Dirty Jobs vs. Clean Jobs

Polly McMahon, Spokane Falls Community College,Spokane, WA 99224 pollym@spokanefalls.edu
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This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project


This activity reviews the concept of average, develops skills in developing a basic spreadsheet and using a formula, and finally developing a bar graph. The final summary assignment challenges students towards higher levels of thinking and critical reasoning.

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Learning Goals

Student goals: Develop and apply the concept of average to their lives and decisions. Design a basic spreadsheet using data from their own research. Design a basic bar graph Discuss reasoning and future directions for research based on their initial investigation.

Context for Use

This module is designed for an Introduction to Human Services class for first year students at a community college. The students have had no experience with computers and are intimidated by using them as part of classroom requirements. They have generally below 6th grade levels of quantitative reasoning and are equally intimidated by any numerical reasoning. They may be unfamiliar with different types of graphs, how to interpret them, and have never used applications such as Powerpoint, Excel or MS Word. This module will require most of the 9 week term for the students to complete. It is, however, a part of a larger curriculum design in this subject of which the quantitative reasoning is only one part. The students will have access to college computers and will complete most of this module outside the standard 50 minute daily class. They will also have this assignment online in the Blackboard format which is where they are submitting their assignments. They will also have access to teaching assistants who are second year students.

Description and Teaching Materials

The module is a PowerPoint presentation with embedded spreadsheets. If the embedded spreadsheets are not visible, save the PowerPoint file to disk and open it from there.

The above PowerPoint files are the student version of the module. An instructor version is available by request. The instructor version includes the completed spreadsheet. Send your request to Len Vacher (vacher@usf.edu) by filling out and submitting the Instructor Module Request Form.

Teaching Notes and Tips

This is a very basic module. It may be used for elementary school or junior high students with minor adaptations. It is designed for the entry level community college student who is considering a career in the somewhat ambiguous field of human services. It is designed to aid discussion of future goals and a comprehension of the value of a college education beyond job security or income.


Assessment based on: Rubric standards for completion of average concept demonstration and spreadsheet development Rubric standards for completion of bar graph Rubric standards for completion of higher levels of critical thinking that apply to this assignment

References and Resources

Online information:
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics provides national employment data and links to specific state sites.
  • The Discovery Channel website for Dirty Jobs is based on the currently popular (2007) program of Mike Rowe's Dirty Jobs. This is the site that can initiate discussion relevant to the assignments and module.