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Approaches to the Career Development Programs

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What does the career development component of career education look like as it operates in the elementary school? What kinds of new and different things is the elementary school teacher being asked to do? How can the elementary school educator be sure that career development goals are not emphasized at the expense of other worthy goals of elementary education? How can the basic understandings of the career development process be translated into specific methods and procedures in the elementary school setting? As a final portion of this chapter, some discussion of various categories of career development experiences seems appropriate.

The basic substantive content involved here consists of: (a) the world of work, (b) work values, and (c) the child as a prospective worker. To the extent that this content has previously been ignored in the elementary school, its acquisition does indeed represent a set of additional learning tasks that the elementary school is being asked to assume. At the outset, it is essential to emphasize once again that the time required for accomplishment of these tasks need not come from the actual time allocated for acquisition of basic academic skills. Rather, the time will be found in that devoted to helping students understand better why they are being asked to learn the basic skills of language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, physical education, art, and music. Thus it is essentially a means of helping "school" make more sense to the student.

At the same time, the goals of career development are, in themselves, significant for the elementary school to embrace. Career development is an important part of human growth and development. The furtherance of human growth and development is a fundamental part of the entire rationale behind elementary education in the United States. Thus attention to career development in the elementary schools does not have to be justified solely in terms of educational motivation. The fact that career development activities can and do serve a motivational function provides a fortuitous way of incorporating its content into the ongoing activities of the elementary school. Even if they were not so naturally convenient, the goals of career development would still be essential for the elementary school to adopt.

There exists only a finite set of basic kinds of career development activities available in the elementary school. The class field trip as an observational activity, the use of class visitors and simulated work experiences are discussed in chapter 4 because of their community, business, industry, and labor involvement. They should be remembered there as contributors to career development. This chapter adds the teaching of career development concepts through direct instruction, helping students develop personal systems of work values... each as it relates to the basic goals of career development presented earlier in this chapter.

Teaching Career Development Concepts through Direct Instruction

Some elementary schools, after formulating basic career development concepts with which they wish their students to become acquainted, have set about to develop learning packages of various kinds covering such material. Where this is done, the career development concepts are taught directly, with no systematic attempt to use them to emphasize the acquisition of basic academic skills.

An example of this approach is seen in the Fusion of Applied and Intellectual Skills project developed at the University of Florida. This project represents a systematic approach to helping elementary school students consider work values at the same time they are being exposed to the basic nature of the world of work. In this sense, it combines an affective with a cognitive approach to career development. Each of the 65 units of instruction developed is organized around three elements: input, action, and reflection-with the reflective step becoming the focus for value clarification activities. These are carefully worked out and involve rather extensive in-service teacher education. Preliminary evaluations of this approach appear promising.

Other elementary schools, also using learning packages, have attempted to intersperse career development learning packages with those used in regular academic instructional areas. It is, as yet, too early to make judgments regarding the ultimate values to be gained from one approach as opposed to another.

Helping Students Develop Personal Systems of Work Values

Whenever and wherever pupils are exposed to information regarding the nature of work, the general occupational structure, or examples of work values, it is inevitable that to some extent their own personal value systems will be affected. The development of a personally meaningful set of work values, which allow the individual to picture himself positively as a potential worker, is one of the major goals of career education in the elementary school. It is too important a matter to be considered as an automatic or incidental happening.

The question of personal work values arises most naturally whenever the student considers the question: "What kind of career would I like to have as an adult?" We have stressed repeatedly our strong feelings that no attempts should be made, during the elementary school years, to force any student to answer such questions in a firm, final, or highly definitive manner. To take such a position in no way means that we are opposed to seeing this kind of question raised with the elementary school student. On the contrary, if it can he raised and discussed in a counseling-like relationship, it can be very helpful in the development of the student's self-concept. That is, when a student indicates the type of occupation he thinks might be appropriate for him, he is in a very real sense expressing a great deal about the kind of person he sees himself as being. It should be intuitively clear to the teacher and be made clear to the student that when he ultimately chooses an occupation, he is not only choosing a job but a whole life-style, including standard of living, residential location, friends, hobbies, etc.

This issue of self-concept can, and undoubtedly will become a part of the teacher-student interaction at various times when career development activities are being carried out. The more serious consideration we are suggesting here, however, is not easily developed or carried out in an appropriate fashion as part of the classroom teaching-learning situation. Rather, it is more appropriately carried out in counseling conversations, conducted either on a small group or an individual basis, between students and the professionally prepared elementary school counselor.

There are two major operational problems involved: The first is that bona fide elementary school counselors still exist in only a very limited number of elementary schools and, even where they are present, the counselor-student ratio is typically so high that it precludes a great deal of either small group or individual counseling. The second is that, of all the elementary school counselors now employed, only a few have been made competent, in the course of their counselor education programs, to consider and deal with the problems of career development in a skillful and meaningful fashion.

These two operational restraints have caused some national figures in the field of career guidance to call for the elimination of elementary school counselors. Our recommendations are quite the opposite. In our opinion, immediate attention should be directed toward both increasing the numbers of elementary school counselors and improving the knowledge, understanding, and competence all elementary school counselors possess in the realm of career education in general and career development in particular.  Obviously, there are many important duties of the elementary school counselor in addition to those associated with career education. At the same time, helping elementary school students reflect upon and make beginning tentative decisions regarding personal work values, represents a strong and viable plank in the total effort to make the elementary school counselor a part of the professional staff in elementary schools throughout the nation.
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