ERIC Identifier: ED272701
Publication Date: 1986-00-00
Author: Imel, Susan
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult
Career and Vocational Education Columbus OH.
The Adult Education Teacher's Role in Career Planning.
Overview. ERIC Digest No. 55.
Because career development is a lifelong process, adults frequently
need career planning assistance. The adult education classroom or learning
setting is a natural environment for individuals who wish to seek and receive
help with career planning. Following a discussion of the career development
needs of adults, this digest describes the appropriate role for the teacher in
providing career planning assistance and suggests activities that can be used to
support adult career planning in the classroom.
WHAT ARE THE CAREER DEVELOPMENT NEEDS OF ADULTS?
According to Deems (1983), adult career development is a process with
specific phases or stages, often paralleling human development stages. Career
development involves a number of career decisions which occur throughout a
lifetime. This means that adults can plan and influence their own careers.
However, self-concept as well as the extent to which an individual feels
responsible for his or her own future strongly influence the career development
Keierleber and Sundal-Hansen (1985) have identified three models of career
and adult development that "relate most directly and practically to the issues
adult students are concerned about: life roles, concepts of age, and
transitions" (p. 252). The life roles model refers to the need to develop
priorities for balancing a variety of roles including those of student, child,
parent, spouse, worker, and citizen. Decisions about careers are an integral
part of the life roles model; in fact, some have come to equate the term
"careers" with the ongoing development and integration of an adult's life roles.
The concepts of age model affects career development because adults may feel
that career decisions should be age-related and as a result, they may impose
constraints on their own career development. For example, a 30-year-old male may
think he should stay in his original career field rather than "start over"
because he feels men should be established in their careers by their early
thirties. The transitions model refers to the fact that life events or changes,
such as transitions, frequently trigger the need for career planning. Such
events include unemployment, dissatisfaction with current job or career,
promotions, lack of career mobility, and so forth.
Given the heterogeneity of the adult population, the career development needs
of adults cover a wide range. Those adults who have good self-knowledge, who are
knowledgeable about employment situations, and who have good decision-making
skills are likely only to need information in order to make career decisions
(Herr and Cramer, 1979). There are many adults, however, whose career
development has been characterized as "late, delayed, or impaired," who have
very different career development needs (Manuele, 1984, p. 101). These adults
need to develop more positive self-images, to increase their knowledge of
careers and career choices, to increase their ability to use resources, and to
improve their decision-making skills before being able to engage in career
WHAT IS THE APPROPRIATE ROLE FOR TEACHERS IN ADULT CAREER PLANNING?
Either through choice or necessity, more and more adults are seeking career
assistance, and in order to address career or job concerns, are frequently
enrolling in educational programs (Keierleber and Sundal-Hansen, 1985).
Therefore, adults may come to rely on the adult education teacher or instructor
for their career development needs. Through classroom interactions, adult
students come to know and trust their instructors, and as a result feel
comfortable discussing concerns or questions related to their careers.
Instructors, likewise, acquire knowledge about their adult students that is
helpful in providing career planning assistance.
Some career development activities involve counseling and should be provided
by a trained professional counselor. Like teaching, counseling is a special
skill that requires training and supervised experience. Counselors, for example,
are trained to administer and interpret career assessment instruments (Chandler
and Hott, 1985). Although many career development activities should be carried
out in conjunction with a counselor, teachers may also appropriately engage in
activities that support or enhance adult career planning. These activities,
though, must be related to or compatible with the teacher's major role as
deliverer of instruction.
WHAT ACTIVITIES CAN ADULT TEACHERS ENGAGE IN TO SUPPORT CAREER PLANNING?
Adult education teachers may appropriately support career planning activities
through instructional activities and by serving as a source of information about
other career development and planning services.
According to Herr and Cramer (1979), teachers and instructors can provide
"much of the attitudinal support and knowledge from which more motivated and
informed career development may flow" (p. 259). In the area of instruction, this
can be done by including information and experiences that link general
educational activities to specific vocational or occupational tasks. Some
suggestions on how to do this are:
--Include concrete examples of relevant theoretical ideas from occupational
--Help students to acquire and apply appropriate vocabulary.
--Support attitudes of personal mastery or competence among students.
--Reinforce the importance of formulating positive attitudes toward work and
acquiring information about a variety of occupations.
