Towards better choices and improved practice: A study of the influences on students' course and college choice in Ireland

Gallagher, Joseph A. (2017) Towards better choices and improved practice: A study of the influences on students' course and college choice in Ireland. Ed.D thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The concern at the heart of this research is that students are not always able to make informed decisions in relation to course and college choices in the transition from school as evidenced by both the drop-out rates and numbers of students expressing dissatisfaction with their choice of college or course. This study was motivated by a personal and professional need to understand the influences that are brought to bear on the decision-making process for these young people so that I might be able to help them make more informed decisions as part of my practice as a career guidance counsellor. Central to this study were semi-structured interviews with three groups: five students in the midst of the decision-making process; five students returning from college at Christmas, and five teachers closely involved in advising and helping the students, comprising careers advisors, subject teachers and a year head. During the interviews, aspects of the students’ lives, their experiences, their perceptions of education and how each of these impinged on their choices, unfolded through the ‘stories’ they share. A consideration of historical and policy particularities impacting on the development of education, including the provision of career guidance, advice and information in Ireland sets the scene here for the analysis and discussions of these narratives. The term stories or narratives are not used as they would be in an ethnographic study, where the stories of the participants are used to describe the culture of a group in a detailed and complex manner (Punch 2009). This research project is quite specific and the term stories or narratives are used in relation to the students’ experiences of the decision-making process as told by the students themselves. The resulting dissertation thus blends career guidance theory, research and policy in the area and an interpretation of the realities as experienced by the students and from the perspectives of the teachers who have responsibilities for helping the students decide on their next pathway.
A grounded theory methodology is used to interpret data from the interviews and a questionnaire was used to inform the questions asked as part of the interview process. Career guidance, advice and information is often seen as a matching process supporting the criticism frequently levelled at ‘trait and factor’ approaches that they are an over simplification of a complex process. This study explains the importance of influences such as the family, peers, socio-economic factors, school and geographical location.

The research methodology highlights the different ways in which students experience the decision-making process. A constructivist approach is taken to interpret individual realities for students as they make choices in the transition from school. A social constructivist approach to practice is proposed where career advisors and students actively participate together to make more informed choices.
From an interpretation of the findings from this study, analysis of professional knowledge in relation to career guidance, and reflections on my own practice, implications and recommendations for a different modified provision of career guidance, advice and information are presented.

Item Type: Thesis (Ed.D)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: course and college choices, career guidance, improved practice.
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1603 Secondary Education. High schools
L Education > LC Special aspects of education
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Doyle, Dr. Lesley
Date of Award: 2017
Depositing User: Dr Joseph Gallagher
Unique ID: glathesis:2017-8579
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 06 Nov 2017 15:53
Last Modified: 27 Nov 2017 13:34

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