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uploaded 15th August 2012


these long-standing café resources

CAREER GAMES Among the most visited café areas, this series engages your own thinking, rather than what you can pull off a shelf of ready-made answers. Each takes you through a questioning process of seeking out the dominant patterns in your appreciation of your work. The games disentangle bases for careers-work - in local needs, in changing conditions and in philosophical principles. Each suggests practical responses to your own thinking.  

LEARNING FROM EXPERIENCE Expert help is interleaved with what learners gather from direct-and-personal experience. This café monograph examines how and why this is so. It develops an important distinction between labour-market information and labour-market experience. And it tracks through the implications for practice in mentoring and experience-of-work. It also points to the resulting need for local network-management in careers work.

POST-DOTS For more than a century careers work was thought of as linking people to opportunities - at its most simplistic this is pegs for holes. A more sophisticated version linked 'decision-making' to 'opportunity awareness' for 'transition learning' and based on 'self awareness'. it was called the DOTS model. But when people change the way they manage their lives we must change the way we help them. And that requires new thinking. A new, post-DOTS, model shows how DOTS-like coverage is no more part of what is going on in people's lives. We need also to understand the processes that they engage in dealing with the influences that surround them. The result is a 'coverage-process-influences' model for careers work. Its CPI dimensions offer us more clues for what is going on, what might be going wrong, and what can be made to go better.

REAL LIVES The uses of narrative have attracted a great deal of recent attention, but narrative has been on the café agenda for some time. 'Real lives' was an early café upload. It is developed from the earlier work on learning from experience - after all, the only way to set down experience is in narrative form. The stories are drawn from ethnography, biography and journalism.

MUSIC ROOM Song lyrics are a form of narrative. And - whether folk-song, work-song, pop ballads, rap or protest - music has spoken of how people seek their stake in society. This is where life chances, citizenship and culture meet - and it was never more needed. Good lyrics demand much of their creators - unsettling wit, compelling image and thoughtful insight.  The material interweaves the lyrics with the experience that lies beneath. It's an art-form which can take a good teacher to where she can engage her students in calling up their own voice.

NEW THINKING  This café area gives room to the well-established community-interaction & career-learning theories. It re-aligns each with contemporary work-life.  Both original publications are included or linked.  The thinking is up-dated to apply to the global economy and information technology.  The result is a source of new ideas for careers-work action. The monographs link to current research & development on 'critical thinking' and 'mindfulness'. They question whether careers guidance and careers education are well-enough placed to carry these developments. They propose a wider range of innovative partnerships.  Reflective material on critical questioning is a special feature.

WRITING IS A TRANSFORMATIVE TOOL  This monograph - Narratives at Work by Reinekke Lengelle and Frans Meijers - uses case-study material to illustrate how writing reflects the stage-by-stage learning suggested by career-learning theory.  The authors shows how, in writing, a person moves through a career-learning journey - expressing its enjoyment, its loss, its hope & its meaning.

STORYBOARDING STOCKROOM This was set up as the central café area for all-things-storyboarding. Storyboarding is a narrative technique, which is useful in both face-to-face work and curriculum. It is the outcome of the café's earlier work on the importance of experience and the usefulness of narrative. Unlike worksheets it engages people in a thought-and-feeling, words-and-pictures, socially-set portrayal of life’s turning-points.  It is a reflective technique, leading to a carefully-constructed questioning of the narrative.  It moves into an understanding of how a person can move-on, on the basis of this kind of reflection.  A series of stockroom menus links you to the entire originating collection.

LOW-CARBON CAREERS This is a review of Ken Webster's Sense and Sustainability - which signposts what we now need urgently to build into our work. If labour-market information were really impartial it would include more than labour economics. Labour-market information should speak of everything that working people need to know.  And they need to know about work's carbon footprints. Ken's material sets out the argument and suggests the educational response. Global warming is back in the headlines. Ken-in-the-café was always in the lead.

REFORMING LEADERSHIP Professionals need to know not only what their managers want of them, but also what they independently understand to be worth doing. This café article closely scrutinises two developments. One is about how we help the poor. The Millburn report on what we should do about low aspirations is an example of too-sparse an understanding of causes, leading to a too-narrow a response. The other is about how we locate useful careers-work leadership. And, on this, the café continues to gather and collate evidence. Careers work trades in hope, and all hope seeks sustainable change. But useful reform depends less on how our managers influence us, and more on how we influence our managers. As the data are collated there will be more from the café on this.

IMAGES, IDEAS AND REALITY This much-discussed monograph probes branding, its impact on research and its consequences for our inventiveness. The two most persistent metaphors for career-management are 'positioning', as though people are in a race, and 'traveling', as though they are on a journey. Drawing on images like these frames our thinking, shapes our programmes - and can either expand or limit our horizons.

