14 SES 02 A, School-related Transitions - Secondary Education and Beyond
Taking decisions concerning choice of career and school education are amongst the most central development tasks for young people and therefore also of great interest in European research studies. This is a time, when young adolescents have to reflect on themselves and their environment. They have to find out what kind of future aspirations and competences they have and adopt them to the expectations of their social environment as well as to the available possibilities of training or school places. Decisions which are made at this early point in life have influence on later phases of life. (Wolter, 2013) Young people need a lot of support as well as special strategies and competences in order to cope with the uncertainties and strains which come with transition processes (Schröder, 2019). This is a multifactorial process of learning, problem solving and exploration (Neuenschwander, 2008) which should be started at an early time and should have the support of parents, teachers and peers.
In this paper the theoretical background is formed by a resource model for mastering development tasks (Fend, Berger, & Grob, 2009). In order to master this task, every youth has to go through a complex decision process concerning the choice of career and education which is based on personal and social resources.
Self-efficacy expectations are one of the most crucial personal resources, which are discussed in this paper. Self-efficacy expectation is understood as the subjective conviction to master difficult situations and challenges by oneself. Young people, who have high self-efficacy expectations aim high and are more successful as those, who experience themselves as low self-effective. (Schwarzer & Jerusalem, 2002) Personal resources for the career orientation phase have developed through social interactions and learning processes and are therefore the results of their own biographies. In order to have stable self-efficacy beliefs social support is needed as well as encouragement and feelings of success. (Deci & Ryan, 1993)
The most important social resource for children and young people is the family. In the career orientation phase parents are paramount. (Neuenschwander & Malti, 2009; Schlögl & Lachmayr, 2004; Schröder, 2019) Parents can accompany information events together with their kids, talk with them about their future plans or help them to find the right training or education. Through positive parenting and relationship, parents are able to support their children when uncertainties or difficulties emerge in this development process. (Schellenberg & Häfeli, 2009; Vignoli, 2009).
But not only parents support their children in this important phase, also peers and teachers. Especially teachers can convey knowledge about career and education options. Acting as educators, they also help the students to develop relevant personal resources and competences. There is little research concerning the influence of teachers and peers in this orientation phase. Some findings show, that peers are important contact persons, when decisions have to be made. The need for recognition is very high in the youth phase, therefore it is possible, that the influence of the peers is notable and one-sided. (Fend, 1997; Schröder, 2019) As some research shows, engaged teachers, who ask a lot of questions concerning the career and education orientation process (Schellenberg & Häfeli, 2009), contribute to its success.
This paper aims to find out
- to what extent parents, teachers, and peers support young peoplein this orientation phase and in particular help them to develop self-knowledge on their personal strengths and competencies, as well as on their professional aspirations.
- if there are groups of youth with special support structures (feeling socially integrated, support of parents, self-efficacy expectations, importance of mindsets, trust in teachers).
The analyses are based on a sample of youth representing one complete region in Austria (“model region education Zillertal”). The sample consists of 231 students in grade 7 (mean of age 13.3 years) of new middle schools and covers approx. 70% of the population of 7th graders in this region. All interviewed pupils took part in workshops, which helped them try to find out their strengths. There they were asked to complete the questionnaires. As this research is part of an evaluation project of the region, further questionnaires are planned. Thus, later on it will be possible to do longitudinal analyses getting data over a period of four years in order to find out, how the young people develop in this period. The focus of the survey is to explore resources and strategies in regards of transitions in the school system. The analyses comprise scales on parents’, peers’, and teachers’ support resources, scales on personal resources such as self-efficacy expectation, and demographic information on the students. Adolescents’ knowledge about their own strengths, competencies, and professional aspirations serves as dependent variable whereas self-efficacy expectations, support of parents, teachers and peers as well as gender, migration background and the highest education of the parents serve as independent variables in a multiple regression model. For the multiple analysis of the data, a hierarchical cluster analysis with the programme R applying the ward method is used (Handl & Kuhlenkasper 2017). It was analysed, in which ways the pupils differ concerning the feeling of being socially integrated, support of parents, self-efficacy expectations, importance of mindsets teacher, peers and parents have concerning their choice of further education and career, trust in teachers.
Preliminary analyses show that the data confirms research findings from other studies which highlight the importance of the parents at this age of youth in supporting the development of adolescents’ self-knowledge and transition to further education and vocational training. But also peers and teachers play an important role in the form of social resources in the transition process. For schools, the responsibility arises to play an active part in the educational partnership between teachers, parents and youth. It seems important to pro-actively use the important role of parents in their support strategies. Thus, schools should include the parents in their mentoring processes, and furthermore exert a supporting, and where necessary, compensatory influence. Under certain conditions, schools and teachers are even needed as corrective factors. The cluster analyses show a group of students who do not have (or do not notice) social resources for the upcoming transition process. Especially in the light of the size of this group, the school has to act on their societal responsibility in regards of those students. Thus, the question arises, what schools and teachers can do to support these young people, who do not get much support from their social environment. In any case, schools and teachers face specific challenges. For giving support and guidance to students in this transition phase, they need diagnostic and pedagogical skills in order to be able to find out how far students have developed in regards of career orientation and to be able to further their students’ career choice skills (Dreer 2013). Furthermore, strong partnerships within the school as well as between the schools, the parents and regional training and education options are required (Sacher, Berger & Guerrini 2019).
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