Monographs Provide a Wealth of Practical, Accessible Information: A Conversation with author Debra S. Osborn

By Mary E. Buzzetta

Osborn, D. (2008). Teaching Career Development: A Primer for Instructors and Presenters. Broken Arrow, OK: National Career Development Association (150 pgs).

[Editor's Note: in 2016, the second edition of Dr. Osborn's Teaching Career Development book was published. Read that updated review in Career Convergence now. ]


Overview of the Monograph:

This monograph offers tools for enhancing the way in which career development courses are instructed. Readers are encouraged to implement new ideas and find ways to make their career courses fresh and exciting!


About the Monograph Author:

Debra Osborn is a tenured, Associate Professor of the Counselor Education program at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida. She has taught face-to-face and online undergraduate/graduate career development courses for 10+ years. She will be President of NCDA for 2011-2012. My interview with Dr. Osborn focused on using this monograph as a tool to instruct, excite, and motivate career development professionals/instructors to develop and enhance their career development courses and workshop presentations. Additionally, Dr. Osborn was able to discuss her motivation for writing this monograph.


1.  What motivated/inspired you to write about the topic of teaching career development?

When I first "found" career counseling as a profession, I thought that there was nothing I could enjoy more. Then, while at the Florida State University Career Center, I began training career advisors and realized that sharing the vision of what career counseling is and what it can do in people's lives was something even more  professionally and personally fulfilling to me. I enjoyed the challenge of finding creative ways to deliver information, or to help practitioners discover that information, and in the process, develop their own interest in our field. When I began working as a faculty member in 1998, I started teaching the graduate career course. Through the years, I've had many sparkling moments in teaching, as well as my share of dull moments - but, I've never lost the passion/excitement for teaching this course or my desire to teach it at the highest quality level. When I started presenting on the topic, I found that my presentations were always filled to overflowing with participants. I don't attribute that to myself as a speaker, but that there were others who shared a similar passion and were hungry to know how to deliver the information well. So, in the end, it became a combination of my personal passion, and a desire to help other beginning instructors by giving them real practical tools that they could use. I also wanted to be as transparent as possible, so that others wouldn't be afraid to try something new, and to see that getting poor evaluations or having an activity fail miserably isn't the end of the world. 

2.      How do you see this monograph assisting other career development professionals in enhancing their teaching skills/capabilities?

My hope is that the monograph will provide a variety of tools that career instructors can try in their classrooms. Because I've used all of the techniques that are in the book, I believe I have shared openly about what has worked and hasn't worked, and hopefully that will help instructors evaluate how useful a particular technique/tool might be in their situation. I know for myself, when I attend teaching workshops, that many times it is not the exact idea that a presenter gives that I then turnaround and use in class, but their idea serves as seeds for my ideas. That's what I hope that my monograph does, serves as a seed of inspiration for even better approaches.

3.    You have had over 10+ years of experience teaching career development courses, what is the most important piece of advice or trend this monograph has to offer career development professionals?

First, I go with Andrew Zimmern's mantra (from the Travel Channel), "Try everything twice." If it fails the first time, I want to re-evaluate my approach, my goals for the activity, and so forth. Sometimes all it needs is a little tweaking. Sometimes, it needs to be thrown out completely. Instructors need to realize that is OK to take calculated risks, and that it is OK to fail. I try to do something new, one thing new, each time that I teach. But the biggest impact on my teaching was incorporating Active-Learning Strategies (ALS) into my teaching. I immediately saw a difference in my comfort and skill in delivering the course, as well as my students' reactions to learning.

