Chapter 13 Developing Guidance Competences for Learning Mobility

In: Career and Career Guidance in the Nordic Countries
Open Access

Abstract

This chapter discusses how guidance professionals can support international mobility of learners in a Nordic context. The importance given to learning mobility in educational policies forms the broader frame of the article. Impediments to and benefits of learning mobility are addressed. The key concept of the article is ‘mobility guidance’. It will be theorised that guidance practitioner competences in both international learning mobility and career guidance are decisive in improving the quality and volume of learning mobility. Finally, some recommendations are made on how to elevate capacity-building for guidance practitioners in relation to internationally oriented service delivery.

Introduction

There are many different forms of international mobility. This article focuses on outgoing learning mobility in the Nordic countries. The key concepts it addresses are ‘learning mobility’ and ‘mobility guidance’. Learning mobility is defined as physical cross-border mobility consciously organised for education and competence development for a limited period implemented in formal or non-formal settings (EPLM, 2013). According to Kristensen (2014) three main stages of the learning mobility process can be identified: enabling access (before), ensuring survival (during) and enhancing learning (after). These can be facilitated through ‘mobility guidance’. Mobility guidance provides individuals with information and advice on learning mobility as a means to develop their skills and gain experience in an international context (European Commission, 2014a). More specifically, it means different types of professional support addressed to individuals, i.e. giving information about mobility as a learning process, creating awareness of critical issues they may encounter abroad, the facilitation of coping mechanisms and the ability to analyse and deepen their learning experience after repatriation (Kristensen, 2014).

Since the 1980s, there has been an increasing policy-level interest in making education more international (Teichler, 2017). Since 1999, the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) has contributed to making higher education systems more compatible and increasing staff and student mobility across its 48 member countries, including the Nordic countries (the Bologna process) (European Commission, EACEA, & Eurydice, 2015).

In the 1990s researchers became increasingly interested in understanding the impact of internationalisation on national educational policies and systems, on the choice of destination countries for learning mobility and on individual learning outcomes (Deardorff, 2006; de Wit, 1995; Knight, 2001). The current trend in research on the internationalisation of education is to distinguish between different levels of impact ranging from the individual to the global (McNamara & Knight, 2015; Potts, 2016). Finland, Norway and Sweden have developed strategies on the internationalisation of education and higher education that reflect recent research findings. Iceland does not currently have such a strategy in place.

The Swedish Higher Education Ordinance (Ministry of Education and Research, 1993) states that higher education institutions should promote understanding for other countries and international relations. In early 2018, a new strategy for internationalisation within Swedish Higher Education was introduced (SOU, 2018). One of its proposals is that all university graduates should develop their international and intercultural competences during their study time. Finland aims to attract more international students and retain them in the country upon graduation, but also to have more Finnish students study abroad (Ministry of Education and Culture, 2017). In Norway, the Quality Reform (Kunnskapsdepartementet, 2001) was launched to make national higher education comply with international standards. Internationalisation is now seen as a prerequisite for improving the quality of higher education (Kunnskapsdepartementet, 2017). In Iceland, the overarching goal of universities is to increase the number of their outgoing exchange students by 80%, and the number of foreign students studying for a degree in Iceland by 50% during 2016–2023 (Government Offices of Iceland, 2018).

Moreover, the implementation of the European Union (EU) programmes supporting education and training in Europe and beyond contribute to supra-national political and strategic developments. Through these EU programmes – specifically the Erasmus+ programme (2014–2020) – students have the opportunity to embark on shorter and longer mobility periods abroad for studying, training and voluntary work (European Commission, 2014b).

Learning Mobility

The target set by the Council of the European Union in 2011 is that 20% of students include cross-border mobility in their studies by 2020 (Sanchéz Barrioluengo & Flisi, 2017). The Nordic countries have acknowledged this target, albeit differently. In Sweden the proposal is that at least 25% of all higher education students should study abroad for a minimum of three months by 2025 (SOU, 2018), while only 15% of graduates did so in 2016–2017 (SOS, 2017). Finland and Iceland are working towards the European target, but they lack comprehensive statistical data on the current situation. In Norway, the present numbers show that 16% of those completing a tertiary-level degree went abroad for their studies. Norway aims to reach 20% for short term and 50% for long term mobility periods (Kunnskapsdepartementet, 2018). In Denmark, 18% of students studied abroad in 2016–2017 (Danmarks statistik, 2018). However, regardless of their generous student aid schemes geared to support learning mobility (including funding for studies abroad), the Nordic countries are not currently exceeding the European mobility goals.

