Archive for category Reflective practice

Solution-focused peer support

I would like to thank Rebecca Valentine from Edinburgh University for contributing this guest posting. — David.
Rubik Cube - What's the solution?

What's the solution?

Here at the University of Edinburgh Careers Service we have regular guidance issues forums where the careers advisers get together to look at new developments and to discuss client case studies.  A while ago I was asked to facilitate a case-study forum using a solution-focused team model.

The model comes from solution focused brief therapy (SFBT), an approach I first came across during my time as a Connexions Adviser South of the border. Instead of concentrating on problems and looking to the past to see how they have come about, SFBT seeks to focus on preferred futures and how they might be realised.

One of the key principles of SFBT is that the client and helper develop a collaborative partnership in which the helper encourages their client to find their own resources and solutions to tackle the problem. Central to SFBT is the belief that the client already has the solutions; they just need help to discover them. It’s also about identifying small steps that can be taken; big problems do not always need a big solution. SFBT often involves the client making small changes in their lives that can have big consequences.

Since being introduced to SFBT, I have continued to use some of the core techniques in my one-to-one practice and I find it to be a particularly useful approach with clients who present as overly negative, or when the discussion gets bogged down in “problem talk”.

A few years ago Bristol Solutions Group developed a reflective practice team model based on the principles of SFBT (see O’Connell & Palmer 2003 for details). It’s this model that I encountered during my time at Connexions. I saw it used very effectively on a number of occasions in multi-agency forums where professionals would come together to discuss difficult cases. I discussed the format with my colleague here at Edinburgh and we decided to give it a go in one of our guidance issues forums.

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Drawing out the implications

David considers storyboarding

David considers storyboarding - {click for original post}

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What might have been

Wistful thinking

If only...

What if…?

Everyone has moments when they wonder about what would have happened if only they had… got that A grade rather than a B… stuck with the guitar practice… summoned up the courage to ask out that person they admired in secret…

Of course, such musing doesn’t have to be regretful. ‘Imagine if we hadn’t sat next to each other on the train, we might never have got together?’ ‘What if I had gone through with my decision not to look at the job ads that day?’ Thinking like this usually provokes feelings of relief and self-congratulation.

We seem to be drawn to such speculation about things we cannot change and possibilities that no longer exist.

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Do I still like MBTI? (Part 3)

Abstract lights

Sometimes a personality just won’t stand still

In part 1 of this series, I gave my take on some of the weaknesses and limitations of MBTI and its underlying Jungian theory of psychological types. In part 2, I tried to reconstruct Jung’s ideas into a rather over-simplified model of how we deal with information and make decisions, leaving out a few of his most troublesome assumptions. Now I will explain how this model influences my work with clients and how I actually use MBTI in practice.

In defence of dynamics

Before I do that though, having criticised the MBTI, I would like to balance things a little.

One of the criticisms levelled at the MBTI is that, compared to other psychometric instruments, it has poor test-retest reliability. This means that if the same person answers the questionnaire on two separate occasions they might come out with different results. This is a fair criticism if what you are trying to measure is a fixed trait which ought not to change over time.  Part of this is probably due to the arbitrary allocation of people in the middle of the spectrum to one preference or another, something I have never been comfortable with.

However, if Jung’s model is not really about fixed preferences between opposing traits, but a dynamic balance of complementary functions that depend on the needs of the situation as much as the natural inclinations of the individual, then the low reliability of the MBTI may be giving an insight into the adaptability of our brains.

One way of testing this situational hypothesis might involve getting people to focus on a scenario geared towards a particular mode of thinking before they complete the questionnaire. If you made them think about the same scenario before they did it again then test-retest reliability ought to get better, and if you gave them a different type of scenario it should get worse. If anyone knows of any research along these lines, please let me know.

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How to read academic articles…

Pile of books

My reading pile

…and stay sane

One of my colleagues recently asked me how I manage to do all the reading necessary to write this blog. The sad part of the answer is that I’m such a geek that I do read stuff in my spare time. However, that’s not the whole story. I have had to learn two things:

  1. how to extract useful titbits from pieces of writing which seem to have been designed with the sole purpose of obscuring the meaning from any normal human being
  2. how to do this without wasting too much time and energy, and without wearing away the remaining fragile shreds of my sanity

‘How nice for you,’ you might say, ‘but what’s it got to do with us?’

