Teacher Workplace Tours
What Are Teacher Workplace Tours?
Teacher workplace tours are professional development and work-based learning activities that enable classroom teachers to gain first-hand insights into the career opportunities open to their students and the nature of the workplaces that offer those careers. Like the student workplace tours described in Chapter 3, teacher workplace tours can provide fresh perspectives on the skills required in different careers and about the ways in which academic skills are applied in the workplace. For some teachers, they are the first exposure in a long time to a workplace other than a school. Teacher workplace tours also provide opportunities for dialogues between teachers and employees to enhance understanding about how the knowledge and skills gained in school are applied in the workplace and how those connections can be strengthened.
Which Teachers Participate in Workplace Tours?
All teachers can benefit from workplace tours, especially those involved with WBL activities for students in the 7th through 12th grades. Teacher workplace tours can also assist teachers by providing real-world examples they can use in their lesson plans. One teacher workplace tour per year per teacher is a typical practice, but individual districts or schools may wish to set different targets.
Workplace tours are also helpful for administrators, counselors, and career advisors — especially those new to WBL activities. The term “teacher” used throughout this chapter should be taken to include these other educators.
How Are Teacher Workplace Tours Structured?
Teacher workplace tours are often scheduled for weekdays when it is convenient for an employer to host a small group of teachers (up to five or six). Unless the tours are scheduled for days already set aside for professional development or take place after school or on a weekend day, schools will need to secure substitute teachers or make other arrangements for the classes the teachers miss to be covered. To avoid imposing excessively on an employer, teacher tours should be planned for small groups rather than individual teachers. Grouping teachers in different subjects from the same school may be beneficial, because they will have more opportunities to reflect together on what they learned and how they can apply it to their teaching. Teachers from the same school who tour a workplace together can support one another as they try out different ways of using workplace applications in the content they teach.
Teacher workplace tours typically include an introductory overview, a tour, a presentation about various career opportunities and the skills and education required, and a discussion session for teachers and the employer representative. Many teacher workplace tours also incorporate some time for teachers to shadow a professional to allow for more in-depth one-on-one exchanges. The discussion period can be the most valuable part of the tour, both for teachers and hosts, so ample time should be provided.
Teacher tours are usually planned to be three to four hours in duration. While each tour should be tailored based on the preferences of the teachers, the employer representative, and the school schedule, a sample outline for the experience might include:
- Introductions, welcome, and overview of the industry and the employer: 15-30 minutes
- Workplace tour: 30 minutes (more if employees at each stop on the tour talk about their fields)
- Presentation on industry, the careers it offers, and the skills and education or training required: 30 minutes (unless covered as part of the tour)
- Job shadow time, if desired: 1 hour
- Discussion time: 30-45 minutes (perhaps over lunch)
The employer representative is often a human resources manager who is particularly knowledgeable about the hiring requirements for different jobs and the degree to which candidates typically fulfill those requirements or fall short. Employees from different disciplines or departments usually participate as well.
Following the tour, time should be set aside at school for the group of teachers to reflect on their experiences and how they can be used to enhance what they do in their classrooms.
 In this chapter, “employer” refers to the workplace that teachers are visiting, “employer representative” refers to the person who works with the WBL coordinator to plan a visit, and “employee” refers to the individual(s) with whom teachers interact during their visit.
Successful teacher workplace tours require collaboration, communication, and preparation by the WBL coordinator, school administrators, teachers, and employer representatives. As noted in the Introduction, the following basic steps are involved in planning and implementing a teacher workplace tour.
- Engage district and/or school administrators, teachers, counselors, career advisors, and representatives of employers and employer associations in the planning process.
- Work with school administrators to determine how many tours to schedule and identify multiple options for dates.
- Gather input from the teachers (and others) who might be participating in the tour(s) on which industries and/or employers they would most like to visit.
- Using the WBL database and other resources, contact the top-priority employers to request that they host a small group of teachers. Work with each willing employer to plan a tour that will be an enriching experience for both teachers and employees.
- Prepare teachers and employees for the tour.
- Carry out the teacher workplace tour.
- Provide structured opportunities for reflection by teachers.
- Obtain evaluations from teachers and employer representative.
The following pages provide more detailed descriptions of steps that should be taken to implement a well-organized teacher workplace tour. These steps are presented in the form of a time line, which can be condensed or elongated, based on local needs.
