ERIC Identifier: ED399414
Publication Date: 1996-00-00
Author: Lankard, Bettina A.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Adult Career and Vocational Education Columbus OH.
Acquiring Self-Knowledge for Career Development. ERIC Digest
Do people ever know enough about themselves to determine the direction of
their career journey? Various strategies have been developed to provide guidance
toward this end; however, as the realities of work change due to such factors as
global competition and new technologies, it is necessary to develop new
awareness of self in relation to work. This Digest examines various processes by
which learners of all ages, elementary to adult, can expand their
self-knowledge--their interests and the importance of those interests to their
personal satisfaction, their strength and weaknesses in relation to their
interests, and the ways in which their interests and abilities are applicable in
the changing social, economic, and work environments.
Self-knowledge is the first of three integral competency areas in the
National Career Development Guidelines (National Occupational Information
Coordinating Committee 1989). The guidelines address the progressive acquisition
throughout life of (1) knowledge of the influence of a positive self-concept;
(2) skills to interact positively with others; and (3) understanding of the
impact of growth and development. Studies conducted by Anderson (1995) and
DaGiau (1995) among others demonstrate the influence that increased
understanding of one's self-concept and its effect on roles and relationships
has upon career maturity. According to Anderson (1995), "self-knowledge is a
domain with many pathways" (p. 280). Historical self-knowledge--understanding of
past experiences and influences that led to one's current level of
development--is a key to shaping the future.
Ask any first-time job seeker the main reason employers rejected them and
they will tell you "lack of experience." Although this may seem unfair to the
student who has worked hard in school, it should not be a surprise that
employers value experienced workers. Experience is integral to knowing and
understanding oneself and how one relates to different situations,
circumstances, and roles.
EXPERIENTIAL METHODS FOR ACQUIRING SELF-KNOWLEDGE
the new ways of teaching and learning offer processes by which students can gain
experiences that enhance their self-knowledge. One of these is problem-based
learning, an instructional model based on constructivism, the concept that
learners construct their own understanding by relating concrete experience to
existing knowledge; processes of collaboration and reflection are involved. In
problem-based learning, students are presented with an ill-structured
problem--one that has no obvious solution and for which problem-solvers cannot
be certain they have the right answer. The problem must be content relevant and
represent a real situation faced by an individual, group, company, or community.
Solving the problem takes students through the following processes (Savoie and
Problem-based learning requires students to self-direct their search for a
solution, often by assuming the role of a key actor in the problem situation,
e.g., a lawyer, an environmentalist, a statistician, and so forth.
Students brainstorm with others and gather information from multiple sources.
Building. Students work in teams discussing alternatives and examining possible
and Reflection. Students share information, opinions, and ideas with others
based on what they have learned through experience.
of Findings. Students write plans, reports, and other forms of work
documentation to include in their portfolios of accomplishments and
Since students are the real problem solvers, their experiences in the process
broaden their understanding, not only of the complexities of the problem, but of
the effect a given solution might have on various stakeholders. Through such
experiences, students learn to assess their own stances on the issues in
question, their specific interests in the issues, their abilities in relation to
the tasks of problem solving, and the appeal of various jobs dedicated to those
issues. In a society where change is constant and teamwork is a way of life at
work, the lessons learned through involvement in problem-based learning are
essential for students' career development.
Another process that can help students enhance their self-knowledge is that
of brain-based learning, which moves the learner from memorizing information to
meaningful learning. Through instruction that incorporates the principles of
brain-based learning, students are led to comprehend and draw upon the
"vastness, complexity, and potential of the human brain" (Caine and Caine 1990,
p. 66). For example, understanding the effects of physiology on learning, the
importance of both focused attention and peripheral perception on learning, and
the relation between emotions and learning can help individuals better
understand how to enhance their learning. For example, a worker who recognizes
that stress is inhibiting work performance is more likely to engage in stress
management techniques as a means of improving performance.
New methods of performance assessment can also contribute to students'
self-knowledge in relation to career development. "Chief among these trends are
educators' efforts to assess active learning and to base assessments on clearly
defined standards ...Rather than assess student learning about history, math, or
language, students write, debate, create problems, conduct experiments, and so
on" (Willis 1996, p. 4). Engaging students in applying knowledge and skills in
the same way they are performed in the real world enables students to reap the
benefits of "authentic assessment." Authentic assessment provides students with
expectations about what will be assessed as well as standards to be met in
realistic contexts and gives students information about where they are in
relation to where they need to be.
