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Qualitative Diagnostics of Relationship Between Schooling and work: Does the Acquirement of Professional Skills and Knowledge at School is a Premise for Professional Career Development?

Zydziunaite Vilma,¹ Katiliute Egle² and Aiste Urboniene³

¹ Kaunas University of Technology / Klaipeda College, Klaipeda

² Klaipeda College, Klaipeda / Vytautas Magnus University

³ Vilnius University (Kaunas Faculty of Humanities)

Paper presented at the European Conference on Educational Research, University of Geneva, 13-15 September 2006

ABSTRACT. The young people’s transition from school to work, career development involves professional and social actors. In examination of relationship between education and work here are two models: the meritocracy and the credentialist theory. What is learned in school, in credentialist model, bears little relationship with what is needed to perform a job and professional career development. How a person with more or less schooling, with or without acquirement of professional skills and knowledge at school attains or fail to attain given levels of professional career development? What is it about schooling and possibility to acquire professional skills at school that cause those with more of it to achieve the higher level of professional career? Study aim: To illuminate the elements from which consists the content of relationship between schooling and work. Research question: Does the acquirement of professional skills and knowledge at school is a premise for pupil’s professional career development at work focused on adequate professional area? Methods. Data collection: unstructured interviews were conducted and audio - taped. For data analysis was used the phenomenological hermeneutics: method oriented towards the interpretation of people's narrated, lived experiences. Sample. 10 BA 1st year students (social work, IT, business administration, nursing study programmes); 10 practitioners (representing the professional areas adequate to BA students study areas); 10 work organization executives (where interviewed professionals work); 10 school heads (where pupils acquire professional skills and knowledge). Findings. BA students identifying themselves as having a natural interest in concrete professional area because having specific skills and knowledge before entering higher education institutions (themes: self – esteem; identification as future professional practitioner; technical skills; team – working; leadership). Practitioners accentuated comprehensive view in professional area with the realistic view; learned skills; reflection before-, in-, after-action; capability to work autonomously and in a team. Work organization executives mentioned importance of high level professional expertise; comprehended meaning of polarity between specificity and wholeness of professional area as power in professional career development. School heads indicated roles of teachers in pupils’ professional education: master, servant, spiritual teacher. Conclusions. In ‘building’ the relationship between acquirement of professional skills and knowledge at school and professional career development participate teachers, school heads, learners, work organization heads, colleagues practitioners. Content of relationship between schooling and work consists of the following phenomenons: motivation to work in concrete professional area; understanding professional values; transition from theoretician to expert – practitioner; transition from helpless to empowered practitioner.

INTRODUCTION

In knowledge society every human being should learn to adapt to changes in labor market and to choose the professional, which fits to individual and public needs. Adequately chosen profession, favorite job, career all those are important things in life of every person. The choice of professional activity is stipulated by personal capabilities and activity, social environment, motivation to have the social status in society, subjective aims of the life (ideals, understanding of life meaning and personal mission) (Tamosiunas, 1999). Those peculiarities describe professional vocation, which is important for personal and professional self – realization and enriches the life with joy and power of life (Buttler, 1994; Gnutter, 1989). The adequately chosen profession is essential premise for self – confidence, social adaptation, life stability, possibility to plan personal future and future of the family and responsibility for personal choices of life. In this context are important motives of professional choices, relationship between professional vocation and professional activity (that creates the preconditions to personal realization), choice of profession, factors that determine the professional career and professional counseling.

Professional motives had analyzed Leonavicius (2001), Kregzde (1998), Petrauskaite (1996), Beresneviciene (1995); relationships between professional vocation and professional activity as a premise to personal realization had detailed Beresneviciene (2002), Kavaliauskiene (2001), Jovaisa (1993); theories of professional self - determination had analyzed Lauzackas (1999), Pociute (1998); factors that stipulate the professional career had investigated Barkauskaite (2004), Valackiene (2003), Ruskus, Karvelis (2000). Researchers’ studies of those researchers substantiate the importance of career development as continuing and permanent life – long process. Though the core factor of the quality of human resources could be mentioned career development where the career designing, professional informing and professional counseling services are the general elements in strategy of life – long learning (Pukelis, 2003). It is accentuated also in Memorandum of life - long learning (2000): the objective of development of informing and counseling services is to warrant the possibility to every human being to get the good quality information and guidance that are related to possibilities in professional learning and activity in all Europe and through long – life learning process.

The preparation to professional career development progresses in secondary school so why the school plays the tremendous role in this process: the school should help not only to match up the learner‘s capabilities, objects and needs of dynamically social and economical needs of society.

