What Will You Be When You Grow Up?

Recent newspaper stories about career development learning in young children have sparked a national discussion. When is too soon? When is it too late? When is the best time for children to start learning about the world of work and their future careers?  It’s a moot point. Kids start learning about work as they watch and listen to the world around them.  Kids will be what they see.

Storybook Learning

Children’s stories, for example, are a powerful source of wonder and exploration. Stories also introduce kids to the world of work.  Consider the Dr Seuss book Who Are You, Sue Snue? The story begins:

“Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you! Yes, you, Sue Snue.  Happy birthday to you—….Now, Sue, that you are older than two, it’s time for you choose something to do.” (Rabe, 1997, pp. 1-3).

Story-telling is essentially about learning, imaginatively experiencing new perspectives, and growing.  Hearing a story and reading a story can be transformative.  Indeed, people actively think in metaphors (Lakoff & Johnson, 2008) and they experience their lives in and by their unique stories (McAdams, 1993).  There is ample evidence of metaphors in people’s stories about work and career (Creed & McIlveen, 2017).

Sue Snue’s story continues…. Sue is offered a range of exciting occupations for her grown-up self, such as a Canner of Peas and Trainer of Fleas, but in the end Sue decides:

STOP, EVERYBODY!  I know what I’ll do.  I’ll just be myself, my whole self and not you.  I’ll be true to myself.  That’s just what I’ll do.  No uncle or aunt can tell me ‘You can’t!”  No mother or pop can tell me, ‘Please stop!’ I’ll do what I want to.  That’s what I’ll do.” (Rabe, 1997, p. 36).

Play is Child’s Work

Little Sue’s words can be understood in terms of contemporary educational and career development theory. Children begin their exploration of the world-of-work early in life, as early as three years of age (Gottfredson, 1981) and their understanding and engagement in the world-of-work is influenced by exposure to stereotypical occupations.  It is during these early years that they discover–rightly or wrongly–what is and what is not possible in their futures.  Children’s early imaginings and work-related play are progressively transformed throughout the years of formal schooling, until ultimately a young adult transitions from high school to the next stage in his or her career development.

Play is the work of children.  Early childhood teachers use stereotypical occupations as part of play-based learning (e.g., dress-ups). Most of us remember the good fun of playing these games. Despite the importance of the early years in the formation of personal identity, of which occupation and work is of central concern, there is scope to closely consider how early childhood education approaches career learning.  Theories and practices of early childhood education in current university programs for this specialist field should provide for a model of play that is about learning how to engage in the world of work.  But, a reading of the Early Years Learning Framework (Department of Education Employment and Workplace Relations, 2009), for example, reveals a need to refresh how early childhood professionals are prepared to understand the psychology of identity development and career development learning.

If play is taken to be the work of the child, then how should early childhood educators conceptualize work and how should they integrate career learning into the curriculum. The theories are there, ready to be used; it’s a matter of putting them to use (e.g., Skorikov & Patton, 2007).  Given the current media attention, now may be a good time to rethink how society can support early childhood teachers. Attention should be focused on the professional development and resources that they need so that they can get on with their important work of preparing the next generation for the very exciting futures. Would it be too much perhaps to be a Canner of Peas or a Trainer of Fleas?

References

Department of Education Employment and Workplace Relations. (2009). Belonging, being & becoming: The early years learning framework for Australians. Canberra, Australia: Australian Government.

Creed, A., & McIlveen, P. (2017). Metaphor identification as a research method for the study of career. International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance. doi:10.1007/s10775-017-9345-2

Gottfredson, L. S. (1981). Circumscription and compromise: A developmental theory of occupational aspirations. Journal of Counseling Psychology Monograph, 28, 545-579.

Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (2008). Metaphors we live by. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago press.

McAdams, D. P. (1993). The stories we live by. Personal myths and the making of the self. New York, NY: William Morrow and Company.

Rabe, T. (1997). Who are you, Sue Snue? New York, NY: Random House.

Skorikov, V., & Patton, W. (Eds.). (2007). Career development in childhood and adolescence. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.


This article was written by ACCELL’s Dr Peter McIlveen. He expresses thanks to his colleague Dr Karen Noble who inspired his interest in children’s early learning about the world of work.

Metaphors of Higher Education: What do they reveal?

USQ by line

KNOWLEDGE and BELIEF = AN OBJECT THAT IS SPATIALLY LOCATED
Find Knowledge

Figurative frame of knowledge: Knowledge is something to be discovered, or we can see where it is by searching for it.

Discover Belief

Figurative frame of belief: Belief is something you can find out that you did not know before.

Methodology: Metaphor Identification Procedure Vrije Universiteit (MIPVU) (Steen et al., 2010)

Career Guidance: Metaphors Matter.

Are you a career practitioner? Perhaps you are part of a careers counselling team in a Higher Education (HE) workplace? If you are, then every day you listen, support, and guide a multicultural and multi-generational mix of students and graduates in their decision making and planning of their education, career, and working life. You understand that their values, qualities, and varied experiences of life influence their education choices and career plans. You also recognise that people conceive, design, develop, and organise their career futures through personal stories in dialogue with themselves or others such as their career counsellor.

