Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Constructivism and Career Decision Self-Efficacy for Asian Americans and African Americans

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Constructivism and Career Decision Self-Efficacy for Asian Americans and African Americans

Article excerpt

The career development of racial/ethnic minorities has gained increasing attention. Over the past several decades, a number of studies have focused on career self-efficacy, particularly career decision self-efficacy, with the assumption that this construct is central to the development of racial/ethnic minorities, individuals with disabilities, and others for whom efficacy information may be lacking (Betz, Hammond, & Multon, 2005). Social constructivist theories attending to race/ethnicity such as social cognitive career theory have also emerged (Lent, Brown, & Hackett, 2000) along with research aimed at better understanding the career development of Asian Americans and African Americans (Fouad et al., 2008; Gushue, Scanlan, Pantzer, & Clarke, 2006; Mau, 2000, 2004; Patel, Salahuddin, & O'Brien, 2008; Weiler, 1998). With a focus on constructivist career development, the purpose of the current study was to contribute to this body of literature by bridging the gap between research and practice. Hence, we used a scientist-practitioner approach to examine whether a constructivist career course might improve the career decision self-efficacy of African American and Asian American college students. The scientist-practitioner model emphasizes applying competencies in both research and practice to solve client problems.

Constructivist approaches to education and career have been proposed as one way to work effectively with multicultural populations (Atwater, 1996; Constantine & Erickson, 1998; Stead, 2004). In particular, the constructivist career paradigm recognizes that there is no one set view of reality but instead multiple worldviews, and the focus is on helping people make meaning of their experiences (Peavy, 1995). In general, constructivist approaches include four basic tools: narrative (authoring or telling one's own story), action (exploring aspects of the self such as culture, values, and beliefs), construction (constructing identity in context), and interpretation (using personal meanings to direct one's path; Chen, 2003).

Clark, Severy, and Ali Sawyer (2004) evaluated a constructivist career counseling group for culturally diverse college students and suggested that this approach may be one way to integrate multicultural and career competencies. In a theoretical statement by Brown (2002) articulating career development for cultural and ethnic minorities, cultural and work values were central. Likewise, in a study of career decision making for Asian Americans, identity and family along with culture and work values were critical (Fouad et al., 2008). In turn, by attending to culture, work values, family, and identity, the four constructivist tools of narrative, action, construction, and interpretation may provide an avenue for culturally sensitive career development.

When compared with individual counseling, a career counseling group in which students can explore identity, family, culture, and values may also offer unique advantages, such as opportunities to connect with other students, peer modeling, and efficiency (e.g., helping more than one student at a time). Clark et al. (2004) reported that in their career counseling group, "members felt understood by their peers, and they appreciated knowing that other students were struggling with similar choices as much or more than they themselves struggled" (p. 29). With a focus on Asian adolescents, Patel et al. (2008) asserted that peers may be particularly important to career development and again groups were suggested as a potential intervention.

Credit-bearing career courses may be even more advantageous by extending the benefits of group counseling. In the career classroom, students can have access to mentorship and support from peers and faculty while also earning credit toward graduation. Research has indicated that these courses typically result in positive outcomes (Osborn, Howard, & Leierer, 2007). Furthermore, initial findings in a constructivist career course have indicated its potential to empower at-risk and culturally diverse college students (Grier-Reed, Skaar, & Conkel-Ziebell, 2009). …

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