An Assertiveness Training Program for Indecisive Students Attending an Italian University

Article excerpt

Indecisive students often present with social skills problems, which may make academic and vocational decision-making tasks difficult and complex for them. Moreover, choices regarding one's future require the ability to gather information, to search for help and support, to stave off intrusiveness and pressures, and to communicate one's decisions. Social competencies, particularly, play a significant role in vocational guidance activities. This article presents a training program devised to augment assertive competencies in indecisive students choosing a university course of study. Intended aims and the analyses to assess the efficacy of the intervention through self-evaluation and role-play assessment are described.

Numerous research studies have shown that academic-vocational indecision can significantly affect choice processes and can actually hinder adaptation processes (Jones, 1989; Lucas, 1993; Lucas & Epperson, 1990; Nota, 1999; Savickas & Jarjoura, 1991). Wanberg and Muchinsky (1992), who have studied the relationship between decisional status and psychological variables in depth, have considered aspects such as anxiety, locus of control, self-esteem, and self-awareness level. Their analyses have shown that indecision is associated with poor self-awareness, low knowledge of academic-vocational reality, high levels of anxiety, low self-esteem, and external locus of control.

A consistent relationship also seems to exist between social competencies and indecision. Phillips and Bruch (1988), for instance, found that shy students, both male and female, were more indecisive than those who were not shy. Furthermore, the authors determined that shyness was negatively correlated both with the expression of interests, particularly regarding those professions requiring interpersonal skills, and with the active search for information necessary to activate the decisional processes. In this respect, the authors stated that concerns that centered on the self and on passive behaviors in relational contexts (often associated as predictors of negative other-evaluations) combine to keep anxiety levels high and to strengthen the association between anxiety and indecision. Analogously, Kinnier, Brigman, and Noble (1990) observed that individuals who were more easily influenced by family pressures and who were not able to cope effectively with the interference of significant others were more indecisive when facing problems concerning career decision making. Similarly, Arnold (1989) found that decisional levels and levels of psychological well-being were strongly correlated. Finally, Nota and Soresi (1998) highlighted how, in a group of 319 students about to choose a university course of study, those who were very indecisive also felt greater levels of discomfort in situations in which assertive behaviors might be required.

In this regard, it must not be forgotten that a career decision-making task requires the person who is making the decision to interact with many individuals who might hinder or support his or her choices. Such individuals include parents, teachers, peers, and friends, all of whom may either create barriers to or facilitate the formulation and achievement of the person's objectives (Lent, Brown, & Hackett, 2000). Other potential facilitators may include people who have the necessary information regarding training offered by different universities, the staff of offices and firms who might supply information and data on prospective jobs and work opportunities, people who might collaborate on and help with career decision making, and so on. One's social skills, especially in the area of assertiveness, must be used to adequately formulate requests in different contexts, to express clearly one's wishes and aspirations, to manage pressures and resist intrusiveness, and, ultimately, to make autonomous and conscious decisions (Furnham & Rawles, 1994; Nota & Soresi, 1997).

These observations have led us to consider that, in addition to the usual approach to university vocational guidance, some training courses aimed at augmenting assertiveness skills could be proposed, especially to students who are indecisive due to, among other things, low social competencies. …