Mental States as Factors of Professional Conceptions Development in Students

288

Abstract

The article presents results of an empirical study of professional conceptions. Understanding the mechanism underlying the development of professional conceptions is an important factor in building the educational environment in a modern university. At the same time, the accumulated scientific knowledge does not allow us to determine all the factors affecting its development. The purpose of the study is to identify factors that impede the development of professional conceptions in students. Our hypothesis is that among the factors that significantly slow down the development of professional conceptions in students are negative emotional states that arise through educational and professional activities. The study was conducted on the basis of the Nizhny Novgorod State University named after Kozma Minin. The sample included 93 students aged from 18 to 26 years, 73 females and 20 males, including 67 second-year students and 26 fourth-year students. As a technique for determining professional conceptions we used a questionnaire of professional conceptions by E.I. Rogov. To estimate the level of development of professional conceptions, the repertory grids technique by D. Kelly was used. The individual style of activity was evaluated using the questionnaire “Behaviour self-regulation style” by V.I. Morosanova. Self-concepts of the subjects as representatives of the certain profession were measured using the technique by M. Kuhn and T. McPartland “Who am I” (adapted by T.V. Rumyantseva). The results showed significant differences in terms of clarity and evaluation (p <0.05) which are higher in fourth-year students. In order to identify the influence of negative emotional experiences on the development of professional conceptions, a formative experiment was conducted. The experimental group included 51 second-year students, the control group — 45. Of these, 11 were male and 85 female. According to the results of the experiment, the level of development of the emotional component of professional conceptions in the experimental group was higher than in the control group. The results can be used to form adequate professional conceptions in students.

General Information

Keywords: students, professional conceptions, personal agency, educational and professional activity.

Journal rubric: Educational Psychology

Article type: scientific article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17759/pse.2022270203

Received: 02.11.2020

Accepted:

For citation: Gaponova S.A., Lovkov S.G., Gavrina E.E., Andreeva G.B. Mental States as Factors of Professional Conceptions Development in Students. Psikhologicheskaya nauka i obrazovanie = Psychological Science and Education, 2022. Vol. 27, no. 2, pp. 29–41. DOI: 10.17759/pse.2022270203.

Full text

Introduction

In the modern world, a person’s life is often inseparable from his professional activities. This historically formed pattern has been expressed more and more vividly over time. It is obvious that scientific and technological progress plays not the least role in this process and requires representatives of almost all professions to extend their knowledge, skills and abilities. In other words, in order to remain a professional, a modern person has to develop his professional competencies [22].

V.A. Pegov, L.P. Gribkova, K.A. Radonegova drew attention to the fact that modern students demonstrate “the priority of personal opinion, there are no habits to bring the development of thought to its clear sense manifestation, the chaos of the information they receive leads to the absence of any structure of professional awareness” [25].

There is another problem in the formation of the cognitive component — misrepresentation of different professions made by mass media, Internet resources, ordinary people that leads to the wrong headed view of these activities [12].

This fact poses new challenges for vocational education, on the successful solution of which the success of all vocational training depends. Now, the main goal of the student will be not to acquire professional knowledge and skills, but to develop the true understanding of professional activity, which will allow not only to master the profession, but also to develop both professional and soft competencies [22; 23; 26].

One of the ways to develop personal agency in a professional activity can be the transition to the construction of individual trajectories of professional development. This will help students to move from the “mechanical” to the conscious learning, will give an additional impetus to the development of professional interests. The latter circumstance is especially valuable, since it creates additional motivational resources in the framework of educational and professional activities.

At the same time, the transition to the construction of individual educational trajectories requires certain conditions. The first of these conditions is awareness, which is impossible without clear ideas of the student about the content, objects, conditions and other attributes of his future professional activity. Such ideas in psychology are combined into the concept of professional awareness.

The most general definition of professional awareness suggests that it is a complex structure containing cognitive and affective components [15; 17]. The cognitive component includes information about the object of professional activity, its purpose, conditions and the person himself. In this regard, professional awareness has the same characteristics as the information contained therein. They are detail, completeness, adequacy and consistency.

The affective component sets the attitude of the person to the content of the cognitive component [19]. In sum, this gives a holistic view of the professional area that has not only reflective, but also motivating, predictive and evaluation functions. Further detailed study of the content of cognitive and affective components reveals differences in the approaches of researchers. So, O.A. Konopkin, assuming the hierarchical structure of the cognitive component, singled out as of high importance understanding of the purpose of the activity, of the conditions for its achievement and the criteria by which the conformity of the result and the goal could be determined [7]. In this case, the key function of professional awareness is the regulatory function.