According to humanists (e.g., Berger, Luckman, 1999) learners at schools should start to know the self deeply in order to know what they like, what do they want, who they are and what for they have vocation. At school learners should find the activity, which fits to personal needs and to develop their creativity and other potentials. It is important to teach them to solve the problems autonomously and with others, to acquire the general specific and cultural literacy, to prepare the self to studies, to acquire knowledge and skills that are needful to independent and meaningful life. The aim of career planning and development in youth is to help to find the rational professional solution according to peculiarities of learner‘s nature and needs of labor market and evaluating that from perspectives of time - span (Pukelis, 2003). So why many researchers present ideas about personal career: career is dependent on personal capabilities to Project it (Lauzackas, 2005; Kucinskiene, 2003; Petkeviciute, 2003; Pukelis, Pundziene, 2002; Pukelis, 2002). Though the choice of profession is one of the main and principal step of young person (e.g., Lauzackas, 2003; Pukelis, 2003; Juraite, 2003; Ramanauskaite, 2002; Kaminskiene, 2001; Targamadze, 1997).

Striving to help the person to plan the personal career is important to help him / her by establishing the adequate environment at schools: to create and develop the system of learners‘ education for career, to reorganize the educational process in respect to capabilities of learners, interests and to establish the conditions for self – realization of learners. It will help them to acquire various skills that are needful to successful solving of personal and social life, stipulation of their disposition to life – long learning, development and career planning and development.

Study aim: To illuminate the elements from which consists the content of relationship between schooling and work.

Research question: Does the acquirement of professional skills and knowledge at school is a premise for pupil’s professional career development at work focused on adequate professional area?

PROFESSIONAL SELF-DETERMINATION

In order to revise the propriety of professional self – determination it is important to organize the practical activity optimally because of exceptionally in Professional activity the person learns about the self. So why it is important to organize the professional attempts (simulated activity situations) at the school and its purpose is to help person to be certain that the chosen profession fits to personal capabilities, emotional intentions / expectations and social aspirations. Characteristic of professional attempts is presented by Pukelis, Pundziene (2002) for them is clear that professional attempts consist of theoretical and practical activities that modeling the characteristic of a chosen profession. According to those authors, the pupils should prove their capabilities leastwise in several special clubs and circles, i.e. pupils should have as much as possible facilities to prove their capabilities in various areas, thus after it will be easier to determine, which professional area pupils could choose and which specialty is adequate to their capabilities and personal features. If professional attempts would be organized efficiently, thus pupils could be able to evaluate the personal professional orientation, capabilities and personal features.

Professional self – determination is responsible phase in personal life thus at the school the pupils should receive the rational advices by establishing the adequate social conditions. Jovaisa (1999), Arnold (1997), Beresneviciene (1990) presents three general elements of rational Professional self – determination, self – knowing, familiarity with the world of activity and capability to match those two. Here are existing three styles of professional self – determination:

Rational. This style includes the systemic evaluation and logic comprehension by applying the perspective of a time: the person thinks about the information, takes responsibility about the decision – making and prognoses the possible results. This style requires from a person good self – knowing and comprehensive information about the world of work. After evaluation of personal capabilities, priorities and resources and after thinking about the information related to the world of work the person makes the rational decision independently in case if he / she is acquired the capability of decision – making. To this style is oriented many technologies of professional counseling, e.g. using the tests are evaluated the personal features of pupils and their comparison to requirements of professions determines the possibility to create the list of recommended professions to this pupil. This style is clear and strict, but here is ignored the internal intuitive factor („I like – I do not like").

Intuitive. This style accentuates the emotional factor also here is trusted in feelings and imaginations. The person takes responsibility, when he / she „feel good" by making the concrete decision. This style is important when the person lacks the purposive knowledge about the self and the world of work or is not capable to apply the knowledge, though in such cases the intuitive decision – making is better strategy in professional self – determination. In professional self – determination is optimal to match the rational and intuitive styles: to evaluate the alternatives rationally and to prove the rational professional self – determination by intuitive style.

Dependent. The person does not take responsibility about the decision and it is transferred on other persons or accidental events. In this way person who make decisions are passive and yielding, are influenced by expectations of others. This style influences the success in individual career and is related to personal satisfaction in activity. If the profession is chosen because of influence of other people or conditions it is possible that the person permanently will not take responsibility about the personal career. On the other hands, according to contemporary understanding of career, the inadequate professional self – determination is not a „verdict" for all life – the person, who establishes one‘s credentials for independent decision – making and self – determination could choose the profession rationally and / or intuitively.

Not every of those three styles of professional self – determination match to every person, but every style is valuable. For example, the intuitive style does not mean that the person makes decision without important information; persons who make decisions intuitively evaluate the positive and negative aspects of various alternatives but for them are also important to see their personal feelings and intuitions. This style of professional determination is influenced by situational specificity and capability to choose in a concrete case. Thus the presented styles of Professional self – determination are universal, i.e. they fit to any decision making in respect to professional career development.

