At a Glance
Instructors at Lenape Technical School (Lenape Tech) developed work samples to administer to prospective students with IEPs (Individualized Education Programs) to help students determine if a particular CTE program is a good fit for them.
The administration and instructors at Lenape Tech continue to search for additional information they can provide to students with IEPs and parents to help them make informed decisions about enrolling at Lenape Tech. To this end, Special Programs Coordinator Carla Thimons guided instructors to develop work samples, which can serve as authentic assessments for special education students considering enrollment in a CTE program.
Dr. Pamela LeConte, a retired university professor who is an expert in vocational evaluation and assessment, was a consultant for this project. According to Dr. LeConte, work samples help students discover their interest in learning and their potential to learn and be successful in a specific career and technical program. At Lenape Tech, work samples go beyond touring and shadowing Lenape Tech’s CTE programs. Mrs. Thimons finds they provide students the opportunity to “try out” a CTE program by completing program-specific tasks, “while experiencing the sounds, smells and all components of the work environment.”
When Lenape Tech instructors first started creating them, the work samples had two components:
- A Video – The work samples include a video segment of several fundamental tasks in the particular CTE program at Lenape Tech. The student views the video (in addition to any shadowing or tours that have taken place). If he or she is interested in further exploring the CTE program, arrangements will be made for the student to do the work sample in the CTE program.
- Try-Out – The student visits the CTE program and completes the same tasks shown on the video. The CTE instructor will demonstrate the tasks again, and then the student will perform the task.
Mrs. Thimons developed a step-by-step guide for instructors to follow as they created their work samples and the scripts that would be used to film the work sample videos. Instructors received professional development on how to use the guide during Lenape Tech’s first professional development Friday session of the 2017-2018 school year and received continued support during several of the professional development Fridays throughout the school year.
Instructors addressed specific questions as they developed their work samples.
- What do students need to be able to do in my field?
- What can they build on?
- What activities or tasks are part of their regular work routine?
- What is a skill that I teach early in the semester, that I want them to be able to use consistently?
Prior to writing the detailed script of the tasks and activities that would be used for shooting the video and before the actual student try-out, each instructor discussed the tasks and activities in their work sample with Mrs. Thimons. They also met with and received feedback on their work samples from Dr. LeConte.
As of the 2020-2021 school year, instructors hope to informally pilot a few work samples during the school year as part of the transition process for several students with IEPs who have been referred to Lenape Tech by their sending school districts. Students will be scheduled for the work sample try-out on Mondays through Thursdays during Lenape Tech’s intervention period. The instructor will provide feedback to the student which will be shared with the IEP team. Students who complete the work sample try-out will receive a survey to provide feedback on the experience.
The work samples currently will be administered to prospective students with IEPS in 9th grade. Mrs. Thimons hopes that in the future students in grades 7 or 8 can do the work samples, so that they can use their time in school before enrolling in Lenape Tech to focus on the academic, technical and employability skills that will help them be successful in the program.
Challenges and Modifications
There were a few challenges that needed to be addressed in order for the work samples to be developed. Some CTE instructors expressed concern that having to complete the work sample might prevent a student from enrolling in their program. Others believed students would not be given a true picture of the career and technical program by completing the work sample. Although there is not yet 100% “buy-in” from instructors for the work samples, Mrs. Thimons is confident instructors will see the value of this type of authentic assessment after the work samples are piloted in the near future.
The greatest challenge in developing the two-part work sample assessment was creating the videos. Mrs. Thimons and the instructors realized the video making process was too time intensive. Even though the faculty values how videos can help prospective students, Lenape Tech will not focus on producing additional videos at this time. Currently, there are videos for nine of the 14 programs offered at Lenape Tech, and instructors will continue to use these videos.
Mrs. Thimons notes there are unique benefits to developing work samples that focus on a “try out” for students. Work samples do not involve extra costs, such as funds to replicate tools, machinery and materials, because they are developed to be used with what is already available to students in the CTE program. In addition, because the instructors created the work samples, they reflect the reality of the CTE program and are authentic measures of what students can expect if they enroll. She finds that by going through the work sample process, prospective students are more likely to fully assess whether a program is a good fit for them because they are well informed about the skills and training required to be successful. The students often are realizing on their own whether or not the program aligns with their interests and skills. This student ownership of their enrollment decision is powerful.
Mrs. Thimons anticipated the full development and implementation of work samples, including work across all CTE program areas would take three to five years, and it appears that this timeline is accurate.
Instructors in the cosmetology, welding, precision machining and collision repair programs had planned to implement their work samples during the 2019-2020 school year. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, however, they were unable to do so. A few new technical instructors are still in the process of developing their work samples. They will have time during the 2021-2022 school to complete them.