A Career Development Programme Education Essay

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A review of the current career development activities at the school that I am currently employed in was undertaken. It established the processes and activities being employed, the target audience of the programme, and also an identified need in the current programme.

Description of school and its specific need

The school is located in North Queensland and is one of the largest secondary schools in the area. It has a current population of over 2000 students from years 8 to 12, with over 400 of the students identifying themselves as being Torres Strait Islander, Aboriginal or both. In terms of social economic status the majority of the students come from low to medium socio-economic backgrounds. The school has an Indigenous Education Team whose goals are to improve the school's relationships with Indigenous families and involve parents in their child's education. As a result a monthly parents' group has been established as a forum for parents, staff and students to discuss issues regarding students.

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The school implemented an Indigenous Student Education Strategic Plan in the year 2011 which will be annually reviewed, in order to support the educational outcomes of its indigenous students, which was initiated by the Deputy Principal, and an Indigenous education team. The plan was conceptually devised and implemented in consultation with community education counsellors and Indigenous teacher aides. Programmes in place at the School equally support both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

The aim of the Indigenous Student Education Strategic Plan is to provide an appreciative inquiry process that enhances existing Indigenous education programmes by fostering school capacity. During the plan's development phase school staff, students and families worked together to identify areas where the school was performing well, needed improvement as well as future directions for Indigenous students. The outcomes of the process identified five key principles that expresses the school's approach to Indigenous education: providing a supportive culture of high expectations, instilling pride and achievement, providing multiple pathways for students to successfully transition to further education, training and employment, providing a culturally-aware school community and enabling Indigenous students to receive leadership and role modelling opportunities.

The school has in place a career development programme where 90% of the students follow a Vocational Education and Training (VET) pathway. The group consists of year 11 and 12 students undertaking vocational education pathways. Twenty percent of this cohort is made up of Indigenous students. Year 10 students have also been involved, working on competencies in the Australian Blueprint for Career Development framework (Blueprint) dealing with career pathways. The development of the programme has also entailed the development of classroom materials such as worksheets and activities that link to each of the Blueprint competencies and performance indicators. These activities target Phase III students in the senior / post-compulsory years of schooling. In addition, the Blueprint has been incorporated into the school's Senior Education and Training Plans (Set-P, an initiative that has recently been introduced into Queensland schools), as well as in portions of a Certificate I in Work Education and Certificate II in Workplace Practices. Some of the competencies from the Blueprint align with Certificates I & II in Workplace Practices. Similarly the SET Plan also closely aligns with the Blueprint. Current staff involved in the career development programme includes a project manager, who is the Vocational Education and Training Head of Department, two Guidance Officers and three Vocational Education Teachers (School Guidance Officer, personal communication, September 12, 2012).

Based on the five key principles and the current career development programme that expresses the school's approach to Indigenous education, there is currently a need to ensure adequate career advice that covers issues of subject selection particularly at the year 9 level, including counselling and leisure to support the needs of these students.

Theoretical model on which the programme is based and rationale

Although there are a number of theories that could be considered as a frame work in the design of the proposed career programme, there is presently no theory, which on its own is adequate to explain the complexity of the field of career development. It is important that consideration is given to the theories before a decision is made. Career theories may be categorised according to their principal focus, for example the content and process of career development. Theories of content, derived from the trait and factor tradition, have played a useful role in elaborating influences on career development, such as abilities, personality, interests, and values. The trait and factor approach asserts that career choice can be made through an objective process of corresponding self knowledge with career knowledge. The trait and factor approach has been described as a "test and tell" approach (Crites, 1981, pp. 49), and is typified in the work of Holland (1997). Theories of process described as developmental theories, with the work of Super (1992), being particularly noteworthy. Central to the theory of Super is the concept of self, which is seen as a product of the interaction between an individual and his environment, represents the first of two process concepts proposed by Super. The second, concerns the development over time of a series of stages through which individuals pass. More recently, Savickas (2005) has advanced Super's work and he suggests that individuals actually construct their careers through the importance they impose on their life experiences. The three key elements of Savickas's theory are vocational personality, career adaptability and life themes which are reflective of the idea of constructivism and social construction.

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There are other theories which attend to both theory and process that include the social learning theory of career decision making (Krumboltz, 1996) and the more recent Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT); (Lent, Brown & Hackett, 2002). These focus on the process of interaction between content variables. Krumboltz places emphasis on learning in the career development process. He views individuals as active shapers of their lives within the constraints of personal and environmental factors. Such features of learning and the concept of lifelong learning have become an important theme in current thinking about career development (Patton & McMahon, 1999, 2006).

