Context-resonant systems perspectives in career theory

McMahon, Mary, Watson, Mark, & Patton, Wendy A. (2014) Context-resonant systems perspectives in career theory. In Arulmani, Gideon, Bakshi, Anuradha J., Leong, Frederick T.L., & Watts, A.G. (Eds.) Handbook of Career Development : international perspectives. Springer, New York, pp. 29-41.

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Abstract

"The focus of this chapter is on context-resonant systems perspectives in career theory and their implications for practice in diverse cultural and contextual settings. For over two decades, the potential of systems theory to offer a context-resonant approach to career development has been acknowledged. Career development theory and practice, however, have been dominated for most of their history by more narrowly defined theories informed by a trait-and-factor tradition of matching the characteristics of individuals to occupations. In contrast, systems theory challenges this parts-in-isolation approach and offers a response that can accommodate the complexity of both the lives of individuals and the world of the 21st century by taking a more holistic approach that considers individuals in context.

These differences in theory and practice may be attributed to the underlying philosophies that inform them. For example, the philosophy informing the trait-and-factor theoretical position, logical positivism, places value on: studying individuals in isolation from their environments; content over process; facts over feelings; objectivity over subjectivity; and views individual behavior as observable, measurable, and linear. In practice, this theory base manifests in expert-driven practices founded on the assessment of personal traits such as interests, personality, values, or beliefs which may be matched to particular occupations. The philosophy informing more recent theoretical positions, constructivism, places value on: studying individuals in their contexts; making meaning of experience through the use of subjective narrative accounts; and a belief in the capacity of individuals known as agency. In practice, this theory base manifests in practices founded on collaborative relationships with clients, narrative approaches, and a reduced emphasis on expert-driven linear processes. Thus, the tenets of constructivism which inform the systems perspectives in career theory are context-resonant.

Systems theory stresses holism where the interconnectedness of all elements of a system is considered. Systems may be open or closed. Closed systems have no relationship with their external environment whereas open systems interact with their external environment and are open to external influence which is necessary for regeneration. Congruent with general systems theory, the systems perspectives emerging within career theory are based on open systems. Such systems are complex and dynamic and comprise many elements and subsystems which recursively interact with each other as well as with influences from the surrounding environment. As elements of a system should not be considered in isolation, a systems approach is holistic. Patterns of behavior are found in the relationships between the elements of dynamic systems. Because of the multiplicity of relationships within and between elements of subsystems, the possibility of linear causal explanations is reduced. Story is the mechanism through which the relationships and patterns within systems are recounted by individuals. Thus the career guidance practices emanating from theories informed by systems perspectives are inherently narrative in orientation.

Narrative career counseling encourages career development to be understood from the subjective perspective of clients. The application of systemic thinking in practice takes greater account of context. In so doing, practices informed by systems theory may facilitate relevance to a diverse client group in diverse settings. In a world that has become increasingly global and diverse it seems that context-resonant systems perspectives in career theory are essential to ensure the future of career development. Translating context-resonant systems perspectives into practice offers important possibilities for methods and approaches that are respectful of diversity."--publisher website

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 69657
Item Type: Book Chapter
DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4614-9460-7_3
ISBN: 9781461494591
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Deposited On: 03 Apr 2014 04:06
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2016 15:14

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