Investigation of a model of contextual career education in a tertiary setting.
This study investigated a career education programme which was run with students enrolled in the Science Foundation Programme (SFP). The SFP is a one year bridging course at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, for black students with insufficient matric points to enter directly into the science faculty. The class comprised of 135 students who were divided into 16 groups with about eight students in each. These career groups met monthly over a three month period. The approach to career education was based on group discussion and exploration. This made it possible for the students to deal with material that was relevant to their being in a vocationally orientated programme. The career groups were aimed at assisting the students with increasing their self knowledge in relation to their career decision making, expanding their knowledge of work and careers, exploring issues of career planning, and developing social and group skills. Research on the above process was undertaken by means of questionnaires, genograms and written paragraphs completed by the students over the duration of the programme. The students' evaluation of the programme was also investigated. The nature of the data meant that there were some responses which could be coded numerically, however much of the data was of a qualitative nature . Thematic analysis was thus undertaken. The programme dealt primarily with the issue of contextualism, focussing on the students macro-and micro-contexts and the role that these play in shaping the students' careers. The developmental contextual approach of Vondracek, Lemer, and Schulenberg (1986) was used to organise and make sense of the contextual data. Findings demonstrated that career information given in isolation is not sufficient. It needs to be located in the participants' context. Participation in the career education groups seemed to diminish the chances of students foreclosing on career decisions prematurely, and increased their self awareness and knowledge about the world of work. Research findings also highlighted the value of discussion as an important adjunct to other careers education techniques. The group discussion provided opportunities for gaining information and also encouraged individuals to take a more active role in their career development and career decision making. The career education groups provided a powerful tool for a collaborative learning experience with the students. This study also highlighted the limitations of a Western, individualistic approach, particularly when one is working cross culturally.