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Factors influencing the career planning and development of university students in Jordan.

INTRODUCTION AND THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK

Students throughout different stages of education are repeatedly reporting a sense of being lost, especially with respect to the career pathways they want to pursue and a lack of career guidance and support This sense has contributed to the rise in the numbei of high school drop-outs and has prolonged the rate of university completion (Khasawneh, Khasawneh Hailat & Jawarneh, 2007). Career planning and development in the 21st century must be priorities to maximise individuals' career potential for productive work and to help nations and organisations build or keep a competitive economic edge in the global market (Feldman, 2002). Therefore, it is crucial to determine the factors that have influenced students' career planning and development.

Many factors have been cited in the literature as influencing students' career planning and development. Researchers have reported that youth gain information concerning planning for future careers from a variety of sources including parents, teachers, and peers (Montgomery, Miville, Winter, Jeffries & Baysden, 2000). Youth who perceive their parents, teachers and peers as supportive are more likely to consider work as an important part of their lives, to seek leadership positions in their chosen field and to expect that they will be successful in their chosen careers (Kenny, Blustein, Chaves, Grossman & Gallagher, 2003). Fisher and Griggs (1995) identified six factors that may affect the career planning and development of students:

* parental influence

* the influence of friends or peers

* teachers' influence

* ethnic-gender expectations

* high school academic experiences and self-efficacy

* negative social events.

The influence of parents on the career planning of their children has been well documented in the literature. Parents have a profound influence on their children's lives and can shape adolescents' career development, occupational plans and attitudes toward job success (Rush, 2002; Steinberg, 2004). Previous studies have reported that perceived parental support positively predicted learning experiences, desire to learn, career selfesteem, career interest and career decision-making among adolescents and college students (Ferry, Fouad & Smith, 2000; Fisher & Padmawidjaja, 1997; Paa & McWhirter, 2000; Turner & Lapan, 2003). Further, Brown (2003) posited that 'parents exercise more influence than any other adults on the educational and vocational choice of children' (p. 332). These findings may suggest that the absence of such support could negatively affect students' career planning and development.

Supportive friends or peers have a crucial influence on the career planning of students and making key life decisions (Farmer, 2001; Felsman & Blustein, 1999). Students' career planning is not only influenced by the overall supportive mindset of their peers but also by the opportunity to learn from them (Fisher & Griggs, 1995). Wilson-Sadberry, Winfield and Royster (1991) reported that peers do directly influence the future career aspirations and other future plans of students.

The influence of teachers, in the form of teachers' expectations of and support for students, has been recognised as an important factor affecting students' career planning. Teachers who articulate interest in students' career goals and serve as role models have been shown to be instrumental in influencing students' career choices (Farmer, 2001). Adolescents rank the influence of teachers on their career choices behind that of parents or peers (Paa & McWhirter, 2000). Taken together, it is suggested that perceived teacher support may play an important role in adolescents' career planning and development.

With regard to the ethnic or gender background of students, studies have shown that girls who were encouraged and supported by teachers were more likely to select non-traditional career paths than females who were not supported and encouraged (Dick & Rallis, 1991). Moreover, in a study by Wall, Covell and Maclntyre (1999), with a sample of 260 high school students, girls perceived greater levels of teacher support than their male counterparts. Further, parental educational and occupational expectations can have a significant impact on the career planning and choice among gender and ethnic groups (Fisher & Padmawidjaja, 1997).

The influence of high school academic experiences and self-efficacy on the career planning of students has normally been observed by examining students' academic self-efficacy beliefs. These beliefs are based on Bandura's (1986) self-efficacy theory that revolves around perceptions of one's 'capabilities to organize and execute courses of action required to attain designated types of performance' (p. 391). Hackett and Betz (1981) found significant relationships between selfefficacy and a student's range of career options as well as a student's effort and achievements in a chosen career field. Lent, Brown and Larkin (1984) investigated college students' beliefs about their ability to succeed in science-related majors. Students with high efficacy beliefs achieved higher grades and tended to remain in a scientific major longer than those with low efficacy beliefs. According to several researchers, individuals who lack confidence in their abilities to make productive career plans will most likely experience frustration and may make premature or poor career decisions (Brown & Lent, 1996; Fisher & Griggs, 1995). Students consider high school as a primary place where they received career guidance, support and role modelling from teachers and peers, all of which may influence their self-perception (Bush, 2000).

As far as negative social events are concerned, Fisher and Griggs (1995) reported that critical events such as sudden death in the family, severe illness or close friends encountering drug addiction have played a vital role in students' career planning. In sum, it is well documented in the literature that the six nominated factors are indeed influential on the career planning and development of students.