Well, Section 8 of the QAA’s Code of practice for the assurance of academic quality and standards in higher education, which deals with career education, information, advice and guidance, has been recently revised. Under principle 8 of this section is the following statement:

Institutional guidance workers will keep up to date with the findings of relevant research organisations, including the National Institute for Careers Education and Counselling (NICEC) and the International Centre for Guidance Studies (ICeGS), and will seek to disseminate key findings and developments to other staff involved in providing CEIAG.

So, to help our institution to pass its audits and reviews with flying colours, we should be engaging with stuff that careers and employability researchers are producing, and we should be able to explain what we learn to anyone else working on employability with students.

Part of the job of this blog is to help you with that, but there’s nothing like a bit of DIY. Read the rest of this entry »

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Why am I here? (Part Two)

The Thinker

Still thinking about this…

In Part One I outlined four triggers that have started me thinking about the purpose of guidance. In this post I want to share some of those thoughts. They are not complete thoughts by any means and are mostly in the form of questions.

How green is my guidance?

When Bill Law started making comments on Twitter that an awareness of climate change should be a key component of career guidance, I had an uncomfortable reaction. ‘How is this my job?’ I thought, ‘Surely, we should be responding to the client’s priorities rather than forcing them to think about global/societal issues if they don’t want to.’

I suspect a lot of careers advisers would respond the same way. Many of us have been brought up with a client-centred, non-directive approach (dare I say indoctrinated?). We have a voice in our heads which says, ‘We are not here to influence the client. The client knows best what they want. We are merely facilitators.‘ But is that entirely true? Has it ever been true?

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Why am I here? (Part One)

Recently, I have been asking myself what is my purpose as a careers adviser. I’ve been examining a few assumptions about what my role is and should be. This questioning has been prompted by various things, amongst which are: a reminder of something I had forgotten, a self-imposed target, a good read and a constrained conversation. I would like to describe those things in this post and then talk about my thoughts in relation to them in the next post.

The reminder came in the form of a blog post by Tristram Hooley on The Politics of Guidance in which he describes Tony Watts’ typology of guidance ideologies. Check it out and then come back.

When I saw the post, I remembered reading about Watts’ framework when I was slogging through the theories module of my guidance qualification. At the time, I was struggling to get to grips with working with clients. I didn’t pay much attention to this bit of thinking because I couldn’t see how it would help me in my immediate day-to-day work.

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Planned happenstance brainstorm

Yesterday my colleague Vanessa and I ran a day workshop called ‘Can Career Theories be Useful?’. Among the participants were trainee careers advisers trying to get to grips with career theories for their professional qualification and experienced advisers using the course to refresh their theoretical knowledge and bring it up to date. We also had frontline administrators and information officers joining in the fun.

We spent the morning exploring and discussing various sites of interest in the landscape of career theory. Afterwards, participants tried to get to grips with a couple of particular theories by putting them in their own words and applying them to client case studies.

The final activity of the day was a short brainstorm on ideas for what a careers service would look like if it was based solely on the idea of Planned Happenstance and you didn’t have to worry about money.

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Questions about guidance

Question mark

Any questions?

Tristram Hooley who writes the blog Adventures in career development (and who also happens to be the Head of the International Centre for Guidance Studies (iCeGS) at the University of Derby) recently posted about a symposium that he was hosting. He wanted to develop a number of questions to get the discussion going. I liked his questions about guidance so much that I’m just quoting them here:

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Dimensions of career theory

In a comment on the post What makes a theory useful? I put forward the idea that one way of looking at the role of a guidance practitioner is that we are helping clients to formulate and improve their own career/life theories so that they can more effectively navigate their way into the future.

Examining and critiquing formal career theories is therefore good practice for this activity. The more adept you are at spotting the strengths and weaknesses of an academic career theory, the more you will be able to spot the biases, gaps and inconsistencies in an individual’s own career theory.

With that in mind, I thought it would be useful to look at some of the various dimensions by which career theories and models can be measured and analysed.

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