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An Exploration Of Life Orientation Teachers Role

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Education
Wordcount: 5555 words Published: 2nd May 2017

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The literature review in a research study accomplishes several purposes: It shares with the reader the results of other studies that are closely related to the study being reported. It relates a study to the larger ongoing dialogue in the literature about a topic, filling in gaps and extending prior studies (Coopera, 1984; Marshall and Rossman, 1999).

In this chapter, the concept of career skills with particular focus on 21st century careers and their accompanying 21st century skills will be explored, using as reference the work of a number of pioneers in the field of educational research today. The theoretical framework upon which this literature study is based will be introduced; and the role of the educator in developing these 21st century skills will then be explored, with specific focus on the FET life orientation teacher, and the preparation of learners for work and careers in the 21st century. Professional teacher development will also be discussed looking at both local and global initiatives in training teachers as a means to adequately prepare their learners for the 21st century. An in-depth exploration of the Life Orientation Learning area will then be demonstrated, with specific focus on the Life Orientation teacher’s role in preparing learners in the FET band of the secondary school private learning institutions in South Africa, as intended by the national curriculum statement, for life and careers in the 21st century.

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In accordance with The Norms and Standards for Educators(2000) all teachers are expected to take on various roles in ensuring the adequate development of their learners (see section….); however, this study has been delimited to life orientation teachers in particular as it is recognised that this learning area makes specific accommodation for these teachers to engage learners in essential 21st century skills and development. In addition, though it is also expected that these skills be introduced to learners in the foundation phase and developed throughout their schooling career, for the purpose of this research study, the FET band (Grades 10-12) will be referred to specifically, as these learners are steadily approaching the world of work and careers in the 21st century, and are in what Erikson (1950,1959, 1968) originally described as the process of identity formation – where these individuals consolidate earlier roles, identifications, skills, values, beliefs and talents, both consciously and unconsciously, in order to successfully prepare for the social roles, relationships, and responsibilities of adulthood (Mahler pg 17). The FET band is therefore deemed by the researcher as a critical phase in career choice, and the most appropriate for the purposes of this study.

Theoretical Framework

Theories describing career behaviour have been in existence for the past 75 years, and provide the “conceptual glue” for, as well as describe where, when and for what purpose, career counselling, career education, career guidance and other career interventions are to be implemented. (REF???)

Various disciplines such as Personality, Sociology, Developmental Psychology, and Differential Psychology have contributed to the development of these theories, the most prominent being the Career Development Theory (Super 1957; 1996). This theory provided a more developmental perspective to the traditional individual differences view of occupations which, according to Super, ignored the longitudinal vantage point from which one can observe how individuals improve their vocational coping repertoires and move into jobs which provide increasingly better opportunities to use their abilities and gratify their needs (Super, 1953 in Savickas 2001:2).

It then evolved in accordance with the theorists’ comprehension of careers, and can be traced in its name changes from the original Career Development Theory to the Development Self-Concept Theory and then to the current Life-Span, Life-Space Theory (Savickas – adaptability pg 2). Each name change signified an elaboration of the theory to address more completely the complexity of vocational behaviour in manifold settings across diverse groups (Savickas – adaptability pg 2).

The life stages highlighted in this theory are as follows:

Growth Stage: learning about occupations and developing work habits and attitudes

Exploration Stage: learning tasks that will assist in crystallizing and specifying occupations

Establishment Stage: developing skills to consolidate and advance in a job

Maintenance Stage: decisions are made about whether to remain in a job or move to another job or occupational field

Disengagement Stage: planning for retirement

(Maree and Ebersohn, 2002 pg 157)

