Vocational maturity – an evaluation tool

“Youth in transition” has resulted in an interactive online tool for self-evaluation of vocational maturity. (Intellectual Output 2/IO2)

The tool has been created as 3 country versions, adapted to local circumstances  in Denmark, Iceland and Slovenia.

A generic European version in English will be available from August 2020 as an illustration of principles and functionalities.

The 3 country versions have been tested during autumn/winter 2019/2020, while the generic version is not intended to be used in practice.

Also “How to use” guides have been developed and adapted to national conditions. The guides are available directly via the tools.

Purpose

The self-evaluation tool was created for the purpose of supporting professionals, such as guidance counselors and teachers, in their vocation-directed dialogues with young persons.

The tool supports the identification of personal and vocation-directed competences, as well as young persons’ needs on their pathway towards (an increased) vocational maturity. New personal insight and findings are intended to come up, addressing desirable changes in life and the necessary preparation for these changes. Via a continuous self-assessment, the tool allows updating of the profile at different stages of individual pathways of young persons.

The tool’s summarising radar function communicates individual progression visually.

The tool is designed as a process-supportive tool, not as an access-giving or access-denying assessment tool.

About Vocational Maturity

‘Vocational maturity’ is not a narrowly defined term, and there is not necessarily a nation-crossing consensus  or a profession-crossing consensus on its essential meaning. Thus, the experts of “Youth in transition” had to research in litterature and various practice-based fields. This work was quality-assured by researchers from the University of Hamburg.

In the context of working with NEETs towards a sustainable life and the reaiisation of their dreams, vocational maturity can briefly be defined as a combination of those competencies and potentials that are necessary for starting and staying in a job or an internship/apprenticeship. The same is relevant when considering or joining a vocational educational programme.

Example Danish profile, April 2020

The experts identified the following six parameters as being crucial:
Motivation |  Setting goals  |  Flexibility  |  Resilience  |  Social settings  |  Professional skills.  → Read more about these parameters. 

These parameters seem to be universal, when trying to cover on the one hand requirements from the ‘world of work’, and on the other hand a youth perspective. The experts have aimed to create a balance in the tool between these two perspectives. The concrete requirements from workplaces and VET serve as a reference point for young people to reflect on their experiences and expectations, no matter their origin and their conditions.

All in all, the professional users are asked to apply a retrospective as well as a prospective view in the individual dialogues with the young persons. By combining these views, the current profile of a young person will emerge and indicate a (potential) vocational path.

Development of the tool

During the development of the tool, the six parameters were unfolded thoroughly with indicators. This work was undertaken autonomously in each of the three countries.

While these parameters and their understanding are negotiated and agreed upon among the 3 country partners, the country versions with the indicators differ. The differences comprise not only the precise content and formulation of the indicators and the scale (taxonomy), but also the methods for implementation and the localisations in the national systems.  The differences can be explained with differences in culture, traditions and professional focus.

Where and when to use

The tool is meant to be used during young persons’ individual development processes towards entering and conducting a vocational education or settling in work life. The personal ‘pathway’ towards this goal can consist of many or few different stages and stations, with both highways, blind alleys and rest stops. These individual pathways should be designed carefully together with the young people.

The users of the tool may identify, where to apply the tool locally in a sense-making way. The experts of “Youth in transition” pointed at several and different stages during NEETs’ pathways in Denmark, Slovenia and Iceland, where the tool was trial run during autumn 2019.

Technical use and data

The online tool depends on a stable internet connection. It is tested to work optimally in the following browsers: Google Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge and Safari. The application of the tool in Explorer IE11 can be experienced as not satisfying.

The input data are only available during the ongoing browser session. After closing the browser window, interim and final results disappear.

It is possible to print results, as they emerge, both to PDF and to installed printers. It is possible to print the final score and its graphic illustration (radar). It is also possible to print an extended version with interim results from all six parameters.

Ethical considerations

It is recommended to apply the tool in a confidence-based dialogue with the NEET. The initiator and guide of the self-evaluation is preferably a professional counselor, a teacher or an other pedagogically skilled professional. It should be avoided that young people fill in their data without having been introduced, without any support or follow-up.

The application with NEETs can advantageously take place during a counseling session, where the professional knows the individual young person to a certain degree.

It is emphasized that the tool should not be used as a final assessment with potentially negative consequences for the young persons.

The counselor-counselee relationship must be seen as confidential, and the counselor should not disclose any information about the results to anyone under any circumstances, except with explicit permission of the counselee.

The applied data cannot be saved in any system. For personal reasons and if relevant for counseling, the individual young person can decide to print his/her final results or (some of) the interim results.

Pedagogical considerations and recommendations

It is important to consider the role of the professional, who supports the young person´s self-assessment. The counselor, teacher, mentor or other professional should create a trustful learning atmosphere.

The self-assessment process should give the young person the chance to reflect on the dimensions of the tool, to relate them to the own development, to get new insight, to generate ideas and possibly to get ready to take new steps.

The evaluations result into individual profiles, visualised via ‘radar’ illustrations. These profiles are not mutually comparable, but each of the profiles refers to the individual behind and reflects the given point of his/her process. Thus, the individual’s results are not ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Each radar profile expresses a certain individual state of development in a given moment and where to dig down for taking the next steps. In short, the tool supplements scaffolding processes, when promoting development within the zone of proximal development (Vygotsky, 1978).

The tool is not a standalone. It must be applied at a consciously chosen time and place to make sense. Professionals with the role and competences of a ‘scout’, can point out where, when and how to apply the tool with NEETs.

For assessment and self-assessment purposes, the tool can advantageously be supplemented with documentation of prior experiences (such as portfolio) and practical assessments. Concrete vocational situations should be outlined to the young persons for each parameter, matching each individual’s context (Kuhlmeier).

Validity

Research-based approaches and methods have been applied and related to during the development process of the tool.

Researchers from The University of Hamburg, Faculty of Education, Dep. of Vocational Education and Lifelong Learning, have quality-assured the process via identifying quality criteria, reviewing drafts and contributing with personal sparring on specific questions.

In addition, the tool was tested in Denmark, Iceland and Slovenia. In the 3 countries, 24 trial runs have been carried out involving 157 NEETs and 27 professionals. The methods included think-aloud tests, individual and group counselling sessions, interviews and observations. The feedback from the young people as well as their counselors / teachers was taken into account for adjustments of the tool, undertaken in March 2020.

Note: The tool is neither a psychometric tool nor an objective measurement instrument. Its validity is related to its sense-making impact on counseling practice and its acceptance from NEETs as well as their professionals.

The team behind

The self-assessment tool for Vocational Maturity was developed in the framework of the European KA2 project “Youth in transition” (2018-2020), as one of the intellectual outputs of the project (IO2).

Concept and content were co-created by the producing project partners, co-ordinated and processed by Moeve aps, quality-assured by researchers from Hamburg University. UU DANMARK/EUK has, in addition to their counseling expertise, also delivered the programming.

References

Find the references here


Funded by Erasmus+