The Career Planning of University Students in Jordan

Students need to make important decisions regarding their future careers. These decisions are influenced by a number of factors that can be a gateway for success. A thorough review of the literature, to our best knowledge, confirmed that little or no data exist on the factors that have influenced the career planning and development of university students in Jordan. Therefore, the primary purpose of this study was to provide evidence of the construct validity for the 'Career Influence Inventory' developed by Fisher and Stafford (1999). Another primary purpose was to examine the factors that have influenced the career planning of university students. Based on that, this study is guided by the following research questions:

* Will construct validation of an Arabic version of the 'career influence inventory' using exploratory factor analysis result in an interpretable factor structure consistent with the original English version?

* What are the perceptions of the Hashemite University students concerning the factors that have influenced their career planning?

RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

Participants

The target population for this study was defined as all the Hashemite University undergraduate students. The sample for this study included a total of 600 subjects, representing various academic disciplines who volunteered to participate in the study. A total of 558 students completed the survey, a response rate of 93%. The resulting sample included 219 males (39.2%) and 339 females (60.8%).

Instrumentation

The instrument used in this study is the career influence inventory that was developed by Fisher and Stafford (1999) to assess significant influences on an individual's career planning. The career influence inventory comprises 6 subscales with 35 items. The 35 items for all subscales were rated on a four-point Likert-type scale with the following anchors: 1--Strongly Disagree; 2--Disagree; 3--Agree; and 4--Strongly Agree. The career influence inventory had an overall reliability coefficient of .89 and a moderate to high reliability coefficients for all constructs ranging from .74 to .91 (Fisher & Griggs, 1995; Fisher & Stafford, 1999). An Arabic version of career influence inventory was created by a standard three-step protocol. First, the instrument was translated from English into Arabic language by a professional scholar who is fluent in both English and Arabic languages. Second, the instrument was translated back from Arabic into English language by a second scholar who is also competent in both English and Arabic languages. In the final step, a third professional scholar, fluent in both English and Arabic languages, compared and evaluated the original English and back-translated in order to verify the accuracy and validity of translation. Nine specialists in education reviewed the developed questionnaire and two of them asked for minor modifications. The Arabic career influence inventory was piloted with a group of 100 students who were excluded from the main sample of the study. Changes recommended by the validation panel and those identified as needed during the pilot test were incorporated into the instrument. These changes occurred in the wording of items and in the instructions for completing the instrument. The calculated coefficient alpha reliability for the career influence inventory factors ranged from .65 to .90, which meets the minimum reliability level (Robinson, Shaver & Wrightsman, 1991).

Data Collection

Data collection took place during the second term of the academic year 2008-2009. Participants were informed about the purpose of the study through short presentations in their classes by the researcher. Students were also assured of confidentiality and voluntary nature of the study. After completion, the students returned the completed instruments to the researcher in person.

RESULTS

Construct Validation of an Arabic Career Influence Inventory

The first aim of our investigation was to examine if construct validation of an Arabic version of the career influence inventory using exploratory factor analysis would result in an interpretable factor structure consistent with the original English version. Principle axis factoring was performed using the oblique rotation method to uncover the underlying structure of the career influence inventory. The results of the MSA (.86) and the Bartlett Test of Sphericity (p < .05) indicated that the data were suitable for factor analysis (Ary, Jacob & Razavieh, 1996).

To justify the application of factor analysis, it is important to ensure that the correlations of the data matrix for the variables have a substantial number of correlations above .30 (Hair, Anderson, Tatham & Black, 1998). Visual inspection of the data matrix revealed a substantial number of correlations greater than .30. Exploratory factor analysis procedures were completed for the purpose of identifying the latent constructs underlying the data. The criteria for determining how many factors to extract included the eigenvalue greater than one rule and a visual inspection of the scree plot (Ary et al., 1996). The initial analysis was run without specifying how many factors to retain. This procedure resulted in 6 factors with 32 items explaining 47.70% of the common variance (see Table 1). Moreover, the residual correlation matrix was examined and no meaningful residuals were found, suggesting that the six-factor structure was appropriate and that no more factors could be extracted. These factors paralleled those suggested by Fisher and Stafford (1999) to assess significant influences on one's career planning.

Items were retained on factors if they had a minimum loading of .30 but were not retained if they had a cross-loading above .20. Using these criteria, 32 of the original 35 items were retained on the career influence inventory. To a great extent, the original factor structure of the career influence inventory was replicated. In sum, loading of items was characterised by interpretable simple structure, meaning that it has high loadings on one factor and minimum crossloadings on the rest of the factors. Factor loadings for items retained in this solution ranged from .40 to 89 with an average loading of .64 on major factor and .05 on the rest of the factors. All factors had an acceptable reliability ranging from .67 to .94, with an average alpha of .80.

