Transition Tennessee’s New Interactive Students Focuses on Work, College Preparations
By Jena Galster
I’m sure many of you are familiar with Transition Tennessee, but for those of you who are not, Transition Tennessee is a partnership of the Tennessee Department of Education, the Tennessee Department of Human Services, Vanderbilt University, and the Vanderbilt Kennedy University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. It is a hub for trainings and resources on preparing students with disabilities for life after high school.
Since 2016, we have been developing an online portal for on-demand professional development in the area of transition for both educators and Pre-Employment Transition Services providers. These resources have been widely used by educators, Pre-ETS providers, and families not only across Tennessee, but across the country. The goal of our project is to improve transition outcomes for young adults with disabilities, helping them explore postsecondary opportunities, employment and greater independence.
What is the latest initiative of Transition Tennessee?
As a new element of the website, we are excited to announce that we have added lessons specifically geared toward students. As part of our ongoing partnership with the Department of Human Services’ Vocational Rehabilitation program, we are equipping service providers across the state to deliver high-quality Pre-Employment Transition Services. After reviewing results from our statewide needs assessment and feedback from multiple trainings, we found that Pre-ETS providers need tools for increasing student participation and engagement. The five Pre-ETS are:
- Job exploration counseling
- Work-based learning
- Workplace readiness
- Postsecondary counseling
- Instruction in self-advocacy
Transition Tennessee’s website for students offers interactive activities to assist students transitioning into employment or postsecondary education. Transition Tennessee’s site for students is designed to guide students through activities for Pre-ETS and transition instruction that they can complete either on their own or with the help of an instructor. Our goal is for this resource to support and encourage collaboration among students, providers and teachers through engaging online learning, practical hands-on activities, and the creation of permanent products that students can add to their transition portfolios as they accumulate information about their learning experiences.
What does the Transition Tennessee Student website include?
When students enter the site, they will choose one of two paths offered. One path is for students who want employment immediately after high school, while the other is for students who have a goal of postsecondary education. Postsecondary education could include four-year colleges and universities, community colleges, vocational or technical training programs, or inclusive higher education programs. Each path will have courses on exploring options, rights and responsibilities, resources that are available, and community activities. Each course also includes three lessons with an interactive e-learning Role-Play Scenario activity, a Get Involved activity, and a Portfolio activity.
The Role-Play Scenario requires students to make choices for a character that center around the lesson topic. Each choice leads to a consequence, so students are able to experience how each decision impacts the character’s experience. The Get Involved activity helps students to make real-world connections to the content and strategies included in the lesson. This includes a game, a school-based exercise, and a community-based extension. The My Portfolio activity is a fillable form that allows students to create a personalized product for the student to keep and reference throughout their high school experience and adult life. There is an instructor guide available that includes resources and strategies for how teachers, Pre-ETS providers or families can use the portal to enhance the Pre-ETS and transition instruction for students. All of this content is freely available to anyone, in our state and anywhere else in the country.
The website has three available lessons, but more are soon to follow. These lessons can be found in the “I Want to Go to Work” path under the “What are my Needs, Rights, and Responsibilities at Work?” course. When students have completed all three of these lessons, they will understand the similarities and differences between rights and responsibilities in high school and rights and responsibilities at work; what disability disclosure is and the different options they have when entering the workplace; and how to communicate in a professional way when advocating for what they need in the workplace.
- Lesson 1: “Rights and Responsibilities Change After High School”
- Lesson 2: “Disability Disclosure in the Workplace”
- Lesson 3: “Communication at Work”
We have designed this website to be adaptable to different learning environments and so that it can be used independently by students or incorporated into in-person or distance-learning lessons. We hope that it will be a versatile resource that students, teachers, Pre-ETS providers and families can use to prepare students for adulthood. We will continue to upload new content as it becomes available. Please contact Transition Tennessee with any feedback or questions by clicking here.
As part of my role with TennesseeWorks, I get the privilege of working with the folks who create and maintain the Transition Tennessee online portal. I am amazed by the various skills and the extensive knowledge they bring to their work. And while this new feature is aimed at transition-age students, I firmly believe that young adults with disabilities who are already out of school and who are interested in working may find some very valuable lessons within this website. I want to thank Jena for taking the time to write and explain this opportunity for learning needed skills virtually, as that has become more important in this time of the pandemic. I hope you will take a few moments to explore transitiontn.org and see what it has to offer.
Jena Galster has a degree in Special Education from Xavier University in Cincinnati, OH. She worked as a special education teacher for eight years prior to taking on her role as an educational consultant at Vanderbilt University in the summer of 2019. She has dedicated most of her time on the project to developing Transition Tennessee’s website for students.
August 18, 2020