14 SES 07 B, Aspirations, Careers and Parent-School relationshisp
Misalignment between career and educational aspirations occurs when the minimum qualification required for a person’s desired occupation exceeds their educational expectations (Perry et al., 2016). Misalignment has been associated with poorer achievement during adolescence and unstable employment in adulthood (Sabates et al., 2011; Schmitt-Wilson & Faas, 2016). While a fundamental aim of careers education is to teach students to make informed academic and occupational decisions (Uffelman et al., 2004), this task is complicated by increased occupational mobility and frequency of job transitions in contemporary globalised labour markets (Santisi et al., 2018; Savickas, 2012). So while building students’ knowledge through identification of a single career and qualification of interest historically has been a staple activity of careers education (Savickas, 2012), modern adolescents need a more general aspirational alignment skillset in order to navigate the less linear career pathways they are likely to experience (Santisi et al., 2018).
Relatively brief career education interventions have proven successful in motivating academic choices and improving career-related self-efficacy in school students. Harackiewicz et al. (2012) conducted a field experiment testing whether brochures mailed to parents could increase participation in senior school science and mathematics, by emphasising the utility-value of these subjects. Students in an intervention group took an average of one extra semester in these subjects in the final years of high school, compared to students in the control group. The intervention was most effective with low achieving boys and high achieving girls (Rozek et al., 2015). Turner and Lapan (2005) conducted a quasi-experimental study where adolescents reported their perceptions about a variety of careers and received personalised computer-generated recommendations for further exploration of career and education information. For students in an experimental condition, the intervention increased their career-related self-efficacy and interest in gender non-traditional careers.
Similarly, in earlier work, we found that a relatively brief career education intervention in the form of automated, personalised feedback on the alignment between a single set of career and education aspirations could reduce aspirational misalignment and improve aspects of career decision self-efficacy (Berger et al., 2019). In that study, students in an intervention group entered their career and education aspirations into an online questionnaire and received immediate feedback on whether the two were aligned. Students in the intervention group more frequently identified the correct qualification for their career aspirations when surveyed again after three weeks compared to students in a control group. Following the intervention, students also reported higher self-efficacy for gathering occupational information and selecting career goals. A limitation of this earlier work was the focus on improving students’ abilities to align a specific career and qualification of interest.
In the present study, we investigate aspirational alignment as a more general capability and evaluate whether another relatively brief intervention can improve that capability. Our research questions are:
1) Does receiving a careers information pamphlet increase adolescents’ general aspirational alignment capability after three weeks compared to baseline?
2) If so, are there any differential effects of the intervention for students of different genders and linguistic backgrounds?
Participants were students aged 14–16 years (n = 211, M = 15.05, SD = .77) at two high schools in Western Sydney, Australia. All students (n = 369) undertaking careers education were invited to participate. The response rate was 57%. A quasi-experimental non-equivalent groups design was used to randomly assign entire classes of participants to intervention and control conditions. This design responds to concerns that it is unethical and impracticable to differentially intervene with some children but not others within the same classroom (Handley et al., 2011). Although this design is not as strong as randomly assigning individuals to the experimental conditions, it is useful in schools because intact classes are already formed (Turner & Lapan, 2005). A total of 102 students (48%) were assigned to the intervention condition. All participants completed online pre- and post-questionnaires, with three weeks elapsing between sampling occasions. Students gave their age, gender, language background, and parents’ occupations and qualifications. Students were then asked what occupation and qualification they aspired to attain by age 25 by selecting from the full-list of 919 occupations and 5 qualification levels in the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO; Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2006). Finally, students were asked to match qualifications to the top 10 career aspirations reported by Australian teenagers (see Gore et al., 2015). In between sampling points, intervention participants were mailed a careers information pamphlet which detailed these top 10 careers and the qualifications required by each (as defined by ANZSCO). Control participants only received this pamphlet at the study’s conclusion. Aspirational alignment was calculated as ‘aligned’ or ‘misaligned’ depending on whether the correct qualification was selected for an occupation. Aspirations at age 25 was used to calculate a student’s specific aspirational alignment, while the top 10 careers matching task was used to calculate a student’s general aspirational alignment capability. The number of ‘aligned’ careers was added together and divided by the total number matched, resulting in a mean correct score. The higher the mean score, the ‘better’ a student’s general aspirational alignment capability. Data were analysed using IBM SPSS Statistics Version 25. There was some missing data associated with student attendance at sampling occasions. Paired-samples t-tests were used to compare pre- and post- general aspirational alignment capability. Other descriptive and inferential statistical tests were used to explore whether there were any differential effects by gender or linguistic background.
