Career development for marginalised youth: study of the practices within a Flexible Learning Program in South West Queensland

PhD Thesis


Ryan, Naomi. 2019. Career development for marginalised youth: study of the practices within a Flexible Learning Program in South West Queensland. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland. https://doi.org/10.26192/vts0-je51
Title

Career development for marginalised youth: study of the practices within a Flexible Learning Program in South West Queensland

TypePhD Thesis
Authors
AuthorRyan, Naomi
SupervisorBurton, Lorelle
Hoare, Nancey
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages266
Year2019
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.26192/vts0-je51
Abstract

In Australia many young people are completing their secondary education through Flexible Learning Programs (FLPs). These programs are provided for students who have been marginalised from mainstream education due to a variety of reasons. Currently, there is a distinct gap in the literature in terms of the extent to which theory-based career development interventions are currently being used within the flexible learning sector in Australia. This research explores the impact of participation in a FLP on students’ career goals, career adaptability competencies, and post-school transitions. It further explores the impact of flexible learning experiences on students’ social and emotional wellbeing and self-efficacy.

A qualitative approach was chosen for this research and an interpretive constructionist paradigm was utilised. The research was underpinned by the overarching Systems Theory Framework of Career Development, and informed by Career Construction Theory, to gain an understanding of students’ career adaptability resources. The Psychology of Working Theory was also utilised to explore how contextual factors such as marginalisation influence the career development of the youth attending a FLP in regional Queensland, Australia.

Interviews were conducted with 27 participants, consisting of current Year 10 (4), Year 11 (4), Year 12 (5), and past Year 12 (3) students, along with a range of teaching staff (11), including the Principal, Head of Department, Guidance Officer, Industry Liaison Officer, class Teachers (3), Teacher Aides, Social Worker and Office Manager. Field observations were also carried out on subject classes, pastoral care group sessions, mentoring sessions and general activities. The data from interviews and observations were thematically analysed with key themes identified to answer the research questions.

The thematic analysis identified three key themes. Firstly, supportive relationships emerged as a substantial, positive influence on students’ social and emotional wellbeing.

Secondly, preparation for work appeared to be an important factor in improving student self efficacy. Finally, the Queensland Certificate of Education (QCE) was identified as having an important impact on students’ career outcomes with both positive and negative implications. For example, there was a specific focus on students successfully completing the Queensland Certificate of Education, gaining work experience, and completing TAFE or VET qualifications. This was deemed important by essentially all teaching staff. However, while there were career development gains for some students, these were typically short-term. The majority of students generally lacked the career development resources to translate those qualifications into career goals or successful graduate outcomes in the longer term. Furthermore, outcomes in terms of enhanced student wellbeing and self-efficacy were generally restricted to the short-term due to various contextual barriers that most likely contributed to their initial enrolment in the FLP.

A number of recommendations are provided to enhance the delivery of career education in a FLP and to ensure the students are gaining the necessary career development competencies required for successful post-school transitioning. These recommendations include embedding career development activities across the curriculum; widening access to career counselling appointments; developing career development interventions that build self-reflective and goal setting opportunities for students; widening exposure to occupations through the use of excursions and activities; and, embedding a whole of school strategy that combines career development and wellbeing as equally important aspects of pedagogy.

This thesis adds to theoretical knowledge and makes a unique contribution to the career development literature by applying career development theory to the specific context of young people who are marginalised and attending FLPs. The findings will inform the development of career development interventions to be utilised specifically in FLPs, which can be further evaluated through applied research. Further, this research has the potential to make a valuable contribution to the Australian Government’s agenda of developing contemporary approaches and strategies to enhance career development and student outcomes in schools.

Keywordscareer development, flexible learning program, marginalised youth, wellbeing, self-efficacy, career adaptability, alternative education
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020399999. Other education not elsewhere classified
Byline AffiliationsUniSQ College (Pathways)
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