Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

The Ability Explorer: Translating Super's Ability-Related Theory Propositions into Practice

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

The Ability Explorer: Translating Super's Ability-Related Theory Propositions into Practice

Article excerpt

One half of D. Super's (D. Super, M. Savickas, & C. Super, 1996) theoretical propositions that relate to abilities have been operationalized into a psychometric instrument, the Ability Explorer (T. Harrington & J. Harrington, 1996). Interpretations illustrate how D. Super's career development theoretical concepts can be implemented in career counseling.

This is an article about abilities and their importance and use in career counseling. In spring of 2002, career professionals had an opportunity to examine the role that abilities play in career development with the U.S. Department of Labor's release of its aptitude/ability measures as part of the O*NET occupational information system (U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, 2000). O*NET replaced the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (U.S. Department of Labor, 1991). However, the main focus in this article is the Ability Explorer (AE; Harrington & Harrington, 1996), a psychometric device for career counseling purposes that operationalizes 7 of the 14 propositions constituting Super's career development theory (Super, Savickas, & Super, 1996). Only portions of the theoretical propositions that relate to abilities are addressed. The specific propositions used, with illustrated applications, are listed later in the Interpretation section.

Osipow (1994, p. 219) identified Holland's theory, social learning theory, developmental theory, and work adjustment theory as four of the five foundational career theories. However, vocational scholars thought that all of these theories, except the work adjustment theory, neglected the concept of ability in career development theory (Savickas, 1994). Inspection of the four theory descriptions in Career Choice and Development (Brown, Brooks, & Associates, 1996) also reveals that three of the theories have psychometric devices that play central roles in implementing of the theories: Holland's (1970) Self-Directed Search, social learning theory in the Careers Belief Inventory (Krumboltz, 1988), and work adjustment theory in the Minnesota Satisfaction Questionnaire (Weiss, Dawis, England, & Lofquist, 1967) and in the Minnesota Importance Questionnaire (Weiss, Dawis, & Lofquist, 1975). However, no psychometric instrument was cited that covers Super's comprehensive theory. The Salience Inventory (Nevill & Super, 1986a) and the Values Inventory (Nevill & Super, 1986b), pertinent to specific issues in Super's theory are mentioned, as well as the C-DAC (an acronym for Career Development Assessment and Counseling; Osborne, Brown, Niles, & Miner, 1997) model. "The C-DAC model uses constructs from life-span, life-space theory to supplement the trait and factor model's attention to abilities and interests" (Super et al., 1996, p. 150). Although the C-DAC model views dealing with self concept in a segmental and developmental way, the assessments used to implement the model focused more on late adolescents and young adults (Osborne et al., 1997). However, several of the C-DAC instruments (e.g., the Career Development Inventory and the Adult Career Concerns Inventory) are now out of print.

The intent of this article is to attempt again to convert Super's (Super et al., 1996) popular theory into practice, specifically focusing on abilities and the translation of abilities and self-concept into occupational language to help identify educational and career goals. The reason for the focus on ability is the belief, expressed in Savickas's (1994) observation, that "ability is the integrative construct for much of the rest of psychology" (p. 238). The AE's components focus on development, self-concept, and learning orientations and on using the most common methodology in career practice-the matching of personal characteristics with occupations.


The AE uses a newer self-report methodology than do models that were developed over a quarter of a century ago (i. …

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