Note: Throughout this manual, the term WBL coordinator (typically, a district or staff member) is used to refer to the individual responsible for planning and implementing WBL activities. Depending on the activity and context, stakeholders from school sites (counselors, teachers, and administrative staff) may be involved. The WBL coordinator should be sure to use the WBL database, as described in the Introduction, to track employer and school contact information as well as the tasks each has agreed to carry out with respect to teacher workplace tours.
The WBL coordinator should refer to the overall WBL plan (see Introduction), if there is one, to ensure that the scheduling of workplace tours with specific employers or teachers from particular schools is coordinated with the implementation of other WBL activities planned for those employers or schools. Both the employers and the school staff will appreciate it if the WBL coordinator initiates contact for workplace tours in that larger context.
Note: The WBL coordinator is assumed to be responsible for completing or assigning each task described below, except as noted otherwise.
Three months before the teacher workplace tours
- Work with school administrators to determine how many tours should be planned and identify multiple options for dates on which to schedule them.
- Gather input from teachers and others who may be eligible to participate in a workplace tour about what industries and/or employers they would like to visit.
- Based on teachers’ interests, use the WBL database and other sources (e.g., organizations like chambers of commerce, economic development agencies, workforce development boards, state departments of labor or commerce, and the personal networks of district and school staff members) to identify employers to target.
- Review the information on employer outreach in the Introduction.
- Begin outreach to employers, based on teachers’ interests, to request that they consider hosting a small group of teachers. The sample email and employer participation form in the Resources section may be used or adapted for this purpose.
- Identify an employer representative at each workplace that agrees to host a group of teachers. Work with each employer representative to schedule the tour for a convenient date and to develop a tour agenda that will be informative and engaging for both teachers and employees. See the sample checklist in the Resources section.
- Determine whether there are special security or safety precautions that must be observed and obtain permission to take photographs of the teachers and employees, if desired.
- (Principals) Select which teachers will participate in each workplace tour.
- (School administrators) Make plans to ensure that any classes teachers will miss will be covered by substitutes or other teachers, unless the tour is scheduled for a professional development day when students will not be in school.
One month before the teacher workplace tours
- Work with employer representatives to complete plans for the tours, make sure they understand what is expected of them, and clarify what is expected of the visiting teachers.
- Work with the employer representatives to identify employees who will be shadowed by teachers (if applicable). Match teachers with employees who will be shadowed.
- Work with school administrators to determine what teachers will be expected to produce after the workplace tours. Deliverables may include written reflections on their experiences or lesson plans that incorporate what teachers learned about the skills required in the workplaces they visited.
- Prepare teachers by providing information about each employer’s dress code and other expectations for tour participants.
- Make sure teachers have made plans for transportation on the days of the tours (e.g., carpool from school or meet at the employer site).
- (Teachers) Collect information about the employers and their industries, including: the products and services the employers provide; the nature and size of their workforces; and any other information that would be useful. Sources might include employer representatives, chambers of commerce, economic development agencies, the employers’ websites, or acquaintances who work for these employers.
One week before the teacher workplace tour
- Confirm that the school administration has made plans for teachers’ classes to be covered, if necessary.
- Reconfirm arrangements with the employer representatives. This includes ordering food, if needed.
- Reconfirm plans with teachers.
One day before the teacher workplace tour
- Send final emails to the employer representatives and the teachers.
- Include driving directions, a time line for the day, and whom to contact upon arrival.
- Make sure the employer representatives have the names of all the teachers.
- Provide contact information for the WBL coordinator in case a participant is ill or delayed en route.
- Distribute evaluation forms for employer representatives and teachers to complete (see samples in Resources section).
Day of the teacher workplace tour
- Stop in during the tour, if possible, to make sure everything is going as planned, take photographs, and answer questions as needed.
- Ensure evaluation forms are completed and collected from the employer representatives and the teachers.
One day to one week after the teacher workplace tour
- Review evaluation forms and send emails thanking employer representatives and sharing highlights of the feedback received from teachers. Address any employer or teacher questions or concerns.
- Compile and share the evaluation responses and identify recurring themes.
- Confirm that teachers have completed their deliverables (e.g., written reflections or lesson plans) and obtain copies to share with other teachers, as appropriate.
- Give appropriate recognition to host employers (see the Introduction for some of the ways to do so).
Note: These forms can be printed with expanded space for written responses or adapted in other ways.
- Outreach email to employers
- Participation form
- Preparation checklist/expectations