Jordanian Students' Perceptions of Factors Influencing their Career Planning

The second aim of this study was to determine the perceptions of the Hashemite University students concerning the factors that have influenced their career planning. Means and standard deviations were used to accomplish this research. Table 2 presents means and standard deviations for each factor ranked by the highest mean value. Higher mean values indicate a higher level of influence on career planning whereas lower mean values indicate a lower level of influence on career planning. As shown in Table 2, the mean of the parental influence factor is higher than all other means (3.76), followed by teachers' influence (3.66), friends' influence (3.63), and high school experience and academic self-efficacy (3.32) respectively. These values indicate a high level of influence of these factors on the career planning of students. Ethnic-gender expectations (1.94) and negative social events (1.47) had the lowest mean values, indicating a low level of influence for these two factors on the career planning of students.

DISCUSSION

There has been scant research on the career planning and development of Jordanian university students, and no empirical research specifically examining students' perceptions of factors that influence their career planning. Furthermore, a valid and reliable instrument related to these influential factors that can be used across cultures has been missing from the literature. In order to investigate this relatively unexplored area of research, the primary goal of this study was to test the validity of an Arabic version of the career influence inventory for use in Jordan. Another primary purpose of the study was to obtain information about the perceived factors that influence the career planning of university students. Our findings are divided into the two principal areas of the investigation.

Construct Validation of an Arabic Career Influence Inventory

The findings related to the first research of the study revealed that the Arabic version of the career influence inventory provides support for a 6-factor instrument represented by 32 items paralleled those factors found in the original career influence inventory established by Fisher and Stafford (1999). These factors had acceptable reliability coefficients above .70 except for the factor 'ethnic-gender expectations', which yielded an alpha reliability coefficient of .67. This low reliability could be attributed to the fact that this factor is represented by three items. Future research should aim to increase the number of items under this factor.

Jordanian Students' Perceptions of Factors Influencing their Career Planning

The findings related to the second area of the investigation revealed that the strongest influential factors on the career planning of university students were parents, teachers, friends, and high school academic experience and self-efficacy, respectively, as represented by their overall mean values. The factors of ethnic-gender expectations and negative social events were perceived as having low levels of influence on students' career planning. Parental influence was identified by participants as the most important component in their career planning. In this study, participants believed that their parents maintained high levels of encouragement and academic or career expectations, served as role models, believed in students and encouraged them to succeed in school, showed an interest in students' career plans and expected students to defy obstacles and to pursue tertiary study. This result is justifiable and supported by previous research emphasising early adolescence as a critical time in which parental and familial influences shape adolescents' career planning and future success (Rush, 2002; Turner & Lapan, 2003). Hindi, Khasawneh, Qablan and Al-Omari (2008) speculated that the collectivistic culture with close family ties and the highest respect to parents might have contributed to such high influence.

The second influential factor on students' career planning was the influence of teachers. In this study, participants reported that teachers served as role models encouraging their students to succeed, believed in their abilities to reach tertiary study and showed an interest in their career plans. This finding is supported by Fisher and Stafford (1999) who found that teacher influence was among the strongest influences on the career planning of undergraduate students. Furthermore, Farmer (2001) emphasised that teachers who expressed an interest in their students' career plans were found to be important influences in their students' career choices.

The third influential factor was friends' influences. Participants in this study perceived their friends as good students who encouraged them to succeed in school and cared about their career plans. These results are congruent with previous research that found stronger support for the significant role that friends provide in terms of emotional resources, relevant role modelling, career decisions and post-secondary attainment (Moore & Boldero, 1991).

The fourth influential factor was high school academic experience and self-efficacy. In this study, participants reported that they had high confidence to do well in high school, were aware of the strategies needed to be academically successful, and felt competence in all subjects of high school. This result is consistent with previous research (Betz & Hackett, 1986).

Ethnic-gender expectations and negative social events were perceived by university students as having low levels of influence on their career planning. With regard to ethnic-gender expectations, participants believed that teachers and parents did not encourage and expect students to work hard in school because of their gender. This result is not congruent with the study of Wall and colleagues (1999), who found that girls perceived greater levels of teacher support than their male counterparts. This result is justifiable by the fact that boys and girls in Jordan are treated equally at home and in school and are provided with equal opportunity in education.

The influence of negative social events also was seen as being low in this study. Participants did not believe that they had had the experience of some of their friends being in trouble with the law, deciding to drop out of high school, or dying. This result indicates that such behaviour and events are uncommon in Jordanian culture and may not contribute to students' career planning. This result is different from the study of Fisher and Stafford (1999) who found high levels of negative social events, which in turn had an impact on the career planning of university students.

