Action-Guidance: An Action Research Project for the Application of Informing Science in Educational and Vocational Guidance

Article excerpt

Introduction

Many recent research studies, especially the OECD and the UNESCO analyses of secondary education's status and evolution, show that many students do not graduate from high school. In Italy, as the most recent yearly reports of the Italian Ministry of Education show, the phenomenon is much more pronounced, in spite of the large number of innovations in curricula and school organization that public institutions carried out during the last years. Furthermore, the percentage of the students leaving the Italian schools before graduation is among the highest in the European countries and, as comparison with the other Western countries shows, among the highest ones among the developed countries.

The size of the problem of students' departure recently induced the Italian Ministry of Education to start some projects to uncover the reasons students drop out of school and to suggest interventions to give better guidance to the same students in their professional and educational choices.

The 2nd level Master course for "Educational Guidance Agents", organized from a consortium of Italian Universities and devoted to the High School teachers of the Lazio Region in Central Italy, is one among the various initiatives funded by the Italian National and Regional Authorities to hit the above target.

As this paper shows, the involvement of the author as a professor within that Master course and the discussions he held with the teachers taking part at the lectures on the main features of this guidance process gradually led to the hypothesis involving the application of Action Research strategies and of Informing Science ideas and, especially, to the adoption of an Information System for the monitoring of the educational and vocational guidance action and for the building of a community of study and research who could help students in better living within the School and in making conscious choices about their school and professional careers.

Educational and Vocational Guidance

Educational and Vocational Guidance are often seen as two different aspects of the more general guidance process that makes people able to autonomously choose their course of study or their future work life. The complexity of the guidance process naturally involves the competences and contributions pertaining to various disciplines, such as psychology, sociology, anthropology and pedagogy, and contributes to looking at the guidance action as an interdisciplinary field of investigation. The suggestions emerging from the above disciplines agree on the main trait and aim (at least in the school) of that process: that is to enable students to steer themselves by means of a project of life that they build together with their teachers and families (Mancinelli, 1999). Among the various disciplines interested in the guidance process, the ones this author will analyze in a greater detail will be psychology and pedagogy, because of the high number of experiences concerning them that are reported in scientific literature and for the importance they will have in what follows. It is well known in fact that psychology mainly looks at the individual evolution and at the interventions to be made on the subjects for a successful guidance process; on the other hand, pedagogy and, especially, didactics look at the whole educational process and at its management for a global intervention on the students' guidance and for making them develop self-assessment and decision skills together with good evaluation instruments.

Educational Guidance and Psychology

From a psychological point of view it is well known that the guidance process aims to lead the students to develop design and planning skills and that two different ways of intervention can be used to hit this target (Gibson & Mitchell, 1999):

--the self-guidance action, i.e. the skills and the behaviors that the subjects have to carry out for facing the problems they meet in school, at work or in their everyday life, and that are induced from the psycho-sociological processes,

--the professional interventions that various kinds of agents and professionals can carry out to help people in the development of their guidance skills. …