In addition, mobility is unevenly distributed among students as socio-economic factors largely determine who participates and who does not (Sperl, 2016). The three top reasons for not undertaking a mobility period were an additional financial burden (62% of respondents), separation from family or friends (47%) and loss of a paid employment (35%). Moreover, it seems that with increasing age the likelihood of mobility falls as people establish their families and have children (Eurostudent, 2018). Finally, students with special needs are the group least likely of all to undertake mobility (Nordic Council of Ministers, 2018). Souto-Otero, Huisman, Beerkens, de Wit, and Vujic (2013) argue that personal-level barriers differentiate participants and non-participants even more than their access to funding opportunities. In addition language barriers are also often reported as a key obstacle (Doyle et al., 2010; Samuk, Nienaber, Bissinger, & Vysotskaya, 2018). To reach the European goals, the Nordic countries should address new user groups who could consider cross-border mobility as part of their studies and this in turn may require the development of the provision of mobility guidance.

The Need for Mobility Guidance

Learners need to become better informed about mobility. Therefore, staff at educational and other institutions need to be able to give them a realistic view about mobility and the related obstacles and benefits (Teichler, 2015). This article argues that easy-access to high-quality mobility guidance throughout the whole education system may inspire pupils and students to realise how mobility could contribute to their learning and career paths.

An important reference to improve guidance provision for mobility can be found in the EU Resolution on Lifelong Guidance:

the enlargement of the European Union has increased the potential for mobility in education and training, as well as in the labour market, thereby creating the need to prepare Union citizens to develop their learning and professional pathways in a broader geographical context. (Council of the European Union, 2008, p. 1)

The Nordic countries have established a link between mobility and guidance. Nonetheless, there is still much to be done to strengthen the role that guidance plays, both in giving advice and motivating young and adult learners to consider learning mobility as a study option (Baloch-Kaloianov, Launikari, Stefansdottir, & Towler, 2018; Launikari, Stefansdottir, Carey, & Rajeckaité, 2016).

According to Nordic studies, Finnish students studied abroad more often than their peers from Norway and Sweden. An explanation to this may be that they had received more guidance for studies abroad than Norwegian and Swedish students (CIMO, UHR, & SIU, 2013; Tungesvik, 2016; UHR, 2018). Guidance is also important for making mobility more inclusive, reaching students from different social strata, addressing all students and not only those who already know that they want to go abroad (UHR, 2018).

Evidence shows that studying and living abroad positively affects individuals’ future career opportunities and makes them readier to work in an internationally competitive labour market than non-mobile young people (European Commission, 2014b). Other studies suggest that individual motivation and readiness for overseas studies (Hackney, Boggs, & Borozan, 2012; Pope, Sánchez, Lehnert, & Schmid, 2014), intercultural learning (Dressler, Becker, Kawalilak, & Arthur, 2018; Harris, Kumaran, Jones Harris, Moen, & Visconti, 2019) and skills development while living abroad may benefit individuals’ employment (Teichler & Janson, 2007; Punteney, 2012; Potts, 2015). Guidance practitioners need to know that employers value skills that study-abroad experiences generate, such as intercultural and interpersonal skills, language and communication skills, curiosity, adaptability, self-awareness, tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty and relevant knowledge (European Commission, 2014b; Jonsson & Almerud, 2010; Karlsson Perez, 2014).

Moreover, individuals with international experience tend to run a reduced risk of long-term unemployment, earn higher salaries and have more responsibility in their professional lives than those without it (European Commission, 2018; European Commission, 2014b). For example, Swedish exchange students are employed and integrated in the labour market to a greater extent and have higher average income than those who have studied only in Sweden (CSN & SCB, 2017). Although living abroad may help students to develop their international vision and intercultural understanding (Karlsson Perez, 2014), employers generally seem to pay attention to only a few skills of the many that individuals gain through studies, internships or work outside their home country, such as productivity, curiosity and resilience (CIMO, 2014).

Competences Needed for Supporting Learning Mobility

The competence of guidance practitioners has been studied by many international scholars (e.g. Sultana, 2009; Hirschi, 2012; Hiebert & Neault, 2014), but this has not generally addressed the international knowledge that is required to support cross-border mobilities. For example, the competence framework introduced in the Cedefop report on Professionalising Career Guidance (2009) does not identify international competences as an area of their own. The competence framework of the International Association for Educational and Vocational Guidance (IAEVG, 2003) refers to ‘motivating and helping students to take part in international exchange programmes’ and to having ‘knowledge of legislation, pertaining to education, training, and work at local, national and international level and of equivalence of degrees and professional qualifications obtained in different countries’ under ‘specialised competencies’. Both the European Lifelong Guidance Policy Network (ELGPN, 2012, pp. 33–42) and the Network for Innovation in Career Guidance and Counselling in Europe (NICE, 2012, p. 189) argue that guidance practitioners have a role to play in helping individuals to find learning and working opportunities abroad. They also suggest that guidance service provision will have to be developed to foster learning mobility.