Hatcher (1998), Hodkins, Sparkes (1997), Petrauskaite (1996) note that in professional self – determination here is lack of rationality because of rarely this is determined by emotions, accidents, feelings and influence of other people. Also often the professional self – determination is limited by rapid changes in labor market and in law aspects. Thus the most effective behavior is matching up the professional self – determination and rational and adaptation strategies (Kucinskiene, 2003).

RESEARCH METHODS

METHODS

Data collection. Unstructured interviews were conducted and audio - taped.

Data analysis. It had been used the phenomenological hermeneutics (Lindseth, Norberg, 2004): method oriented towards the interpretation of people's narrated, lived experiences, which consists of four phases:

First phase – a naïve reading. The first interpretation of the text as a whole, which provides direction for further analysis. The text was reread several times in order to grasp its meaning as a whole. It was tried to switch out from a natural attitude to a phenomenological attitude and the naïve understanding of the text was formulated in phenomenological language. It was regarded as a first conjecture and it was validated by the subsequent structural analysis. Thus the naïve understanding guided the structural analysis.

Second phase – structural analyses. Included various examinations of the parts of the text in order to explain what it says. In this phase it was sought to identify and formulate themes. The theme is a thread of meaning that penetrates text parts and it is seen as conveying as essential meaning of lived experience. In order to capture this meaning of lived experience the themes were not formulated as abstract concepts, but rather as condensed descriptions. The text was read and divided into meaning units and there were parts that did not seem to be about anything related to research question. Those text parts were taken into consideration during the analysis but some of them did not contributed to the formulation of themes. The meaning units were read through and reflected on against the background of the naïve understanding. Then they were condensed - essential meaning of each unit was expressed in everyday words as concisely as possible.

Third phase – comprehensive understanding. Includes the summarizing and reflecting on the main themes, themes and sub-themes in relation to the research question and the context of a study. It was not forced the literature’s perspective on the interview text but ‘left’ the chosen literature illuminate the interview text and interview text illuminate the chosen literature. In the process of interpreting the text as a whole was not possible to follow strict methodological rules. The researchers again came close to the text and recontextualized it, tried to perceive it in the light of the literature texts chosen and also see the literature text in the light of interview texts. The focus was not only on what the text says but on the possibilities of living in the world that the interview text opens up.

Fourth phase – formulating the results in a phenomenological way. It means that the results should be formulated in everyday language as close to lived experience as possible.

SAMPLE

10 BA 1st year students (social work, IT, business administration, nursing study programmes); 10 practitioners (representing the professional areas adequate to BA students study areas); 10 work organization executives (where interviewed professionals work); 10 school heads (where pupils acquire professional skills and knowledge).

RESULTS

BA students identifying themselves as having a natural interest in concrete professional area because of acquired specific skills and knowledge before entering the higher education institutions (the following themes: self – esteem; identification as future professional practitioner; technical skills; team – working; leadership).

Theme being self – esteemed consists of those sub-themes that are oriented to learning and teaching methods / styles, possibilities to practices and participate in projects, to be respected by others, objectivity in respect to evaluation of personal achievements in learning: learning in groups; learning in small – sized class; learning various programmes; being in parity with other classmates; performing practical activities; being involved in different projects; being in dignity in learning environment; receiving the clear explained learning material; being satisfied with learning subjects; having opportunities to choose study subjects; experiencing the positive changes in using various learning tools; being satisfied because of adequacy between teaching material and learning needs; being satisfied because of objective evaluation of learning achievements.

Theme identifying the self as future professional practitioner incorporates the following sub-themes, which shows that learners are focused on relationship between importance of personal material welfare that Is attached to professional choices, professional prestige and professional career development: being oriented to personal interests; being oriented to higher as much as possible salary; being oriented to level of material welfare guaranteed by profession; being oriented to personal capacities; being oriented to professional prestige; being oriented to professional popularity; being oriented to capabilities of professional career.

Theme acquiring of technical skills includes six sub-themes that illuminate the learners' intentions to relate the skills, knowledge, self - knowing, self - realization: applying new teaching methods; minimizing learning difficulties; having opportunities for self-expression; being in learning environment benevolent for self-knowing; having opportunity to choose through presentation of new teaching methods; applying individualized teaching in respect to individual learning.

Theme participating in team – working highlights the importance of team - working as teaching and learning method in order learners would experience the crucial role of social skills and capabilities and expert knowledge and skills in working and learning environment: being in communion; being self-empowered; being in dignity; being dependent; being committed; being limited; being influenced; being respected; being experiencing.

Theme being in leadership involves aspects of collaboration, communication, dependency of activity and organizational aims: communicating with others; defining activity aims; delegating the authority; creating collaborating environment; being limited; being dependent; being recognized as leader; being in mutual respect with others.