Listen to Lachlan’s story

Narratives are infused with metaphors

Students and graduates like Lachlan tell stories of their lived experience that are peppered with dreams and aspirations. Through these narratives they convey their self-conscious in language infused with metaphoric frames that organise and go on to dominate their perspective. Inkson (2004, 2006) categorised nine metaphors of career as inheritance, construction, a cycle, matching, a journey, encounters and relationships, roles, a resource, and a story and in later research explored boundaryless and protean careers. Such metaphors may facilitate and highlight or alternatively, bias and obscure understanding of client, practitioner, or both.

Career counselling involves vocational decision-making and this is framed by the social context and personal values of the individual; in other words, their sense of reality or world view. These background assumptions can be examined through metaphor identification. In our research of Australian and Norwegian HE students and graduates (Creed & Nacey, accepted), we examined the language students and graduates used to talk about education, career, and future working life and identified metaphors using the Metaphor Identification Procedure VU University Amsterdam.

We found many similarities, for example:

containerEDUCATION IS A CONTAINER

Here, Kate and Guro talk about education framed as an object/container with an inside and an outside:

  • [Kate] It is sort of exciting to think that I can go out there and change things.
  • [Guro] I tillegg til at vi har lengre perioder ute i praksis.
    In addition to our having longer periods out in practice

givingEDUCATION IS AN ACTION

Fiona and Lise Helen frame education as an action of giving:

  • [Fiona] The opportunities that study is giving me and the extra skills that study is giving me, it’s opening up more doors.
  • [Lise Helen] Og det gir oss god erfaring i forhold til hva vi faktisk måtte møte i det ordentlige arbeidslivet.
  • And it (my studies) gives us good experience with respect to what we actually will meet out in the real working life.

constructionEDUCATION IS CONSTRUCTION

And, Armando and Magnus talk about their HE experience in terms of building processes:

  • [Armando]I would recommend USQ because there is the support and the environment which is very great for learning.
  • [Magnus] Med bakgrunn fra 7 år i rørleggerfaget var det naturlig for meg … å bygge videre på min tidligere utdannelse.
  • With my background in plumbing, it was natural for me … to further build on my previous education.

But we also found some differences, for example:

takingEDUCATION IS AN ACTION

Here, Stephen takes his education for a particular purpose whereas Daniel takes education more or less as a means in itself; both involving physical action:

  • [Stephen] In my future, I’d like to take what I’ve learnt from anthropology and combine it with my law career.
  • [Daniel]Du kan med denne utdanningen her ta mange forskjellige jobber.
    You can take many different jobs with this education.

making friendsEDUCATION IS AN ACTION

And, in this example, Sam talks about his HE relationships and encounters that could include networking as an active process in contrast to Kristian whose language more passive receipt:

  • [Sam]I’ve just learnt so much here and have made lots of good friends
  • [Kristian] Det er derfor …lett å nye studievenner
    It is therefore easy to ‘receive’ new study friends

And there were surprises, for example:

Interestingly, although we did find the metaphor of A JOURNEY was used to talk about career and working life, it was not a frequent feature of the student and graduate narratives.  For instance, here Damien considers his graduation and Kari reflects on her career:

journeyCAREER AND WORKING LIFE ARE A JOURNEY

  • …today is the final part of the journey [and] I think it signifies the next part of the journey [Damien]
  • Min karrierevei har vært preget av utfordringer [Kari]
  • My career path has been characterized [lit: stamped] by challenges

Implications for practice.

An awareness of metaphorical language has practical implications for career practitioners in their everyday communication and interactions with clients because metaphors provide a window to background assumptions and conventions. I should point out that this is not a one-way street; an understanding of metaphor provides practitioners with insight about their own theoretical frames of education, career, and working life. Therefore, when we talk about education in terms of physical motion (i.e.., EDUCATION IS AN ACTION), learning and teaching can be understood as involving a human action of providing someone with something that is taken and becomes EDUCATION IS A POSSESSION.

In our examples, a human action served as the frame of a metaphorical giving and taking scenario. Here, the entity of a university and/or the even more abstract entity of education is ‘performing’ the action of giving EDUCATION AS A RESOURCE. The ‘resource’ being provided to the student for their ‘possession’ is an opportunity and experience that they will be able to apply to their future career development and working life. As a career counsellor, consider the different entailment’s of EDUCATION IS AN ACTION (i.e., A POSSESSION or A RESOURCE). It it is important to be aware that metaphors may be expressed, reflected, or reinforced by those in positions of power or authority. This has implications for our own career guidance communication.  For instance, explicitly highlighting such a difference may prove beneficial in situations involving career guidance, as a student could be prompted to consciously reflect upon their reasons for enrolling in a particular program and the future utility of their degree.

Given the internationalisation of higher education, we propose that metaphor identification and conceptual analysis should be introduced to career counselling and guidance literature to help practitioners explore and understand the student and graduate narrative (and their own) leading from education to career development and working life.

Forthcoming publication: Creed, A., & Nacey, S. L. (accepted). An investigation of metaphor usage in career and working life: Introducing the MIPVU methodology. In P. McIlveen (Ed.), Radical social constructionism. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Sense.