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Putting Theory to Work: Advancing Career Development in Science and Engineering. Angela Byars-Winston, Ph.D. Lori Bakken, Ph.D. School of Medicine & Public Health University of Wisconsin-Madison. Workshop Overview.

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Putting Theory to Work:Advancing Career Development in Science and Engineering

Angela Byars-Winston, Ph.D.

Lori Bakken, Ph.D.

School of Medicine & Public Health

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Workshop Overview

  • Introduce and review career development theory and empirically-supported career concepts, especially relevant to STEM

  • Discuss social cognitive career theory

  • Describe strategies applying career theory to advancing career development

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Workshop Goals

Participants will:

  • Know and understand major career development theories;

  • Identify ways to apply career development theory to their work;

  • Be able to inform their interventions and research studies with relevant career development theory.

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Learning Objectives

  • Define 3 terms related to career concepts

  • State 3 reasons why understanding theory is important

  • State at least 2 limitations of theory

  • State at least 3 tenets that underlie many theories

  • Describe the theories of Holland, Super, Krumboltz, and Lent, Brown, & Hackett

  • State how these theories can be applied

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  • What issues are salient for you as you work to encourage individuals’ pursuits of science careers?

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  • Occupation - a defined set of work tasks commonly performed for the purpose of making a particular product or performing a specific service

  • Job - performance of an occupation in a specific place for a specific employer

  • Career – the combination of activities performed at any given life stage in all roles of life, including the role of worker

Reference: Global Career Development Facilitator (GCDF), NCDA

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Definitions (cont’d)

  • Career development – sequence of career-related choices, transitions across life span

  • Career counseling – the process by which a professional counselor assists clients to make informed career choices and transitions

  • Career assistance – the process by which a career development facilitator provides specific support to clients, such as finding career information, conducting a job search

Reference: GCDF, NCDA

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What is Vocational Psychology or the Psychology of Career Development?

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Brief Definitions

  • The psychology of human work behavior

  • The psychological study of factors (cognitive, behavioral, affective) or antecedents to work processes and outcomes such as:

    - Career-related choice, identity, consideration, exploration, attitudes, decision-making processes, values, occupational knowledge, job satisfaction, and job adjustment (Jepsen, 1984)

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Career Development Interventions(Niles & Harris-Bowlsbey, 2002)

  • Activities that empower people to cope effectively with career development tasks--

    • development of self-awareness

    • development of occupational awareness

    • learning decision-making skills

    • acquiring job search skills

    • adjusting to choices after their implementation

    • coping with job stress

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Coming of Age of Vocational Psychology: 1850s-1940s

  • Response to growing unemployment among youth and immigrants - Frank Parsons, 1909

  • Growing attention given to individual differences;

  • Mental measurement and classification of recruits for World War I and II;

  • Federal support (& VA) for formal training of counselors with vocational emphasis

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Current Professional Issues: Where Are We Now?

  • Response to a changing world

    --diverse workforce and workplace;

    --multiple career changes;

    --evolving meaning of work.

  • Effective career interventions

    --mngmnt. skills for changing workplace;

    --ambiguity & uncertainty arecertainties;

    --interactive learning process.

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  • Reactions, insights, question

  • Key words that capture important aspects of presentation

  • One sentence summaries

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Key Assumption

  • Theory should precede or accompany empirical knowledge and studies and orient “a body of knowledge while it is in its development” (Osipow & Fitzgerald, 1996, p. 5)

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Value of Theories

  • Conceptual models of how we understand the world

  • We judge their effectiveness based on:

    • Explanation (career choice and change)

    • Control (guidelines for intervention and practice, e.g., specific tools, techniques)

    • Prediction (future events, e.g., job satisfaction

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Limitations of Theories

  • Each views career choice and development from a specific perspective

  • Participant samples used in research may not be representative of larger population

  • Each theory is culture-bound

  • Any model categorizing behavioral phenomena may be oversimplified, arbitrary

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Five Key Tenets aboutCareer Development(Gysbers, Heppner, Johnston & Neville, 2003)

  • Individualism and autonomy

  • Affluence

  • Opportunity open to all

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Differential Occupational Opportunity: Research Examples

Bertrand & Mullainathan (2003)

  • Racial bias in applicant screening

    Byars-Winston, Fouad, & Priester (2005)

  • Racial preference in job interviews

    Fouad & Byars-Winston (2005)

  • Racial differences in career choice perceptions

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Five Key Tenets aboutCareer Development cont’d (Gysbers et al., 2003)

