Clashing Values: A Longitudinal, Exploratory Study of Student Beliefs about General Education, Vocationalism, and Transfer of Learning

Dana Lynn Driscoll


One challenge with general education is the often-clashing goal of vocationalism,or educating for the purpose a specific careers or professions. Through a series of longitudinal interviews spanning a group of 14 students’ second and fourth semesters at a public, regional research university, the author examines the intersection of beliefs and values about general education, transfer of learning, and vocationalism, and how these beliefs and values change over time. Findings reveal that for many students, vocationalism creates a single-minded focus on students’ career preparation and major coursework and invites disregard for the value of general education courses that do not appear to immediately relate to students’ future careers. This devaluing is particularly clear in students’ first year; as students enter their sophomore years, they grow to value learning in general. The article concludes with suggestions for university-level and course-specific curricular change to better address vocationalism, value, and the need to transfer learning within general education courses.

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