A sense of hopefulness is a significant pathway to school engagement and vocational identity for post-secondary students, new CERIC-funded research has found. The research study, led by Dr Norman Amundson (University of British Columbia) and Dr Spencer Niles (Penn State University), recommends that career development professionals need to find ways to enhance hope in students as a key part of career counselling and education.

Hope seems to play an important role in vocational identity development and, to a lesser degree, academic performance among college/university students both in Canada and the United States, according to the research report entitled Hope-Centered Career Development for University/College Students.

When hope is absent, students may be less likely to engage in diverse school activities; students with a lack of hope also may be less likely to have crystallized vocational identities and to achieve high GPAs. Thus, it is crucial for career practitioners and educators to promote hope in students. Career and school counsellors need to assess and address students’ hope as an integral part of career counselling and education. It is necessary to find strategies and resources in order to enhance hope in students. By fostering hope in students, they can help students engage in valuable school activities, which in turn, help students develop a sense of vocational identity and achieve successful academic performance.

The study used the Hope-Centered Career Inventory (HCCI) to survey 1,756 students. The HCCI is a 28-item self-report measure designed to assess the degrees of hope and hope-related career development competencies that include self-reflection, self-clarity, visioning, goal setting and planning, implementing, and adapting. As part of the research, in-depth interviews were also conducted to create a better understanding of how hope contributes to career outcomes.

The strongest pattern that emerged from the findings was the positive and negative impact of relationships on experiences of hope. During the course of the interviews, every participant identified either receiving or giving support to others, role models, and/or positive school interactions as positively affecting their experiences of hope. Conversely, 87% of the participants cited negative relationships as having a deleterious impact on their experiences of hope based on interactions with either negative and unsupportive people, relationship breakups or unsupportive experiences with instructors.

An important general theme was the influence of personal factors including internal states and external events on individual’s experiences of hope. The internal factors that affected hope were attitude, passion, self-efficacy, negative emotions and cognitions and mental health. The external factors that affected hope included activities that helped the participants refocus and redirect their energy in more positive directions, the participation in school activities which generated a sense of belonging, and physical injuries that limited their abilities to fully engage in desired activities and therefore hindered their feelings of hopefulness.

The report also highlights the role of the future on impacting participants’ experiences of hope. Falling into this general theme includes future goals, possibilities and opportunities, social and professional contributions, and the uncertainty of the economy. Finally, another theme that emerged was the impact of school and its interaction with different demands in participants’ lives including workload and multiple roles.

The study authors suggest that further research is needed to replicate the study with more diverse populations, such as undergraduate students with high barriers and low hope, older workers, graduate students and people who are unemployed. Future research might also examine the impact of culture on experiences of hope.