The Euroguidance Network has played an important role in working towards enhancing guidance practitioners’ international competences to include mobility guidance in their everyday work. The work of the Nordic Euroguidance Centres have been guided by the European key competence framework (Council of the European Union, 2018). There, competences have been divided into attitudes, knowledge and skills that are adaptable to different contexts, including guidance for mobility. The Euroguidance Network has a unique position in the interface between the policy level and guidance practice and has collected empirical evidence of different mobility guidance schemes, varying practices and the effects of insufficient mobility guidance support. Here the model of career capital (DeFillippi & Arthur, 1994; Inkson & Arthur, 2001; Parker, Khapova, & Arthur, 2009) becomes useful to illustrate an individual guidance practitioner´s international capital (i.e. the knowledge, skills and competences, professional networks and other resources) required for providing mobility guidance. The concept of career capital relates to the notion of protean, boundaryless and intelligent careers and the diverse abilities that individuals need to develop, acquire and maintain throughout their careers (Inkson & Arthur, 2001). It takes different forms and is obtained in numerous ways throughout an individual’s professional life (Lamb & Sutherland, 2010; Hirschi, 2012).

Career capital, as originally defined by DeFillippi and Arthur (1994), consists of different types of knowing: knowing-why, knowing-how and knowing-whom. This model was further enhanced by Jones and DeFillippi (1996), who added three more dimensions to it: knowing-what, knowing-where and knowing-when. These six interdependent types of knowing are career-based investments that people make for being successful at work and in their careers (Arthur, Claman, DeFillippi, & Adams, 1995; DeFillippi & Arthur, 1994, 1996; Inkson & Arthur, 2001; Parker et al., 2009). They can be relatively easily applied to the guidance profession and described as follows (according to DeFillippi & Arthur, 1994, 1996; Inkson & Arthur, 2001; Jones & DeFillippi, 1996): knowing-why relates to a person’s professional motivations, identifications, self-discovery and deals with how and why individuals obtain meaning out of their daily work and continuous learning. Knowing-how is about the knowledge, skills and expertise needed for a specific occupational role or a particular professional field, whereas knowing-whom is associated with one’s professional networks and how they are applied as a resource to exchanging information, sharing knowledge, peer learning and developing cooperation. Knowing-what is about understanding the logics and dynamics of one’s professional field (i.e. threats and opportunities), knowing-where about having an overview of how to move around and advance in one’s professional environment, and knowing-when is connected to timely action and the appropriateness of activities. As competence in guidance always relates to the service the practitioner is delivering to a client, it is inevitably the case that the skills and competences developed by the practitioner are applicable to the client’s own career learning process.

We additionally suggest that international capital in the guidance context comprise the following mix of affective, behavioural and cognitive aspects: attitudes, emotional and psychological dispositions, sensitivities, experiences and insights that guidance practitioners obtain through their continuous exposure to working with international issues as well as systematically developing their capacities and capabilities accordingly (adapted from the Council of the European Union, 2018; Farrell, 2010; Luke & Goldstein, 2006; Pöllmann, 2013, 2016).

In Table 13.1, some concrete methods and measures for how to develop this international capital will be addressed from the perspective of the six different types of knowing.

Table 13.1

Guidance Counsellors’ international capital (adapted from the theoretical model of DeFillippi & Arthur, 1994; Jones & DeFillippi, 1996)

Type of knowingDescription of international capital in the context of guidance and counsellingDescription of methods and tools supporting acquisition of international capital
Knowing-why





Gains
Having a personal approach and motivation that allows one to design one’s career and professional development around internationally oriented activities in line with one’s life goals.





In relation to mobility of clients: awareness of and belief in the benefits and added value of international mobility for individuals and society. Showcase mobility as social capital.
Becoming exposed to the international aspect of one’s work through initial guidance counsellor education and in-service training, relevant literature and reports, and participation in international events, projects, and activities.





Activity: learning about international mobility, reflect on the value of mobility and how learning outcomes from abroad can be viewed as capital.
Knowing-how





Methods
Having an overview of mobility as a process and a clear understanding of one’s role in it. Having the ability to carry out duties and solve problems linked to international mobility, and a sufficient knowledge of at least one foreign language.





