Coursera Careers MOOC – Thoughts from Week 1 on Values


Source: Flickr, Cassidy Curtis under CC

Source: Flickr, Cassidy Curtis under CC

I am currently doing the Coursera MOOC put on by the University of London entitled “Enhance your Careers and Employability Skills.” I’ve been really enjoying the videos put together by David Winter and Laura Brammar (please note I will refer to the authors of the MOOC together as David and Laura even though David presents some videos and Laura others). It’s been really excited seeing how they take big career themes, break them down and make them accessible for an online audience.


The first week has been on values. I wanted to list a few thoughts about the course content so far about what I have been particularly struck by and what has challenged or informed my practice.


1) Values drive behaviors.


David and Laura point out that behaviors + choices leads to outcomes at that both your behaviors and choices are driven by your values. I found this a really simple but powerful equation. Often I feel that students I work with feel that values are an impractical way to think about the future compared to just giving them information. David and Laura’s perspective is very helpful here showing the way that values underpin what outcomes we achieve.


2) Values come out of experience.


I think that at times I am guilty of accepting student’s values at face value without asking them to underpin them in practice. David and Laura carefully point out the need to evidence values because after all they come out of our experiences. This link, though obvious, is also very powerful as it stops students becoming overconfident in their values without proper reflection and gives them a way to think about their values if they’re struggling to reflect on them. I appreciated both of the perspectives that David and Laura produced both looking back with a life-line exercise and looking forward through the work of Herminia Ibarra.


3) Values are worth something.


David and Laura very helpfully look at values in terms of costing something. This idea really struck me as it links reflection to engagement. Asking what someone would pay to get something makes reflection really practical and hands on. It is easy to say you want a career in politics, it is another thing quantifying how much you want this in terms of time, effort, stress, short-term failure etc. This links values to engagement and so to action. Thinking through what you would be prepared to give up moves you towards actually investing as your reflection becomes more practical and potentially costly.


4) Needing a range of values – more stable for decision-making


One of the concepts that I think I really want to try out in practice is the need to have multiple values. David and Laura point out that we don’t necessarily focus on the values we have wanted for longest, that will actually pay the highest price for or that will lead to us being most successful, they point out that we often think about the values that relate to our most recent experience. We are tempted to base our reflection and what has happened to us most recently. For this, and other, reasons they encourage people to come up with multiple values. This makes people more robust, less easily swayed by short-term experiences and more solid in the face of change.


5) Needing language for values.


Something that really challenged me was the need to give students language around their values. I often ask open ended questions such as “what would make work worthwhile” or “what do you want from work”. David and Laura point to the value of frameworks (such as Dawis and Lofquist, Schein and Ford and Nichols) in giving us language. We do not necessarily need to complete the assessments linked with these frameworks to find them useful in giving us categories to think with.


6) Using values to create research questions.


I liked how David and Laura linked values with research questions. This made looking at values more practical and linked it to learning about the world of work. I found this a really good idea and one I am definitely going to use with students. Research is a powerful metaphor for working with students especially in a HE setting. I particularly appreciated some of the expansion thoughts they had a round creating quality questions which were neither closed nor too broad and unwieldy.


7) One small criticism – the place of values.


I have got lots out of this week and really appreciated David and Laura’s thoughts and insight. There is a real difficulty in putting together a course like this as you can’t say everything and it is easy to spot extra things from the outside. There was one thing that slightly struck me as being different from how I would describe things.   I felt that at David times David and Laura looked at values in terms of what led to a positive experience or what someone enjoyed. I wondered if this made values a bit too immediate and subjective. This makes values about what you enjoy doing in the moment not necessarily what you look back on as being worthwhile and satisfying in retrospect. Also some people may look at life less as what they get a positive experience from as what is right for them to do. I feel that before you get to the issue of what you enjoy there is the issue of what weight you put on your enjoyment and what you see the purpose of work as being. I feel this puts worldview above values at helps explain why people are happy to do jobs that they do not have  a daily positive experience in because it supports their family, or forwards a political cause or is an act of religious service. This is obviously tightly linked with values but I find talking about world view looks at values in a broader manner and does not focus so much on what you enjoy in the moment.


In conclusion I got loads out of the week and am really looking forward to getting stuck in to week 2 (which I am already behind on).

3 thoughts on “Coursera Careers MOOC – Thoughts from Week 1 on Values

  1. Hi Tom
    Thank you for these thoughtful comments. I’m so glad the videos prompted interesting and useful thoughts.
    Your criticism is fair – in the videos we didn’t point out that values are not just linked to satisfaction but may also be linked to a sense of duty. There was a little more on this in the original footage we filmed but we had to do some editing to get the timings manageable (especially my bits as I tended to meander off script too often!).
    However, we made a little more of this in the lifeline exercise that we encouraged people to undertake and it certainly came up as a topic in the forums.
    I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the subsequent weeks, particularly week 3 which is one of my favourites.

    • Hi David. I guessed you had probably covered stuff in more detail, or at least would have wanted to. Really enjoying the course, will look forward to week 3. Would love to hear any reflections you have about the course form a deliverers perspective. Do you have any plans to put anything together?

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