Unfortunately Super passed away before integrating the major segments in his own life-span, life-space theory. His work was however continued by his student, Mark Savickas (1989, 1993, 2000), who elaborated on Super’s previous work and developed it further, integrating the segments of the life-span, life-space theory and placing more focus on the developmental tasks necessary to master career stages, as opposed to the linear progression across the stages. Such tasks include career exploration, career decision-making, career adaptability, and overcoming perceived career barriers (Maree &Ebeersohn, 2002: 158). These challenge assumptions of stability of personal characteristics and secure jobs in bounded organizations – No matter how stable individual characteristics might be, the environment and consequently traditional work ethic is rapidly changing. ‘Insecure’ workers in the information age must become lifelong learners who can use sophisticated technologies, embrace flexibility rather than stability, maintain employability, and create their own opportunities. These new conceptions of work life recognize that career belongs to the person not the organization (Duarte, 2004). (Savickas et al 2009; pg 239 webpage NEW article). In addition, career stages as defined in extant theories such as Super’s Career Stage Theory (1957; 1996 listed above) are mainly shaped by societal needs, and these needs are changing with the rapidly changing environment (Savickas et al 2009; pg 240 webpage NEW article) and the changing nature of work, rendering these stages unrealistic in the order in which they are presented. These changes require workers to develop skills and competences that differ substantially from the knowledge and abilities required by 20th century occupations. Today, occupational prospects seem far less definable and predictable, with job transitions more frequent and difficult (Savickas et al 2009; pg 240 webpage NEW article).

As the career becomes more internally defined, stage theory will focus more on internal, individual decision-making processes rather than the relationship of the individual to an employer (Wrobel et al, 2003), with modern theoretical models emphasizing human flexibility, adaptability, and life-long learning. (Savickas et al 2009; pg 240 webpage NEW article).

The theoretical framework upon which this study is based is that of Mark Savickas, who termed his approach ‘Career Construction Theory’ which is rooted in post-modern social constructivism. Social constructivism, strongly influenced by Vygotsky’s (1978) work, suggests that knowledge is first constructed in a social context and is then taken up by individuals (Bruning et al., 1999; M. Cole, 1991; Eggan & Kauchak, 2004); a theory which informs the way in which learners acquire information in the classroom and learning environment. Constructivism is a psychological approach that has developed out of post-modernism, a philosophical stance emphasising the idea of ‘no fixed truth. Followers of this theoretical construct believe that individuals create and perceive their own

reality or truth, relflecting a multiculturally diverse world in which different individuals can have their own view of what is real for them (Richard S. Sharf: pg 263) Constructivism in essence implies that:

There are no fixed meanings or realities in the world, there are multiple meanings and multiple realities. Individuals create or construct their own meaning/reality of the world through the experiences they have.

People “construct” themselves and the world around them through the interpretations they make and the actions they take. These “constructs” or perceptions of events may be useful or may be misleading.

Individuals differ from each other in their construction of events. Two people may participate in the same or similar event and have very different perceptions of the experience.

People are self-organizing and meaning-makers. Their lives are ever evolving stories that are under constant revision. An individual may choose to develop “new constructs” or write new “stories” in their life.

To be an empowered or fulfilled person requires critical reflection of the assumptions that account for our daily decisions and actions.

[Big Picture View of Career Development Theory http://www.ccdf.ca retrieved 26/11/12]

Career construction theory provides a way of thinking about how individuals choose and use work. This theory is an extension of Super;s career stage theory, where there is an acknowledgement of how our environments affect our realities and the life role we find ourselves in; yet at the same time, a recognition that we can, and do, occupy various life roles at various stages of our lives. This is not a linear or stable progression, but rather a fluid transition from role to role – it is what Savickas refers to as life-long learning. Like Super (1957; 1996), Savickas ( 1989, 1993, 2000) presents a model for comprehending vocational behaviour across the life-cycle (Savckas – carrer construction article), but emphasizes flexibility and mobility rather than the traditional vocational model’s view of careers as representing commitment and stability. While Super’s career stage theory proved to be useful at the time, with many people entering jobs and organizations hoping to progress up the corporate ladder (Maree & Ebersohn, 2002:158), the rungs of that metaphorical