--Discuss concepts related to life in organizations. Such concepts include
authority relationships, routine and variety, teamwork, patterns of mobility,
and promotions and demotions (Herr and Cramer, 1979).
In vocational or skill-centered curricula, instructors of adults may support
career planning efforts in the following ways:
--Provide current and accurate information about their specific occupational
field, including opportunities for contacts with workers and work settings.
--Assist students in analyzing and interpreting their learning experiences in
terms of the workplace.
--Plan and provide instruction that prepares individuals to enter, progress,
and transfer among jobs in an occupational field or career cluster.
--Assist individuals in identifying a wide range of occupations to which
their vocational instruction is applicable.
--Encourage employers to provide information that will expand awareness of
career opportunities (Herr and Cramer, 1979).
Instructors may also plan career exploration activities and discuss the
importance of capitalizing upon certain personal characteristics in making
career decisions. Career exploration often includes examining past experiences
to evaluate both vocational and nonvocational successes and failures. This type
of exercise can help in identifying skill strengths and weaknesses that may be
important in future job decisions. Career exploration may also involve the
process of values clarification, which assists individuals in identifying
priorities related to life-style choices, including choices concerning careers
and occupations (Vetter and others, 1986). Career exploration activities may be
included as part of a unit on life skills.
Depending on the type of course, it may also be appropriate for teachers to
provide instruction in specific job hunting skills. Such instruction would
include locating information about job openings, completing job applications,
and preparing for the interview process.
INFORMATION DISSEMINATION AND NETWORKING ACTIVITIES
Assistance for individuals in obtaining information related to career
planning is a highly important service for adults. Adult students need a variety
of information about themselves and their values, skills, and interests;
occupations, training and credentialing requirements; standard educational
requirements; and career education services and resources (Keierleber and
Sundal-Hansen, 1985). Large numbers of adults only want or need information in
order to proceed with their career planning activities (Herr and Cramer, 1979).
However, since some adults have limited information inquiry, processing, and
interpretation skills, they may need assistance in using the information
(Keierleber and Sundal-Hansen, 1985).
Because teachers have ongoing contact with their students, they can play a
key role in helping adults access and use career planning information. To
support career planning teachers might want to provide the following
--A list of local resources offering career and educational guidance
services, --A list of local community colleges, colleges, universities, and
trade and technical schools, --An overview of job seeking skills including those
involving resumes and cover letters, interviewing techniques, and ways to seek
employment, --A description of how to register with the Employment Securities
Commission, --A list of local unions and personnel offices for local government,
public schools, and large businesses, --A list of commercially available
publications related to job hunting and career development ("Providing Career
and Planning Information", 1986).
Teachers may also serve as "networkers," providing links between adult career
development and counseling services in both the institution and the community.
Through classroom interactions, teachers are frequently able to identify
individuals who need further career services. They should be knowledgeable about
the variety of career services and resources available to their adult students
and be able to refer them to the appropriate sources.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Chandler, J. B., and M. E. Holt. "Who Should Counsel the ABE Student?" ADULT
LITERACY AND BASIC EDUCATION 9 (1985): 87-94.
Deems, R. S. CAREER DEVELOPMENT IN ADULT BASIC EDUCATION PROGRAMS.
Information Series no. 263. Columbus: ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and
Vocational Education, The National Center for Research in Vocational Education,
The Ohio State University, 1983. ED 232 065.
Herr, E. L., and S. H. Cramer. CAREER GUIDANCE THROUGH THE LIFE SPAN:
SYSTEMATIC APPROACHES. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1979.
Keierleber, D. L., and L. S. Sundal-Hansen. "Adult Career Development in
University Settings: Practical Perspectives." In ADULT CAREER DEVELOPMENT, ed.
Z. Leibowitz and D. Lea. Alexandria, VA: National Career Development
Association, American Association for Counseling and Development, 1985.
Manuele, C. "Modifying Vocational Maturity in Adults with Delayed Career
Development: A Life Skills Approach." THE VOCATIONAL GUIDANCE QUARTERLY 33
"Providing Career and Planning Information." GED ITEMS 3 (1986): 3.
Vetter, L., W. L. Hull, C. Putzstuck, and G. Dean. ADULT CAREER COUNSELING:
RESOURCES FOR PROGRAM PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT. Bloomington, IL: Meridian
Education Corporation, 1986.