Assessment is challenging
As guidance becomes increasingly important, it is also necessary to assess it, and to study its effectiveness. Guidance often deals with complex issues that are simultaneously influenced by many factors. Therefore, measuring the effectiveness of guidance has proven to be difficult.
“What is thought about the objectives of guidance among institutions and decision-makers may not necessarily be the outcome reached with the client.”
For example, the objective may be to find employment; yet it may become clear during guidance that it is not the desired outcome for the client in that particular situation.
For this reason, guidance research needs new, multi-method approaches to study the effectiveness of guidance.
“Research helps us to see whether we are investing in the right things in guidance. From the point of view of assessment, the most important thing is to know whether the client is able to work on things that are relevant to them, and whether guidance has an effect on the main obstacles to their agency.”
New approaches to guidance situations
One angle to the effectiveness of guidance is to ask whether the comprehensive school succeeds in levelling out differences in people’s social background. Guidance as part of the school's activities is one of the factors that can be used to maintain or eliminate inequalities.
“At the moment, it looks like the family’s the socio-economic background still dictates the direction of the pupil’s education path. Through research, we want to identify the factors in guidance processes that contribute to inequalities. We also want to actively seek practices that help guidance to build social justice.”
Vehviläinen is also interested in the mechanisms that take place in guidance situations, and interaction in guidance stands at the core of her research.
“We have thought about how the way of a school or an employment office to give guidance may be tuned to a certain view of ‘a normal client. In a guidance situation, people often sit in an office-like “adult space”, which for many young people is a foreign and unsettling setting to begin with.”
In addition, many other unnoticed things can happen in the discussion practices of guidance which may end up ignoring aspects of the client’s experience based on their age, ethnic background or some other factor.
“On the other hand, many everyday micro-level practices can also facilitate collaboration, strengthen agency and foster good dialogue. These good things don’t just magically appear but require support from research as well.”
Nowadays, Finland is home to a lot of high-level research into interaction in guidance.
“A key issue in guidance is whether it is possible to create a safe space where the client can reflect on their choices, be heard and find ways to move forward in life.”