Book by Paul A. Gore, Jr. & Louisa P. Carter (Eds.)
Review by Stephen G. Pajewski
Undergraduate Business Administration Program
Tepper School of Business
Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA

Career exploration, which includes the development of personal identity, purpose, and the selection of a career path, is an essential part of the undergraduate experience and part of the mission of many academic advising programs. This monograph considers the ways that institutions assess the career exploration programs that they provide to students and offers research methodologies for demonstrating their effectiveness. The volume is a resource and encouragement to all professionals involved in effective career development for college students, including academic advisors.

As an update to the publisher’s 2005 monograph on the same topic, this book summarizes in three sections the classic and current research on career development programs as well as the emerging effective tools for their assessment. The first section provides an overview of quantitative and qualitative research methods and measures, and career development instruments to assist educators in documenting the outcomes of their programs and initiatives. The second and third sections present actual case studies that describe the delivery and evaluation of a wide range of career initiatives offered in diverse settings and spanning the transitions from high school to college and from senior year to life after graduation. The second section covers career programs in the early college years, and the third section covers the later college years.

The overview of research methods in the first section is quite comprehensive. It will be useful to those new to research, covering basic concepts such as describing the difference between nominal, ordinal, ratio scales of measurement. It is also a review of research question design and methodologies for those with research experience and/or have written a dissertation.

The first section has two chapters that are especially useful. One gives particular attention to the idea of career intervention programs. What types exist? Which ones should administrators chose for their students? What should these programs’ outcomes be, and how are they to be measured? Among the programs mentioned are academic and career advising, student club activities, career programs, and job shadowing apprenticeships.

The other chapter of interest explicates “action research,” a methodology used “to understand current educational practices, evaluate those practices, and make improvements accordingly” (p. 17). An example of this method in the volume is investigating career exploration assignments within a first-year seminar. Researchers of the effectiveness of this program may want to see how career exploration impacts students decision-making in regard to major selection, elective selection, and club activities.

The reader needs to understand the difference between action research and the practice of program assessment. Action research is a level of inquiry higher than assessment, and addresses more broadly a program’s design and outcomes from the perspective of the practitioner. It is about seeking knowledge on how to improve and accomplish tasks better.

The case studies portions of the monograph (sections two and three) are drawn from a diversity of institutions – from the community college, private colleges, and from large public universities. The programs reviewed are found at certain points during the four-year undergrad experience – ranging from freshman orientation to job interviewing in the senior year. One interesting example is Elon University’s Life Entrepreneurs Program, a retreat for sophomore students designed to challenge them to reflect purposefully about who they are, where they want to go, and how to get there. The case studies take the reader through the steps in the research of these initiatives, from research design, findings, and summaries.

Career services professionals, academic advisors, and educators at all types of institutions may find in this monograph useful research methodologies and practical strategies to guide their own program design, implementation, and evaluation.

Students in transition: Research and practice in career development (Monograph No. 55). (2011). Book by Paul A. Gore, Jr. & Louisa P. Carter (Eds.). Review by Stephen G. Pajewski. Columbia, SC: National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition. 160 pp. Price $35.00. ISBN # 978-1-889-27173-6

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