Monitoring Employability Skills in Class

Only 15 weeks, a heavy topic to teach, and now employability skills too?!?! How do I find time for that in my class? In physics, we do it outside of class, and here’s how.

Before day 1, I go into the grade book and give everyone 50 employability points. I have preset the grade column to account for 5% of the total grade for the course. This is cool because everyone on day one has 100%. This is a good warm and fuzzy way to begin the course.

In the syllabus, I list the employability skills given for the college. At NWTC these include:

  • Communicate effectively
  • Think critically and creatively
  • Work cooperatively and professionally
  • Solve problems effectively
  • Demonstrate personal accountability
  • Demonstrate community and global accountability

On Day 1, I take great pains to discuss core competencies/employability skills. I define my expectations, and make it clear that with so much to cover in physics this piece will happen largely outside of class.

In the first 5 minutes of every class, I pass around a sign-in sheet. Names only, no identifying information.  When I get it back, I highlight anyone who isn’t on it. After class one, I don’t even have to talk about it as the paper goes around.

If students come in late, they sign in during the first break in our 3 hour class. They get their name on the sheet, but it’s over the highlight, so I know they are tardy.

In the structure of class, if a poor professionalism choice occurs, I jot down a note. I may not even stop teaching. Examples are texting, sleeping, or excessive talking over others. I keep these notes with the attendance sheets.

Once a week, I take points away from the students who have lost them. This process for 100 students tends to take about 30 minutes during an office hour. I also found that the time decreases through the semester as behaviors are modified.

HERE’S THE KEY TO HELPING STUDENTS:

When you modify a grade, you can click on “add a comment” and let them know why they lost points. I take away from 3 to 10 points depending on the level of the offense, and the number of times it has happened. In the end, students have a record of where their points went. It makes a great discussion with those students about how little offenses add up (or in the case of a grade take away), and what happens with a real boss when you annoy them with a bunch of little offenses. Also, it covers your bases when they complain you were unfair to show where they went.

Helpful Hints:

  • Tell students after the first time you remove points from offenders. That way they go and check their grade. Many are surprised to see missing points and will quickly correct behaviors. When they see tardiness take their grade down, they get it pretty fast.
  • Be real with students. If you get the “But you didn’t catch Bill and he was texting too!” complaint, point out the reality that people often do wrong things at work, and it only hurts them when they get caught by a supervisor. Bill is not likely to remain a friend now that you have ratted him out. The workplace is not always perfectly fair, but in the law of averages all offenders get caught sooner or later. You can’t see every thing at every time. Then, enforce that the argument is irrelevant because the only grade that should matter to them is their own.

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