Geometry in Construction: Assessing the program’s impact on student career identity development and career decision-making self-efficacy By Lauren Ireland, M.A., LPCC, NCC and Savannah Cormier, M.S., LPCC

How is what students are learning in the classroom impacting their decisions regarding which careers they believe they have both the the passion for, and the ability to pursue, after high school? This is the question that Savannah Cormier and I, 2nd year Counseling Education and Supervision doctoral students at the University of Northern Colorado are posing to Geometry in Construction (GIC) alumni of the original GIC program at Loveland High School. Savannah and I met Scott Burke, one of the creators of GIC, through our faculty research advisor, Dr. Heather Helm, at the University of Northern Colorado. This research is an extension of a close collaborative professional relationship that has grown over the past year. Savannah and I worked with Scott to discover a mutually beneficial research topic. In order to further develop GIC, while focusing on career (a topic that Savannah and I are very passionate about), we are currently conducting research to explore how GIC influences student career decision-making self-efficacy and career identity development.

Savannah and I, in collaboration with our research faculty advisor, Dr. Heather Helm, designed a qualitative research study in which we reached out to GIC alumni with similar gender, race, ethnicity, etc., as possible to that a of typical GIC class and who display varying degrees of competence within the program. Savannah and I sent recruitment emails asking the alumni to participate in hour-long qualitative interviews in order to understand alumni’s lived experiences from participation in Loveland High School’s Geometry in Construction (GIC) course, gain feedback in order to further the development of GIC, and to illuminate the intersections of student career identity development and career decision-making self-efficacy in relation to participation in GIC. Savannah and I had the pleasure of presenting our preliminary findings from our study during the 2016 ACTE conference.

Initial themes that emerged from the data suggest that teamwork, tenacity/work ethic, purpose and meaning, and self-knowledge/discovering personal strengths were what alumni experienced as students in GIC. Alumni appeared to take the lessons they learned about these themes during GIC with them when exploring and committing to careers they felt competent in, challenged by, passionate about.

Savannah and I believe this research speaks to how important it is to show students that what they are learning in the classroom applies to the real world and how what they are learning can be incorporated in their careers and throughout their lives. It obliterates the question “When am I ever going to need this?” and replaces it a newfound confidence, exuberance, and determination to learn because students can see, feel, experience, and apply what is being taught.

We are almost finished interviewing and transcribing our data to conduct further thematic analysis. We are looking forward to presenting our data at other national education and career conferences and well and publishing our findings in academic journals. Savannah and I feel truly blessed to be able to conduct this research and to help identify how what is being taught in the classroom sticks with students and helps them to excel in their careers upon graduating high school.

Lauren Ireland and Savannah Cormier are Counselor Education and Supervision Doctoral Students at the University of Northern Colorado.


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