I especially like using this strategy about 10 weeks into the semester when students’ efforts begin to drop and they are swerving off course.  This activity helps some students renew taking the actions necessary for their success, like attending class on time and turning in assignments on time.

Directions: “It is some time in the future, and you have earned your highest desired degree. You are now applying for your dream job, and your potential employer asks you to provide a reference letter from a former college teacher of yours. You ask me (your teacher now) to write this letter. Pretending to be me, compose the letter of recommendation that you believe I would write for you based on your behaviors and attitudes so far this semester. Do as I would do: Be honest, be thorough, and offer specific examples.”  (Allow about 10 minutes)

Process: After the students write, I collect and read the letters anonymously aloud one at a time. After each reading, the class votes to put that recommendation letter into one of three piles: 

  1. Definitely interview the candidate
  2. Maybe interview the candidate
  3. Not a prayer of an interview. 

I ask students to explain their votes. (Of course the writer of the letter, though anonymous, is listening intently.) 

Two critical points to draw out during the discussion: 1) Employers will be looking for the same positive behaviors and attitudes tomorrow that will make you a success in college today, and 2) By your behaviors and attitudes today, you are writing your references of tomorrow.

–Skip Downing, Facilitator, On Course Workshop, Skip@OnCourseWorkshop.com 

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