From Job- to Career-Training: Tools for a Growth Mindset in VET
In the daily global challenges of educational and training activities, the importance to help students, mainly young kids, to develop a personal resilience is paramount. Entrepreneurial and digital skills, creative thinking are only some of the main key elements pointed out in the recently approved EU New Skills Agenda (EC, 2016). At national and regional level, the gap between the educational system and the job market is wider and wider, due to both the decrease of public investment in education and the rapid changes in the economic context where new skills are required. It is crucial, then, to strengthen the connection between schools and work through school-job rotation, apprenticeships, internships and extracurricular activities. These opportunities can be more effective if connected to educational pathways aiming at developing new requested skills, namely learning to "stay employable" and to grow the attitude of long life learning.
Anyone interested in understanding the dynamics that drive the movements of individuals in the labor market cannot ignore the recent psycho-social analysis on the dynamics of personal achievement). The aim of these studies is to identify the reasons why some people perform better than others in education, job and personal life. In particular, the research on mindset shows that a fixed belief by students that their failure can be permanent, can prevent academic success; on the contrary, it is important to teach students how their brain is capable of changing owing to challenges, as it helps them to persevere and develop a growth mindset (Dweck, 1986; 1988; 1995). Mindsets, according to Dweck, are beliefs connected to the implicit theory of intelligence: those who have an entity theory consider intelligence as a fixed quantity, while those with an incremental theory believe that intelligence is malleable and expandable.
For those with a growth mindset, the primary goal, regardless of the assigned task, is to improve by learning new strategies of resolution of problems; all circumstances, positive and negative, are exploited as an opportunity to achieve that goal. For this reason, it is crucial to identify which approaches and methods can better succeed in educating new generations to an incremental mindset. Recent studies have focused on the educational processes, identifying two approaches:
a) to work directly on the mentality of the students through psychosocial interventions (Dweck, 2013). The results of some studies show that the mere knowledge of the existence of the dynamic mindset (by reading articles or testimonies) can induce changes in the way people think about themselves and their lives. (Blackwell et al., 2007; Aronson et al., 2002);
b) to work indirectly on the environment by changing structures and practices at school or class level (Farrington et al., 2015; Eccles et al., 1991) in order to ensure a coherence between the context and the message.
This paper concerns the link between the training and educational practices proposed by the vocational training in Cometa Formazione VET school and the development of a proper mindset in line with the demand of the current job market. In particular, the research will analyze how vocational training, especially during the training experience, can develop a "growth mindset".
Cometa Formazione VET school has consolidated a practice structured in different services aimed at promoting the employment of its students through the acquisition of a greater awareness of themselves and the job market. This practice starts since the first year of school attendance through a training unit called “UF STAGE”.
The research will point out whether and to what extent the internship experiences affect the change of mindset and how the activities included in the UF Stage have an impact.
Focusing on the Cometa Formazione case study, its UF Stage will be analyzed in order to identify methods and results. UF Stage provides the students with reflections, experiences and evidence that help them to start designing their own professional future, followed and supported by a tutor who plays also a role of coaching them in their path of consciousness in a long-term perspective, not only during their internship, but also before (to prepare students) and after (to evaluate their performance). The gradual involvement of students takes place through three steps, (Orienteering - Specialization – Professionalization), encouraging a shift of responsibility from the tutor to the student, who becomes the protagonist of his career and choices. Activities in UF Stage follow a regular schedule and are based on specific tools, according to the objectives that students, each year, have to achieve.
The case study will focus on all the students of second-, third- and fourth-year classes (respectively 15, 16 and 17 years old), who attend vocational training courses in Hospitality sector, Textile and Wood. Quantitative and qualitative data related to students, their training, their educational activities during UF Stage will be collected through the following tools:
- Questionnaire to students on their mindset (before and after the internship);
- Evaluation of the internships, in order to point out specific elements encouraging a change of mindset;
- Questionnaire to tutors on their mindset;
- Students’ personal card including information on their educational and training pathways before and after their internship.
The outcome of the data collection will be a database based on objective information on internships, information on the result of interviews and surveys on students and tutors. According with other naturalistic quasi-experimental researches in education, the analysis will be focus on tests before and after the internship on a single group; correlation between these variables and UF STAGE activities will be measured. Future developments of this research will include a control group.
The expected outcomes of this research concern the link between the change of mindset and the internship experience not intended as a mere period of education through labor in the company but as an opportunity for personal development in terms of a better and continuous integration into the job market. In this regard the paper aims at highlighting that it is not the training per se to generate changes in mindset but how side activities (included in UF Stage) can be relevant. More in details:
- to measure changes in mindset before and after the internship;
- to recognize the impact of UF Stage activities in the change of mindset, distinguishing the influence of other factors;
- to identify any correlation between tutor’s mindset and student’s mindset;
Finally, the results of the analysis should offer a general model of educational activities supporting students during their internships which could be helpful for other VET schools. Some policy implications will also be pointed out.
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- Blackwell, L. S., & Trzesniewski, K. H and Dweck, C.S. (2007). Implicit Theories of Intelligence Predict Achievement Across an Adolescent Transition: A Longitudinal Study and an Intervention. Child Development, 78(1), 246–263.
- Dweck, C. S. (1986). Motivational processes affecting learning. American Psychologist, 41, 1040–1048.
- Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House. VERSIONE ITALIANA: Dweck, C. S. (2013). Mindset. Cambiare forma mentis per raggiungere il successo. Franco Angeli.
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- Farrington, C. A., Roderick, M., Allensworth, E., Nagaoka, J., Keyes, T. S., Johnson, D. W., & Beechum, N. O. (2012). Teaching Adolescents to become Learner. The role of noncognitive factors in shaping school performance: a critical literature review. Chicago: The University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research.
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This proposal is part of a master or doctoral thesis.