  • Individualism and autonomy

  • Affluence

  • Opportunity open to all

  • Centrality of work in people’s lives

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People Work To:

  • Survive

  • Gain social connection

  • Attain social power

  • Achieve economic sufficiency and self-determination

  • Express and seek fulfillment of life roles

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Five Key Tenets aboutCareer Development cont’d (Gysbers et al., 2003)

  • Individualism and autonomy

  • Affluence

  • Opportunity open to all

  • Centrality of work in people’s lives

  • Linearity and rationality of the career development process

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Case Study - Renee

  • A 19 yr-old sophomore, is seriously considering switching from engineering to another major. She enrolled in her university, which is predominantly-White, because she was aggressively recruited. She had heard of the minority engineering program, “but I don’t think it exists…I found there’s just a minority retention office over on the main campus.” Renee often goes through an entire day without seeing another Black student. In her classes, she is usually the only Black person and she does not feel at ease to voice her own opinions. This is especially true in her study groups, where she feels like her intellectual capacity is always in question. She feels “tired of the hassle of justifying my existence every other day” in response to others’ stereotypes about her presumed academic weakness. Although she wants to switch out of engineering, she really likes the field. Renee also feels that if she were to pursue a different major she would let people down, as well as herself, and confirm others’ belief that she is incapable of earning an engineering degree. (Byars-Winston, in press)

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Trait-Factor Approaches (Holland, 1959; 1985)

  • Focuses on the content of career choice

  • Primary Assumptions:

    • Career interests result of personality types (6)

    • Work environments defined by personality type (6)

    • People flourish in environments similar to their personality type = satisfaction, longevity

    • Behavior = P * E interaction

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Key Concepts

  • Congruence - the degree of fit between an individual’s personality type and current or prospective work environment

  • Consistency - degree of relatedness between types

  • Vocational identity - possession of a clear and stable picture of one’s goals, interests, and talent

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Applying Trait-Factor Approaches

Interventions focus on:

  • Increasing self-knowledge/vocational identity

  • Increasing occupational information and awareness

  • Reality-testing of occupational “fit”

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John Holland (cont’d)

  • Strengths:

    • Practical theory

    • Easily interpretable concepts

    • User-friendly assessment instruments

  • Criticisms:

    • Emphasis on choice content vs. process

    • Potential for reinforcing social stereotypes

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Application to Renee

  • What will you (the career facilitator) focus on with Renee from a Trait-Factor approach?

  • How clear is her personal and vocational identity? How much does she know about engineering and other fields of study? What kind of decision-making skills do she have?

  • Key concepts: congruence, vocational identity, consistency

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Developmental Theory

(Super, 1951, 1990)

  • Emphasizes the factors affecting career decisions over time.

  • While workers are busy earning a living, they are also busy living a life (Savickas)

  • Evolving self-understanding interacts with our life roles that together inform career decisions

  • Key concepts: self-concept, stages, tasks, career maturity (life rainbow, archway)

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Super (cont’d)

  • Development through the life stages can be guided by 1) facilitating the maturing of abilities and interests and 2) aiding in reality testing and the development of self-concepts.

  • The process of career development is essentially that of development and implementing occupational self-concepts

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Super (cont’d)

  • Success in coping at any given life-career stage depends on the readiness of the individual to cope with these demands.

  • The life space segment of the theory acknowledges that people differ in the degree of importance they attach to work.

  • Self-concepts continue to develop over time, making career choices and adjusting to them are lifelong tasks.

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Super’s Thematic Extrapolation Method

  • Gives practitioners role of historians who invite individuals to construct autobiographical stories of development

  • Life stories are examined for recurrent themes of continuity that make sense of the past, explain the present, and draw a blueprint for the future.

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Applying Developmental Theory - Super

Analysis of Life Pattern Themes

  • Step #1: Analyze past behavior, choices and career development for recurring themes and trends.

  • Step #2: Summarize themes and trends, considering how each is interconnected with the others.

  • Step #3: Project the modified themes and trends into the future.

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Super’s Developmental Theory

  • Strengths

    • Focuses on career development across life span, including “retirement”

    • Explicates how life roles intersect with work

  • Limitations

    • Segments in theory are not cemented together—hard to test longitudinal assertions

    • Little empirical support

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Application to Renee

  • What will you focus on with Renee from a Developmental approach?

  • How does she view herself in relation to the world? What life roles are most important to her? How compatible are they? What does she value in life? What developmental stage is she in and how well is she managing related career tasks?

