Invigorating Career Counseling Courses Through Experiential Activities
By Azra Karajic Siwiec and Varunee Faii Sangganjanavanich
Both authors teach in counseling programs accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), which outlines counseling curriculum standards including career development and counseling. Standards are focused on making sure students learn about various aspects of career, including planning, exploration, and involvement, as integral elements of human development. Students ought to have a level of exposure to career assessments, technology, and labor market information.
Over the years of teaching career counseling courses, we have noticed the low grumble and lack of enthusiasm among students enrolling in career counseling courses. We have also received feedback from students through course evaluations that the topic of career counseling rarely sparks their interest.
Although we have tried to convince students that career has a strong connection to one’s identity and a profound impact on one’s life experience, they do not seem to gain deeper appreciation for the importance of career development and counseling through traditional instructional methods such as lecture and discussion. The following are activities we have developed and utilized to spark students’ deeper appreciation of career development as well as to facilitate their understanding and applicability of career development and counseling. Similar to other curriculum standards, evaluative assessment is central to measuring student learning outcomes. Therefore, we included the learning objectives, description, and evaluative method of each activity.
Activity 1: Technology Scavenger Hunt
Objectives. The first objective of this activity is to facilitate the student’s knowledge and skills in locating occupational and labor market information through the use of available technology. The second objective is to guide students through self-discovery regarding their own career choices through the description of career and educational planning resources.
Description. Some aspects of the assignment are focused on finding information for certain occupations while others expect the student to complete assessments which will provide information about themselves thereby informing their own career development. For example, sending them on a hunt to find (a) how much a sociologist earns, (b) the educational requirements for a sociologist, and (c) the working conditions of a sociologist would be an example of students learning about website resources, which may be helpful as a means of informing their own career paths as well as useful in working with future clients with career-related concerns.
Evaluative Method. An assignment rubric is utilized that focuses on depth of exploration of career development and usefulness as well as student thoroughness and writing ability.
Activity 2: Career Development in Action
Objectives. The objectives for this activity include allowing students to utilize and improve their counseling skills, connect with clients and develop a counseling relationship, and experience a level of mastery related to assessment interpretation as they work with clients on their career development.
Description. Career counseling students are paired with undergraduate students in a social sciences major to provide career assessments and interpretations, using whatever career assessments are being used in the career course. Students meet for two sessions, which are recorded in the counseling clinic, their assessments are addressed and future goals are explored. Since these are beginning students in the counseling program, a good deal of instruction and role play is necessary in order to rehearse the goals of the activity. At times it feels as though the expectation of career counseling does not connect with students because they themselves are on a journey of self-discovery and career exploration. The activity works well because the undergraduate students are meeting someone who was perhaps in their shoes recently, and the graduate students share their own experiences.
Evaluative Method. An assignment rubric is utilized to assess learning. This assignment evaluates counseling skills utilized in session by watching recordings, evaluating the thoroughness of the assessment. A written treatment plan is reviewed to evaluate what took place during the two sessions.
Activity 3: Special Populations Presentation
Objectives. The first objective of this activity is to examine the role and importance of multicultural issues in career development. The second objective is to investigate the influence of power, privilege, and oppression in the student’s life and identity as well as the lives and identities of his or her clients. The third objective is to identify those counseling resources most applicable to specific marginalized populations.
Description. Class dyads work together on a discussion on special population needs of their choosing. Students are required to present for about half an hour on the research they encountered related to a population that needs greater attention. Some of the population groups they discuss are refugees, veterans, LGBTQ, etc. Their presentation brings forward the needs of this group and engages the audience in ways to understand and offer more culturally responsive career strategies.
Evaluative Method. An assignment rubric is utilized to assess whether and to what degree students learn. The descriptiveness of the needs of the population, assessments and strategies suggested are evaluated from the presentation.
Activity 4: Addressing the Concept of Hard Labor
Objectives. The objectives of these assignments include increasing student understanding of hard labor, worker identity, and the meaning drawn from work.
Description. We suggest two possible activities that address the concept of hard labor. First, show a movie such as The Last Truck, based on the closing of a plant. The movie depicts the grief process as the closing date of a plant nears. It illustrates for students the identity of being a worker and the meaning drawn from it. Second, if it is possible, take the students on a factory tour, where students learn more about the conditions in which people work. For example, students could have the opportunity to witness how small, but essential, parts for vehicles are made. A potential drawback to this activity is in organizing the visit since the pressures to produce are always at the forefront of the plant managers’ minds, and therefore losing an hour of work and production to provide a tour of the facility is not easy to do.
Evaluative Method. One possible way to evaluate this experiential assignment is to require that students write a reflective paper at the conclusion of the movie or visit. A rubric may be used that evaluates the degree of empathy articulated.
Activity 5: Case studies and Interviews
Objectives. Conceptualizing client needs, to draw themes and concerns, is important in counseling so that treatment plans can be created. A building block to this is to create case studies related to career development. Writing and developing case studies provides training for students to recognize and identify themes prevalent in clients.
Description. Activities prompting a student to ask questions regarding work conditions are helpful as they require students to disengage themselves from the worry about their own careers and focus on others. Through discussion of case studies, students learn to apply the material they are learning about and feel as though they are achieving mastery in the subject. To explore various working conditions, it is helpful for students to interview someone and write a brief report of that person's career development. This prompts students to have a conversation and to share information about their understanding of people’s career trajectories.
Evaluative Method. An assignment rubric is used that evaluates the report for the depth of the student’s description of their interviewee’s working conditions and career development. The rating of “depth”, for example, could be based on application of a specific theory or theories being studied.
Processing the Experience
From our experience in teaching this course, we have learned that although students are in the midst of their own career exploration, it may be best to avoid engaging them too much in their own explorative process. It may be better to allow them to process this experience for someone else. This way, they learn more about the career counseling process and to appreciate the career journeys of others.
Azra Karajic Siwiec, Ph.D., LPC, CDFI is an Associate Professor of Counseling and Human Development at Walsh University in North Canton, Ohio. Karajic Siwiec is a Licensed Counselor in the state of Ohio and a Facilitating Career Development Instructor. She has written and presented on the topic of career counseling and development. She has held leadership positions within the Ohio Career Development Association and now serves as the Ethics co-chair for the National Career Development Association. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Varunee Faii Sangganjanavanich, PhD, is a Professor and Interim Director of the School of Counseling Program at the University of Akron. Sangganjanavanich is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor with supervisor endorsement in the state of Ohio. She has authored and co-authored numerous publications including peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, and encyclopedia entries in the field of career counseling and development. In addition, Sangganjanavanich has served in many leadership positions in the Ohio Career Development Association and the National Career Development Association. She can be reached at email@example.com.