The Information Age is revolutionizing the way we communicate, acquire knowledge, and perform work. Society is shifting from occupations rooted in industrial production to those associated with knowledge and information, requiring the development of new skills for changing occupations and updating old educational methods. Educators need to be aware of economic and social changes and have a vision for how to design career education to respond to those changes. Individuals must also be prepared to learn on their own as careers evolve and change. The training necessary to adapt to the changing career culture needs to be made available to everyone, regardless of social class and background. In order to learn how to help students prepare for life, it is necessary to understand their views on careers. There is a critical and acute need to understand the perceptions of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, such as Upward Bound participants (identified by the U.S. Department of Education as part of the TRIO Program for low-income and first generation college students). This study used Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) to access representations of students' thinking by means of a repertory-test grid methodology. Using the traditional constructivist repertory-test method, a custom designed instrument called the WOAR (Weingarten Occupational Awareness Rep-test) was used by students in a Utah Valley State College Upward Bound group to generate constructs for personally identified occupations. These constructs provided the data for a qualitative content analysis designed to better understand how marginalized students construct careers and the world of work. The resulting analysis reflected the students' perceptions about (a) what their life experiences were, (b) what they had in common with one another, and (c) what they had in common with the rest of the population at large, in terms of career knowledge. The findings showed that the students were influenced by people they knew such as doctors, teachers, church leaders and so on, as indicated by the career choices they identified. They were also affected by their unique experiences such as identifying drug dealing and other illegal means as a way of earning money. The collective responses identified sixteen common career themes among the students.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Counseling Psychology and Special Education



Date Submitted


Document Type





TRIO/Upward Bound students, Personal Construct Psychology, Rep-Test Methodology, Career Construct Theory, Career Exploration