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Social Learning Theory (Krumboltz, 1979; 1996)

  • Explains how career interests are learned and subsequent career decisions are made

  • Learning shapes: generalizations about self, skills (e.g., problem-solving, habits), and career entry behavior

  • Key concepts: heredity/special abilities, environmental conditions, learning experiences, and task approach skills

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Types of Learning

  • Instrumental – a person is positively reinforced for some behavior

  • Associative – a person models behavior after someone who is admired or perceived as successful

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Reasons Why People Prefer a Particular Occupation

  • They succeed at tasks they believe are like those performed in that occupation.

  • They have observed a valued model being reinforced for activities like those performed by members of that occupation.

  • A valued friend or relative stressed its advantages to them; observed positive words and images associated with it.

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Krumboltz’s Task Approach Skills

  • These are skills that individuals need to learn in order to define a goal, identify alternatives, gather information, and take action

  • These can be taught. Krumboltz defines the steps in his DECIDES model

Source: GCDF, NCDA Training Curriculum

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Applying S.L.T. - Krumboltz

  • Correct faulty assumptions.

  • Increase decision-making skills.

  • Facilitate acquisition of new skills and interests.

  • Identify strategies for managing issues resulting from life-work roles.

  • Develop skills for coping with changing work tasks.

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Social Learning Theory

  • Strengths

    • Focuses on modifiable skills, abilities of person

    • Explicates how learning experiences influence career choice

  • Limitations

    • Only accounts for career behavior up to initiation of career

    • Little empirical support

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Application to Renee

  • What will you focus on with Renee from a Social Learning Theory approach?

  • What activities has she observed that were reinforced? What images does she associate with her career interests? Who has influenced her career choices?

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Social Cognitive Career Theory (Lent, Brown, & Hackett, 1994)

  • Emphasizes role cognitive factors play in career development and decision making

  • People tend to pursue activities in which they are confident (self-efficacy [domain specific]) and believe will result in desirable outcomes (outcome expectations)

  • Key concepts: self-efficacy beliefs, outcome expectations, contextual/environmental factors

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“People's level of motivation, affective states, and actions are based more on what they believe than on what is objectively the case.”

Albert Bandura

Adapted from Gail Hackett’s presentation Barriers to STEM Careers: A Social Cognitive Perspective

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SCCT, Lent et al. cont’d actions are based more on what they

  • Is closely linked to Krumboltz’ learning theory of career development

  • Incorporates Bandura’s triadic reciprocal model of causality

Self-efficacy is a mediating, “Person” variable in the model

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Sources of Self-Efficacy (and Outcome) Beliefs actions are based more on what they

  • Personal performance accomplishments

  • Vicarious learning

  • Social persuasion

  • Physiological states and reactions

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SCCT (Lent et al., 1994; 2000) actions are based more on what they

Can I do this?

Contextual Influences

Proximal to Choice Behavior

Person Inputs

- Predispositions

- Gender

- Race/ethnicity

- Disability/

Health status






Learning Experiences








What will happen?

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Key Factors in Retention actions are based more on what they

 Perceptions of environment: campus climate, faculty support, and academic or career barriers


  • Confidence in ability to succeed and cope with challenges (“Can I do this?”)

  • Outcome expectations (“Is this major worth it?”)


  • Salience of culture; e.g. ethnic identity

  • Comfort interacting with others outside of own racial/ethnic group


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SCCT (Lent et al., 1994, 2000) actions are based more on what they




Contextual Influences

Proximal to Choice Behavior

Person Inputs

- Predispositions

- Gender

- Race/ethnicity

- Disability/

Health status






Learning Experiences








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SCCT (cont’d) actions are based more on what they

  • Strengths:

    • Research supports predictive relationships among the constructs (e.g., SE most predictive of career-related outcomes)

    • Accounts for early and on-going environmental influences

    • Offers paths for cultural influences on outcomes

    • Suggests concrete interventions for modifying career outcomes via sources of efficacy info.

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SCCT (cont’d) actions are based more on what they

  • Limitations:

    • Unclear as to how outcome expectations develop

    • Incomplete articulation of contextual affordances (updated in Lent et al., 2000)

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SCCT Research in STEM actions are based more on what they

Strong empirical support for SCCT:

  • Cultural validity with ethnically diverse women and men;

  • Academic, career self-efficacy beliefs and positive outcome expectations consistently predict:

    • choice of STEM major

    • STEM course intentions

    • STEM career interests

    • STEM persistence

    • perceived STEM careers options

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Question 1 actions are based more on what they

Social cognitive career theory (SCCT) holds that

self-efficacy beliefs and outcome expectations are

influenced by the interaction of person inputs,

learning experiences, and  

  • capabilities. 

