Identifying and measuring agentive career decision making of high school students: Different levels of development in the country with developed economy.

Year: 2012

Author: Shcherbak, Natal'ya, Graham, Linda, Sweller, Naomi

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


This paper reports preliminary findings of the second part of a research project investigating "agency freedom" in high school student career choice and focuses on the fact that imagining and enacting viable career decisions in competitive knowledge economies can be especially challenging for disadvantaged groups. Drawing on the conceptual framework that has been informed by the ideas of economist philosopher Sen, and educational philosophers Jonathan and Gutmann, the study investigates students' capabilities in making autonomous or agentive career choices. Following an initial exploratory phase featuring focus group discussions with students from several government and non-government schools in Australia's most populous state, New South Wales (NSW), quantitative data was collected from a representative sample of secondary school students (Year 9-12) from 12 participating schools across NSW. Participants were selected using proportionate stratified simple random sampling, where government, catholic and independent schools represented three main strata. The range of schools included single-sex and co-educational, as well as urban and rural schools.
The findings reveal a variety of students' perceptions related to their future prospects in employment, studying and life roles as well as their understanding of the relation of their current studies to future career choices. Students from different socioeconomic backgrounds communicated different levels of readiness for their career choice. Some differences were identified in the way the curriculum is taught in different schools or the ways in which students comprehended it.
This research contributes to improved understanding of the differences in existing perceptions of career opportunities held by different groups of students in NSW. The study findings suggest some correspondence between students' educational experiences and their ability to exercise an agentive career choice. Schools not only in Australia, but also in other developed economies, experiencing similar problems of youth's career determination, can use these findings in development of positive interventions in developing and encouraging students' agency in career exploration and decision-making.