Career Development Curriculum for First-Generation Middle School Students

by Cathleen M. Barrett

Two counselors who were passionate about facilitating career development in elementary and middle schools created a career exploration curriculum for a group of 7th grade students who were first generation Mexican-Americans. The facilitators sought and found both enthusiastic approval and support for their ideas from the principal and the bi-lingual education teacher. A pre-group presentation on the goals and purposes of the group was made to encourage student interest. The bi-lingual education teacher called parents to inform them of the opportunity and provide them with a copy of the lesson plans. Twenty-seven students were invited to participate, 25 received parental approval to do so. Based on parental approval, 22 students (14 females, 8 males) volunteered to attend the four-week series that met twice a week for a total of ninety minutes per week, 8 sessions total. Those who declined to participate completed 8 sessions with the bilingual education teacher to improve academic skills in a small group-tutoring format.

The theoretical basis of the curriculum was social cognitive career theory (Lent, Brown & Hackett, 1994), which focuses on the connection among self-efficacy, outcome expectations and personal goals as influencers of a person’s career choice. Thus, the eight sessions focused on self-awareness, family history, and using career information.
The majority of students visited at least one job site. They were matched with an employee who was willing to give a tour of the facility and answer questions about their world of work. Feedback from the students indicated that the panel and job site visits were their favorite curriculum components. Parents were appreciative of the time they spent with their children during the construction of the Geneogram. Parents were also favorably impressed by the activities that linked the Image Posters with the realities of those lifestyles.

Fisher, T. A., & Padmawidjaja, I. (1999). Parental influences on career development perceived by African American and Mexican American college students. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 27, 136-52.

Leal-Muniz, V., & Constantine, M. G. (2005). Predictors of the Career Commitment Process in Mexican American College Students. Journal of Career Assessment, 13, 204-215.

Lent, R., Brown, S. & Hackett, G. (1994). Toward a unifying social cognitive theory of career and academic interest, choice, and performance. Journal of Vocational Behavior 45, 79-122.

Maslow, A. (1970). Motivation and personality (2nd ed.). New York: Harper & Row. (Original work published in 1954).

Cathleen Barrett, Ed.D., NCC, is an Associate Professor of Counseling and Coordinator of the School Counseling Program at Saint Xavier University in Chicago. She holds an Ed. D. in Counseling and Counselor Education from Indiana University. The focus of her scholarship is on the application of theory to practice. She can be reached at email barrett@sxu.edu

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