ERG SES E 02, Communities and Education
The 21st century labor market is characterized by uncertainty and temporality, as well as insecurity and vulnerability for people entering the labor market (Standing, 2016). One reason for this is that the individuals ‘career’ is no longer a result of a pre-settled trajectory, but – on the contrary – something that the individual has to create and negotiate in and across time and different contexts (Super, 1984). Individuals need to evolve and adapt with their career (Savickas, 2012), as a career can be seen as both boundaryless (B. Arthur, 2014) and in motion (Sullivan, Forret, Carraher, & Mainiero, 2009). This means that entry to the future labor market requires a deeper knowledge of self, greater confidence and a bigger effort (Savickas, 2012). One way to accommodate this is through a focus on career development throughout the life course (Savickas, 2001; Super, 1984).
In a Danish educational context, there has been an extensive focus on accommodating this change through an articulation of ‘career’ – in various forms – as a core competency throughout the Danish educational landscape. Recently, ‘career learning’ and ‘career competency’ have appeared in educational policy following a new Act for upper secondary school (2017) and, as a consequence, enter the classroom in Danish upper secondary school where it is expected that teachers are able to integrate this focus in their practice (Undervisningsministeriet, 2016).
This paper draws on my PhD project, which is an empirical investigation of the construction of ‘career’ as a didactical subject-matter – e.g. ‘career competencies’ and ‘career adaptability skills’ – in Danish upper secondary school and investigates the relationship between three interdependent curricular levels; the political, the programmatic and the practical.
The paper investigates the underlying hypothesis, that the political initiated articulation of ‘career learning’ as a subject-matter in upper secondary school creates a practical-didactical paradox for the practitioners on the practical curricular level. The Danish case serves as an example of how various educational actors on different curricular levels highlights and values certain skills and capacities for the future educational system, individuals (i.e. students) careers and future lives, and the overall development of the society and its citizens.
The theoretical foundation originates from the systems theory as formulated by Niklas Luhmann. In this theory, society consists of functionally differentiated systems that are operative closed and self-referential – although interdependent through autopoesis (Luhmann, 2000). However, the differentiated systems do not exist in harmony; on the contrary they collide, affect, modify and try to dominate one another all the time (Qvortrup, 2006). In addition to the systems theory, I draw on Stefan Hopmanns didactical theory, where didactics is seen as a matter of ‘order’, ‘choice’ and ‘sequence’ (Hopmann, 2007) at the three curricular levels (Hopmann, Künzli, & Jacobsen, 1995).
When combined, the two theories offer a systemization when analyzing reconciliation, inner (and outer) contradictions and the systems boundary maintenance (Luhmann, 2000) on the three curricular levels. The combination of the theories will also make it possible to observe how career as a theme is constructed, communicated and practiced (Uljens & Ylimaki, 2017) within and across the curricular levels.
Knowledge about how ‘career learning’ is constructed, communicated and practiced is sought through various methods across the three curricular levels. On the political curricular level, knowledge is sought out through collection and analysis of public policy documents. The same goes for the programmatic level, where documents are retrieved and analysed across the political and practical educational curricular level. On the practical curricular level knowledge is sought out through ethnographic fieldwork (Walford, 2008). The data collection on the practical curricular level will take place at three Danish upper secondary schools located in different districts – an urban, a provincial and a rural district - of the country. The fieldwork consists of interviews with practitioners and students as well as extended observations in the classroom, in faculty lounge and in the school premises overall. The ethnographic approach positions the practitioners and students as ‘joint authors’ and ‘knowledge creators’ (Mockler & Groundwater-Smith, 2015) which is an essential part of the empirical study, thus it makes it possible to observe similarities and contradictions between the intended, planned and experienced curriculum.
The hypothesis in this paper is that the political initiated articulation of ‘career learning’ as a subject-matter in upper secondary school creates a didactical paradox for the practitioners on the practical curricular level. This is supported by preliminary pilot studies, where the interviewed practitioners on one hand expressed frustration towards (their understanding of) the educational policy in general and in relation to “career” as a subject-matter, which they see as a disturbance to their practice, while they, on the other hand, said that they “have always done it” – “it” being preparing students for further studies or a future career. With this didactic paradox in mind, it is seemingly not the theme of ‘career’ that creates a disturbance, but the fact that ‘policy’ dictates a particular way of representing career in teachers’ practice. By emphasizing, that ‘career’ – in its various forms – is a didactic matter embedded in the Nordic/German didactical tradition, it becomes clear, that ‘career’ as a subject-matter is related to 1) the concepts of Bildung, 2) the embedded differentiation of matter and meaning, and 3) the necessary autonomy of teaching (Hopmann, 2007, pp. 114-115). However, the concept of Bildung, the differentiation of matter and meaning and the autonomy of teaching is understood differently across the three curricular levels. In this presentation, a model will be proposed, designed to illuminate similarities and differences in and across different curricular levels in which ‘career learning’ and ‘career competencies’ are constructed. With this model, it will be possible to gain knowledge on how – and why – politicians, educational advisors and practitioners construct and attach meaning to ‘career learning’ and ‘career competencies’ as an educational and didactical matter.
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