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Clearly the construction of long-term meaning is dependent on the shorter-term meaning, and thus, project becomes a heuristic construct for both the practice and evaluation of career guidance. Indeed, many clients can much more readily address issues pertinent to the life projects in which they are engaged, than they are able to address long-term career.

At the same time that is not to say that a life-enhancing career is not possible. As such, regulation, including steering and control processes, represents important components in the evaluation of vocational counselling. In addition, action is socially influenced. In the case of joint actions, the steering, control, and regulation of action reflect communicative—in the case of regulation often non-verbal—as well as internal processes.

Finally, action also includes specific conscious and unconscious behaviours that the person uses in engaging in the action. This is where the regulation processes can be found.

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Thus, action theory is neither a regulation nor a control theory exclusively. Next to feedback, it focuses on feed-forward processes. Steering is a top-down process while regulation often proceeds from the bottom up. We all remember the exclusive use of these concepts. Specifically, action can be seen from the perspective of meaning, of internal and communicative processes, and of the behaviours that comprise the action and the resources, for example, the availability of counsellors, used to undertake it.

Meaning is captured through the goals that an action, project or career has. From the perspective of an individual, meaning is reflected in subjective goals. In systematic observation, one can speak about meaningful action, and from a social perspective, we rely on the social convention of goal attribution to determine meaning.

Action theory recognises that the social dimension of human action has a significant role in how meaning or goals are constructed. The second perspective on action, projects and career involves the internal or communicative processes in which persons engage in steering and controlling them. From the perspective of the person engaged in them, these processes can be thought of as sub-goals. As part of the systematic observation of action, these processes are best described in functional terms. The processes of regulation can be described here.

The systematic observation uses physical measure in describing the structural features of behavior. This figure indicates the relation among action, project, and career, that is, actions lead to projects, which in turn lead to careers. The second dimension reflects the way action, project and career are organized. Each of action, project, and career is organized at the level of meaning, that is, each is represented by the goals for each level, including the joint goals for projects and careers. Finally, actions, projects, and career are comprised of specific behaviors, conscious as well as unconscious, and supported or not supported by structural resources, and for which skills, habits, and regulation are important.

Goal-directed actions. At the level of meaning steering. Engaging in tasks related to working. Working as a salesperson. Having a full working life. At the level of control processes. Collecting information about the tasks. Keeping up with the occupation. At the level of unconscious and conscious behaviour, structural support, resources regulation.

Availability of time in order to get started. Communication skills and habits for being a salesperson. Long-term good health to support a full working life. Systems and levels of action with examples from working life. The challenge of identifying the components of each cell of the figure is substantial, and, of course, would vary by particular actions, projects or careers. For example, it is likely that for a project that would lead to a life-enhancing career, joint undertakings would likely involve positive feedback. But the conceptual framework and the cells of the figure may serve in addressing any issue related to the identified domains.

It would be particularly pertinent if the current research literature on vocational counselling specifically was reviewed to identify the already known components of this representation, and future research address domains that are less clear. Three aspects of the method, the unit of analysis, the data gathered, and the analysis, set it apart from more traditional methods.

This is in contrast to the individual who often comprises the unit of analysis in traditional research and evaluation. The focus is on neither the parent nor the youth themselves, but in their joint on-going action in the form of a transition-to-adulthood project. We gathered data about internal processes, that is, the thoughts and feelings that the participants use to steer there action, through playing back the video of the manifest behaviour and asking the participants to recall thoughts and feeling as the action occurred.

Finally, we gathered data on the social meaning of the action by encouraging participants to comment on the action and project. Members of the research team from the same cultural and language communities also provided information about the meaning of particular actions. Repeated use of these procedures as well as self and researcher monitoring by telephone allowed us to follow actions across time that coalesced as projects. While these are the procedures we have used, the use of contextual action theory as a framework for evaluation is not limited to them.

The principle is to gather data from the three sources: manifest behaviour, internal processes, and social meaning. There are many examples in both the quantitative and qualitative research literature where one or other of these sources has been used as the data source.

The challenge is to bring them together in reference to the same phenomenon. In the case of vocational counselling, the counsellor-client actions over time are seen as a joint project. The analysis we have engaged in consists of describing these phenomena from the perspective of conceptual action theory. The analysis itself is conducted as a top-down and a bottom-up manner.

Initially, broad intentional frameworks and goals are identified, then specific verbal and non-verbal behaviours are coded that contribute to functional steps. These assumptions form an important part of devising and conducting any intervention. This expectation is the first step in the case for an integrated conceptual framework for the evaluation of vocational guidance.

An examination of the outcomes of vocational counselling is the first step in understanding the relationship between the assumptions that guide counselling and its outcomes.

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However, it is important to note that most of these outcomes are, in effect, processes that are expected to lead to subsequent vocational outcomes. Of particular interest is the order of the effect sizes of counselling interventions on specific vocational measures. The magnitude of processes influenced by career counselling give us a hint on what matters in career-related projects.

