What do Employers Want?

Fellow blogger Dave Stuart, Jr. published this fabulous blog post  “12 Skills the Common Core and Employers Want” on January 4, 2014. Please go read it and then come back.

Here is the book that Dave was quoting from:

college book

I am in the process of reading the book, but I couldn’t wait to get to the end before posting this!

Here’s my shortened “Cliff-Notes” version of Dave’s post that I have been analyzing for the last ten days. Did you notice which Common Core Anchor Standards were most important to employers?

Which skills were #1, #2, and #3?  Did you notice that those were all three Speaking and Listening Standards?  And the content is way beyond an obligatory, one semester “Speech” class.

Study the chart for a few minutes and notice the color coding for the Anchor Standards?  What patterns do you notice?  (ahem, a bit of #close reading required!)  Are there other standards that you would consider adding based on the full quotations in Dave’s blog?

College Table

For the 12 features, the following ELA anchor standards were listed:

    • 4 Speaking and Listening Standards (yellow)
    • 10 Writing Standards (green)
    • 4 Language Standards (blue)
    • 4 Reading Standards (white)

Is that what you expected?  Granted, some standards are included in more than one feature. In the world of English Language Arts, there are 32 Anchor Standards.  An unduplicated count above has 13 or 41% of those standards as skill areas that employers want.

Do your students have these skills when they leave your school?  Why or Why not?
Do your students have opportunities to begin to develop these skills every day in every grade?

Please discuss!


6 responses

  1. Thanks for sharing this link and your thoughts and questions, Fran.

    To me, the high proportion of speaking and listening (how will they be tested within the online testing frameworks?) as well as writing (again, how will the more complex writing tasks such as artful BS detection be tested?) points toward some kind of integrated, project- or problem-based learning in schools. It seems that employers value the ability to share information gained, or insights gleaned, which makes sense, I guess, because most creative workplaces are, themselves, project- or problem-based environments.

    Thanks. And I’m constantly trying (and, too often, failing) to create places that balance the mandates I live under with the needs of my students.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts as well, Steve.

      In Iowa, we have had a tradition of a “wide” view of English Language Arts as reading, writing, speaking and listening AND viewing have been a part of the Iowa Code definition for years so I do appreciate this continued validation. I am also heartened by the fact that speaking and listening are getting more attention in the work place so that they can also be a part of instruction in schools. The art of conversation does need to be carefully tended to (IMO), in our delicate balance between face-to-face and on-line work.

      I wonder if in education we are too quick to rush to the evidence of reading or writing that we forget or don’t make the time to consider the evidence that could be gained from speaking and listening. I do see Smarter Balanced performance tasks including speaking and listening tasks as students work in small groups coordinated by teachers, especially on tasks that take two or three days.

        Sample SBAC item (about halfway on grade 8)

      “The Internet: Fundamental Right or Luxury?” ELA.08.PT.2.07.046 C2 T7 is one grade 8 example from the Smarter Balanced sample items found here: http://dese.mo.gov/divimprove/assess/documents/asmt-sbac-ela-gr8-sample-items.pdf
      Claim 3 is addressed:
      “3. PLAN/PRESENT/SPEAK: Compose (gather and organize
      information) and orally deliver short (e.g., summarize key ideas) and longer presentations for different purposes and audiences, adding the use of visual/graphic/digital/audio enhancements when appropriate for clarifying the message or intent
      1. LANGUAGE & VOCABULARY USE: Strategically use precise
      language and vocabulary (including academic and domain-specific
      vocabulary), figurative language, syntax, and discourse appropriate
      to the intent, purpose, and audience when speaking
      4. LISTEN/INTERPRET: Analyze, interpret, and use information
      delivered orally or visually”

      1. Thanks for your response, Fran. I was not aware of the speaking and listening portions of the Smarter Balanced tests. By what process do you suppose these would be assessed? By whom? These performance tasks would be assigned, right? To what extent might student interest be a factor in student performance? Are folks talking about how interest and choice influence learning, especially for novice learners? (I suppose in the workplace a worker doesn’t have a choice about what to learn about, but, presumably, there is some choice about career…) Is there any thought about using student portfolios as an option instead of assigned topics as in Smarter Balanced example above?

      2. In tasks I have reviewed, the teacher in the classroom has a rubric (or two) to use to assess the Speaking and Listening portion. In some instances, a written “speech” also seems to be submitted online for review/scoring.

        The topics are fairly engaging and some focus on “novelty” topics that seem to be interesting for many students. No one topic probably engages all students but writing does seem easier to determine inter-rater reliability when everyone writes on the same topic. Sometimes an “on-demand” task can be informative for both teacher and student when considering what a student can produce in terms of “independent” writing.

        Portfolios as school-wide evidence of student learning would be highly desirable. Evidence of student reflection and goal setting would also be important in my thinking. (But those don’t make it into attributes for standardized assessments!)

  2. Fran,
    Thanks for presenting this study and pushing me to think about what employers want.
    I do think speaking and listening standards have long been overlooked in favor of reading–certainly this has been the case in my classroom. I think a lot about the kids who do not go on to college. How are the standards addressing their needs, and how do we keep them motivated to want to attain these high levels of thinking if they aren’t college bound? Speaking and listening skills could be argued (no pun intended!) to be the most valuable for success in any job.

    Right now I’m working to incorporate debate, group book discussion, and collaborative writing, as well as genius hour as opportunities for talk and to work things out with other learners. All this alongside significant quiet time to read and write reflectively. Sounds impossible! It is messy and far from perfect, but engaging and I hope creates the opportunity to develop listening and speaking skills as well as growing readers and writers.

    1. Julieanne,
      I think awareness is a good place to start. And yet, as with any issue in education, balance is also key. Students need time to work collaboratively and times to work independently. That includes time to develop these skills as well as time for choice.

      I think you are on the right track. I love that Lucy pit speeches and debate into UoS so I had even more to think about. Maybe debate should not just be a high school club!

      I always appreciate your thoughtful reflections!

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