On your best (planned) behaviour

In a comment on Time-wasters’ diary, Brammar (Laura) talked about the self-efficacy of careers advisers. This made me think about theories we can apply to ourselves as practitioners as well as to clients.

Icek Ajzen - Theory of pretty cool shades

Icek Ajzen

One of my personal theories-of-the-moment is the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) developed by Icek Ajzen. TPB examines the attitudes and beliefs that lead people to turn an idea into an intention, and then turn an intention into an action.

Ajzen was partly inspired by Bandura’s idea of self-efficacy. So TPB has a lot of overlap with social cognitive theory and social learning theory, which contain similar themes.

According to TPB, intentions derive from three strands:

  • Behavioural attitudes. If you believe an outcome is important to you, and if you believe that behaving in a certain way will help you to achieve that outcome, then you are likely to value highly that behaviour.
  • Normative attitudes. If you believe that individuals or groups who are important to you promote particular behaviours, you are likely to value them.
  • Control attitudes. If you believe that you have the abilities to successfully cope with any challenges that are associated with behaving in a certain way, then you are more likely to consider those behaviours.

On one training course (Career theories -the expansion kit) I used TPB to explore why students don’t engage in career management activities or fail to come to the careers service. I’m also thinking of using it in a forthcoming session on negotating and influencing. It can, of course, be applied to career choice – see some of the articles in Ajzen’s bibliography.

However, because I’ve recently been involved in training and mentoring other career professionals,  I think it would be interesting to apply it to those of us in careers work. So, even more questions than usual for this post.

Behavioural beliefs

  • What do you think it is possible to achieve through careers interventions? What is impossible?
  • What impact does that have on what you choose to do and what you choose not to do?
  • What careers outcomes do you value more than others?
  • What is most rewarding?
  • What are you least likely to value?
  • What impact does that have on what you choose to do and what you choose not to do?

Normative beliefs

  • What behaviours are valued by the people around you or those who are influential to you?
  • How much of your practice is influenced by what you have seen other people do?
  • Who have been the most important influences on you?
  • Who are you most/least likely to listen to?

Control beliefs

  • What aspects of your practice do you think of as being easy/difficult?
  • What sort of outcomes require the most work?
  • What things do you tell yourself you are not good at?
  • How do you know if that’s true?
  • What do you believe about your ability to learn new skills?

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  1. #1 by Julien on 23 May 2011 - 17:24

    Nice article here! It’s interesting you applied this behavioral analysis to your students. But what about teachers? I’d like to share an article on self-efficacy applied to classroom strategies. Did you know Albert Bandura also extended the concept of self-efficacy to a teacher’s “instructional efficacy“ – her belief in her ability to teach – and “collective efficacy beliefs” – the institution’s collective attitudes towards its students’ ability to learn? Both significantly impact their students’ educational outcomes. here’s the article: http://www.funderstanding.com/content/self-efficacy

    • #2 by David Winter on 23 May 2011 - 20:46

      Hi Julien. Thanks for the comment and the link.

      I guess I was trying to apply it to the teachers as well as the students (or in my line of work, careers professionals as well as clients).

      For me, as well as instructional efficacy, we might have to deal with counselling or coaching efficacy, facilitation efficacy, employment market research efficacy, and so on. In addition we might have efficacy beliefs about dealing with particular client groups. I know many of my colleagues get a little freaked about the prospect of working with scientific researchers or doctors because they have low self-efficacy with that type of client.

      Interestingly, even though I have self-efficacy issues about working with certain types of clients, I will usually still have a go. Perhaps because I have a high self-efficacy when it comes to learning and adaptability. So, I believe that I will be able to work out what to do with those clients reasonably quickly.

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