• Measuring SLOs: Comprehending the World of Work

    Spotlight for Career Services Professionals
    August 20, 2014

    by Kevin Gaw

    This Issue’s Student Learning Outcome (SLO)
    Students comprehend the world of work.

    What to Measure and Why

    Perhaps the most challenging part of this SLO is defining the phrase “world of work.” For some practitioners, it is comprised of general and specific workplace variables, such as expectations, work schedules, corporate culture, benefits, salaries, promotional ladders, and the like. For others, the phrase may encompass a person’s career/work themes, something similar to ACT’s global work “tasks” (working with data, ideas, people, and things) or Holland’s RIASEC Code: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional. And still others might add more layers to include one’s values, personality style, and abilities—and the work environments in which one can express all these combined elements and the interaction of these with others in the workplace. Fortunately, career counseling typically addresses all of these dimensions of the world of work: workplace variables, workplace tasks and themes, and intrapersonal and interpersonal variables (though not always in a unified manner). These three dimensions are like a web and each dimension, and elements within each dimension, interact with each other. This interactive complexity is an additional, and extremely important, learning point for students.

    The second challenge of this learning outcome is the “actionable” element: comprehend. This is a mental “event” that is very challenging to observe and therefore measure. To remedy this, simply state that students will demonstrate their comprehension of the world of work. The demonstration of the comprehension is what can be observed and measured.

    Without a doubt, helping students comprehend the world of work is critically important; this endeavor helps students express their career interests and develop accurate and realistic career expectations, and helps with their academic plans, retention, degree attainment, and their successful entry into their world of work.

    Actions That Prompt Student Learning:

    This is a career development SLO that requires students to engage in career counseling—reflection, dialogue, exploration, and testing assumptions are essential. This is not a “fast” single-session SLO as it requires time to digest and integrate the information; it is developmental.

    To gain the most, students will need to complete formal career assessments, conduct informational interviews, conduct site visits, reflect on themselves and the world around them, and engage in experiential activities (to mention the basics). The students will need to talk with their career counselors to make the connections and to diagram these connections to understand the complexity of each. It is through these discussions and the mapping that students demonstrate their comprehension of the world of work as it relates to them.

    World of Work
    Example Strategies to Develop Comprehension
    (in the context of career counseling)
    Workplace variables
    What to learn about: workplace and job expectations, work schedules, corporate culture, benefits, salaries, promotional ladders, and more.
    • Structured Informational Interview
    • Job Shadow
    • Occupational Outlook Handbook
    Workplace tasks and themes
    What to learn about: personal interests in working with data, things, people, ideas (to include the RIASEC)
    • Self-Directed Search
    • Strong Interest Inventory
    • SIGI3
    Intrapersonal and interpersonal variables
    What to learn about: personal values, personality style, workplace dynamics, personal abilities, and more.
    • Myers-Brigg Type Indicator
    • Values Clarification Exercises
    • Journal Exercises and Reflection

    Method of measurement:

    Have students record their observations using any system that allows them to organize their information and to reflect on the import of the information. (Note: If they are working on their career plan and values, as discussed in previous articles, they will have a head start.) The completed document demonstrates comprehension of the world of work, based on the student’s aspirations.

    If not complete, or if there are sticking points to completion, then the student has not demonstrated full comprehension and the gaps highlight areas for further exploration. The sample worksheet is just one way (of many) to do this. Students are instructed to complete the worksheet as homework and then use the worksheet in session to reflect on what they have learned. It is essential that each dimension is discussed in detail and the student has data with which to work, prior to assigning this as homework to maximize success.

    So, How Much Is Enough?

    For this career development SLO, comprehension requires demonstration. When a student can demonstrate full comprehension of the world of work as it relates to their career plans, he or she will be able to articulate a picture that includes all three dimensions. There is the assumption that this student is well on the way in planning her or his career, and is most likely a third- or fourth-year undergraduate (or a graduate student). As such, this SLO applies to a subset of our typical client base. This SLO “brings it all together” in many aspects, and could therefore be a major component of the career counseling plan. On a client-by-client basis, then, 100 percent completion may be appropriate.

    Kevin Gaw is senior director at university career services, Georgia State University.