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What happens when educational transitions go wrong

June 2nd, 2010 by Graham Attwell

The next in a series of case studies of young people in educational transitions. Yesterday we looked at Kat who although still not having secured her goal of studying for a doctorate in Zoology, was never the less successfully managing her life and learning.

Today we look at a contrasting case – Marie. Marie is struggling to complete her degree, has been rejected from a teacher training course and has little idea of what she wants to do. She is unable to move out from her parenets house as she is short of money. Not only does she not know what job to go for but she has liitle idea of how to find out. This is compounded by poor and limited advice from her university. As an end result her personal esteem is very low. As our meeting notes say “Not confident, no explanation of her failures, disoriented.”

Sadly people from different countries saw the case study as more of a typical perosna than a case on its own. In terms of impact on design of the proposed project platform it was suggested we need:

  • A space to bring learners together with experienced practitioners
  • Provision for online mentoring
  • A referral service to other professionals and resources

And the following Web 2.0 tools were suggested:

  • A diagnosis/self assessment tool
  • A tool to tell her what makes her happy
  • A tool to tell her what her interests are
  • Descriptions of  jobs and supporting videos
  • Tools to match your interests with a career

Case study: Marie

Motto: Good things come to those who wait.

Demographic and biographical Characteristics
Marie is 21 and female. She lives at home with her parents who are both teachers. She enjoys spending time with friends and is looking forward to getting her own house with her boyfriend as soon as she can afford to.
Educational and transitional pathways:

Marie is in the final term of her three year Graphic Design degree. She works as a volunteer in her local primary school every Wednesday afternoon teaching art. She thinks that she would like to become a primary school teacher but is open to alternative career suggestions. She recently applied for a position on the Graduate Teacher Placement scheme with full backing from the school but was unsuccessful. There are no PGCE courses in primary education locally and Marie is financially constrained to living with her parents whilst she is a student. She thinks that she will be able to get part time work in September as a classroom assistant in the school she has been volunteering in, the work is low paid and would not be sufficient to allow her to move away from the family home but might give her an advantage if she re-applies for the GTP course next year. In the meantime she is considering freelance work in illustration or design but does not have the computer skills, business knowledge or confidence to set up her own company or advertise her work on the internet.

Motivations and Strategies: Since having her GTP application rejected Marie’s confidence is low, she did not receive feedback from the application process so is unaware whether it was age, lack of experience, competition or that the panel thought she was unsuitable for a career in teaching which caused her to be rejected. She has since focussed her efforts on completing her degree but is unsure what to do next. Some of her ideas include sending samples of her work to publishers and creating artwork to sell on-line. In September she will be able to earn some money at the school but she wonders whether this is the best use of her time as she is not confident about re-applying for the GTP scheme. She does not feel that her computer abilities are good enough to enable her to find a job in the Graphic Design industry although she likes the idea of being self employed. Her university lecturer has suggested that she looks into designing media layouts for print and tv broadcasting but Marie is not sure how to get into this sort of career or if this type of job really exists.

Ad hoc learning scenarios
Despite the university holding computer workshops, Marie felt that the start level of the classes was already higher than she was confident with so she soon fell behind. Over the summer break, she invested in her own computer and spent time becoming familiar with the design software. She also called on her peers to teach her how to use different packages. In this way she built up her skills base to a level which allowed her to complete the course. She still avoids using design software as much as possible and uses her creativity to overcome her lack of knowledge. For example, rather than create a design on the computer she will draw it by hand and scan it then use the software to edit it.

Support Services used
Marie has received careers advice from the university but this was focused on careers in the graphic design industry. One of her university modules required her to produce a “creative” C.V., business card, letter-headed paper and compliments slip, all of which will be useful if she does pursue a career in Graphics. She has had little guidance about other careers and did not seem to be aware of the many careers services which already exist in the UK. She relies very heavily on her family and close friends for careers advice which is reflected by her interest in the teaching profession.

Learning type:
Self-directed learning: Marie will usually find her own way to do things, often spending longer than necessary perfecting computer skills or creating a solution to her problem which completely avoids using the skill she is lacking.
Peer learning: When she really cannot find a way around a problem, Marie will ask for help from her peers or family.

Information and Communication Technologies

Marie uses facebook to communicate with peers and discuss design projects. She uses Skype and msn to connect with friends and family and she occasionally emails her lecturers.

She says she would find it useful if she were to be put in contact with more experienced designers both those with their own businesses and those working for larger companies. Many of these tools already exist but she had never heard of networks such as “Linked In” nor seen any of the careers websites available. She would definitely benefit from being introduced to a wider range of web2.0 tools or at least being made aware of the possibilities. If she chooses to follow the self employment route she thinks that she would need to be able to create a simple website and advertise her products, some basic business knowledge would also be beneficial. These are all skills that could be learned on-line if she was pointed in the right direction.

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