Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Experiential High School Career Education, Self-Efficacy, and Motivation

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Experiential High School Career Education, Self-Efficacy, and Motivation

Article excerpt


Career planning has become a focal point of high school programming in Canada (Gibbons, Borders, Wiles, Stephan, & Davis, 2006). The completion of mandatory school-tocareer transition courses has become a near omnipresent requirement in Canadian secondary schools. Perspectives on this trend vary. Some describe secondary school career education as a proactive way to help students see the connection between their academics and real-world outcomes (e.g., Truong, 2011). Others criticize it as a reactionary measure that prepares students to participate in an intensely competitive, neo-liberal economy (e.g., Hyslop-Margison & McKerracher, 2008) based on a human capital approach to learning rather than on principles for democratic learning (Hyslop-Margison & Graham, 2001). Although an analysis of these compelling arguments exceeds the scope of this article, it is clear that the motivations for, approaches to, and outcomes of high school career education have become pertinent areas of research.

Recent American studies show that many factors influence the ultimate impact of career education (see Whiston, Tai, Rahardja, & Eder, 2011 for a recent review), while similar Canadian research (e.g., Benjamin, 2009; Kerner, Fitzpatrick, Rozworska, & Hutman, 2012) remains in its infancy (Hiebert, 2010; Roest & Magnusson, 2005). To date, Canadian studies indicate that career decision-making skills and post-secondary transition plans remain underdeveloped after high school for many students. For instance, the Canadian shift toward a knowledge-based economy means that a majority of students consider post-secondary training (Truong, 2011) and many decide to go to university. A 2010 Statistics Canada report, however, estimated that 50% of Canadian university students fail to finish their first degree within five years (Finnie, Mueller, Sweetman, & Usher, 2010). Hiebert (2010) speculated that this finding is associated with students changing majors, presumably as they discover that the program they selected was not what they expected and/or that another degree was more appealing. Supporting this notion, an Alberta study (Bardick, Bernes, Magnusson, & Witko, 2004) found that many students are under-informed when planning for post-secondary education. According to Bardick et al. (2004), only 30 to 41% of 3,562 surveyed junior high students reported that they would be comfortable discussing their career of interest with someone employed in that field. A subsequent American study (Gibbons et al., 2006) indicated that although 98% of 222 students reported having already made a post-secondary decision, just 60% had spoken with anyone working in that area, 40% had job shadowed, and 30% had volunteered in a related field.

If students are not initiating first-hand career exploration, they are likely pursuing careers with only a cursory understanding of what they entail. While educators hope that career education coursework will enable students to make more deliberate and meaningful career-related decisions, it is debatable whether current programming achieves these outcomes. With this in mind, we studied an innovative career education curriculum being implemented in Saskatchewan.

The Case, Focus, and Theoretical Framework

Career and Work Exploration 30 (CWE30) is one of a three-course series described on the Saskatoon Public Schools (2013) website as blending "theory-based and experiential learning components in a career development continuum of awareness, exploration, and experience." CWE30 integrates classroom learning with hands-on experience and intends to expose students to various careers. The experiential components include both job acquisition tasks, such as career research, resume and cover letter development, and interviewing, as well as job shadowing and employment in a chosen field. In addition to providing students with hands-on experience in an area that interests them, the course also exposes students to the career exploration and employment process. …

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