World of Work gains momentum at Duquesne City

Posted by Jeremy Tepper on 4/25/2024


When members of the Duquesne City School District administration first came across World of Work at the Cajon Valley School District, one of the most striking features was the common language. Students at disparate grade levels were able to identify their strengths, no matter how far along they were in their learning journey.

Now, the district is starting to see that common language developing within its own classrooms.

“I think that that’s probably the most unique factor of this framework, that you have a first grade student that understands their strengths by using this common language in the same way that a seventh and eighth grader might,” said World of Work coordinator Ashli Detweiller.

“The fact that it is universal from K-8 is really the backbone of all the other work that encompasses our framework because of having that common language. Having every child be able to say ‘these are my strengths, these are my interests, I’m good at this and there is a place in this world for me’ based on that understanding of the language.”

World of Work first came to the district in the 2022-23 school year, when it was piloted at the 2nd grade level. This year, it’s expanded in the district to grades 1-5. Collectively, the Duquesne City, Avonworth, Elizabeth Forward and South Fayette school districts have come to pilot the World of Work framework in the area. 

Work of Work, in brief, is a career education and exploration framework designed to help expose students to a variety of professional careers and opportunities. Students learn about careers, explore skills needed for those careers, and meet and engage with a professional in that specific career. Additionally, students learn their RIASEC (Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional) codes, determining what qualities they most see in themselves.

Detweiler said the expansion of the framework has gone well in the district this school year, and is excited to move to the next step, which will see the district adapt the framework to a school-wide, K-8 level next year.

“We’ll work with our teachers to make sure they’re comfortable and understand their role moving into year three. It’s been a slower start, but I think with education especially we might go too fast at the beginning,” said Detweiler. 

“The strategic roll-out of only starting at 2nd grade and building that capacity and understanding and then helping to leverage it in 2-5 was extremely helpful. I think 3rd, 4th and 5th grade were really set up for success because of what 2nd grade was able to do.”

Students have explored a variety of careers this school year, varying from grade level to grade level. Some careers explored include an entomologist, dentist, paleontologist, electrician, and chemist. At the end of each career path, students are able to hear from and learn from a professional in the field.

“I think it’s given the kids a lot of confidence to share the learning that they’ve been doing in the classroom with someone that is actually boots on the ground in the particular field,” said Detweiler. “And I think it’s also great for kids to see themselves within a potential career that they may have strengths or interests that align to it.”

Integration of the framework differs by grade level. Early grade levels might focus more on learning about a career and then leveraging the understanding based on the activity, while older grade levels leverage a career by focusing more on the content and skills necessary to do the job at hand.

For example, while learning about a theme park engineer, teachers might integrate learning about force and motion. Or, when learning about a landscape contractor, teachers can seamlessly integrate learning about perimeter and area.

“Every teacher in our district that is hands-on right now with World of Work, they really have taken this understanding and framework, but they’ve had the autonomy and flexibility to be able to craft it and mold it into their own skill set, and that’s been really great to see,” said Detweiler.

At 1st grade, teachers are piloting the World of Work framework for the other three partner districts. Emily Johns, a 1st grade teacher in the district, has been excited to see her students grow and engage with the framework. She noted that students are starting to gain a good understanding of the framework and what RIASEC letters they most identify with.

“The kids are getting pretty good at understanding what it all means,” Johns said.  “They love it. The thing that they love the most is any sort of open-ended, dramatic play where they get to really drop into that role. They really like a lot of the hands-on activities that we’ve built in. We’re trying to make it fun and engaging, while still working in all of the first grade standards.”