Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Career Research from an Action Perspective: The Self-Confrontation Procedure

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Career Research from an Action Perspective: The Self-Confrontation Procedure

Article excerpt

This article introduces self-confrontation videotape playback as an auxiliary procedure for studying career development. The self-confrontation procedure is one of a number of phenomenological and hermeneutical methods that address a person's construction and interpretation of events. It is presented here in response to the recent call (e.g., Bailyn, 1989; Osipow, 1990) for contextually specific and empirically grounded career studies. In the illustration of the procedure to follow, a parent and adolescent separately watch a videotaped conversation in which they have just engaged and identify the conscious cognitions (thoughts, feelings) they had during that conversation.

Self-confrontation is an important complementary method to the video recording of actual career conversations. Used together, they provide the basis for the empirical analysis of ongoing action in the study of career development. The self-confrontation procedure captures and clarifies what is happening during the conversation and how it fits into the everyday lives of the participants. The data set that emerges from these procedures allows for the delineation of the whole spectrum of processes involved in career development--short-and long-term, individual, and sociostructural (Law, 1992; Thomas & Alderfer, 1989); as well as internal and external career (Bailyn, 1989). Moreover, these procedures tap implicit and explicit cognitive functions that guide career development behavior.

The self-confrontation method has been used in psychological research, intervention, and training (Hermens, 1976; Kagan et al., 1967; Rokeach, 1973; Young, 1979). Its use here is research-based and stems from work initiated by Cranach and his colleagues (Cranach, Kalbermatten, Indermuehle, & Gugler, 1982; Kalbermatten & Valach, 1985; Valach, 1990).

The procedure described in this article is premised on an action theory approach to the study of career. Action theory refers to the study of intentional, goal-directed behavior used by agents (Cranach & Valach, 1984). Recently Valach (1990) suggested that career development can be seen as a dynamic process, intentionally engaged in as

method of acquiring social meaning within the frame of one's life, that is, as an action system. From this perspective, career development is goal oriented and personally and socially monitored, regulated, and steered within a social context. Career development is conceptualized as a social process that has social roots and consequences. Thus, the analysis of joint communicative processes, such as parent-adolescent career conversations, provides an excellent means to understanding career development. Accordingly, the self-confrontation procedure will be illustrated using a parent-adolescent conversation.


The self-confrontation procedure provides access to the conscious cognitions that the participants in the action had while the action was taking place (in this case, a career-related conversation between parent and adolescent) and allows for the investigation of influence as reciprocal and transactional phenomenon over time (Grotevant & Cooper, 1988). Moreover, it allows insight not only into reflected and self-monitored interpretations of one's own influence but also into influences of which one is not aware and which become visible in the course of action monitored by the researcher from outside (observation) and by the participant from inside (self-confrontation),

The illustration to follow is based on an understanding of parental influence as intentional goal-directed action that occurs in confluence with the adolescent's own goal-directed action of, to a greater or lesser extent, exploring, planning, and implementing a career. We assume that parents' and adolescents' conscious cognitions (such as goals, alternatives, decisions, plans, rules, values, emotions, knowledge) accompany and steer actions. We expect that parents and adolescents will frequently monitor the process and evaluate the achievement of career goals; thus, the pairs will function as self-monitoring systems. …

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