Assessing a Holistic Trait and Factor Approach to Career Development of College Students. (Research)

Article excerpt

To assess the impact of a holistic career and life planning course on college students, the authors asked 209 students in treatment and control groups to complete measures of career development. Results indicate that the course significantly increases vocational identity and career decision-making self-efficacy and decreases career indecision.

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College students have a variety of developmental needs, including the need to address issues of personal and vocational identity (Chickering & Reisser, 1993). In terms of career needs, Super (1990) theorized that traditional-aged college students are typically making the transition from tentative vocational preferences to more specific goals and plans. Nontraditional students, who now make up a substantial percentage of many college enrollments, have career needs that reflect their specific life transitions (Splete, 1996). The developmental transitions for traditional and nontraditional students are not always smooth and often pose challenges for students. For example, college students frequently change their career plans and majors while in college (Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991), and many have concerns, such as anxiety stemming from career indecision, a lack of confidence about the career exploration process, limited self-knowledge, and limited occupational information (Mauer & Gysbers, 1990). In other words , most students have a variety of developmentally based needs concerning their careers, including decision making and exploration.

Colleges often attempt to meet students' career-related needs with some form of career and life planning course. These courses typically focus on self-assessment, career exploration, and decision making. Surprisingly little research, however, has assessed the effectiveness of career and life planning courses with college students, despite the high frequency of their use. Whereas a few studies have reported positive effects of career and life planning courses on college students (Cox, 1997; Harkins, 1996; Henry, 1993; Sagen, Dallam, & Laverty, 2000), these courses are not routinely and systematically evaluated (Isaacson & Brown, 1993). In addition, the interplay between career and life planning courses and demographic variables such as gender, age, grade level, and socioeconomic status has yet to be determined. Thus, although many colleges provide a career and life planning course for students, the effects of the course on the career development of students are largely unknown.

The purpose of this study was to assess the effects of a career and life planning course on the career development of college students. The measures of career development that were chosen for the study focus on career self-efficacy, decision making, and identity; these variables seem to be important to the success of college students in that these factors have been associated with indecision about a college major (Bergeron & Romano, 1994), student persistence and satisfaction (Quinn, 1999), academic adjustment and grades (Chartrand, Camp, & McFadden, 1992), and career decidedness (Long, Sowa, & Niles, 1995).

The career and life planning course assessed in our study was based on a holistic trait and factor approach (e.g., see Brown & Brooks, 1991). The traditional trait and factor model has three steps: (a) increase self-knowledge, (b) increase knowledge of the world of work, and (c) integrate and make a decision. A holistic approach differs from the traditional model by its focus on the development of career and life planning skills and of individualized career/life plans rather than on making a firm occupational choice. Working with a holistic approach, students in the career and life planning course were encouraged to consider the information that they learned as part of a process rather than as steps toward a definitive outcome and to place the information within their own unique life context. …