Career theory has been criticised for paying little attention to the career development of "groups other than white, western men," (Patton & McMahon, 1999, 2006). Thus the career development of some groups such as with people from differing racial and ethnic groups, has to date, not been adequately addressed. While some theories have been proffered to account for the career development of these groups (Cook; Heppner & O'Brien, 2002), the development of a more inclusive theory remains a challenge. More recently, some Australian career theorists have advanced approaches that are more inclusive of diverse groups from cultures and contexts (Patton & McMahon, 1999, 2006). Moreover an integration of theories and the need for a conceptual tool for bridging theories or an overarching framework of career development has been debated (Savickas & Lent, 1994). Central to this move in career theory has been the constructivist worldview with its focus the active role of individuals in the construction of their careers. The constructivist worldview is illustrated in the systems theory framework of career development, which is an Australian meta-theoretical framework, which attempts to suggest a way of unifying theory and practice through a focus on individuals and their system of influences. Information is incorporated into an individual's existing frameworks of experience and knowledge in a relational and associative way through which new meaning and new knowledge is created (Patton & McMahon, 1999, 2006).

In conclusion the most appropriate theory that will be used as a framework for the proposed career development programme is the systems theory framework with its focus on the active role of individuals in the construction of their careers. The framework would facilitate the use of a dialogue or narrative approach between client and counsellor in a constructivist sense. Such narratives can provide counsellors with a unique derivative perspective insight into the interconnectedness of systemic influences in each individual client's career story. In addition, through story, the patterns and themes of an individual's client's life can be uncovered, thus empowering the client. Moreover, in recounting their own particular stories students will be able to select particular experiences and produce a unique and a narrative truth by which they live.

Programme details of how career education, guidance and counselling fit and contribute to the programme

Identification of need

Following guidance from the Blueprint (MCEECDYA, 2010), the actual process of the initial design and development of the career development plan belied the complexity of the task that needed to be undertaken. Therefore, the first step in the process required an undertaking to conduct an audit of the current career development programme and resources at the school to provide baseline information. Existing career resources and programmes of the school were mapped against the Blueprint competencies and performance indicators. This process provided for the identification of potential gaps in resources and/or learning activities at the school.

Findings

Some of the Torres Strait Island and Aboriginal students provide a range of additional challenges. For example the education providers at the school work against a background of alcohol and substance abuse, child abuse, poverty, and poor health. A significant number of the students (24%) have poor outcomes in terms of attendance (ACARA, 2011), and there are also concerns with student enrolment, retention, achievement as well as conflict between the Indigenous groups of students. There are limited opportunities for employment and training provision in the local communities and ability to access these opportunities is often difficult for students.

Although the schools present guidance and counselling model is based on a Western society model, this has been criticised because it neglects to consider the traditional assistance that could be afforded by Indigenous members of local communities (McMahon & Tatham 2008). The school has endeavoured and is presently in the process of rectifying this. Students in years 10-12 are presently accommodated for in the school's career development programme. However, there is as yet no allocation in the programme for the cohort of year 9 students (School Guidance Officer, personal communication, September 12, 2012).

Career development programme proposal

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A career development programme incorporating guidance and leisure activities for the full cohort of Year 9 students, with regards to the specific needs of the Indigenous population is to be designed to assist these students to embark on future senior schooling with confidence and focus. It will provide opportunities for parents, industry and community members to get involved, and provide students with an opportunity to complete a self portfolio for potential work readiness, to consider leisure and other appropriate interests and to develop a portfolio demonstrating the career competencies outlined in the Blueprint (MCEECDYA, 2010).

The primary function of the proposed career development programme is to collect, evaluate, and provide students with personal, educational, social, and career information so that the students can make informed decisions regarding their lives. The key objective of the programme for the selected cohort of students is that these students will have: a basic understanding of the broad patterns of employment opportunities and their relationships with school and post school education requirements, a developing capacity for self assessment of skills, attributes and preference and a developing capacity to relate these attributes to future study, to consider leisure and employment options and make decisions about these options.

The competencies in the Blueprint will be used to design such a career education programme for year 9 students, including the development of appropriate assessment items and activity sheets. In order to do this, Chapters 1, 3, 4, 5 and Appendix B of the framework will be used, as will all of the competencies and performance indicators in Phase I. The Career Building competencies in Area C will also be incorporated into the SET Plans for the year 9 group (MCEECDYA, 2010).

There will also be a need to produce lessons for each competency and performance indicator, together with a set of worksheets that could be tailored by teachers who are responsible for delivery of the programme. The set of lesson plans and accompanying worksheets that will be developed will need to be modified for different client groups in year 9 cohort with specific needs, such as students with low literacy skills, and for specifically Indigenous and other cultural groups.

The programme will incorporate aspects of career education, guidance and counselling and information regarding leisure. In order to ensure adequate coverage of these aspects a step-by-step approach will be undertaken in organising appropriate materials around the competency matrix framework provided in the Blueprint. It is envisaged that the school's guidance officers will focus on the career competencies in areas A, B and C. Specifically all of the phase 1 and 2 level units listed in the competency 1 to build and maintain a positive self-image, and competency 2 to interact positively and effectively with others will be covered in area A. In area B all units in phase 1 and 2 of the competency 4 to participate in life-long learning as well as the units in phase 1 and 2 of the competency 5 to locate and effectively use career information will be addressed. Also all units in area C in phase 1 and 2 of the competency 9 to maintain balanced life and work roles will be covered. Both the school's guidance officers and VET teachers will concentrate on developing learning strategies and worksheets for the identified areas. Ongoing evaluation and feedback by all team members concerning the learning materials will also be a feature of the programme.

