Education-Career Planning and Middle School Counselors

Article excerpt

In this article, the authors emphasize a comprehensive and developmental view of education-career planning, with special emphasis on middle schools. Research findings that underscore the need for effective education-career planning are presented, followed by the variables and data that are salient for planning. The article includes a framework for education-career planning systems in middle schools.

The salience of middle school students' educational and career planning is supported by career theory (e.g., Brown & Trusty, 2005; Niles & Harris-Bowlsbey, 2005), by the ASCA National Model[R] (American School Counselor Association, 2003), and by recent longitudinal research (e.g., Adelman, 1999; Trusty, 2004). Effective education-career planning systems in middle schools help students become intentional in their educational and career development. Middle school counselors are instrumental in designing and implementing these systems.

Resources such as career theory identify numerous variables (e.g., self-concept, self-awareness, decision-making styles, educational experiences, temperament, personality, environments) that play into education-career planning. Thus, middle school counselors are likely uncertain regarding which variables are most important. Uncertainty also exists at other educational levels (i.e., elementary school, high school) and in academia. For these reasons, we rely most heavily on the empirical data that show the magnitude of variables' influences on the long-term educational and career development of young people. Longitudinal, national research data (Adelman, 1999; Rosenbaum, 1998; Trusty, 2004; Trusty & Niles, 2003, 2004b) show that the choices middle school students make--and particularly academic choices--have a strong bearing on their educational and career development for decades to come. Particular student behaviors and student environments also have influences.

Because we take a long-term, developmental view of education-career development and planning, we believe that education-career planning in middle schools is most appropriately viewed in relation to elementary school, high school, and postsecondary education. Thus, our focus is on research data that are longitudinal; and our aim is to provide an education-career planning framework for middle school that is both (a) supported by outcome research and (b) practically useful for middle school counselors and students at this critical developmental juncture.

Our choice of the terminology education-career planning is entirely intentional, and it is born out of the longitudinal and comprehensive perspective on career development (see Gysbers & Henderson, 2000; McDaniels & Gysbers, 1992; Stone & Bradley, 1994). That is, we see education-career planning from a life-career perspective, and we see career development--and likewise career planning--as encompassing education, work, and leisure. Thus, the educational and occupational components of planning are intrinsically bonded, and education-career planning includes academic and nonacademic activities within schools and outside schools. For instance, we believe that students' extracurricular activities, hobbies, civic participation, and cultural experiences should be part of education-career planning--and this should receive particular attention from middle school counselors. This longitudinal and comprehensive view of education-career planning is supported by recent longitudinal research (e.g., Adelman, 1999; Trusty, 2004).

THE NEED FOR EFFECTIVE EDUCATION-CAREER PLANNING

Wirt et al. (2002) and Wirt et al. (2004) compiled educational data spanning the past 3 decades; and these data reveal the longitudinal, developmental context for education-career planning. These data show steady and dramatic increases in the percentages of high school students who plan to pursue college degrees and professional occupations. There also have been steady and dramatic increases in the percentages of high school graduates who enter postsecondary education immediately after high school. …