Impact of strengths development upon performance and professional aspirations of students in the 'helping professions'

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Ingamells, Kay
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Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
helping professions
narratives of strengths
Ingamells, K. (2010). Impact of strengths development upon performance and professional aspirations of students in the 'helping professions' [unpublished Unitec Research Committee Research Report].
This project was a pilot study to evaluate the usefulness of StrengthsQuestTM coaching in shaping the aspirations of students in the ‘helping professions’ in New Zealand and to investigate the potential usefulness of a new approach, provisionally known as ‘Narratives of Strengths’ to complement StrengthsQuestTM coaching. The project’s primary aim was to investigate how the usefulness of the Gallup StrengthsQuestTM could be extended by bringing narrative practice to bear on StrengthsQuestTM results. Strengthfinder® identifies an individual’s top 5 strengths based on a sophisticated online questionnaire underscored by 30 years of research. Whilst sophisticated, these Strengthfinder® descriptions become extractions from a person’s life history , leaving them free floating from the context in which they have emerged and been fostered. We saw an opportunity to extend the usefulness of Strengthfinder® results by re-siting them within the contexts of a person’s life. Our experience of narrative practice led us to hypothesize that the sophistication of the Strengthfinder® descriptions would give us a platform for an inquiry into the history of strengths that would not have been otherwise available. Our aim was to ascertain whether Clifton StrengthsQuestTM coaching and ‘Narratives of Strengths’ interviews can make a useful and unique contribution to strengths enhancement worthy of further development in a second research phase.. Our other aims were to research whether or not participation in the Strengthfinder® on its own and the Strengthfinder® together with narrative interviews, could positively support and influence the professional aspirations of social practice and nursing students and impact upon their hope, well-being and emotional engagement. A final, but more minor aim was to ascertain if particular strengths identified by the Clifton Strengthsfinder® occur especially frequently for social work, counselling or nursing students. We speculated that if a particular pattern emerged there might be possible implications for the teaching of social practice and nursing which could then be researched independently. All aspects of the project have been beneficial for the students who took part. All students who took part in the evaluations gave extremely positive accounts of their participation in the research. There were no negative findings. Transcripts of the narrative of strengths interviews indicate that students were not only able to locate their strengths and their development within their life histories but for the majority, doing so produced specific benefits. Reported results indicate themes regarding the influence of the project upon career direction, increased confidence in practice and in study and unanticipated results in their personal lives. Two draft articles have been written to date. The second article summarises the results of the research overall under the themes that emerged and also highlights the results of the narrative of strengths interviews and the seeming usefulness of different aspects of the project for assisting social practice and nursing students in making career choices. We are currently considering which journals we wish to approach. The pilot study has been effective in researching the usefulness of Strengthfinder® , Strengthfinder® coaching and narrative of strengths interviews to social practice and nursing students. The results so far indicate: • That ‘narrative of strengths interviews are a useful tool for situating strengths within life histories and produce insights which lead to change in professional and personal life and impact positively upon hope, engagement and well-being. • Merit in a larger project to further develop and research the use of narrative of strengths interviews with Strengthfinder® and/or Strengthfinder® coaching. More specifically the results indicate that this combination of approaches could be effective in supporting students in the ‘helping professions’ to refine their career aspirations, potentially leading to more effective practice in the field.
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Kay Ingamells
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