It was one of the most memorable moments for ABE in 2018—coming together as a community at Amgen Dun Laoghaire in Ireland, seeing the very latest in technology operating at the beautiful manufacturing facility. ABE program site staff toured in small groups, asking questions of employees and getting a sense of what day-to-day operations look and feel like in aseptic manufacturing. For many program site teams, this kind of tour is an experience they’d like to share with their ABE teacher community. There is an abundance of evidence to suggest that engaging teachers this way, when done with intention, can have great impact on student learning (Kantrov, 2014).
Why Industry Experiences Are Important for Teachers
As most teachers will tell you, educator preparation programs are (naturally) focused on the world of education. For teachers, the workplace usually means “school.” When teachers are asked to help their students make real-world connections between academic content and the world of work, they can feel intimidated and under-equipped, with little specific knowledge on which they can draw. As Kate Torii points out, “Teachers play a central role in school-industry partnerships, yet many lack the time and expertise to form partnerships with industry, and integrate partnership activities with teaching the school curriculum” (Torii, 2018). When a program like ABE can support teachers in seeing an authentic workplace in action, the experience can provide teachers with firsthand observations and insights that they can bring to life for their students and that will infuse curricula with relevancy and authenticity.
Scaffolding Work-based Learning
When program sites design work-based learning for ABE teachers, it’s important to be intentional about the specific outcomes for each experience. Work-based learning for teachers can take place along a continuum of depth and intensity, just as it does for students. Want to help teachers get an initial sense of what happens in a biotech manufacturing plant? Work with a partner company to organize a tour. Supporting teachers in infusing industry skills into curricula? Design a more intensive Q&A or “speed dating” session in which teachers can talk with employees about how they apply specific skills in their work, and then provide structured time for teachers to adapt a lesson or unit afterwards. If you have experienced teachers who are ready to develop a truly integrated course or project, help them seek opportunities for “externships,” in which they can spend anywhere from 3 days to a week on site within a company, engaging in a job shadow or hands-on observation and practice of workplace tasks.
Teachers can be the gatekeepers who make the difference in how students perceive the world of work and their place within it. Supporting teachers in “speaking the language” and gaining a deep understanding of what biotech looks and feels like in action is an important step forward in bringing authentic science to students.
For more information on strategies for connecting teachers to industry, contact Jessica Juliuson (firstname.lastname@example.org).