Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

The Benefits of Postsecondary Education

Shayna Pond, William Thompson, Sherry Franklin


This lesson focuses on scaffolding the use of the Get a Life college and career simulation game in the classroom, specifically targeting career awareness in middle school students. Participants will play the game and experience classroom activities designed to process the gameplay and facilitate discussion about how salary, education level, and career/life satisfaction intersect.

Essential Questions

How does postsecondary education benefit you?

Learning Goals



Students choose a career that interests them and complete a Preflections exercise to activate their prior knowledge about educational requirements and work-life balance.


Students play the Get a Life game and complete a 3-2-1 activity about the relationships between career, income, and education.


Students compare the observations they made in the 3-2-1 activity after playing the game to research about career satisfaction.


Students play the Get a Life game multiple times with specific challenge parameters.


Students return to the Preflections exercise and discuss what they have learned about the relationship between education, income, and careers.

Materials List

  • Character Sheet and Achievements handout (attached)

  • 3-2-1 Activity handout (attached)

  • Career Cards (attached; one per group)

  • Career Cluster info sheets (attached)

  • Research Brief (attached)

  • Computers with Internet access

  • K20 Game Portal teacher account

  • 6-sided dice (or another randomizer)

  • Writing materials—pen, pencil, paper, etc.


Prior to the lesson, print a Character Sheet and Achievements (attached) for each student. Print and cut out the attached Career Cards.

To begin the lesson, have students form groups of 2-3. You can either have students form groups based on the career cluster they are most interested in and give them the corresponding Career Card or have them form groups another way and deal out a random Career Card to each group.

Ask students to choose a career cluster and form a group for each one. Try to make sure all of the clusters are evenly distributed among your class. Once students have chosen a cluster, have each of them roll a die (or otherwise randomly assign a number from 1 to 6 to each student). The number each student rolls reflects their level of education and their resulting career based on the possible careers numbered 1–6 on each card.

Next, have the students fill in their Character Sheet with their ACT score (their roll), their career, and the college they expect the character to attend. They can then sketch their character in the space provided. Students should begin to recognize the mediating factor level of education has on their further education choices and subsequent career options.

Next, use a Preflections instructional strategy to have your students respond to the following "My Career" questions on the Character Sheet:

  1. What kind of income do you think you are paid for the chosen career?

  2. Do you think this is higher or lower than the average income?

  3. What kind of education does this career require (no college, special training, 2-year degree, 4-year degree, more than 4 years)?

  4. Do you think this career will give you lots of comfort (time with family/friends, good health, personal fulfillment)?

  5. How will this career enable you to help society or your community?

  6. Are there any other aspects of this career you know about or would like to learn more about?


Students will now play through Get a Life. Pass out Chromebooks or facilitate another means for students to use a computer with internet access. Encourage the students to explore the game and pay close attention to the relationships between education, income, debt, and career choice.

After students have had enough time to play the game at least twice, introduce the 3-2-1 strategy and distribute the 3-2-1 Activity handout (attached) for students to complete. Depending on the class size, follow up with either a whole-class or small group discussion of their observations related to the 3-2-1 questions:

  1. What 3 things did you learn or notice about the relationship between income, career, and education?

  2. What are 2 questions you still have?

  3. What is 1 thing you found interesting?


Form groups of 2–5 students based on which career clusters most interest them. These do not have to be the same clusters they chose previously. Hand each group the appropriate Career Cluster Info Sheet (attached) based on their chosen career.

Distribute the attached Research Brief. Have students read the brief individually and take notes using a Why-Lighting strategy, then read their Career Cluster Info Sheet. Each student should highlight at least three ideas in the Research Brief that are the most interesting to them and note in the margins why they highlighted that idea. Ask students to also highlight at least one career on the Career Cluster Info Sheet they would like to learn more about and note in the margins why they think that job would be satisfying.

After finishing the reading strategy, ask groups to discuss what they have highlighted and why. Then, lead a whole-class discussion about what makes a job meaningful.


Students will now get the chance to play Get a Life again with specific challenges to guide them. These challenges are located on the back of the Character Sheet. As they play, students should keep notes on the changes between each play-through of the game.

Each time the student completes a game and gets their character to retirement, they'll see feedback on their comfort level, civic performance, and savings achievement. On their Character Sheet and Achievements, have students record the results of each measure, as well as how much money their character can spend in retirement.


After playing through the game with challenges, have students participate in a survey to measure what they have learned about the relationship between postsecondary education and career options.

Below are some suggested survey statements and questions that will help students process information and resolve misconceptions. Discuss the responses and how students formed their ideas after each poll.

  • Agree/Disagree: The higher the education, the higher the pay.

  • Agree/Disagree: College is too expensive for me. (Discuss how the increased future salary that accompanies many college degrees can offset the education costs, depending on the chosen career path.)

  • Agree/Disagree: I learned about new jobs that I didn’t know existed before this activity?.

  • Agree/Disagree: I was right about the level of education needed on my Character Sheet?.

  • Agree/Disagree: My thoughts on post-secondary opportunities have changed?.

  • Agree/Disagree: There are jobs I'd consider now that I didn’t know about before this activity.

Have students reference their Character Sheet from the Engage activity and their Research Brief from the Explain. Ask them to use these materials to identify some goals or actions for the next few years of school that will help them improve their chances of reaching a career and a lifestyle that blends comfort, balance, and purpose.

Research Rationale