An exploration of focus groups as a means of investigating career thinking and exploration in a sample of black learners in an under- resourced school.
Much of the research on career development of black secondary school learners (Hickson & White, 1989, Ntshangase, 1995) has been focused on black learners in relatively affluent black areas, particularly townships. The aim of this study was to investigate career development and exploration in a sample of black learners from an under-resourced school in Pietermaritzburg. They were generally of a low socio economic status. In order to assess the learners' career maturity, a pretest-posttest quasi-experimental design was used. The central aim of this research project was to undertake focus group discussions. In order to facilitate career development, the discussions were learner-driven. These discussions were run over five sessions and allowed for an investigation of contextual influences on career development. Quantitative and qualitative analysis of data collected was conducted, in order to ascertain the effect of the focus group discussions on the learners' career maturity levels. The analysis showed a marked improvement in total career maturity scores of the experimental group as was measured by the Career Development Questionnaire. No significant changes were observed in the total maturity scores of the comparison group. Qualitative analysis of the discussions showed that. the learners gained a great deal from one another and together they discovered and shared career information and life skills. The results of this study showed the extent to which black learners from under-resourced areas are marginalized. They do not get the same exposure as their urban, suburban and township counterparts. The results further highlighted the plight of these learners whose contextual realities affect their career development. These findings have implications for policy makes at the level of the school, the government and community in order to reduce uncertainty and to promote career maturity in these learners. It is suggested that curriculum packages include grass-roots, community based programmes, that are sensitive to contextual realities which impact on the career development of rural black learners.