL strategy for interview day increased learning in the required technical standard and advanced student use of critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration. Students became more aware of professional standards and practices while taking ownership in their learning. The following includes evidence of student assessment results, students’ opinion and interviewer opinion.  

  • A random interview question verbal pretest and posttest was given to students from each class and the goal was to increase scores by one point level. The average of the pretest students on a scale of 1-5 was 2.591(1= does not meet expectations and 5 = exceeds expectations) The goal was exceeded when students increased beyond the 3.591 to 4.077.
  • The number of students obtaining a practice interview with an adult other than the teacher increased from 46 percent (42/92) in 2013 to 100 percent in 2014 and 2015.

Students first practiced interview day with their arm partner and then their group of three peers. The students and teacher provided immediate feedback allowing students to revise answers and modify other aspects of their communication in response to the questions. Students were assessed by their peers and the interviewer on the following criteria:

  • Nonverbal communication: Maintained eye contact. Used positive body language (facial expressions, gestures)/posture. Conveyed enthusiasm and interest. Refrained from fidgeting or nervous movements. Demonstrated professional appearance and appropriate attire. Attentive and respectful when others are speaking.
  • Verbal communication: Avoided filler words (Umm, like, I mean, you know). Used proper grammar: avoided slang, abbreviations and acronyms. Paused to organize thoughts prior to responding to difficult questions. Eager to respond to questions but did not monopolize the conversation.
  • Responses to question: Provided clear and concise responses with appropriate vocal tone. Emphasized strengths and highlighted unique skills. Provided specific examples with results and accomplishments to illustrate relevant experiences and skills.
  • Other points to consider: Remained positive. Portrayed self-confidence. Finished strong. Demonstrated interest by asking relevant questions.

In addition, the teacher also assessed student work and work habits throughout the project on the components noted below:

  • Portfolio grade to teacher
  • Weebly page to teacher
  • Student evaluation of self and peer interviews
  • Evaluation from team and individual interview
  • Thank you note written after interview
  • Unit evaluation

Upon completion of the formal interview day the business representatives provided feedback regarding their experience and the preparedness and success of students. All business participants stated students were well prepared or extremely well prepared.
Other feedback included:

  • “I’ve interviewed high school, college and Ph.D. candidates in my time at DC and I was sincerely impressed with the way these students presented themselves. Kudos to the kids and their teacher.”
  • “Most students were spot on with their interviewing skills and well prepared.”
  • “Students were extremely professional, fully engaged and respectful of their fellow students’ responses during ‘group interview’ discussions.”
  • “Students were prepared and presented themselves very well.”

Additional evidence supporting the overall success of the interview day included student survey results. The following comments are evidence of the effectiveness of this project from a student perspective:

  • “As you know, I've been trying to get a job; as you heard I ended up getting called in for an interview at the Eastman McDonald's! For my interview I applied all the things I had learned in your class (I dressed up, took our portfolio) and went in for my interview. After having made friendly chitchat with the manager I handed her my portfolio and the interview began. She proceeded to tell me how extremely wowed, surprised and just breathless she was to see such a wonderfully put together portfolio and then continued on to hire me on spot!! (which she informed me that they have never done that before) I just wanted to thank you for all you have taught me in your classes, and to let you know, it REALLY does make the difference! “
  • “I loved the job interviews. I believe that was the most relevant assignment to the out-of-school world and I believe it will help me in the future when I apply for jobs or internships.”
  • “I just interviewed for a pilot instructor position at Western Michigan University and they offered me the job and were WOWED by the portfolio. They couldn’t believe I made it in high school.”
  • “The interview project was not the most fun thing we did all year, but I know that what I have gained from that will be invaluable in the future.”

Additional Information: Nearly all young adults will encounter an interview for various reasons such as a job, scholarship, college entrance or volunteer opportunity. The ability to succeed in competitive interviews takes practice and there are not many opportunities in a high school curricula for students to develop these skills and have practice interviews with business representatives. The Interview Day project provides students with that special opportunity while bolstering 4C skills.

Another aspect of this project that makes it unique is that throughout the process, students have opportunities to reflect on their current life experiences and identify gaps that require improvements so they can set a better course to meet their education, career and life goals. As students develop their portfolio with letters of recommendations, resume, references, honors, awards, volunteer experience and work samples many students begin to realize they need to make dramatic changes in the behavior, achievement, involvement and attitude. There are students who do not receive the required three letters of recommendation or do not have three adult references because they are unable to find adults who are willing to recommend them.

This project serves as a wakeup call for many students and has resulted in students improving school attendance, building positive relationships with adults, and developing more positive attitudes about all facets of school and life. As a result of this project, many students have begun to join student clubs and seek volunteer opportunities. The initial motivation might have been to better fill out a resume, but the students realized the true benefits from these activities as they became involved.

As an example, the local Humane Society visited the class and discussed the importance of volunteering and their passion for helping animals. Several students connected with that organization and immediately began volunteering. Similarly, several students immediately applied for part-time jobs after realizing that sitting at home playing video games was not giving them the experience and advantage needed for future endeavors. The self-reflection that occurs as a result of this project and the actions students take to modify their behavior and activity is powerful.

These combined with the other outcomes make this project worth continuing and worth ensuring that every student in the program has the full experience including the project capstone, the interview day. The teacher ensures that students who are absent on the actual interview day still have an opportunity for both individual interviews and team interviews.

What makes this project innovative is that this is an event specific to this high school. The teacher used to participate in an event put on for the county so students could gain interview experience. Due to the growth of the teacher’s classes this experience was no longer available to them because of the number of students. The teacher decided that this experience, reflection and portfolio are so important that she would reach out to the community on her own and plan an event for just her students.

Due to this, the teacher had flexibility to meet the demands of her student population in regards to types of interviews that the students would be exposed to. In the past, the students did not have an opportunity for team interviews and in discussions with students and employers found this method to be very common. In addition, instead of having a seminar on teambuilding the teacher once again took her cue from employers, parents and students for topics and found that phone interviewing skills and LinkedIn are becoming vital components when seeking employment.

Program Coordinator: Scott Cochran, CTE Director, cochranjs@midlandps.org

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