  • physiological factors. 

  • contextual factors. 

  • none of the above

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Question 2 actions are based more on what they

SCCT builds upon the assumption that career development and decision making are impacted by

  • cognitive factors. 

  • social relationships. 

  • cultural biases. 

  • psychodynamic forces.

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Question 3 actions are based more on what they

The primary focus of research related to SCCT is

  • career decision making. 

  • self-efficacy. 

  • contextual factors. 

  • performance attainment.

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Question 4 actions are based more on what they

SCCT is particularly useful in addressing

  • persistence in overcoming obstacles and performance attainment. 

  • persistence in overcoming obstacles and career indecisiveness. 

  • undifferentiated interests and performance attainment. 

  • lack of motivation and lack of career information.

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Applying SCCT actions are based more on what they

Direct interventions toward:

  • self-efficacy beliefs

  • outcome expectations

  • Identifying perceived and real contextual/environmental influences, supports, & barriers

    (*emphasis on perceived contextual factors)

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Application to Renee actions are based more on what they

  • What will you focus on with Renee from a Social Cognitive Career Theory approach?

  • How did she develop her beliefs about what she’s good at? What does she expect will happen if she continues to pursue engineering? Another field?

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SCCT In STEM Research actions are based more on what they

Examples from Bakken and Byars-Winston

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Dr. Lori Bakken actions are based more on what they

Encouraging Women’s Pursuit of Clinical Research Careers

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Self-efficacy Intervention actions are based more on what they

Short Course




Dr. Bakken’s Study Design

  • The Intervention:

  • One-day workshop

  • One-hour sessions directed at four sources of efficacy

  • Led by senior female role models and a counseling psychologist

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The Self-Efficacy Intervention actions are based more on what they

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Short Course in Clinical Research actions are based more on what they

  • 2 full days of videoconferencing

  • Special topic presentations and a variety examples pertinent to clinical research

  • Balance presenters by race and gender

  • Provided lunch in order to encourage collaboration

  • No fees were charged

  • CME and CEU accredited

  • ~ 253 participants (171 UW, 82 HU)

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Overall Results actions are based more on what they

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Results for Women actions are based more on what they

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Dr. Angela Byars-Winston actions are based more on what they

Encouraging Underrepresented Groups’ Pursuit of Science Careers

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Dr. Byars-Winston’s Research actions are based more on what they

  • Cultural factors: What difference does difference make? African Americans (Byars-Winston, 2009—Ethnic ID positively associated with math/science and non-math/science career consideration); WISE

    Contextual factors: Correlates of Math/Science Goals (Byars-Winston & Fouad, 2008), Coping Self-Efficacy in Pre-Med Students (Klink, Byars-Winston, Bakken, 2008)

  • NIH Grant (RC1): Research Mentoring Efficacy

  • STEM Samples: Sloan Project for Diversity in STEM Retention (Byars-Winston et al., 2008)

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Results: Path Analysis actions are based more on what they

Perceived Campus Climate




Other Group





NFI = .95, GFI = .99

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Implications actions are based more on what they

Retention efforts should address:

Students’ beliefs about their academic ability andtheir academic expectations

Address progressive drop in academic self-efficacy

Facilitate accurate self-perceptions

Discuss recovery from failures, “bounce back” plans

Use efficacy sources to bolster confidence in academic ability, academic expectations

Students’ experiences with and negotiation of themselves as cultural beings (bicultural competence)

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Sloan Engineering Mentoring Program (SEMP) actions are based more on what they

  • Piloted Spring 2007

  • Since Fall 2007, 45 - 71 students enrolled

  • 3 xs/semester for 60 mins

  • Tri-A-Thon Model; ≤ 5 freshmen, 1 upper class CoE student, and 1 faculty or staff

    (Freshmen, Peer Mentor, Faculty/Staff Mentor)

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SEMP Effectiveness actions are based more on what they

  • 92% retention rate vs. 71% for nonparticipants

  • Additional assessment data to be collected this academic year

    • Academic self-confidence

    • Commitment to STEM degree

    • Commitment to STEM career

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Contact Info actions are based more on what they

  • Angela Byars-Winston, Ph.D.

  • ambyars@wisc.edu

  • 608.263.1731

  • Lori Bakken, Ph.D.

  • lbakken@wisc.edu

  • 608.262-5239