Developmental classroom guidance and counselling

The school presently has dedicated guidance lessons which allow for a six-week classroom guidance unit, which will be offered to the target group by the school counsellor, who will consult closely with classroom teachers to determine which topics to cover during the lessons. With teacher input, the school counsellor will be required to assist in the design of 40-minute long developmentally-appropriate classroom guidance lessons that will seek to address the goals and objectives set out in the proposed programme to aid students to master the academic, personal, and career development tasks. Counselling provision exists at the school which will be further utilised. Currently students can make appointments to have meetings with a school counsellor when required and will be afforded the same opportunity under this programme.

Conflict resolution and peer mediation unit

A conflict resolution unit will be taught throughout the year on a weekly basis to rotating small groups of students. Students will be selected, through application, and receive intensive training from the school counsellor before they could serve as peer mediators. The school counsellor and principal will be required to make presentations to other schools and principals to explain the peer mediation program. Parents and Indigenous community workers would be informed about the conflict resolution and peer mediation programme to facilitate their potential involvement.

For an example, activity students could be asked to produce a poster and write a story regarding a conflict that they had which did not resolve well, such as with a parent, authority figure, sibling, classmate or a friend. They would be asked to consider what they could have done differently in order to resolve such a situation. Ensuring students are first briefed on the issues of privacy, student's will research conflict resolution or alternative dispute resolution and consider why people engage in dispute resolution. The class could be divided into small groups and each group would design a poster for the hallway with peaceful pictures and activities to do instead of fighting with someone. As an extension, students might explore current community issues and determine if any of the strategies they've researched could be applied to help resolve local disputes. Local Indigenous community members would be invited to relate their own narratives on such issues. An example of some of the programmes proposed activities can be found in the supplied appendix.

An exploration of what constitutes a balanced life unit

Students will be required to complete a journal article and a series of worksheets and write and tell a story that examines their respective leisure activities and how these contribute to a balanced life. They will also be encouraged to report on how these activities can be supportive of their life goals.

How the programme will be evaluated

Evaluation refers to assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the programme, based on the programme objectives, counsellor functions determined by students' needs, legislative mandates, and societal expectations, recommends using a combination of evaluative techniques for obtaining programme data, including, follow up, enumerative data, and questionnaire. The importance of conducting a valid and reliable programme evaluation is paramount. Career programme evaluation is a key element in the identification of school career/guidance programmes, because without outcome data, evaluation and programme identification is impossible (MCEECDYA, 2010). During the process of the programmes implementation a formative evaluation will be carried out. This type of evaluation will be used to examine the various aspects of the programme as it evolves, in order that any modifications can be implemented to ensure quality, correct direction, and a consideration of the processes used. A final summative evaluation will be carried out to determine the level of success of the programme during this stage. As with any evaluation it will need to respect the dignity and also the privacy of all individuals involved with the programme, all participants will be provided with information regarding the purpose and use of collected data. Privacy issues will be applied with due regards for the welfare of those involved (Joint Committee on Standards for Educational Evaluation 1994).

The evaluation will be closely tied to the initial goal setting, through the setting of specific, measurable, acceptable, realistic, and time-specific performance and management goals, which will ensure that their achievement can be evaluated. In addition to an own self-evaluation, feedback will be sought from the team leader. The programme may need to be revised as the implementation of the programme progresses. Regular reviews and tailoring of the programme will be necessary to make the development as effective as possible. The performance management process at the beginning of the goal setting and at the mid-year and year-end reviews should be used to formally revisit the career development plan. This will help to identify opportunities where the career goals can be aligned with the performance management objectives.

Criteria for evidence

The primary function of the proposed career development programme was to collect, evaluate, and provide students with personal, educational, social, and career information so that the students could make informed decisions regarding their lives. The key objective of the programme for the selected cohort of students was that these students should have: a basic understanding of the broad patterns of employment opportunities and their relationships with school and post school education requirements, a developing capacity for self assessment of skills, attributes and preference and a developing capacity to relate these attributes to future study, to consider leisure and employment options and make decisions about these options.

In order to determine if the programme has been successful or not will require an evaluation that will be based on the above study focus and its specific outcomes on such issues as: how successful is the programme in preparing students to use positive social skills when interacting with other? Evidence could be provided in possible decreases in incidences of bullying in the year 9 cohorts. Students should be able to identify appropriate and inappropriate behaviours when presented with a potential conflict situation. Data collection could be from focused group meetings, one to one conversations with students, observations and the completion of surveys. The findings will be disseminated in the form of a written report to all staff members that have been concerned with the programme. A review of the findings will dictate the next step in the process. The evaluation is not to be a one-time event. It will become an integral part of any future programme activities at the school (Wall, 1994).