Capturing the Dynamics of Non-Traditional Educational Settings: Lessons Learned in Developing Instrumentation for Use in Field-Based Career Development Research
While fieldwork is often a required element for undergraduate students in field science, little research has been conducted to determine how fieldwork impacts students' plans for further study and career aspirations. Because of the dynamic nature of non-traditional educational settings such as geology field stations, developing instrumentation to capture the full range of potential positive and negative impact factors related to career development can be challenging.
Our mixed-method study focused on four multi-week field station programs for advanced undergraduates. Social cognitive career theory (SCCT) was used as the overarching theory to examine how contextual, personal, and behavioral factors relate to student outcomes such as academic and career choices. Structural elements related to the uniqueness of field settings were also considered.
Our developed surveys and interview protocols measured and explored factors related to academic and career path development, allowing us to extend the application of SCCT to non-traditional educational spaces. Using both existing and original scales, our survey measured personal factors (i.e. identity, self-efficacy, interests), behavioral factors (transformative experience), contextual factors (i.e. social climate, sexist experiences), outcome factors (i.e. confidence in selecting and staying in a major, career intent, career paths), and structural factors (i.e. policy, logistics, operations). The follow-up interview protocol was designed for in-depth exploration of these factors. Pre/post survey and interview data from both students and instructors were analyzed to examine consistency among dual reporters and reporting methods, the interrelatedness of constructs, and comparisons across field sites. Results from the preliminary analysis were used to improve our instrumentation for future application of SCCT research in field settings. Our study includes several lessons learned regarding capturing the multifaceted aspects of non-traditional educational settings and calibrating instrumentation to capture nuances related to constructs such as normalized sexism, perceived inequalities, health and safety, social climate, reporting behaviors, and field station policies.