Self-knowledge, career related knowledge, skills, goals, emotional balance, general adjustment and factual institutionally anchored results, that is, being or having a high probability of being hired, illustrate the systems impacted by career counselling. These processes could make up a rudimentary mid-range goal-directed process, which we describe as a project. And indeed, self knowledge and career-related knowledge are important prerequisites of successful actions, projects, and career.

We see in these processes steering goals , control and related skills , and regulation mostly related to emotional balance , which are the key dimensions of goal-directed systems in joint actions, projects, and career. General adjustment and institutionally anchored results are the outcomes of vocationally relevant actions and projects. Thus, the meta-analysis of relevant outcome measures impacted by career counselling reflects a system of processes that could be well summarized in the conceptualization of goal-directed systems which we describe in contextual action theory as actions, projects and careers.

Outcome measures. Mean effect size. Accuracy of self knowledge. Skills career related knowledge. Career decision-making self-efficacy. Career related knowledge. Securing job or probability of hire. Career information seeking. Career options. Career maturity. This approach integrated the top down steering approach coping made popular at that time by Lazarus and Folkman Savickas in proposing an integrated alternative to career development based on career maturity recognized the importance of a category that addresses action in career theory, and implicitly decried the lack of truly process models.

In response, the proposed contextual action theory integrates steering, control and regulation processes in a hierarchically organized system of goal-directed processes seen as part of people construct their lives daily. However, it does not give developmental concepts first priority. However, efforts to develop a valid measure of career counselling are not yet finished. Ultimately the challenge is to be able to address the difference between a judgment attitude and an action attitude. It is only the latter which is relevant to action in a clear way.

However, to monitor action attitudes we need different empirical methods than those used in monitoring judgment attitudes such as questionnaires. For example, while they suggested that individual counselling is efficacious and effective, they also maintained that the process and outcome indicators are not very specific and need more research. This argument leads us to suggest that it is important to conceptualize both counselling and career processes in order to identify and develop target indicators for their meaningful measurement as well as the measurement of their outcomes. To take a specific example, it is not clear what contributes to the effectiveness of vocational counselling.

For example, it is not enough to know that personal contact or unspecified relationship factors are important in counselling, without understanding their place in a comprehensive system.

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Simply stated, it is not the number or duration of eye contact or head nodding that make the largest difference. We suggested that evaluation has learned something from research. Supporting such an integration of evaluation and research, we then suggested that this integration would have to be substantial and require further and deeper discussion. This intent is not realized solely by the counsellor or the client, but jointly and reflects the goal-directed processes in which they are engaged.

Contextual action theory conceptualizes these processes in the form of action, project, and career. Similarly, the changes that have been shown to result from vocational counselling can well be conceptualized in comparable goal-directed processes. The significant effect sizes of vocational counselling show which processes have the most impact. These are goal-directed processes.

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Further, we suggested that evaluation as it is understood in conventional research is based on an assumption of higher order processes. Counselling reflects such higher level processes. Similarly, counselling as it is embodied by group, professional, organizational, or institutional processes can be understood in terms of goal-directed processes. In our effort to solve the outcome measurement problems of the vocational counselling, we may kill vocational counselling in the process, just as many therapists say that manualized psychotherapy is not psychotherapy. While one can imagine a surgical method detailed in a standard operating procedures manual, to codify a counselling encounter in the same way might be endlessly more difficult and change it to such a degree that it loses its substance.

The solution, as we see, it is to recognize the conceptualization of all the goal-directed systems involved in career guidance and how evaluation is reflected at each of these levels. While the first two rely on scientific methodology and primarily a causal conceptualization, quality assurance studies follow everyday thinking and describe the specifics of counsellor, client, context, methods, and results. Using contextual action theory described in this article and elsewhere, it should be possible to integrate these views and to substantially advance the discussion about evaluation in vocational counselling.

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The dialogue must be open and concerns that arise attended to. Evidence-based practice is an important part of that dialogue. However, we have argued in this article that a much broader conceptualization is required if we are to evaluate vocational counselling in a meaningful way. Our view is that action theory provides an integrative framework for practice, research and evaluation that speaks to all stakeholders. Evidence-based practice in psychology. American Psychologist , 61 , Baumeister, R. Handbook of self-regulation: Research, theory, and applications. New York: The Guilford Press.

Bimrose, J. Effective guidance one year on: Evidence from longitudinal case studies in England.


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Free delivery worldwide. Bestselling Series. Harry Potter. Popular Features. New Releases. Training and Supervision for Counselling in Action. Description Seminars by Professor Windy Dryden. See the man live and in action. To find out more and to book your place go to www. Given the explosion in the demand for both counselling and supervision, this book should be required reading for all those putting a toe in these complex waters.

However, I think it is also a salutary guide for those already practising as trainers and supervisors. The number of training courses is growing and counsellors must undergo supervision if they are to be accredited by professional bodies. In this volume, leading trainers and supervisors from different counselling traditions discuss the responsibilities and the professional and practical issues involved, and a trainee and supervisee give an insider's view of what it feels like to be in these positions.

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