ladder are fast disappearing in response to deregulation, fewer trade barriers, destabilization, continual technological innovation, organizational downsizing, outsourcing, and flatter governance structures (Mahler, 2008:1). The new job market in our unsettled economy calls for viewing career not as a lifetime commitment to one employer but as selling services and skills to a series of employers who need projects completed. (Savckas – carrer construction article) In Western societies, we witness a growing diversity of individual realities, far from the traditional pathways – During a major part of the 20th century, individual careers were shaped by prevailing societal norms: first education, then work, and finally family. Social integration and recognition were mainly based upon these systems of reference. Today, people at all ages return to school, obtain training, lose their jobs and get divorced, without necessarily losing social recognition. Co-existence of multiple identities and subjective realities therefore seems to be a natural consequence of such societal evolutions. Savickas is particularly interested in investigating how to live a life in a postmodern world shaped by a global economy and supported by information technology (Life Design Article – webpage). His theory focuses attention on adaptation to a series of transitions from school to work, from job to job, and from occupation to occupation.

Career construction theory views adaptation to these transitions as fostered by five principal types of behaviors: orientation, exploration, establishment, management, and disengagement. As each transition approaches, individuals can adapt more effectively if they meet the change with growing awareness, information-seeking followed by informed decision making, trial behaviors leading to a stable commitment projected forward for a certain time period, active role management, and eventually forward-looking deceleration and disengagement. (Savckas – carrer construction article).

In the learning context, this theory emphasizes the importance of the learner being actively involved in the learning process, unlike previous educational viewpoints where the responsibility rested with the instructor to teach and where the learner played a passive, receptive role. According to the social constructivism approach, instructors have to adapt to the role of facilitators and not teachers (Bauersfeld, 1995 in WIKIPEDIA). It is also important for instructors to realize that although a curriculum may be set down for them, it inevitably becomes shaped by them into something personal that reflects their own belief systems, their thoughts and feelings about both the content of their instruction and their learners (Rhodes and Bellamy 1999 in WIKIPEDIA). They are required to be flexible and adaptable, and create a collaborative learning environment – known as ‘collaborative elaboration’ (Meter & Stevens, 2000 in WIKIPEDIA), which results in learners building understanding together that wouldn’t be possible alone (Greeno et al., 1996 in WIKIPEDIA).

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) (2006) provides a framework within which this 21st century skill preparation can take place. P21 was developed in the United States with the goal of positioning 21st century skills at the centre of 21st century education. P21 is an international organization formed in 2001 with the sponsorship of the United States government and several organizations from the private sector (e.g., Apple Computer, Cisco Systems, Dell Computer Corporation,Microsoft Corporation, National Education Association). P21 recommends the emphasis of a specific set of competences – regarded by this framework as “learning skills” (i.e., information and communication; thinking and problem solving; interpersonal and self-directional skills) – the acquisition of which can be best supported by specific pedagogic techniques, such as problem-based learning, cooperative learning, experiential learning, and formative assessment. (REF)

This is rooted in social constructivism, a theory strongly influenced by Vygotsky’s (1978) work, which suggests that knowledge is first constructed in a social context and is then taken up by individuals (Bruning et al., 1999; M. Cole, 1991; Eggan & Kauchak, 2004); a theory which informs the way in which learners acquire information in the classroom and learning environment.

With emphasis placed on the importance of mentoring and facilitating learners in acquiring the necessary 21st century skills (P21), and ultimately empowering them through active and collaborative acquisition of information (Social constructivism) to navigate their way in a largely unpredictable 21st century work environment, the Career Construction Theory together with the the P21 framework will form the basic theoretical construct upon which this study is based.