In relation to mobility of clients: Different activities identified as useful to promote reflexive thinking before, during and after the mobility period. This can increase and deepen understanding referred to as 21st century skills.
Gaining experience in addressing learning mobility as options for various types of clients. Being able to identify the kind of mobility experience the clients are able and prepared to handle.





Learning by doing to broaden one’s international capabilities and gaining additional insights into one’s role and function in fostering mobility.





Activity: Informal learning and continuing professional deve-lopment linked to the three stages of mobility guidance (before, during and after).
Knowing-whom





Networks
Networking as social professional capital; Being a member of multi-professional and cross-sectoral networks of guidance practitioners and other experts who work with international mobility.





In relation to mobility of clients: effectively utilising one’s networks for accessing information and other resources to support clients’ decision-making for participation in learning mobility.
Actively executing and expanding one’s inter-organisational contacts to ensure timely access to and exchange of information of international learning and training opportunities. Utilising institutional information sources on learning mobility.





Activity: keeping oneself on track on latest developments through networking and peer learning.
Knowing-what





Context
International competence in a broader perspective: Having an overview of the development of relevant policies, strategies and schemes for international mobility. Being aware of how they influence one’s guidance work in relation to providing advice on learning and training abroad. Being well acquainted with one’s own institutional context and daily work environment.





In relation to mobility of clients: knowledge of the various preparations needed for the client to take the next step throughout the mobility process. Awareness of the need to compensate for an unequal social background. Linking mobility to the development of Career Management Skills.
Following up any developments that are linked to international mobility. Understanding how these developments shape one’s own internationally oriented work and how they create new professional demands that need to be covered by means of continuous learning, networking, etc.





Activity: Being open for systematic action in relation to one’s professional development as regards the contextual factors of learning mobility.
Knowing-where





External venture mapa
Being informed about different destination countries. This includes having a general overview of the political, economic and social circumstances of the countries.





In relation to mobility of clients: Broad knowledge of how choice of destination country may influence the career path of the client, i.e. depending on subject area, study programme, knowledge of languages, recognition of studies taken abroad, connection between one’s study plan and study programmes offered abroad, etc.
Keeping up-to-date on major developments in the world, specifically in those countries that are popular among learners.





Making sure that one has knowledge of and access to country-specific information (closely connected to knowing-whom).





Activity: designing tailored routes for each client in view of their learning mobility and future career goals/aspirations.
Knowing-when





Time and place
Having a good understanding of the time factor in relation to what it takes to go abroad for studying purposes. Being able to inform about the process that the client will go through as regards studying and training abroad (before-during-after) and provide sufficient support to the client through the different phases.





In relation to mobility of clients: Knowledge about optimal timing, for example when to go abroad as an exchange student in relation to the individual study plan and when to apply for degree programmes abroad, etc. Providing clients with current labour market information and future trends.
Keeping abreast with current changes to application rounds and procedures and informing clients well in advance about how such changes may influence their preparations and submission of documents required.





Activity: acquiring labour market information including statistics, forecasts, trends, etc.

Venture Map refers to Hurst and international mobility as venture capital for elite women (Hurst, 2018)

Table 13.1 describes the different types of ‘knowing’ that guidance practitioners should have and develop in order to provide high-quality mobility guidance to those individuals seeking international learning mobility opportunities. The aim is to use this proposition to launch an academic discussion on the topic. Empirical research will be needed to have this model validated and adapted to the professional work of guidance practitioners. The model was presented and piloted at the IAEVG conference 2019 in Bratislava, and the feedback collected from the international guidance community there has been taken into account in the model descriptors.

As highlighted above, the mobility experience can be presented as a process and be divided into three separate, yet interlinked phases being before, during and after. This 3-phase approach is originally developed by Kristensen (2014). Kristensen’s model is a useful tool for guidance practitioners to relate to the process of mobility and to understand their professional role and input accordingly. Moreover, linking Kristensen’s model with the above theoretical competence framework allows guidance practitioners to assess their knowledge-based capabilities in relation to informing their clients sufficiently well throughout the mobility process.