Performance assessments may also be based on criterion-referenced tests that
enable students to compare their performance with clearly defined learning tasks
or skill levels. Ohio's Competency Analysis Profiles (OCAPs) and ACT's Work Keys
are examples of performance standards by which students can assess themselves in
relation to those skills and abilities identified as necessary by expert workers
in given occupational areas.
Portfolio assessment has become integral to instruction in the evolving
learner-centered classroom. The portfolio concept is one way to help educators
meet this challenge, giving students ownership of their work and establishing
the standards by which they will be measured. "Through portfolios, students
compose a portrait of themselves as able learners, selecting and presenting
evidence that they have met the learning standards for individual classes and
for broader tasks" (Lester and Perry 1995, p. 1). In collecting information for
the portfolio, students should be alert to including informal and well as formal
feedback about their performance. Documentation of relevant personal
information, educational history, skills, and a cumulative record of assessments
and career and job experiences should be an integral part of the career
portfolio through such techniques as the Individual Career Plans and the Career
The use of inventories as a way to assess personality in relation to
occupational interests is promoted by Lock (1996). Inventories such as the Six
Holland Personality Environment Types, the Strong Interest Inventory and Career
Assessment Inventory, and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator can provide students
with information about their personality, learning style, and their preferences
in the world of work.
Whether through the varied learning processes (brain-based learning,
problem-based learning), educational methods (performance-based instruction with
criterion-referenced evaluation components), assessments (performance tests,
authentic assessments), or documentation of performance (career passports,
portfolios), self-knowledge requires reflection on what was learned and what
needs to be learned, the process by which learning occurred, and how that
learning has enhanced what the student knows about him/herself in relation to
work. Journal writing is a useful technique to stimulate reflections throughout
the learning process. Because reflection can provide valuable insights for their
career development, students should be encouraged to allow time to reflect upon
the activities in which they have been engaged and record their feelings,
impressions, interests, and any new awareness they have acquired.
Today, many educational approaches emphasize the importance of having
students take charge of their own learning. The processes for acquiring
self-knowledge described here are consistent with that emphasis. Whether through
experiential, on-the-job, classroom, or community/service learning, students can
enhance their awareness of themselves for their career development by
continually summarizing and reflecting upon what they are learning as they
continue their progression through school and work.
Anderson, K. J. "The Use of a Structured Career
Development Group to Increase Career Identity." JOURNAL OF CAREER DEVELOPMENT
21, no. 4 (Summer 1995): 279-291. (EJ 504 417)
Caine, R. N., and Caine G. "Understanding a Brain-based Approach to Learning
and Teaching." EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP 48, no. 2 (October 1990): 66-70. (EJ 416
DaGiau, B. J. "Characteristics of Seventh-Grade Students Who Completed a
Course in Adolescent Development Compared to Students that Have Not Completed
the Course." Master's thesis, William Paterson College, 1995. (ED 386 609)
Lester, J. S., and Perry, N. S. ASSESSING CAREER DEVELOPMENT WITH PORTFOLIOS.
ERIC DIGEST. Greensboro, NC: ERIC Clearinghouse on Counseling and Student
Services, 1995. (ED 391 110)
Lock, R. D. TAKING CHARGE OF YOUR CAREER DIRECTION: CAREER PLANNING GUIDE,
BOOK 1. 3D ED. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole, 1996. National Occupational
Information Coordinating Committee.
NATIONAL CAREER DEVELOPMENT GUIDELINES. Portland, OR: Northwest Regional
Educational Laboratory, 1989. (ED 317 874-880)
Savoie, J. M., and Hughes, A. S. "Problem-based Learning as Classroom
Solution." EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP 52, no. 3 (November 1994): 54-57. (EJ 492 914)
Willis, S. "On the Cutting Edge of Assessment: Testing What Students Can Do
with Knowledge." EDUCATION UPDATE: ASSOCIATION FOR SUPERVISION AND CURRICULUM
DEVELOPMENT 38, no. 4 (June 1996): 4-7.