Friday, August 3, 11:30-12:00, SUB Ballroom C, Theme: Profession

This paper reports on one aspect of a study which sought to understand the lived experiences of six careers educators in rural Victoria.  It focuses on data related to participants’ views of their local professional network.

The larger study suggests that careers education and guidance is under-resourced in Victorian schools, resulting in careers educators often feeling isolated and undervalued as they work to assist students to make well-informed decisions regarding their future pathways.  This can be worse in rural schools where there are challenges accessing relevant professional development due to geographical distance as well as lack of opportunities and support for staff (Glover, et al., 2016).  As such, the rural careers educators in this study identified their local professional network as a key resource for professional learning.

Using narrative inquiry, co-constructed narratives from each participant were analysed using Riessman’s (2008) dialogic/performative analysis method.  Data showed that the participants’ local network was a main source of professional learning, especially for those without qualifications in careers education.  It was valued for its collective local knowledge, support, involvement of community stakeholders, and for its organisation of a careers expo.  Findings from the study stress the importance of enabling rural careers educators to develop and participate in professional learning networks that are contextualised and value local knowledge.  Policy-makers, school leadership, and careers educators should support these networks as significant professional development opportunities.