Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Creating a College- and Career-Going Culture

Lacy Pennington, Lindsay Williams | Published: September 16th, 2020 by K20 Center


This professional development session focuses on insights and strategies for creating a college- and career-going culture in schools. Participants will be asked to: (1) analyze the significance of a college- and career-going culture, (2) assess the current college- and career-going culture at their school site, and (3) create a list of strategies that signal a college- and career-going culture. In addition, this session will explore the use of visual and auditory signals, practices and traditions, and systems and structures that can engender a college-and career-going culture in schools.

Essential Question

How can school leaders promote a culture of college and career readiness that helps students prepare for and pursue postsecondary educational (PSE) opportunities in a technology-enriched learning community?

Learning Goals

  • Increase students’ academic performance and preparation for postsecondary options.

  • Increase high school graduation and postsecondary enrollment.

  • Increase students’ educational expectations and increase student and family knowledge of postsecondary options, preparation, and financing.







Materials List

  • Presentation Slides (attached)

  • Groups of 20 or fewer: "Kick Me" Activity—Top 10 Benefits of PSE Cutouts (attached)

  • Groups of more than 20: "Family Feud" Activity—Top 10 Benefits of PSE Posters (attached)

  • Top 10 Benefits of PSE Handout (attached)

  • CCGC Assessment Rubric (attached)

  • CCGC Quadrants document (attached)

  • 4-2-1 Graphic Organizer (attached; can be printed double-sided with CCGC Quadrants)

  • 75 Possible Ideas and Activities for CCGC document (attached)

  • ICAP Quality Indicators document (attached)

  • Instructional Strategy Note Sheet (attached)

  • Paper in multiple colors for Commit and Toss strategy (quartered sheets or sticky notes in four different colors)

  • "Leading Success" video

  • Internet access

  • Markers: purple, red, blue, green (larger groups need three or four of each color)

  • Poster paper (at least four pieces, but a larger group may need multiples of four)


Introduce the session using the attached Presentation Slides. Begin by letting participants know that today's session will better their understanding of the importance of a college- and career-going culture, help them recognize its key elements, as well as assess and create strategies to improve the current culture at their own school. This will be done through a number of activities in which they will learn new instructional strategies they can use in their own classrooms.

Option One (20 or fewer participants): Lead participants in a Kick Me activity. Ask participants to pair up or assign pairs. Tape one of the Top 10 Benefits of PSE cutouts to each participant's back without letting them see which one they have. Now, have each pair of participants look at the benefit on their partner's back. Next, participants take turns asking yes/no questions of each other in an attempt to obtain clues and guess the benefit on their own back. For example, one partner might ask, "Does my reason involve money?" or "Will it make me happier?" Limit the number of questions or the amount of time participants have to figure out their benefits.

Option Two (more than 20 participants): Lead participants in a "Family Feud" activity. Ask for 10 volunteers from the crowd. Be sure to let them know they will only be responsible for holding a poster. As volunteers come forward, give each of them one of the pages from the Top 10 Benefits of PSE Posters document. Ask them to read their benefit to themselves, but not to share it with the audience. Now, act as host of the show, telling the audience that you have surveyed people and discovered the top 10 benefits to pursue postsecondary education. Ask the audience to share out what they think those results might be. If someone shares out an answer that matches the top 10, the volunteer with that answer holds up their poster. You will need to be familiar with the reasons so that if a participant responds with an answer that is close, you can guide them to the correct answer and have the volunteer reveal it. Keep going until the audience can't come up with any more correct responses, as time allows. Then, reveal the remaining answers, encouraging participants to shout them out in unison, just like on the popular game show.

Once either activity has been completed, provide each participant with a copy of the attached Top 10 Benefits of PSE Handout. Explain that this document is a quick reference guide for supporting conversations with students about the benefits of PSE.


Display slide 3. Give participants a few minutes to share out other potential benefits of postsecondary education or comment on the Top 10 list, then transition to slide 4 and lead participants in a Commit and Toss strategy. Distribute the scrap paper and ask participants to look at the question on the "Commit and Toss" slide. Ask participants to write down their answer to this question in one sentence, and then give participants a minute or two to write their answers.

After participants are finished writing their answers, tell them to crumple up their papers. Inform them that they will next toss their papers across the room. On the count of three, toss the papers. Once everyone has tossed their paper and someone else has retrieved it, tell everyone to toss the papers once more. Explain to them that this helps to ensure answers remain anonymous.

Once everyone has retrieved a ball of paper, tell them to open the paper and read silently the statement on the paper, making sure the statement is not the one they wrote. Ask participants to share any insightful answers or answers that are questionable and need to be discussed by the group. Allow a few minutes for discussion and feedback. End the activity with the information on slide 5. Note that many participants' answers probably meet the components of a college-going culture. At the conclusion of the activity, remind participants to hold on to their paper for reference in a later activity.

Inform participants that the Commit and Toss strategy keeps students' answers anonymous, which can encourage more participation and engagement. Ask participants to reflect quickly on how they would use this strategy in their own classroom. Then ask a few volunteers to share.

Introduce the essential question on slide 6: "How can school leaders promote a culture of college and career readiness that helps students prepare for and pursue postsecondary educational opportunities in a technology-enriched learning community?" This will be the guiding or overarching question to keep in mind as we move through the activities.

Transition to slide 7 and introduce today's objectives. Briefly highlight the objectives for the session. This will provide a roadmap of where you will go together during the session and will let participants know what to expect from this professional development.

Continue with the research foundation by leading participants through some of the bulleted data points summarized on slides 8–9.