Practitioners accentuated comprehensive view in professional area with the realistic view; learned skills; reflection before-, in-, after-action; capability to work autonomously and in a team.

Theme being comprehensive in respect to profession expresses the realistic view related to requirements for professionals, i.e. that do the professional activity requires from the professional specialist: forming the reciprocal connection with the client and colleagues; being attentive to others; listening the others; being dependent on situation; being able to perceive the uniqueness of cases/situations; keeping the sensitivity; feeling one’s part of professional activity; analyzing and systemizing the information; being in dignity in acting for the client; being experiencing; acting professionally. It means that the professional should be oriented to the self, client, organization, colleagues, situation and context.

Theme applying learned skills highlights the need for permanent life - long learning that is connected to career development: the professional is always limited in his / her scope of knowledge, skills and is always in dilemma in respect to personal expertise, because of the need for new knowledge and skills continuously and that stipulates the professional to be focused on professional development and professional career planning (sub-themes: being limited; being dependent; being in dilemma; being influenced).

Theme being reflective (before-, in-, after-action) illuminates that practitioners matter the reflection and this process specifically includes the following elements:

Before action: observing the situation and evaluating critical points.

In-action: being dutiful, being contextual, evaluating the importance of work, discovering the role in the activity, considering the activity realization and considering the situations.

After action: analyzing activity mistakes and empowering the self for professional development.

Theme being capable to work autonomously includes eights sub-themes that are focused on ethical behavior, communication, capability to work strive to concrete aims and bet strict in it, to manage situations by realizing various roles and managing different situations: being ethical; communicating with others; being able to convey knowledge to clients and colleagues; being able to perform activity in limited time; being able to act purposefully; being able to integrate theory and practice; being able to manage situations; realizing different roles in practice.

Practitioners as well as Bachelor students accentuate the importance of team - working, which is expressed by theme being capable to work in a team and includes the following sub-themes: self-empowering to strive for the wellness of clients, colleagues and the self; self-empowering to take the responsibility; self-empowering to revaluation of the activity situations; recognizing the needs of team members in respect to concrete activity; understanding the activity meaning; being able to perform the activity routine.

Work organization executives mentioned importance of high level professional expertise; comprehended meaning of polarity between specificity and wholeness of professional area as power in professional career development.

Theme being expert in profession involves sub-themes that are attached to professional's (practitioner’s) personal capabilities and features, comprehension, values, commitment to organization and profession: being reliable; understanding the value of any profession; understanding the value of communication; being qualified; thinking critically; solving the problems; being able to act professionally; being obligated by the profession; being influenced by continuing professional development; being autonomous; being in “continuing” dilemma between practice and theory; being dependent on context; being dependent on organizational specificity; being in continuing involvement realizing the short-term and long-term activities; researching the activity.

Theme comprehensing the meaning of polarity between specificity and wholeness of professional area shows that in professional career development is very important intellectual potential, capability to work independently and research skills of the practitioner: comprehensing the value of technical skills and routine work; being ready to act; being self coordinated; being interested in novelties; performing activities independently; understanding the strengths and limits of team working; seeing the wholeness of practical situation; evaluating the peculiarities of practical situation.

School heads indicated roles of teachers in pupils’ professional education: master, servant, spiritual teacher.

Theme being master includes teaching techniques, evaluation and counseling processes as important in pupils' learning and preparation to professional career development: applying new teaching techniques; perceive the teaching techniques as learning tools; establishing the positive learning environment; explaining complex material in everyday language; choosing the adequate teaching material to pupils’ learning needs; releasing the learning workload of pupils; evaluating the learning potentials of pupils.

Theme being servant expresses the peculiarity that the teacher should "use" the self as instrument in order to help pupils to choose, solve problems and make decisions in respect to their intentions related to professional career planning and development: being caring; being helping “at any time”; being devoted; being serving in various teaching-learning situations; encouraging pupils; being dependent on pupils “moods and wishes”.

Theme being a spiritual teacher is connected to values, ethics and dignity that are also important in preparation of pupils to their career planning and development: raising the self-dignity of pupils; involving pupils into learning process; empowering pupils to motivated learning; recognizing the teaching possibilities for pupils; being able to form connection with pupils; striving to be objective; being ethical; being listening.

CONCLUSIONS

In ‘building’ the relationship between acquirement of professional skills and knowledge at school and professional career development participate teachers, school heads, learners, work organization heads, colleagues practitioners.

Content of relationship between schooling and work consists of these phenomenons: motivation to work in concrete professional area; understanding professional values; transition from theoretician to expert – practitioner; transition from helpless to empowered practitioner.

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This document was added to the Education-Line database on 13 November 2006