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Careers in the 21st Century

What are 21st century careers? In a narrative study defining career success in the 21st century, Elizabeth Mahler describes today’s career world as ‘complex and boundaryless’ (Mahler pg 8). Roles have shifted – women are now a significant part of the workforce, in addition to being mothers and wives; entrepreneurs, non-profit workers, the self-employed, culturally diverse workers, and other nontraditional workers in nontraditional settings make up the 21st century workforce (Mahler pg 9). In addition, a longer life translates into extended time in the workforce, accompanied by additonal education, re-visiting of career goals and changing of career paths (Mahler pg 9). Today’s life and work environments thus require far more than thinking skills and content knowledge. They require what is being referred to today as life-long learning. According to Renck Jalongo (1991), the highest purpose of teaching is to promote those types of learning that encourage children to continue to learn, not only inside the classroom but also outside the classroom and throughout life (Renck Jalongo, 1991:3 – ‘ROLE OF TEACHER’ BOOK) – This is lifelong learning. Technology will continue to change the world in ways we cannot imagine; and in this increasingly complexworld, creativity and the ability to continue to learn and to innovate will count as much as, if not more than, specific areas of knowledge liable to become obsolete. (COMMISSION ARTICLE PG 5??). Employees no longer remain in the same job/position for forty years. “Secure lifelong employment in a single job is a thing of the past” (Robinson, 2011:6). The ability to navigate the complex life and work environments in this globally competitive information age requires students to pay rigorous attention to developing adequate life and career skills. Technology and the ease with which new skills can be acquired create a need for more career flexibility and innovation. From an economic perspective, workers are now required to command a new set of aptitudes – “Mere survival today depends on being able to do something that overseas knowledge workers can’t do cheaper, that powerful computers can’t do faster, and that satisfies one of the non-material, transcendent desires of an abundant age” (Pink pg 51). Workers are reacting to these changes by shifting their focus away from organizational careers to more personal roles, ‘more localised and portable sites for vesting the self’ (Ashforth, 2001 in Mahler pg 1). According to Mahler, this shift in career focus requires an increased capacity for self-direction, the ability to adapt to constantly changing circumstances, and an understanding that identity will continue to evolve as an individual navigates multiple work roles over the course of a career (Ashforth et al in Mahler pg 2). In accordance with the principles of the Chaos Theory which, along with The Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) serves as the theoretical framework for this study (see section…), individuals are defining their career paths within an unpredicatable and changing environment: “Workers are increasingly finding that they have to manage their own careers, become more flexible in the sort of work they seek, and be willing to learn new skills throughout their lives (Maree and Ebersohn 2002 pg 155). P21 recognises that in order to ensure the development of these skills and attitudes, learners should be exposed to the following:


The ability to be flexible and adaptable is an essential skill in the culturally diverse and nontraditional 21st century workplace. “the predictable and stable boundaries of a single organization career are evolving into a less secure, and often ‘boundaryless’ series of shorter, portable, and transactionally based work roles and relationships (Mahler pg 4). Thus the ability to work in a ‘climate of ambiguity’ and the ability to ‘adapt to varied job roles’ in ‘multi-cultural environments’ [(http://www.p21.org) retrieved on 24/10/12] is an essential 21st century skill.

This is emphasised in Savickas’s Career Construction Theory, and his focus on Career Adaptability This concept was introduced by Savickas approximately three decades ago, with the intention to replace Super’s ‘career maturity’ stage. This is still a relatively new concept that is still being explored and refined (pg 120) yet Iit has been described by Savickas as ‘the readiness to cope with the unpredicatable tasks of preparing for and participating in the work role and with the unpredictable adjustments prompted by changes in work and working conditions (Savickas, 1997 in Maree 2010 pg 120). It also requires the need to engage proactively in a process of self-development in order to choose suitable opportunities and become the person you want to be (Maree, 2010 pg 120). This is an extension of Super’s emphasis on self-concept and the importance of identity formation in vocational development.


The concept of life-long learning is emphasised here, again drawing attention to the shift in traditional career roles and opportunities: individuals today can expect to hold five to eight jobs within a working lifetime – the traditionally recognised contract between an employee and employer no longer guarantees lifelong employment in exchange for loyalty and performance (Mahler, pg 5-6). Demonstrating both a ‘commitment to learning as a lifelong process’, as well as ‘initiative to advance skill levels towards a professional level’ [(http://www.p21.org) retrieved on 24/10/12] is a skill necessary to develop self-direction and active management of work roles. The ability to ‘work independently at one’s highest level of mastery’ is also an essential 21st century skill, due to increased competition in the workforce as a result of continual technological innovation, organizational downsizing and outsourcing (Mahler, pg 1).


