The Reversed Lesson - Students Teaching Professionals
Waukee Community School District (CSD) is one of the fastest growing school districts in Iowa. To further advance educational offerings to its students, Waukee CSD introduced the first Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) program in the state.
DLR Group wanted to learn alongside Waukee students and become one of the first satellite business partners for the CAPS program. The firm opened its doors to the District and is hosting 15 students each semester during the 2014-15 school year. Students and professionals sit side-by-side in our office, creating incredible teaching/learning moments for both parties. Roles are often blurred between who is actually teaching and who is actually learning!
Students are participating in the Designing Communication Solutions course as part of the Business, Technology and Communications strand.
The CAPS program not only allows students to learn in a real-world setting, it provides an early opportunity for students and professionals to engage and foster the entrepreneurial spirit – something that has been key to DLR Group’s success. DLR Group designers have hosted mini-seminars for students to learn more about:
- How to begin a design process
- Photography 101
- Public Relations 101
- Business Communication
- Brand Communications
We also have taken students to job sites so they can better understand the construction process, but more importantly, they can experience first-hand the interaction between Owner/Architect and Contractor.
By having students in our workplace, we now have a better sense of how students interact with one another and collaborate daily. The experience is putting theory into practice. For example, prior to the students arriving in our office, we designed work stations for each student to have an independent work space – a similar set up as DLR Group staff. After the first week, the students asked if they could be empowered to re-arrange their work stations to provide a more collaborative and inclusive space. Of course we complied.
This re-arrangement provided the catalyst for the DLR Group staff to re-think how we work. It prompted us to modify our own work-stations to provide more visual and audible access to each other for project collaboration. Sometimes, the simplest of ideas is elusive until the collaborative spirit of sharing is witnessed by everyone in the room.
Sometimes, as professionals, we forget the vast amount of stored knowledge we have available to help others. I recall one particular situation where everyone in the office contributed to benefit a high school student. This student was struggling with how and where to apply for college. To help make his decision, he interviewed all of the staff one by one about the five potential colleges he was interested in attending. All schools were out of state, with seemingly little connection to any DLR Group employee. However, by the end of the week the student proudly proclaimed that we all had a small part to play in helping him determine the best path forward and the school of his choice.
When I was searching for a college, I had my parents and a guidance counselor to help me. In a matter of four days this student had unfettered access to 19 people with varied backgrounds and life experiences and was able to piece together a story from our collaboration. I believe this is a very powerful statement to the influence of the CAPS learning model.
Hosting students within our office has been especially beneficial for me personally. It has given me the chance to see how students learn, which will elevate our designs for future K-12 projects. But it has also given me another perspective. As a leader in K-12 education design, I often begin a project by asking the questions “what should the learning environment look like?” and “how should it function to meet the needs of students and staff?” With this experience the tables are turned. Students are asking my colleagues and me about the workplace, such as “how does/should the work place function?” and “how can the work place be more about teaching and learning across all spectrums?”
By participating as a satellite partner, Iowa businesses have the opportunity to collaborate with their future employees. Businesses benefit by having students available to take on special projects and provide an un-biased perspective to creative problem solving. I challenge all school districts to reach out to community partners to establish lasting relationships that can take the educational experience to the next level.