Experiential Learning in High School : The Motivation

Motivation Matters

When a young adult is involved in contributing to content—a vested determination to learn—greater retention and true understanding follow.

Young adults thrive when there’s purpose. If something matters to them, they become invested and personally motivated. When parents give their children freedom where responsibility is evident, growth potential flourishes. The more young people become responsible, the more confidence they gain. It’s a perpetual cycle, much like the ebb and flow adults face.

Our sons were passionate about baseball. Both were pitchers, one a righty and the other a lefty. Improvement in skill and arm strength required discipline, daily workouts, and throwing. What fueled their passion? Motivation to be the best pitcher he could be as well as knowledge of what was needed to meet the goal. It wasn’t me. I hadn’t any idea how to build arm strength or design a workout. Instead, the boys listened to coaches, consulted with trainers, and implemented or tweaked their plans. I encouraged them, served as their cheerleader, drove them to practice, and figured out how to incorporate and communicate all they were doing into credits. Many of the activities they integrated into their days are listed in this resource.

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The content suggestions listed in these five personal development electives aren’t meant to be objectives to be checked off, tested, and graded. They are chunks of knowledge which can be gleaned from life, fully understood in the context of life experiences. Will resources—print, digital and personal contacts—be needed? Likely, yes! And, the lists I provide aren’t meant to be exhaustive. They can’t possibly be because each high schooler—and their circumstances—is unique. Their courses will be as well.

Many of the ideas or projects listed in this book stem from real-life scenarios or situations our children—or the hundreds of high schoolers we’ve worked with—faced or were curious about. You will notice much of the content will be learned from naturally-occurring conversations, often because of a young adult’s interest, personal need, or life circumstances. These discussions were often catalysts for deeper study, additional conversations, or visits to the library…and our high schoolers earned credit!

Later in the chapter….

For learners who have an inkling of what their post-high-school paths will be, they will move forward in that direction. Along the way, they will need help to process and question. They will seek out people who are willing to listen. Likely that person may be you! Embrace it. The conversations may feel constant and never-ending. However, the reality is that the time will be very short. As you help process your high schooler’s ideas, keep an open perspective. Be ready for change. An interest one semester may transform into a niche the following semester. It really can be a beautiful personalized journey.

Let’s say your high school learner is interested in pursuing a career in veterinary medicine. Talking with her, you believe the next right step would be to talk with professionals in the field. As move through the brainstorming process, you and your daughter make a list of venues which could be possibilities for volunteering or job-shadowing experiences: a vet's office, a local clinic, and the county animal shelter. As you discuss how to prepare for possible conversations with professionals, you list questions which could be asked in an interview situation. They may include

  • What universities are considered optimal for preparation of a career in this profession?

  • What are the potential degree and career paths available?

  • What classes or experiences were most helpful to you in the education process? 

  • What are the specialty areas in this profession?

  • What areas, in any, do you recommend or foresee might be most helpful five years from now?

  • What would you, as a professional, recommend for a young adult pursuing this career?

(Excerpted from More than Credits: Skills High Schoolers Need for Life)

Perhaps your high schooler is motivated to learn more. You may not feel you have the expertise or the knowledge necessary to help your young adult move forward. Guess what? You are not alone. And, you don’t need to know the answers. There are people in your high schooler’s field of interest who do, people who work in the profession. Seek them out.

Wondering what types of questions you and your learner could brainstorm together? I offer ideas in this post. This is a sampling in what you will find in More than Credits: Skills High Schoolers Need for Life.

High school is more than credits. It’s being future-ready.

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Preparing High School Learners to Interview Professionals

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We can’t know everything.

No one can. But, we do have the ability to know how and where to get our questions answered. Our learners should be empowered to do the same.

Let’s say your high schooler is interested in veterinary medicine. Your majored in business and finance.

How do you help your young adult learn more about this career field?

Find a trusted professional who is willing to share his or her passion, and then ask. Most people wait eagerly for an opportunity to talk about what they love. In the process, your young adult is afforded a chance to learn about the education requirements, niche areas of the profession, and perhaps even what the career might look like in the future (at the time when you learner is trying to land a job) from a person in the know. In addition, should an ongoing mentoring relationship form, there may be a potential connection made for later employment.

Identifying a person who could be interviewed is the first step. The second step, preparation, is key. Intentionality often reaps the greatest reward (another one of those life lessons our high schoolers learn from experiential learning).

Preparing for interviewing is an important skill. Afterall, if someone carves out time in a schedule to meet with a high schooler, being prepared for the meeting not only allows the learner to glean the most helpful information possible, but also shows respect for the professional’s time. Some high schoolers decide they need help brainstorming to make a list of questions and practice asking those questions through a role play scenario. Other young adults prefer to work more independently to create their list and then seek input or additions from someone they know will provide feedback. This process is another step in discovering how one learns best is a unique benefit of experiential opportunities.

When our high schoolers showed interest in an area and wanted to talk to professionals in the field, we developed a list of questions. I offer a full list in the appendices of More than Credits, but these examples will jump start the thinking process for your high school learner.

  • How did your high school experiences benefit your career?

  • Where did you attend college?

  • How or why did you decide to choose this college?

  • How did your post-secondary studies influence your career?

  • Which post-secondary courses were particularly beneficial in your career preparation?

  • Is there something you feel would have been helpful—maybe even a different major—than what you pursued?

  • How do you see your career field changing in the next five years?

When preparing to interview someone in a trade or technical field, we adjusted our list of questions to address trade-specific aspects of a field. The complete list is also included in the book, but again, these should provide a place to start as you and your learner develop a list of questions.

  • Did you earn industry certifications and if so, which were helpful to you?

  • What should I consider as I research post-secondary education options?

  • What skills do you use every day?

  • What types of writing do you do in your field?

The high school journey is more than taking tests and finishing study guides. Those do have a place in education, but it is important to remember these aspects of learning should not overshadow and crowd out some of the most beneficial ways our young adults gain knowledge—through experiential learning opportunities like interviewing professionals.

Experiential Learning in High School: Why It Matters

I find it ironic that homeschooling parents encourage young children and elementary-age learners to explore their interests, yet as the middle and high school years loom on the horizon, the tune often changes.

When it does, students, parents, and educators tend to concentrate on core courses (with good reason) while pushing strengths and giftings—and often real-life learning—aside. Often those life experiences offer learners the lessons and skills most needed for their future.

There is another advantage of pursuing electives of interest. Not only do high schoolers receive credit, but these pursuits also help reduce the stress of typically tougher core courses.

By their very nature, electives provide avenues for personal growth, renewal, and skill acquisition.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if the middle and high school years provided the same real-life educational opportunities found in the younger learning years? Homeschooling makes that possibility a reality.

Interest leads to higher-quality content and greater retention in both core and elective classes. With this knowledge in one hand, grab a cup of coffee or a thick creamy milkshake with the other and invite your high schooler to brainstorm with you. In the course of the conversation, listen to what he or she would like to study and how those interests could be enhanced or accomplished with real-life experiences. Experiential learning in high school is just as valuable as it was in the elementary and middle school years.

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