UNFULFILLED PROMISE OF MENTORING Frans Meijers pulls together evaluations of mentoring in Dutch schools.  His findings are based on what students, teachers, mentors, and programme managers say.  He finds a lack of coherent thinking on both purposes and possibilities. He also finds a lack of any attempt on the part of managers to engage with on-the-ground people concerning the issues. There is no reason to suppose that this is not also a British problem.  But Frans knows how to learn from bad news, and his report sets out the terms on which a useful planning programme can be set up - posing six well-aimed questions.

PRACTICAL HANDBOOKS There is nothing so practical as a good theory. The café makes the point with a series of practical handbooks - all of them develop from the CPI model. This section has been much-used since it was first up-loaded. One of the recently-updated handbooks particularly sets out the group- and individual-work of learning from narrative. It is a practical manual showing the formats and describing the process. It incorporates worked examples showing how it works and why it is useful. It also points to uses in evaluation and research.

CURRICULUM PARTNERSHIPS This material leads directly to a critical issue for careers work. It sets out the café's welcome for government policies derived from the sure-start and every-child-matters initiatives. It examines the opportunities they offer to careers workers. And it describes how they position careers work in local, adaptive and visible networks of help. This might have significantly enlarged careers work professionalism, by opening doors to a widening range of educational activity. But that child-need starting-point has been politically overtaken by an economic-need policy frame - which constrains education. Nonetheless, the partnership material stays in the café, because educationists can still seek open and cooperative relationships with the business world. And there are many more ways of enlarging professionalism than are offered by the privatisation of public services. The material sets out every line of professional development that careers work might pursue. It comes in two parts - a comprehensive handbook, with a parallel presentation, each working with the other.  If a policy framework is not big enough to accommodate what we know we can do, then we must look elsewhere. That's why the café persists in responding to the biggest challenge to careers-work professionalism in a generation.

WHAT IS LiRRiC? A significant concern for expanded partnerships is the increasing importance of curriculum in careers work. The monograph, Life-role Relevance in Curriculum - LiRRiC, developed the ideas. It does so in response to a commission from the UK Qualification and Curriculum Authority, asking for blue-sky thinking. The ideas appear to have been influential in a policy rethink on the 11-19 curriculum. A magazine article links the LiRRiC proposals to media headlines - which quotes the usual 'experts', but also hears from families, teachers, students and former students. There is agreement about what we should now be doing – much of it resonating with the LiRRiC proposals. A magazine feature looks at the implications for careers education. But the implications are wide-ranging - and LiRRiC integrates all into a coherent whole, and makes that whole integral to the overall curriculum. A presentation summarise the main points. However, the policy frame which called for the thinking has now been abandoned. Nonetheless careers work can ill-afford to ignore the realities which underlay any policy - then or now.  People are taking command of their own learning - life-long and life-wide.  The issue now is that we can't help with these complexities and dynamics on the basis of what current government mandates and resources permit.  So how do we re-position to do better? LiRRiC set that café enquiry in motion.

THREE BRAINS Is your head hurting yet? This tongue-in-cheek article argues that careers work is organised around three brain-buzzing tasks: finding out what's going on, drawing out what people make of it, and figuring out what we can best to do to help. It’s why you need three brains. It’s also why you get so tired. The café tracking leads to the need to make more use of narrative.

OUT OF THE BOX With a lot to think about there is a temptation to stay inside familiar boundaries. Does careers work get boxed in by such mindsets?  And if it does, how would we know?  Try the self analysis to find out more.  The discussion links stories of the conflicts and commitments of contemporary work-life to some of the most revered beliefs and hopes for our work.  It wonders whether they are cramping our style.  And it sets out a strategy for finding more elbow room.

QUICK-FIZZ CREATIVITY The credit crunch stirred up big issues for careers work. It is well placed to enable people to deal with the uncertainties stemming from contemporary economics. But ready-for-anything flexibility needs an expanded expertise, taking us way beyond current thinking and practice. Innovative clients and students need creative helpers - but is that creativity a quick fizz or a slow burn?

SYSTEM INDEPENDENCE A mark of professionalism is its capacity to resist inappropriate pressure. Careers workers lives between pressures from interests in economic performance, in community stability and in equal opportunity. Some are stronger than others. They all variously assemble into systems, as social enclaves, as organisations and as national cultures. Those systems support some interests - but not all. No system is wholly benevolent, some are damaging, all can be improved. This enquiry examines how improvement calls on people who can recognise the interests that their organisational system neglects. These people are, in this sense, not wholly ‘system oriented’. So what is it like to put yourself in such a position? The research was carried out with guidance counsellors and came up with striking results concerning how orientation relates to what goes on. The café applies the findings to the work of personal advisers in Connexions. But it has a wider applicability. After all, if we are not prepared to entertain alternatives, how are we to appreciate how good careers work is - and how much better it might be? A more recent piece of café work applies this system thinking to local networks.


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Career-learning home page Magazine - articles and activities Underpinning - basic ideas for the work Memory - key articles archive Moving on