Lining up the ducks: Exploring misalignment between career aspirations, education aspirations, and achievement

Year: 2017

Author: Berger, Nathan, Holmes, Kathyn, Gearside, Anne, Gore, Jennifer, Archer, Jennifer

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In this paper we draw on data from the Aspirations Longitudinal Study (Gore et al., 2015) to examine the impact of misalignment between career aspirations, education aspirations, and prior achievement. Good alignment appears important to support the aspiration trajectories of children and adolescents (Berger, Holmes, Gore & Archer, 2017). Poorer alignment between career and education aspirations has been associated with more volatile aspiration trajectories during schooling compared to better alignment. Gottfredson's (1981) theory of circumscription and compromise is used to understand the ways that misalignment can impact on young people's aspirations. We present accelerated longitudinal data to understand the trajectories of students with aligned and misaligned aspirations, and student voices from focus groups to contextualize the circumstances that can result in misalignment. The bidirectional relationship between aspirations and achievement (Khattab, 2015) suggests a mechanism by which educational opportunities may also become restricted for students with poorer achievement. Maintaining good alignment and high achievement appears important to facilitate young people's career aspirations. In practical terms, an enhanced understanding of misalignment and its impact on aspirations can inform best-practice and interventions in careers education in primary and secondary schools.