In Kristensen’s (2014) mobility process, guidance plays an important role. Before learners embark on mobility, guidance practitioners should focus on motivating and preparing them. While abroad, the learners will have to take greater responsibility for their own learning. Therefore, learners should have the possibility of receiving guidance also during the stay abroad. For ensuring the quality of their international learning process, Kristensen suggests that it can be supported through mentoring, tutoring and monitoring. Learning does not end when the learner returns home. Sorting out the experience afterwards is an integral part of the whole learning process. Kristensen argues that this is a phase that teachers or guidance counsellors can use to optimise the results of a mobility period by means of evaluating the experience (intended and unintended learning), putting it into perspective (observations transformed into useful experiences), preserving it (positive change), analysing educational or career implications of the stay abroad and reintegrating everything into the individual learner’s life.

Continuing Professional Development: Means and Methods to Acquire International Competences

For Nordic guidance professionals, the obvious source of knowledge about international aspects of their guidance work is the academic guidance counsellor education, offered by higher education institutions in their countries. Nevertheless, it is a recognised need across the European and Nordic guidance communities to receive more initial and in-service training on how to provide guidance for learning mobility (Baloch-Kaloianov et al., 2018; Launikari et al., 2016; Launikari, Stefansdottir, Towler, & Rajeckaité, 2017).

In most Nordic countries, the career guidance education programmes include an international dimension, but it depends on each training provider how and to what extent mobility-related aspects are covered. Furthermore, international research developments and multicultural issues are included in the Nordic career guidance education programmes:

  • In Denmark, intercultural counselling is offered as an optional study module within the guidance and counselling education programme (Undervisningsministeriet, 2018). The focus of the Danish counsellor training is not on learning mobility as such. The relevance of the study programme is that counsellors with intercultural capital (Launikari, 2019) potentially interact better with their counselees from different cultural/ethnic backgrounds. It is also hoped that they are better able to support international mobility for studying and training purposes, especially for incoming students.
  • In Finnish guidance counsellor education, cultural diversity, international mobility, recognition of studies taken abroad, home-internationalisation and international guidance research are among the topics normally addressed (VOKES, 2018).
  • In Iceland, the revision of the guidance studies programme took place in 2010 and social and cultural diversity is part of studies, including working with clients from different backgrounds (Háskóli Íslands, 2010). Currently the learning outcomes are formulated differently, i.e. students should be ‘able to work […] be guided by the interests and needs of people from different societal groups’ (Háskóli Íslands, 2018).
  • In Norway, internationalisation and intercultural competences are integrated in the revised curriculum of the master’s programme for career guidance during the academic period 2018–2020. Intercultural competence is described as an ability to analyse and critically assess the barriers and opportunities for education, work and social life in a multicultural society (HVL, 2018).
  • The Swedish Higher Education Ordinance (Ministry of Education and Research, 1993) stipulates that students graduating from the career guidance programme should show that they have knowledge about education, working life and society, both nationally and internationally. Within the study programme, courses on guidance in a multicultural society can be chosen.

The Nordic Euroguidance Centres as part of the Europe-wide Euroguidance Network1 have in multiple ways contributed to enhancing the international competences of guidance counsellors in their countries (Kraatz, 2016). For example, they deliver tailor-made training as part of the guidance counsellor education programmes run by higher education institutions. Moreover, they provide in-service training on mobility guidance for practitioners through conferences, seminars, online courses, and host study visits for guidance delegations from abroad. The production of printed materials and online resources on mobility is one of their main activities in fostering guidance counsellors’ readiness to deal with learning and training abroad. Nordic counsellors also develop their competences through the VALA network of career counselling and guidance programmes at higher education institutions in the Nordic and Baltic countries. The focus is on preparing career counsellors and guidance practitioners for diverse adult clients they work with.2

Conclusions

This article explored the role and competences of guidance practitioners in relation to international mobility. It has examined the intersection between studying abroad and the competences guidance counsellors should possess. We conclude that international competences are a prerequisite for providing high-quality guidance to support learning mobility, congruent to a holistic approach in their refinement and development. To support this evolution, guidance counsellors should have easy access to participation in learning mobility themselves, as internationally thinking guidance practitioners are required to develop a higher proportion of student cohorts uptake of international learning opportunities.

This study has obvious limitations due to the lack of first-hand empirical studies and contributions. However, the main finding is that there is only scarce literature which addresses guidance counsellor competences in relation to international mobility. Moreover, there is not much research evidence on what competences are required, how they should be defined and how they can be acquired. It would be good to have more research on the value of guidance when students are planning their international learning and career paths. Thus, there is a need to understand the obstacles to individuals’ desire to study abroad. The aspect of inclusion of underrepresented groups in mobility should be looked at in more detail, as well as the related guidance service provision. Maybe some of the desirable transferable skills gained by studying abroad can be used to alleviate social differences.

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