What kinds of career development activities most readily engage high school students? As a high school guidance consultant and former middle school counselor, I often hear students lament that "career development activities are stupid!" Knowing differently, I aspire to make favorable first impressions when introducing career guidance curriculum. Anecdotally, students seem to enjoy career assessments, and self-knowledge activities are theoretically substantiated as first steps in career development activities. I designed a survey to gather student evaluation of the Career Information System's (CIS) self-directed career planner for high school students, called My Career Plan (MCP). The survey's results support the notion of using self-knowledge as a beginning point for engaging high school students.
My Career Plan (MCP)
MCP is organized into three levels: Getting Started, for 8th and 9th graders; Looking Deeper, for 10th and 11th graders, and Next Steps, for 12th graders. Each level contains five sections: Know Myself, Research Options, Evaluate Options, Set Goals, and Make Plans. Students self select the career development activities in MCP When they complete an activity, users reflect upon their learning by writing short answers to a few questions. These thoughts are stored in a career portfolio.
The survey displayed as a link on the first page of MCP. One hundred students, representing 15 CIS states and three students residing outside the USA, voluntarily completed this short survey during the first six weeks of 2011. Students reported their school grades as: 37% 9th graders, 16% 10th graders, 12% 11th graders, 10% 12th graders, and 25% "other." (Since middle schoolers often use CIS's high school program, it is likely that the majority of "other" students represent 8th graders; MCP also targets 8th graders at the Getting Started level)
In all three levels of MCP, students evaluated the "Know Myself" sections as the most useful part. Know Myself sections includes formal and informal career assessments with self-directed instructions for use and interpretation. On a scale of 1-4 (where 4 = very useful), "Know Myself" activities yielded a mean of 3.2 at the Getting Started Level, 3.19 at the Looking Deeper level and 3.10 at the Next Steps level. "Set Goals" ranked second for the Getting Started and Looking Deeper levels (mean of 3.16 and 3.05 respectively), and Make plans ranked second for the Next Step level (mean of 3.01). Though the survey group size and the statistical differences are small, they are noteworthy. When asked how MCP influenced their career development, students reported most strongly that MCP introduced them to new career information and helped them learn more about themselves in relation to careers (mean 3.84 and 3.79 respectively).
These findings reinforce my personal experiences. When working with high school students, begin with a career assessment or informal activity that helps teenagers understand themselves in a career context. Self-knowledge tools engage students, as students view these activities as most useful and relevant, which starts everyone off on the right foot.
Susan Roudebush, M.S., CDF, CDFI works as a User Services Specialist for the University of Oregon's intoCareers. In addition to her work as a school counselor and educational consultant, Susan has worked with CIS for 30 years. She served in the first CDF Instructor Training and CDF Master Trainer groups and trained over 500 CDF students in Oregon and roughly 50 CDFI instructors throughout the Northwest. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org