Evaluating DISCOVER's Effectiveness in Enhancing College Students' Social Cognitive Career Development

Article excerpt

College students (20 women, 14 men) seeking career counseling services at a university career center participated in this exploratory investigation. A 2 (DISCOVER treatment) × 2 (counseling treatment) research design was used to evaluate the individual and combined effects of DISCOVER (ACT, 1998) and counseling on participants' career decision-making self-efficacy and career decision-making attributional style. Findings revealed a significant effect of the use of DISCOVER on participants' career decision-making self-efficacy and their sense of control over the career decision-making process. Results are discussed regarding the implications for career counseling and ideas for further research in this domain.

Social cognitive components of career decision making, such as career decision-making self-efficacy (CDMSE) and career decision-making attributional style, have received considerable attention in recent years by career counselors and vocational psychologists who continue to provide support for the relevance of these concepts to career counseling (Betz & Luzzo, 1996; Lent & Hackett, 1987; Luzzo & Tompkins-Bjorkman, 1999). However, only a few studies have evaluated the effectiveness of career counseling interventions for helping clients become more self-efficacious regarding their career decision making or more optimistic in their attributional explanations for career-related events (e.g., Foltz & Luzzo, 1998; Foss & Slaney, 1986; Fukuyama, Probert, Neimeyer, Nevill, & Metzler, 1988; Luzzo & Day, 1999; Luzzo, Funk, & Strang, 1996; Luzzo & Taylor, 1994). Furthermore, only one of these prior investigations has evaluated the effectiveness of computer-based career planning systems (CBCPSs), in particular, as a method for enhancing clients' CDMSE (Fukuyama et al., 1988), and no studies to date have evaluated the effectiveness of CBCPSs in enhancing clients' career decision-making attributional style. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of DISCOVER (ACT, 1998), one of the most popular CBCPSs available, on the CDMSE and career decision-making attributional style of college student career counseling clients.

Self-Efficacy and Career Decision Making

Bandura (1977) defined self-efficacy as a person's beliefs regarding her or his ability to successfully perform a particular task. By understanding a person's self-efficacy expectations, a career counselor or vocational psychologist can more effectively understand and predict an individual's career-related behavior. Interventions that are designed to increase self-efficacy expectations are useful because they can increase a client's likelihood of adopting an approach rather than an avoidant disposition toward a given behavior, such as choosing a career or college major. Other consequences of increased self-efficacy expectations may include greater persistence despite obstacles and performance enhancement resulting from a decrease in debilitating anxiety (Bandura, 1977).

CDMSE refers to a person's belief that she or he can successfully perform the tasks involved in choosing a career. The tasks may include researching careers in a career library or on the World Wide Web, formulating short- and long-term occupational goals, and arranging personal values into a hierarchy. As expected, CDMSE is positively related to career decidedness. Persons with high levels of CDMSE are more likely to be decided about and committed to a particular career direction (Gillespie & Hillman, 1993; Mathieu, Sowa, & Niles, 1993; Taylor & Betz, 1983).

Bandura (1977) outlined four sources of information from which individuals' self-efficacy expectations can be learned and ways that these expectations can be modified.They are (a) performance accomplishments, wherein the person actually experiences the successful performance of a given behavior; (b) vicarious learning, the process of watching another person successfully perform that behavior; (c) verbal persuasion, including support from others encouraging the person's successful performance; and (d) changes in emotional states (e. …