02 SES 06 B, Career Choice and Career Competences
Early career decisions shape educational and professional pathways. Young people have to deal with multiple challenges (Stalder, 2012). Not only do they have to decide on what they want to become. Also, they have to decide on their educational pathway, as the Swiss education system offers different educational pathways to achieve career goals. Besides of initial vocational education and training (VET) and the upper secondary general schools, specialised upper secondary schools were established during the last years (Leemann, Esposito, & Hafner, 2017). These schools prepare students for education on the tertiary level in the professional fields of health, social work and education or they offer a school-based alternative to an apprenticeship in commerce. The group of students applying for a specialised middle school is of particular interest, as they have the choice to follow either a school-based or a vocational pathway as there are alternative routes to reach the career goals through an apprenticeship, the vocational baccalaureate and higher professional education. However, for many of these students, a school-based education seems to be more attractive than VET. Why is this the case?
Little is known about the motives why students plan to enrol at specialised middle schools. We are interested to describe the motives and to put a lens on the decision process of these students during the registration process. Additionally, we are interested to see how they justify their decision if they are asked to describe alternative educational pathways. The primary focus of our presentation will be on an analysis of the decision process and the line of argumentation as part of an active career construction (Savickas et al., 2009). We will discuss some indications of difficulties in this process, as, e.g. diffuse and unspecific decision-making, or the reluctance to change plans and to reflect on alternatives. This line of argumentation also gives valuable insights into how young people rate general education compared to VET.
The results presented in this paper are based on data from a project that aimed at improving the quality of the educational decision, taken by young people with the intention of enrolling in a specialised middle school (Nägele, Rodcharoen, Hell, & Armoneit, 2018). The project was initiated by a cantonal education department aiming at reducing the number of inscriptions by promoting other educational pathways, and also with the aim to ensure that only those young people apply for a middle school that are interested in following this type of school-based education and can justify this decision (Nägele, Rodcharoen, Hell, Armoneit, & BKSD Kt. BL, 2017). The education department decided against merely raising the school-grades needed for access. An increase in the grade cut for approval usually puts more stress on the young people as they need to invest more in getting the grades linked to the risk to increase educational inequality (Schneider, 2008). Therefore, the preferred solution was to develop an innovative approach where all applicants need to undergo an online self-assessment. The intention is to challenge the decisions and underlying mindset and to activate a reflection about the educational goal(s) and pathway(s). Within the online self-assessment, the young people were prompted to develop alternative scenarios as well as to argue for these alternatives. Other tasks in the online self-assessment put the young people in a context to explore themselves (vocational interests, learning expectations in different learning contexts) and their possibilities within the educational system.
Design and participants The study involves 615 young people that finished the online self-assessment successfully in February 2018. They all received a confirmation to be enclosed with the application art a specialised middle school on the upper secondary level. The data was gathered during the admission period from November 2017 to February 2018. Both qualitative and quantitative approaches were used to work on the research questions. Procedure and measures The online self-assessment induces a self-responsible reflective process. All participants were autonomous in their decision when and where they wanted to work on the tasks in their free time and how to portion multiple tasks in each session. The general instructions were given at start to ensure focused participation best as possible. Before the participation in the online self-assessment, the whole procedure was explained and also the individual access codes were given at a live event, which was conducted by representatives of the relevant department of education. The participation in the online self-assessment is part of the admission process and thus mandatory. The participation was however anonymous with a stringent procedure to prevent alignment of person and data. The admission into the school was independent of individual performance in the online self-assessment. An individualised, adaptive feedback to each task was only given to the participants. The confirmation of participation was solely based on the complete participation (up to the last task) and was given as a printout after the last task to complete the personal admission dossier. The online self-assessment included nine separate tasks. In addition to demographical variables, the tasks assessed knowledge of the educational system, previous and alternative plans regarding educational and vocational goals, and learning expectations in different educational paths. Many questions were asked as an open question to prompt personal reflection and detailed answers. In this manner, the student participated in a forward and backward reflection, was asked to explore alternative options and to reflect and rate different subjective aspects based on their representations, which resembles approaches used in counselling and coaching.
The participation was overall encouraging, and answers to the many open questions in the online self-assessment were given seriously and carefully considered. Questions about long-term plans, preferred alternative plans and simultaneous applications for both schools indicate to some degree diffused decision-making in the present context. Within the online self-assessment, the student’s performance in a quiz on different aspects of vocational education was below our expectation, and 80 % of the sample had to retake failed questions. While one can argue for an adjustment of the questions to be less ‘painful’ for the young people, this initial result could point out room for improvement regarding knowledge of VET. The reason might either be an imperfect choice process or an early narrow focus on a few, highly visible options (often based on parental influence) based on images and stereotypes (Gottfredson, 2005). Despite better performance on other similar open-question-tasks, the students were especially reluctant to argue for their chosen alternative. A closer look at how the young people did or did not argue for alternative pathways and their specific understandings will be presented. Future implications aim at encouraging divers and specific exploration and especially a more positive attitude towards having and reflecting on alternative pathways. As for the online self-assessment, we will present the effect of the approach as being dependent on factors such as the type of the targeted school and initial certainty and satisfaction. Practical and theoretical implications will be outlined.
Gottfredson, L. S. (2005). Applying Gottfredson’s theory of circumscription and compromise in career guidance and counseling. In S. D. Brown & R. W. Lent (Eds.), Career development and counseling: Putting theory and research to work (pp. 71-100). Hoboken, NJ, US: John Wiley & Sons Inc. Leemann, R. J., Esposito, R. S., & Hafner, S. (2017). Institutionalisation of the specialised school in Switzerland as a third educational track on upper secondary education: a convention based governance analyses. Proceedings from The Format of “Bildung” or how Research shapes Convention *Workshop Sociology of Conventions, 14.-15. September 2017, Zürich, CH. Nägele, C., Rodcharoen, P., Hell, B., & Armoneit, C. (2018). Eine erste Einschätzung: Online-Self-Assessment zur Reflexion über die Wahl einer weiteren Ausbildung auf Sekundarstufe II als Teil des Informationssettings Kanton Basel-Landschaft. Nägele, C., Rodcharoen, P., Hell, B., Armoneit, C., & BKSD Kt. BL. (2017). Informationssetting Kanton Basel-Landschaft. Details der Aufgaben 1 bis 9. Liestal, CH & Solothurn / Olten, CH: BKSD & FHNW. Savickas, M. L., Nota, L., Rossier, J., Dauwalder, J.-P., Duarte, M. E., Guichard, J., . . . van Vianen, A. E. M. (2009). Life designing: A paradigm for career construction in the 21st century. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 75(3), 239-250. Schneider, T. (2008). Social inequality in educational participation in the German school system in a longitudinal perspective: Pathways into and out of the most prestigious school track. European Sociological Review, 24. Stalder, B. E. (2012). School-to-work transitions in apprenticeship-based vet systems: The Swiss approach. In S. Billett, G. Johnson, S. Thomas, C. Sim, S. Hay, & J. Ryan (Eds.), Experience of school transitions: Policies, practice and participants (pp. 123-139). Dordrecht, NL: Springer Science + Business Media. Career choice on the upper secondary level, official statistics: https://www.bfs.admin.ch/bfs/de/home/statistiken/bildung-wissenschaft/bildungsindikatoren/bildungssystem-schweiz/bildungsstufen/sekundarstufe-ii/ausbildungen-sekundarstufe.html
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