The process of representation and development of knowledge in career decision making and counselling
The principal focus of the study was to understand the way people and in particular, adolescents represent and conceptualize their career decision problem. The research presented has investigated career decision making by addressing how adolescents represent the knowledge of their career problem, and how, on the basis of this representation, aid can be provided to them. The assumptions used were (a) that career decision making is a dynamic process containing the characteristics of personal decision making in real life situations; (b) it is relevant to the social context of decision implementation and to the individual's "small world" (prejudices, past experiences, future plans, expectations), which define his subjective knowledge representation of the decision situation. Greek adolescents (ages 16-20) were selected as subjects because, within Greek society and its educational system, the demand for Higher Education makes adolescents' career decision making especially stressful. The results and observations from the first phase of the study, together with the existing theoretical models of decision making and "soft-system" thinking, were used to construct a new model of the representation of the process of career decision making. The model incorporated the above assumptions and the findings that people represent their problem in more than one way and that the process of career choice is non linear. The model is proposed as being both descriptive and prescriptive, showing 'what' is essential in problem resolution and 'how' this has to be done; it was used for the formulation of a methodology which enables us (i) to address the career decision problem longitudinally; (ii) to identify, via the adolescent's discourse, his subjective way of conceptualizing and processing his career problem; and (iii) to identify how and where support can be provided to the individual during his career decision making process. The methodology was tested on actual case studies, providing findings which permitted the extension of the model to a general model for the support and counselling of career problems.