Career in the Classroom: Lessons Learned from Teaching ALS 114

by Brenna Gomez, Director of Career Integration, Career Development Center

Part of my role as the Director of Career Integration in the Career Development Center is to collaborate with my colleagues in the University Exploratory Studies Program (UESP) and teach ALS 114: Career Decision-Making once a year. Each time I teach the course, I make updates reflecting student need, the evolving role of AI, and more.

If you’re not familiar with Career Decision-Making, it’s a course largely for UESP students to explore majors and career paths that make the most sense for their individual goals. Students engage in lots of personal reflection about their strengths, values, and interests, while participating in career activities.

With Core Education right around the corner, many instructors and faculty are working to integrate career into existing courses or create new career courses. In this article, you’ll find some tips and tricks for thinking about career in the classroom based on my experience with ALS 114.

Share your own career path

I teach ALS: 114 on Ecampus. After my spring 2023 session, I received feedback on student evaluations that it didn’t seem like there was “enough of me as a person” in the course. As a result, I recorded personalized videos with my results from some of our career activities. Focus 2 is an interests and values assessment that gives students ideas for majors and career paths (free to use for OSU students through the Career Development Center). I have students download their results and submit them for a grade. This year, I completed the assessment myself, showed students my results in a video, and talked through the majors and career paths Focus 2 suggested, including what aligned with my personal and professional goals and what did not.  I also did this with a community map assignment, showing students who has had an influence on my life. It can feel vulnerable to share with students, and as instructors we should never share anything we aren’t comfortable with. But doing the assignments we ask them to do, and talking through our own results, can build students’ connection to me and to the course, while clearing up any questions they may have about the assignment itself. That said, these assignments are relatively short and did not take me much time to complete. That wouldn’t be true of every assignment in every course, so this may not be a realistic solution for everyone.

Yes, you do need an AI policy

In spring of 2023, I taught ALS 114 for the first time and naively believed I could avoid an AI policy because the writing assignments my students completed were mostly personal or career reflections. To me, these reflections seemed short and like it would be more work to get AI to answer them. I was reminded that we don’t know the full picture of students’ lives. If they are in a difficult period, or incredibly stressed about their future, AI can be a tempting tool that provides answers without the student having to engage in the mental process of reflection. In fall of 2023, I introduced an AI policy that largely reduced the AI usage I saw in the course. Students were allowed to use AI to help them organize their thoughts but not to draft assignments wholesale. Being transparent and communicating about AI use allows students to stay within assignment guidelines and understand instructor expectations from the start of the term

Define your preferences, especially whether you prefer a “professional tone” or an “authentic voice”

Some students were tempted to still use AI to produce a more “professional tone.” In talking with students about this, they felt a professional tone reflected higher level diction than they would consider using on their own. To them, this diction made the assignment more formal. This resulted in an excellent opportunity to discuss my bigger priority than word choice: authentic voice. I was able to speak to our reflections as informal writing with my emphasis on getting to know each student’s authentic voice. We also discussed professionalism as a skill that can be built over time and does not need to be done all at once in a single assignment by changing specific words. In other courses I teach, I’ve started giving disclaimers about how authentic voice is my priority. My hope is that by discussing authentic voice in informal reflections on the front end, students won’t feel the need to use AI to enhance their word choice.

Each time I teach this class I learn new things about my teaching practice, what I’d like to emphasize for students, and what students need to feel connected. I know I’ll continue to make changes that center students and hopefully encourage them to reflect on their lives and careers in their own authentic voices.

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