In conclusion, the career influence inventory has previously been validated in the United States; now it has been validated in an Arabic-speaking country. This holds promise for its use in countries with different language and cultural backgrounds from the USA.

Recommendations

A number of practical and theoretical recommendations for educators and professionals arise from this study. From a practical standpoint, this research is potentially important to professionals (for example, career guidance personnel) working with high school and university students because the more information that we have about the factors that can promote career development, the more we can assist students in their career planning. Career professionals need to educate parents and teachers about the vital role they play in children's future success and provide them with the opportunity to participate in their career planning. In this process, professionals should be cautious about the national workforce needs and match those needs with the needs of students. During basic, elementary and high school, students develop sets of interests, abilities and attitudes towards the specific careers that suit them best but these interest-based careers may not be in accordance with what parents have planned for their children. Therefore, parents should be a critical stakeholder in the career planning process. Professionals in tertiary institutions (for example, career counsellors) could use the results of this study to further facilitate the career decision process of university students by reinforcing positive attitudes towards their future careers; providing them with workshops and guidance programs to reinforce their skills; and hosting collaborative seminars with parents to encourage students to succeed.

From a theoretical standpoint, additional research is needed concerning the career development of high school and university students with a larger, more diverse sample. Moreover, future research should also examine variations in perceived support from one parent or both parents and their potential influences on career development. Furthermore, academic researchers should further refine the career influence inventory instrument through confirmatory factor analysis. More items should be added to the ethnic- gender expectations scale and revisions of the negative social events scale items should be considered. Finally, researchers should investigate more factors that may affect the career planning of students through extensive qualitative interviews and focus groups with students, teachers and parents.

Finally, it is hoped that this research could be a guide for the international audience who interested in the Jordanian culture as a possible place for academic or business endeavours. Such results may indicate to international readers the preparations needed for dealing with these influences and using them for their own best interest.

REFERENCES

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Farmer, H. (2001). Gender differences in adolescent career expectation. East Lansing, MI: National Center for Research on Teaching Learning.

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Fisher, T. A., & Padmawidjaja, I. (1997). Parental influence on career development as perceived by African-American and Latino college students. Paper presented at the meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago.

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THEORY AND PRACTICE

This section is designed as a brief professional review of the article. It provides relevant study questions and answers for readers to test their knowledge of the article.

What factors are influential for the career planning of Jordanian university students?

Answer: Parents, teachers, friends, high school academic experience and self-efficacy.

What is the role of parents in the career planning of Jordanian students?

Answer: Parental influence is the most important component in the career planning of university students. Usually, parents encourage their children to maintain high academic and career expectations and to succeed in school.

SAMER KHASAWNEH

Hashemite University of Jordan

Dr SAMER KHASAWNEH is an associate professor with a major in Human Resource Development at the Hashemite University of Jordan. His research interests are in the areas of vocational training; advanced research designs and statistical analyses; workforce development; leadership development; and business practices.

Email: samer70802@yahoo.com
TABLE 1: FACTOR LOADINGS, EIGENVALUE AND VARIANCE EXPLAINED FOR
THE CII FACTORS

1                 2                  3
Parental          Negative social    Teacher
influence         events             influence
[alpha] = .94     [alpha] = .87      [alpha] = .85

Items   Loading   Items    Loading   Items   Loading

1       .89       1        .77       1       .68
2       .88       2        .75       2       .67
3       .86       3        .74       3       .66
4       .85       4        .74       4       .66
5       .84       5        .68       5       .65
6       .80       6        .63       6       .64
                  7        .60       7       .61
                                     8       .59

Eigenvalues/percentage of variance explained

5.715             4.138              3.904
16.139            11.043             10.501

4                 5                  6
Friend/peer       High school        Ethnic-gender
influence         experience and     expectations
[alpha] = .79     self-efficacy      [alpha] = .67
                  [alpha] = .71

Items   Loading   Items    Loading   Items   Loading

1       .72       1        .74       1       .53
2       .69       2        .53       2       .46
3       .67       3        .52       3       .45
4       .64       4        .40

Eigenvalues/percentage of variance explained

2.079             1.674              1.409
4.726             3.215              2.079

TABLE 2: MEANS AND STANDARD DEVIATIONS OF THE SIX
INFLUENTIAL FACTORS ON CAREER PLANNING

                                     Standard
Dimension                    Means   deviations

Parental influence           3.76    .38
Teacher influence            3.66    .38
Friend/peer influence        3.63    .45
High school experience and   3.32    .52
academic self-efficacy
Ethnic-gender expectations   1.94    .57
Negative social events       1.47    .38
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Author:Khasawneh, Samer
Publication:Australian Journal of Career Development
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:7JORD
Date:Jul 23, 2010
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