Early in the Story: Career Curriculum in Elementary Schools
By Hande Sensoy-Briddick and William C. Briddick
As the focus on college and career readiness in schools continues, school counselors are being asked to provide evidence-based services to support the academic success and career readiness of students (Pulliam & Bartek, 2018). Despite accumulating evidence supporting the importance of career related programs during childhood (Trice & McClennan, 1994; Watson & McMahon, 2005), in many instances such programs do not arrive for students until they reach high school (Mariani, Berger, Koerner, & Sandlin, 2016). Limited research on children’s career development (Hartung, Porfeli, & Vondracek, 2005), as well as a lack of theoretically based comprehensive programs, may be the result of the delay in providing these services in elementary schools.
During the 2013-2014 academic year the authors of this manuscript worked as visiting faculty at Bahçeşehir University, in Turkey. Under the university’s Universities within Schools initiative, we collaborated with a K-8 school’s counseling department when the need emerged for a career program at the elementary level. Along with the chair of the Counseling Department we developed a theoretically based, developmentally appropriate, and culturally relevant curriculum consisting of four workbooks for grades 1– 4.
Each workbook included activities encouraging students to narrate their emerging self, explore different careers, and understand the relevance of school subjects to the world of work. The importance of family involvement considered (Kotrlik & Harrison, 1989) several activities (a career genogram and interviews with family members about their career) ensured family participation. Super’s Life Span, Life Space Theory of career development (1990), Gottfredson’s theory of Circumscription and Compromise (2002), and Savickas’s Career Construction Theory (2011) were the theoretical foundation of the project (Briddick, Sensoy-Briddick, & Savickas, 2018).
Elements of the Curriculum and Cultural Considerations
We developed four separate workbooks for this project with the intention that each was designed to serve as a chapter in a student’s life. Students were invited to be authors reflecting on their unfolding narratives noticing each year their developing abilities, interests, and increasing knowledge of the world of work. We hoped that completing the workbooks would introduce excitement to the process and that visiting and revisiting these chapters would provide encouragement to both students and their parents.
Cultural differences led to deliberation and adaptation related to certain career concepts in the curriculum. For example, the first author, who is a native of Turkey, realized that the term role model or consideration or one’s heroes/heroines, might make for questionable translation. Thus, in addition to using direct translation of the term hero/heroine we asked students to “tell us about a fictitious or real person that you admire the most and why?”
The curriculum has been in use since 2014 and the feedback we have received has been positive. The program was adopted and put into use in other schools while others have expressed a need to develop similar curricula in their schools, which speaks to the emerging need in this area. We hope that the curriculum approach across grades and other possibilities yet to come, can be instrumental in addressing career related information within a developmental perspective early in a student’s academic career.
Implications for School Counselors in the United States
Herr and Cramer’s (1988) unsettling finding that 16-year-olds, who dropped out of school, had already withdrawn psychologically by the third grade, has significant implications for school counselors. More recent studies continue to underscore the motivating impact of early career interventions on students’ academic engagement and achievement (Turner & Lapan, 2013; Kenny, Blustein, Haase, Jackson, & Perry, 2006). Our experience in Turkey combined with recent literature recognize an undeniable existing need to create career programs in elementary schools to better address academic, career, and social/emotional needs of our children.
We believe that such programs can significantly contribute to both one’s emerging career story as well as one’s career identity development, while solidifying the connection between school and the world of work. As Palladino Schultheiss (2005) discussed, understanding the connection between school and world of work leads to positive school engagement and retention. It prepares students better for the world of work. As school counselors direct their attention toward career development of children, so too may they be calling attention to a rather neglected piece of career development, the earliest parts of any client’s story.
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Hande Sensoy-Briddick is an Associate Professor of Counseling and Human Development at South Dakota State University, where she has coordinated the School Counseling Specialty since 2004. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
William C. Briddick is currently an Associate Professor of Counseling and Human Development teaching in the Counseling and Human Resource Development program at South Dakota State University. He can be reached at email@example.com