Posts Tagged applying theory

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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RIASEC hats

Hats

Which one of these is realistic?

In The Careers Group hold regular guidance forums. These are informal learning meetings for careers advisers to discuss any guidance related issues. The last forum was run by a couple of colleagues, Jeff and Tracy, who have some experience of different forms of coaching. During the meeting, Jeff demonstrated a technique to help people address a difficult situation they may be facing. This involved getting the ‘client’ to look at their situation from a number of different angles (literally by moving around) and different perspectives.

In this particular example, the ‘client’ had to perceive the situation from the viewpoint of their colourful stripey shirt, the window, the clock, their cat, etc. Each viewpoint really represented a different aspect of the client’s personality. The stripey shirt represented their fun-loving side. The clock represented their meticulous, slightly obsessive side. The window represented their forward thinking side. Etc.

All of these perspectives were generated by the client with spontaneous, intuitive guidance from Jeff. It was fascinating to watch and I could see how useful it might be to help a client break out of habitual ways of viewing their situation.

I have also observed an adviser experiment with a similar technique in which she got the client to look at her situation from the perspective of a hero or role model. Again, this was an inspiring bit of risk taking which worked really well.

However, in both cases I was left wondering how many clients or advisers would be comfortable with that level of improvisation and whether there might be some more structured way of approaching it.

Career theory to the rescue! Read the rest of this entry »

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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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Classics – Community Interaction Theory

Bill Law

Bill - a Law unto himself

Bill Law is a bit of a guru when it comes to careers theory — he developed the DOTS framework which is used frequently in careers education. He even has his own website www.hihohiho.com and twitter following.   He constantly argues for a more radical, activist perspective on careers guidance and education, embracing complexity and reforming careers to also consider life-role related learning.  More recently he’s done some work on storyboarding as David has mentioned in his earlier post.

But going back to the classics — in 1981, Law introduced his Community Interaction Theory.  He suggested that some of the most influential factors in career choice relate to events which occur in the context of ‘community interaction’ between the individual and the social groups of which she or he is a member. If theories such as Circumscription and Compromise talk about the impact of society pressures on our decision making process, Community Interaction focuses on some of the mechanisms by which this takes place.

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Dialectical bootstrapping

Boots

Are they dialectical?

How could I resist writing about a technique with such a delightfully preposterous name! It has the same ridiculous elegance as ‘planned happenstance‘ and ‘positive compromise‘.

In an earlier post I wrote about how people can be induced to disagree with their own decisions. This wonderfully over-the-top phrase describes a technique which involves getting people to disagree with themselves on purpose in order to increase the accuracy of their predictions without reference to external opinions. See! Dialectical bootstrapping is a much more elegant way of saying all that!

[Herzog, S.M. & Hertwig, R. (2009) The wisdom of many in one mind: Improving individual judgments with dialectical bootstrapping. Psychological Science, 20(2), 231-7.]

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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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Storyboarding

Tell me a story

Bill Law, the man behind Career Learning Theory and Community Interaction Theory, has recently been focusing on the use of narrative techniques in careers education. His most recent idea is the use of storyboarding as a way of exploring and understanding career choice.

In storyboarding, you sketch a sequence of key scenes in the development of your career thinking — key events and influential moments. You can also attempt to speculate on possible future stories as a form of creative envisioning and action planning.

Although much of this is primarily aimed at school-age careers work, it could be an interesting technique to use with more creative or visually-oriented students (English, Drama, Film, Media, Fine Art, etc.). It may also be a technique that engages the right side of the brain as well as the left.

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