Social and cultural skills such as conducting oneself respectably and professionally, and responding open-mindedly to different ideas and values [(http://www.p21.org) retrieved on 24/10/12] are critical life skills required for the 21st century. As discussed in section ….. today’s work environment is less predictable than it was traditionally and requires workers to be able to adapt and innovate and collaborate with others effectively. Collaboration requires respect in order to engage in open-minded discussion.


Being accountable for one’s actions or decisions and behaving in a professional manner are skills that are difficult to teach. These are skills that should be role-modelled, by both parents and teachers. Today’s generation of learners is in the throes of the technological era, where roles and values are shifting and changing. Identity formation for adolescents in particular “requires dependence on and a critical connection to the social world, while also bestowing on the individual a sense of autonomy and self-determination” (Mahler pg 17). It is therefore essential that they are provided with the guidance to find their career path and that they are shown how to manage themselves effectively in the world, displaying the abilities to:

-Work positively and ethically

-Manage time and projects effectively


– Participate actively, as well as be reliable and punctual

-Present oneself professionally and with proper etiquette

-Collaborate and cooperate effectively with teams

-Respect and appreciate team diversity

-Be accountable for results [(http://www.p21.org) retrieved on 24/10/12]


Today’s learners are our future leaders, and thus appropriate behaviours and skills such as acting responsibly, inspiring, influencing and guiding others, demonstrating integrity and ethical behaviour [(http://www.p21.org) retrieved on 24/10/12] need to be modelled for them so that they can enter the world of work as selfless role models and leaders.

(http://www.p21.org)retrieved on 24/10/12

-21st century skills

The skills outlined in the P21 Framework (above) reflect the changing realities of the 21st century , which is frames in the theoretical construct of social constructivism (in section….) and are echoed in

the writings of a number of educational researchers and pioneers pertinent to this research, such as Sir Ken Robinson (2009; 2011), Daniel Pink (2005) and John Taylor Gatto (2010) who are the leading voices in ’21st century skills’ and the transformation of the 21st century workforce. Their advocacy has been supported by thorough research in both the education and global economic spheres. Voogt (2008) for example, believes that through information and communication technology, our society has changed from an industrial society to an information or knowledge society, where learning requires collaboration and group work, directed by the learners themselves and facilitated by the teachers (see comparative table in appendix). While in the industrial society the main focus of education was to contribute to the development of factual and procedural knowledge, in the information or knowledge society the development of conceptual and meta-cognitive knowledge is increasingly considered important (Anderson 2008). Today’s generation needs to be able to think critically and independently in order to function successfully in the 21st century – “individuals will have to be able to function comfortably in a world that is always in flux…people will be faced with greater individual responsibility to direct their own lives” (Gato, pg xxxiv). This, Robinson believes, can be attributed to two main factors: the major advances in technology – which is referred to by Voogt (2008), Gatto (2011), and Pink (2005) – as well as the rapid growth of the world population: “this great new mass of humanity will be using technologies that have yet to be invented in ways that we cannot imagine and in jobs that don’t yet exist” (Robinson, 2009:19). This change has inevitable implications for our education systems (voogt article pg 11) – one of which is “a need to change curricula so that students develop competences which are needed in the 21st century (Anderson 2008; Voogt & Pelgrum, 2005)”. (VOOGT PG 2)

Robinson believes that education has three core purposes: to develop individual talents and sensibilities, to deepen learner’s understanding of the world around them and to enable them to earn a living and be economically productive (2011, pg 249). In order to achieve this, certain skills need to be developed, namely, flexibility and adaptability (pg 6), entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity (pg 11) good communication skills, team work and collaboration, and self-confidence (pg 69). This corresponds with the skills highlighted by P21 (see table above), which is the theoretical framework upon which this study is based. Other educational researchers and authors, such as Mary Renck Jalongo (1991), agree that “Collaboration, cooperation and teamwork, rather than individual achievement, will be the mark of an advancing society” (pg 73). The ability to collaborate and effectively communicate with others is a crucial skill in the 21st century, yet the competitive nature of the school environment could possibly be preventing the future generation from developing the appropriate and essential collaborative and communication skills that are necessary for successful functioning in the 21st century. These skills, namely collaboration, communication, teamwork, require largely practical and reflexive competencies (see section…) – they are skills that cannot be studied and tested, but rather experienced, explored and facilitated. Hence the envisaged role of in the context of this study, especially Life Orientation teachers as mentors – “mediators of learning, interpreters and designers of Learning Programmes” (DoE pg. 5) – as opposed to deliverers of content and learning outcomes. No longer is it effective for the teacher to take on the role of the ‘painter’, who fills in the spaces on a blank canvas, synthetically, producing an image. The teacher needs to take on the role of the ‘sculptor’ – chipping away carefully and gently until the artwork is revealed. (Gatto, pg xxxiv).