4.     Describe the significance of incorporating Active-Learning Strategies (ALS) into your monograph?

The ALS chapter was my favorite chapter, because it so impacted my teaching personally. I was so excited to have a venue to share what had worked tremendously for me. When I first started teaching, I would lecture for 4 hours straight-mainly because I was scared to death of what might happen if I opened things up for discussion. I was unsure of how to make it interactive and useful, and questioned the value of having students share their ideas. After all, they weren't the "experts" in career development. However, after attending trainings in ALS, I realized that they were experts in other areas, and I began experimenting with very safe interactive exercises, such as think/pair/share. I realized that as long as I taught them the basics of career counseling, I was doing my prescribed duties - and when I allowed them to integrate the material/information with their personal and professional experiences, it was more meaningful and did something unexpected (to me) - their grades on tests improved, as did their interest in career counseling. The material in this chapter was so revolutionary for me, and I hope that it will give other instructors confidence in taking baby steps towards a more collaborative classroom experience.

5.     You devote relevant attention to teaching online courses. Describe your experiences with technology and what kind of guidance it gives to readers of your monograph.

In the words of Napoleon Dynamite's brother Kip, "I love technology..." and I also am passionate about teaching well. What really excites me is the marriage of ALS and technology. Students today are techno savvy, and use technology in every aspect of their lives - and many of their clients do too. If they have a laptop, why not take advantage of it in class? Why not help them take their technology skills and use them to locate research, or connect the straightforward information with their world? For example, when we talked about the history of career development in my class this semester, I tried Chris and Hande Briddick's approach of "decade research," in which I assigned each student their own decade to research with respect to career development. They had to find examples of pictures, music, advertising and news, and then post that into a Google doc. Other technology activities included creating their own advertisement for a career development workshop based on a career topic such as indecision, locating and summarizing blogs that were related to someone from a specific group (women, men, diversity groups, etc.), creating WIKIS, chatting, creating digital narratives, and so forth. I used to be very worried about what I could ask the students to do with technology, but my fears in the past two years have been unwarranted. My students far surpass what I expected that they could do. There are some who need more support, but that is by far the minority. The monograph discusses myths that I believed when I first started teaching online, as well as pros and cons, and then my experiences and solutions to some of those. I wish I had known some of the minefields going in so that I could have planned better for them.


This monograph is available in the online NCDA Career Resource Store.


Mary BuzzettaMary Buzzetta, M.S., LPC-Intern, is the College of Liberal and Fine Arts (COLFA) career counselor at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) Career Center. Her research interests focus on college student career development and counseling, with particular focus on the Cognitive Information Processing (CIP) Approach. Additionally, she has experience teaching undergraduate and graduate career development courses. She can be contacted at Mary.Buzzetta@utsa.edu


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Barry Horne   on Monday 04/04/2011 at 12:05 AM


Thank you for placing key ideas around teaching career development into a current context. Our Edith Cowan University (Australia) postgraduate external courses have had great success with learning activities that require students to apply new learning to their specific work/clientele setting and/or their own career/professional development. Such activities do involve writing an advertisement for career services. Particularly liked the idea of assigning each student one year of career development history to research!

Barbara LoFrisco   on Tuesday 04/05/2011 at 09:25 AM

I am a doctoral student in the Counselor Education department at USF, and I was Dr. Osborn's teaching assistant for the class she is referring to. I would like to chime in, if I may. When Dr. Osborn first reviewed all of her ideas to me, well...let's just say I was a bit overwhelmed. Kind of awed, but overwhelmed. It was my first teaching assignment, so I had no idea what to expect. Therefore I didn't have enough knowledge to send me into full panic mode. Just partial panic mode.

But, as the semester unfolded I began to see how well the activities worked out. It was really great to see how creative and excited the students got. Four hours went by pretty darn quickly. I learned a lot simply by grading the student's work, so it was an interesting experience for me as well.

I am very fortunate to have studied under Dr. Osborn. All the things she says in this interview are true: she really is "transparent" and encourages people to try new things. If they fail, then she will analyze them for what didn't work, tweak it, and try again. As a brand new teaching assistant, she was very encouraging to me and gave me balanced, useful and thoughtful feedback. I have truly learned a lot about teaching from being her assistant.

I accomplished more and pushed myself placed I didn't think I could go, with Dr. Osborn in the passenger seat all the way, never once hitting the imaginary brakes.

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