Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

A Cognitive Career Course: From Theory to Practice

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

A Cognitive Career Course: From Theory to Practice

Article excerpt

A university career development course based on cognitive information-processing theory was assessed. Students who took the course showed a significant decrease in their negative career thoughts when the Career Thoughts Inventory (J. P. Sampson, G. W. Peterson, J. G. Lenz, R C. Reardon, & D. E. Saunders, 1996a) was used as a pretest and posttest measure. The greatest decrease in negative thinking was found in students with the highest level of negative thinking at the beginning of the course. The specific components of negative career thinking-decision-making confusion and commitment anxiety-contributed significantly to the main effect. There were no significant interactions with ethnicity or sex.

Various measures have clearly demonstrated that course-based career interventions have been effective. Lent, Larkin, and Hasegawa (1986) reported that career-course interventions led to changes in career decision-making readiness constructs such as vocational identity (Remer, O'Neill, & Gohs, 1984), career indecision (Barker, 1981), and psychosocial development (Stonewater & Daniels, 1983). In recent years, researchers have studied these and other variables and have continued to find significant effects from career-course interventions. Johnson and Smouse (1993) and Quinn and Lewis (1989) found significant relationships between a course and reduced career indecision. Hardesty (1991) reported a meta-analysis regarding the beneficial effects of career courses on career maturity and career decidedness. Career courses have also examined cognitive variables, for example, adding a cognitive restructuring component to a course (Wiseman, 1988) and examining cognitive resources (Remer et al., 1984).

Although the general effectiveness of career courses has been documented (Folsom & Reardon, 2000; Oliver & Spokane, 1988), there is a need for research that evaluates the relationship between courses and specific cognitive and demographic variables, such as sex and ethnicity. Although career courses have generally not reported sex differences in outcomes, Rayman, Bernard, Holland, and Barnett (1983) found that whereas a career course produced gains in vocational identity for both men and women, men gained more before midterm exams, and women gained more after midterm exams. Wachs (1986) reported that only women had higher scores in vocational identity after taking a career course. Halpern (1997) concluded that "the many questions about cognitive sex differences and similarities are a major area of interest" (pp. 1091-- 1092) in psychological research. We view questions about ethnicity in a similar way and included an examination of sex and ethnicity in this research study.

Spokane and Oliver (1983) identified problems in the research literature relevant to the evaluation of career interventions. Some interventions are unstructured, and some are highly controlled; some are based on a single integrating theory, and others are atheoretical; and output and outcome measures are sometimes not clearly linked to the treatment interventions.

This study seeks to correct for these problems and to add knowledge to the field by examining the impact of a course that is based on cognitive information-processing theory in reducing negative or dysfunctional career thoughts. This study is unique because the course intervention and output measures are based on an emerging theory of career development. The following three research questions were investigated:

1. Does the nature of students' career thoughts change from the beginning to the end of a career course, and, if so, are the changes different according to the initial level of career thinking?

2. Do career thoughts related to decision-making confusion, commitment anxiety, and external conflict change from the beginning to the end of a career course?

3. Is student sex or ethnicity, or both, related to the nature of career thoughts during the period of the career course? …

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