Next, briefly introduce the Individual Career Academic Plan (ICAP), summarized on slide 10. Inform participants that they will soon become more familiar with ICAP as rolls out statewide in 2019. The program mandates that all students, beginning with ninth graders, participate in this program to help them explore postsecondary degree or industry certification options. Note to participants that ICAP and college- and career-readiness have a strong, intentional connection. Later in the session, they will have a chance to go over these indicators more closely and reflect on this connection.

Transition to slide 11. Ask participants to find their copy of the attached CCGC Assessment Rubric. Participants should spend a few minutes completing the assessment and scoring it themselves. Their score will provide them with a baseline for their school's current culture and will be re-assessed later in the session.

Next, direct participants to the attached CCGC Quadrants graphic organizer. Prepare to share the "Leading Success" video on slide 12 with participants. Inform them that graphic organizers assist students in their note-taking or brainstorming. Visuals like graphic organizers help students break down new information. Ask participants to use the four-quadrant graphic organizer during the video to take notes about the college-going culture practices used at different schools and to categorize these ideas using the graphic organizer. Inform them that they will share their notes after the video and use them for the next activity.

After the video, go to slide 13 and lead participants in a Think-Pair-Share strategy, using the responses they noted on the quadrant. Ask them to share their list with an Elbow Partner. Ask, "Did you notice the same or different things?"

If time permits, allow participants to pair with another partner or share out responses that were similar or were a product of collaboration. You may need to help participants identify which category different ideas should go under.


Display slide 14. Have participants form groups according to the color of paper they picked up during the Commit and Toss activity earlier. Give each group one marker that matches their paper color and assign each group to one of the "stations" (Visual, Auditory, Practices/Traditions, and Systems/Structures) around the room.

Go to slide 15 and lead participants in a Gallery Walk/Carousel strategy. Explain that participants will have 3 minutes at their beginning station to brainstorm ideas that could be used to support a college- and career-going culture in their school. They are to write these ideas on the poster.

As groups rotate to the next poster, instruct them to add one new idea for this quadrant, add a check mark to practices on that poster they use currently at their school, and add a star for practices they would like to introduce or increase.

Rotate the groups according to the following schedule: First round is 3 minutes; second round is 3 minutes, third round is 2 minutes, fourth round is 1.5 minutes. In the fifth and final round of 1 minute, each group will rotate back to their starting station circle.

In reviewing the additions, check marks, and stars made by the other groups, the original group will determine one idea to share. Provide time for each group to share their circled idea at the end of the activity.

After the activity is over and everyone has returned to their seats, transition to slide 16 and point out any that may not have been covered.

Transition through the next four slides of photos (slides 17–20), showing examples of college- and career-going culture being modeled in schools. Lead a discussion about the photos and how they fit into the categories from the previous activities.

Transition to slide 21. Direct participants' attention to the attached 75 Possible Ideas and Activities for CCGC handout and the attached 4-2-1 Graphic Organizer. Begin the 4-2-1 strategy by having participants count off 1 through 3 and find a partner with the same number.

Lead participants through the activity and slides 22–24 with the following instructions: "Each group will take 25 of the ideas to read for this activity. So 1's will read numbers 1-25, 2's read numbers 26-50, and 3's read 51-75. Read your assigned set of ideas, then narrow down your top four favorite ideas from that group and write them in the top four boxes. Share your top picks with your partner. Together, narrow those four to two. Now, switch partners and share your two choices. Together, narrow these to one college- and career- culture idea or activity that you can accomplish this year."

As groups share their goals for what they would like to accomplish, list them on slide 25 for the whole group to see.


Hand out the attached ICAP Quality Indicators document. Transition to slide 26. Ask everyone to think about the ideas and strategies that surfaced during the 4-2-1 activity and match them with any ICAP indicators they would satisfy. After giving them a few minutes to read through and match, ask participants to share out which indicators are being met by their proposed goals. Point out that the session is giving them a head start by putting ideas and strategies in place to meet the forthcoming ICAP requirement.


Transition to slide 27. Direct participants' attention back to the CCGC Assessment Rubric from the beginning of the session. Ask them to briefly re-assess themselves and determine if their score changed today. Hopefully, their awareness and ability to recognize and implement a college- and career-going culture has improved over the course of the session and they are better prepared to help their students set and accomplish postsecondary goals.

Finally, transition to slide 28. Remind participants that they have learned a number of new instructional strategies today. Direct them to the attached Instructional Strategy Note Sheet. Ask them to take a few moments to reflect on them and note how they were used here and how they might use them in the future in their own classroom or lessons.

Research Rationale

Many schools can create new reforms or initiatives; however, these reforms or initiatives often do not penetrate the day-to-day existence of the students within the walls of the school. Culture, on the other hand, becomes a part of the collective being within a group of people. A culture within a school cultivates aspirations and behaviors. Schools that focus on creating a college-going culture create a collective environment that is conducive to college preparation and enrollment. This environment is inclusive to all students, supported systemically, and supported by all stakeholders within the school community (Corwin & Tierney, 2007).

A recommendation for facilitating a college-going culture is immersion in campus life through experiences on campus, including simply day trips for campus visits. College immersion generates many positive results related to students’ perceptions and expectations about college, including, importantly, helping them see themselves as college students in the future (Schaefer, 2014; Radcliffe & Bos, 2013). Another college-going culture recommendation is to offer college courses in high school. Doing so has been shown to increase student involvement in preparation for college (Stewart, 2016). In addition to preparation for traditional colleges, schools can encourage other types of postsecondary education by promoting community colleges and trade schools, further expanding students’ education and career options after high school.