Overall, we found that students in the intervention condition had improved scores for general aspirational alignment capability after receiving the pamphlet (m t1 = 34.58, mt2 = 39.12, t(87) = -2.10, p = .039) although the effect size was small (Cohen’s d = .274). Boys in the intervention condition saw statistically significant gains with small-medium effect size (m t1 = 31.68, mt2 = 39.28, t(45) = -2.391, p = .021, d = .367) while girls did not (m t1 = 37.76, mt2 = 38.94, t(41) = -.41, p = .678). Notably girls had higher scores at baseline and the boys caught up after the intervention. Similarly, students from English-speaking backgrounds experienced statistically significant improvements in general alignment capability with small-medium effect size (m t1 = 33.47, mt2 = 39.78, t(50) = -2.331, p = .024, d = .326) while students from non-English backgrounds did not (m t1 = 36.10, mt2 = 38.22, t(36) = -.598, p = .554). While this exploratory study had a relatively small sample size drawn from a limited range of participants in terms of age and geography, we found that a relatively brief and simple intervention could help improve adolescents’ general aspirational alignment capability. We continue to examine the data and its implications for research and practice. However, preliminary analyses indicated differential effects for gender and language background. The effect sizes for these improvements ranged from .27 -.37, which is consistent with previous intervention research (Turner & Lapan, 2005). In addition to this empirical contribution, this study has some practical significance for careers educators globally. Given increasing occupational mobility (Santisi et al., 2018), the ability to align career and education pathways needs to be treated as a general capability. In doing so, careers educators will be better able to equip adolescents to navigate non-linear career trajectories.
Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2006). ANZSCO – Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (D. Trewing & B. Pink Eds.). Canberra, Australia: Author Berger, N., Hanham, J., Stevens, C.J., & Holmes, K. (2019). Immediate feedback improves career decision self-efficacy and aspirational alignment. Frontiers in Psychology. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00255 Gore, J., Holmes, K., Smith, M., Southgate, E., & Albright, J. (2015). Socioeconomic status and the career aspirations of Australian school students: Testing enduring assumptions. Australian Educational Researcher, 42(2), 155-177. doi: 10.1007/s13384-015-0172-5 Handley, M., Schollinger, D., & Shiboski, S. (2011). Quasi-experimental designs in practice-based research settings: Design and implementation considerations. Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, 25(5), 199-219. doi:10.3122/jabfm.2011.05.110067 Harackiewicz, J.M., Rozek, C.S., Hulleman, C.S., & Hyde, J.S. (2012). Helping parents to motivate adolescents in mathematics and science: An experimental test of a utility-value intervention. Psychological Science, 23(8), 899-906. doi:10.1177/0956797611435530 Perry, B.L., Martinez, E., Morris, E., Link, T.C., & Leukfeld, C. (2016). Misalignment of career and educational aspirations in middle school: Differences across race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status. Social Sciences, 5(3), 35-45. doi:10.3390/socsci5030035 Rozek, C.S., Hyde, J.S., Svoboda, R.C., Hulleman, C.S., & Harackiewicz, J.M. (2015). Gender differences in the effects of a utility-value intervention to help parents motivate adolescents in mathematics and science. Journal of Educational Psychology, 107(1), 195-206. doi:10.1037/a0036981 Sabates, R., Harris, A.L., & Staff, J. (2011). Ambition gone awry: The long-term socioeconomic consequences of misaligned and uncertain ambitions in adolescence. Social Science Quarterly, 92(4), 959-977. doi:10.1111/j.1540-6237.2011.00799.x Santisi, G., Magnano, P., Platania, S., & Ramaci, T. (2018). Psychological resources, satisfaction, and career identity in the work transition: An outlook on Sicilian college students. Psychology Research & Behaviour Management, 11, 187-195. doi:10.2147/PRBM.S164745 Savickas, M.L. (2012). Life design: A paradigm for career intervention in the 21st Century. Journal of Counselling & Development, 90(1), 13-19. doi:10.1111/j.1556-6676.2012.00002.x Schmitt-Wilson, S., & Faas, C. (2016). Alignment of educational and occupational expectations influence on young adult educational attainment, income, and underemployment. Social Science Quarterly, 97(5), 1174-1188. doi:10.1111/ssqu.12244 Turner, S.L., & Lapan, R. (2005). Evaluation of an intervention to increase non-traditional career interests and career-related self-efficacy among middle-school adolescents. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 66(3), 516-531. doi:10.1016/j.jvb.2004.02.005 Uffelman, R.A., Mezydlo Subich, L., Diegelman, N.M., Wagner, K.S., & Bardash, R.J. (2004). Effect of mode of interest on clients’ career decision-making self-efficacy. Journal of Career Assessment, 12(4), 366-380. doi:10.177/1069072704266651
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