Interests as a Component of Adult Course Preferences: Four Australian Case Studies

Interests as a Component of Adult Course Preferences: Four Australian Case Studies

James A. Athanasou (University of Technology, Sydney, NSW, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/ijavet.2013070103


The purpose of this paper is to examine the subliminal role of interest in preferences for 50 courses available at a community college. This is an idiographic study of educational decisions. It employed a sample of situations and a representative design. Four adults participated in an educational-vocational assessment and in the process of providing vocational guidance their course selection was examined using a logistic regression. The intra-rater consistency of choices ranged from 88%-100% for repeated course profiles. Choices varied from 2-11 courses. Results supported a minor role for vocational interest in these course choices. The overall R-squared values were around .281-.764. It was concluded that (a) adult choices did not rely exclusively upon interests; (b) adults used complex decision-making policies; and (c) the policies adopted were idiosyncratic.
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Case Studies


The four participants in this study were amongst the last four individuals referred to my private psychology practice for educational-vocational assessment following a personal injury. They ranged in age from 18 to 37 years.

All had completed the highest level of secondary schooling. The reading grade levels from the Wide Range Achievement Test-4 ranged from 6th grade to 11th grade. One had completed some post-school education to a certificate level; one had enrolled in the first year of a degree; and the remaining two had no formal post-school qualifications.

All participants had work experience, mainly at an elementary sales, service or clerical level. One was working full-time and one had a permanent part-time job. Vocational interests were described using the Career Interest Card Sort (Athanasou & Hosking, 2003) in a counterbalanced order prior to or following the case study. Only two nominated Creative as their principal vocational interest. The results are reported in a manner that preserves privacy and confidentiality and where necessary any demographic details have been randomly altered to maintain ethical standards of reporting.


Participants were presented with 50 courses on offer at a local community college. The courses are listed in Table 1 and had been categorised separately by the college in terms of their Holland type. A complete listing of the types is available from the author upon request.

Table 1.
50 courses on offer at a local community college that were presented to participants
AccountingDesktop PublishingNetwork Security
Accounting ClerkDiesel TechnologyNursing
Administrative AssistantFarm Business ManagementNursing Assistant
Agricultural Commodities MarketingHealth Unit CoordinatorPharmacy Technology
ArtHome Health AideRadiography
Automotive ServiceHuman Resource DevelopmentReceptionist
BusinessIndustrial Maintenance MechanicsScience
Carpentry TechnologyLaw EnforcementSmall Business Management
Cisco Network AssociateManagementSupervisory Leadership
Collision RepairMassage TherapistSurgical Technology
Computer ApplicationsMedical Administrative AssistantTheatre
Computer TechnologyMedical ReceptionistTruck Driving
Computerizing Small BusinessMedical SecretaryWeb Application: Game Design
Construction ElectricianMicrosoft Office ExpertWeb Page Design
CosmetologyMicrosoft Systems AdministratorWebmaster
Criminal JusticeMicrosoft Systems EngineerWelding
MusicWireless Local Area Networks

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