Research Evidence

© Lee-Ann Prideaux PhD

I believe it is very important for research to be meaningful and practical. That is why I was keen to take the opportunity to conduct an erudite research project within a school setting for my PhD studies. My aim was to produce something that would be of use both in terms of furthering career development research literature and also in advancing students’ career education.  The intervention described below, i.e., the Career Choice Cycle Course, was redeveloped in 2011 as an online career education resource: the Adolescent Career Education (ACE) e-course.  The research studies conducted in the development and assessment of the course are described below, as are the results demonstrating its effectiveness as a sound career education tool for Senior School students.

STUDIES INVOLVED

There were twelve classes of Yr 10 students in the school. I conducted a qualitative study first to find out what career-related education was in place at the school and what were the perceived training needs. A stratified random sample of school staff and parents were interviewed along with two focus groups of students. Then there was a pre-test survey administered to all Year 10 students to gather baseline career development data. I used the findings of these two initial studies along with my literature review to design the career education intervention, namely the Career Choice Cycle Course, which was then administered by myself as the career development ‘expert’ to five of the classes followed by a post-test of all students after which the other five classes were given the intervention facilitated by their regular English class teachers. The timetable at the school allowed for six, one hour lessons to be used to facilitate the course. The teachers were trained by the career development ‘expert’ during the first delivery of the course and detailed lesson plans and materials were provided to ensure consistency of delivery. The remaining two Year 10 classes were engaged in school based vocational classes and did not undertake the Career Choice Cycle Course. Longitudinal data was gathered after the teacher delivery of the course and at a three-month follow up. 

The strongest themes generated from the qualitative study centred upon the need for young people to build confidence in their ability to make career-related decisions and to get to know themselves better in terms of personal interests, abilities and talents.  Almost half the respondents also talked about the need to have students learn more about what jobs really entail and the need to expand students’ limited knowledge of careers.

 DATA ANALYSES

Statistically reliable and valid career development instruments were chosen for the survey. They comprised measures of career maturity, career decision-making self-efficacy, career certainty and career indecision. Decision coping patterns were also assessed. These instruments were arranged in a balanced Latin square design in order to avoid practice effects since the surveys were administered four times across the school year. Demographic data was collected as well.

Many analyses were carried out on the longitudinal data. Obviously, such a large research project generated a myriad of hypotheses to be tested and many complex findings were revealed. For a complete report and discussion of the longitudinal results please refer to pages 168 to 217 of my PhD thesis.

 Different patterns of results were observed for males and females so a summary of the results according to gender is reported below first. Other analyses investigated outcomes according to mode of delivery showing students in the teacher facilitated group of classes generally did better than those in the five classes taught by myself. These results will be summarised next. Finally, findings of the comparisons made between a matched sample of students who did the Career Choice Cycle Course facilitated by their teachers and those students in the two school based vocational classes are outlined.

 RESEARCH FINDINGS

In the short term, regardless of the facilitator they had, females made significant gains in terms of their maturity towards career decision-making, whereas males did not from pre-test to the first post-test. However, at the eight week follow up testing time, males reported significantly more mature attitudes from the post-test to the follow up test. No significant differences were found in levels of career decision-making self-efficacy following the intervention. I concluded that this aspect of career development may require more attention than the six one hour lessons set aside at the school for this study in order for significant enhancement in confidence levels to be achieved. Females experienced less indecision than males at the post-test and females also showed significantly less indecision from the pre-test to the second follow up post-test than males.

 All students in the classes facilitated by their teachers had significantly lower levels of career indecision from pre-test to post-test with this significant decrease held at the 12 week follow up test. There was also a significant decrease in all students’ level of maladaptive decision coping patterns following the course for those taught by their regular teacher.  Students in the teacher group of classes also made significant gains in career maturity from pre-test to post-test. Interestingly, males in the teacher facilitated group fared much better in terms of significant gains in career maturity than the males in the ‘expert’ facilitator group of classes.

Pre-test to Post-test data from a matched sample of students undertaking a school-based vocational course were compared with those undertaking the Career Choice Cycle Course with teacher facilitation. There were no significant differences between these groups at Pre-test. The teacher group made significantly higher gains in career maturity and career decision-making self-efficacy compared to the two classes of Year 10s who were doing the school-based vocational course. Likewise those who undertook the theoretically derived course were less indecisive than those in the generic vocational course. This produced the largest effect size of the entire research project (d = 1.08).