Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Facilitating the Learning of Career Development Theories

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Facilitating the Learning of Career Development Theories

Article excerpt

This article presents two activities that may be used in career counseling classes to make learning about career development theories more interesting and enjoyable.

In recent years, several articles (Beale, 1989; Bradley, 1983; Miller & Soper, 1982) have suggested ways to make preservice career counseling courses more enjoyable and educational for students. Various teaching strategies have been discussed, and novel ideas and activities for familiarizing students with standard occupational information resources have been described. What has not been addressed, however, is how to make learning about theories of career development more interesting and inviting. Although my career counseling course generally receives relatively high marks from students, the one area that consistently receives the lowest ratings is the section on "understanding career development theories." Because I believe that theory drives practice, I decided to try to make theory learning at least as interesting as learning about career materials.

Students are advised early in the course that a good theory will assist them in much the same way a road map serves a motoristit will aid them in charting a course for bringing about the desired outcomes in career counseling. Blocker ( 1987) depicted theories, or "process models" as he called them, as cognitive maps that provide a direct and immediate guide for counselor interventions. Sharf ( 1997) explained that, just as counseling theories provide a means for conceptualizing client problems, career development theories offer frameworks for helping clients with their career concerns.

With so many theories to review (Osipow & Fitzgerald, 1996) and with no clear evidence to demonstrate the superiority of one approach over another, it is no wonder that career counseling students often feel overwhelmed by the voluminous amount of career theory material they are asked to assimilate into their own personal theory development process. Recognizing the dilemma faced by many students, I set about the task of developing activities I could use in the classroom that would make learning about why people do what they do more interesting and enjoyable. The two activities presented here, the Career Interview and the Career Theory Review Quiz, have served my purpose well. My ultimate goal in teaching about theories of career development is to enable students to realize the utilitarian value of having a career theory, and how an understanding of the various approaches would aid them in better understanding and meeting the diverse career needs of their clients.


In an attempt to get students to appreciate the practical applicability of career development theory and how a theory can, in fact, be borne out in reality, class members are asked to conduct a personal interview of a worker using the interview schedule provided (see Appendix). Once students have completed the interview, they are asked to apply a career development theory to the career path of the person interviewed. Having done this for several semesters, I can attest to the assignment's value in having students apply an abstract theory to someone they have just interviewed. Seldom, if ever, do students fail to acknowledge that at least one theory aptly describes the career development of the worker they chose to interview. Something as esoteric as a career development theory takes on applied meaning when students observe firsthand the validity of the selected theory.

Once students have completed the assignment, they form themselves into groups of four or five fellow students and discuss why and how they determined to use a specific theory with a particular individual. This procedure reinforces the practical applicability of the theories previously presented and discussed in class.


The first Career Theory Review Quiz was developed several semesters ago (Beale, 1995) to serve as a quick review of career development theories. …

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