Daniel Pink (2005) is an advocate for empathy as a teaching strategy and essential 21st century skill in the learning and work environment. Empathy, says Pink, “is an ethic for living…a universal language that connects us beyond country or culture…an essential part of living a life of meaning” (pg 165). Robinson concurs: “students are simply not learning the personal skills they need to deal with modern life” (2011; pg 78). According to Kathy Beland (2007:69 BOOK 1), social and emotional competence and skills are “crucial to success in school, work, and personal life” – These skills include self-awareness and relationship skills, assisting the individual in recognizing and managing emotions.

“Education should not be knowledge-based but child-centered” (Robinson, 2011:179). This means that the whole child should be developed, not just his/her academic abilities. According to Robinson (2011:179), education “should engage [learner’s] feelings, physical development, moral education and creativity”. These authors are emphasising again the shift in skill requirements for the 21st century, and the necessity for personal growth and development over and above content and curriculum knowledge acquisition. “The lessons of school prevent children from keeping important appointments with themselves and with their families to learn lessons in self-motivation, perseverance, self-reliance, courage, dignity and love – and lessons in service to others, too” (Gatto, pg 19). This type of content-based curriculum, with a set body of information to be imparted to students is, Gatto believes, entirely inappropriate as a means of preparing children for their adult roles” (Gatto, pg xxiv). What often happens in during the school lesson is that teachers tend to become overwhelmed by ‘topic information’, leading to lessons that often try to cover too much content, at the expense of depth (resource doc pg 29).

The challenge therefore is for teachers to transform their roles. The curriculum is merely a vehicle with which teachers can drive transformation. The Life Orientation curriculum in particular is geared towards both critical and personal development of the learner, as is seen in the learning outcomes table in section…… – it is the role of the teacher to ensure that this development takes place. The essential skill that teachers need to possess, is the ability to adapt the curriculum to the current social, economic and technological environment. As the above-mentioned researchers have demonstrated in their work, The 21st century is an environment that requires very different skills to that of the mid-20th century/Industrial Era, where individuals werlewe relegated to a more passive role , which “required some decision making and knowledge of self to ensure an initial fit within an organization or profession, with the organization then actively defining the individual’s roles and criteria for career success” (Mahler pg 21). No longer does our economy depend on the mass production of factory workers and craftsmen – these positions are now being filled by the computer. No longer does our society require a generation of passive and loyal workers who are unmotivated, lacking in passion and creativity, and fearful of authority – workers today need to be flexible, adaptable, creative and prepared for change; able to provide the work environment with skills and values that are unmatched by today’s technology and outsourced skills and resources. These 21st century skills generally involve personal and ethical awareness, and motivation driven by passion. Skills that cannot be taught or tested, but rather role-modelled and facilitated by mentors. In order to assess the acquisition of these skills, as intended by the curriculum, the Life Orientation teacher is required to use various assessment methods, such as “tests, examinations, projects and assignments” (doe 2003, pg. 39), which form part of a continuous assessment (CASS) process [1] and are ultimately included in a final portfolio. Although the curriculum makes provision for practical exploration in the FET phase, the majority of tasks are written and content-based. “School systems tend to be preoccupied with certain sorts of critical analysis and reasoning, particularly with words and numbers…children everywhere are under intense pressure to perform at higher and higher levels on a narrow range of standardized tests” (Robinson, 2009:13). Students’ abilities to transfer their understandings


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