Another approach to determining the components and functions of professional awareness is contained in the studies of S.A. Druzhilov, N.D. Zavalov, V.A. Ponomarenko. The main components of professional awareness in this case are the conceptual model and the operational image [6]. The conceptual model is a relatively permanent structure, reflecting the basic essence of professional activity and its internal ties. It includes both the goals and the object of professional activity, and its significant conditions. Unlike the conceptual model, the operational image is a more dynamic thing. It includes the reflection of professional activities at a particular time under specific conditions.

I.V. Vachkov and D.V. Molchanova indicated that the formation of the cognitive component of awareness is associated with cognitive metaphors about the professional choice of the person [1].

Recently, study of the composition of professional ideas has increasingly singled out ideas about professional career from the point of view of realizing one’s own potential [5; 8; 21] and from the point of view of external conditions and social component of professional activity [2; 23].

Since our study deals with university students, the applicability of each of these approaches to determining the content of professional ideas is appropriate. Considering professional awareness as a set of separate, albeit related, elements of activity suggests that the development of such perceptions begins with the first knowledge about the professional field. In this sense, the scope of knowledge received by students, participation in practical activities suggests that they have quite developed professional ideas both about elements of professional activity and about the connections between them. Moreover, awareness must be expressed in both cognitive and affective components.

Since much attention is now being paid to the study of the development of professional ideas among university students, there is a significant amount of empirical research carried out in the framework of the two approaches. The largest number of studies carried out within the framework of the approach, which considers professional awareness as a reflection of different attributes of activity, is based on the model proposed by E.I. Rogov [15]. It describes affective and cognitive components using four indicators: strength, clarity, activity and evaluation.

The clarity indicator describes the adequacy and completeness of awareness of activity attributes. The rating indicator determines the affective attitude of the person to the attributes of professional activity.

In the initial interpretation of the model of E.I. Rogov, indicators of strength and activity described the qualities of the object of professional activity. However, there are interpretations of the model that allow it to be used in cases of a non-expressed object [16] or an object that does not have mental qualities [18]. In this broader interpretation, an indicator of strength means the degree of importance to the person of such qualities as independence from external circumstances and assessments, the ability to achieve what is desired. The activity indicator determines the readiness to interact with members of the professional community to achieve the set goals. In the present study, strength and activity indicators are used in this interpretation.

Since the described model is popular, there is sufficient empirical research on the development of professional awareness of university students within the framework of this model [11; 13]. Summarizing the results of these studies, the following conclusions can be drawn. Firstly, the levels of development of professional awareness among students across all scales are far from similar indicators among professionals. Secondly, there is a significant difference between the performance of senior and junior students. From this we can conclude that a significant stage in the development of professional ideas takes place in the educational environment of the university. However, there are significant reserves in the development of all indicators. And so, it becomes obvious that it is advisable to create special psychological and pedagogical conditions that make it possible to optimize the development of professional awareness and eliminate factors that make it difficult for students to develop it.

Methodology

E.I. Rogov’s questionnaire was used as a methodology for determining the development of professional awareness [14]. The study also recorded other vocational qualities development. To determine the level of development of professional awareness, D. Kelly’s method of repertory grids was used [24]. The individual style of activity was recorded using the questionnaire by V.I. Morosanova “Style of self-regulation of behavior” [9]. The level of formation of self-perception as a representative of the profession was recorded using the method of M. Kun and T. Makpartland “Who am I” in the adaptation of T.V. Rumyantseva [20].

In order to determine exactly what factors in the educational environment of the university impede the effective development of professional awareness, an ascertaining experiment was conducted on the basis of Nizhny Novgorod State University named after Kozma Minin. It was attended by 93 psychological students (67 second-year and 26 fourth-year students) at the ages from 18 to 26 years. Among them there were 73 women and 20 men.

The results of the summative assessment made it possible to conduct a formative assessment aimed at identifying the impact of negative emotional states on the development of professional awareness. The experimental group (51 young people) was composed of 16 second-year students of Nizhny Novgorod State University named after Kozma Minin and 35 second-year students of National Research Nizhny Novgorod State University named after N.I. Lobachevsky. The age of the participants in the experimental group was from 18 to 21 years old, including 6 men and 45 women. The control group included 45 second-year students of Nizhny Novgorod State University named after Kozma Minin. Among them there were 4 men and 41 women. The age of participants in the control group ranged from 18 to 20 years old. As a method of coping with negative states, their cognitive processing, based on cognitive-emotional therapy of A. Back and A. Ellis was chosen [9]. 12 weekly sessions were held with the pilot team. Based on the results of the experiment, participants in the experimental and control groups were re-examined using a questionnaire of professional awareness by I.E. Rogov.

Also, to achieve the objectives of the study, it would be appropriate to measure the incidence of negative mental states in the control and experimental groups. However, techniques that allow this to be done either do not have sufficient reliability on samples of this size, or, as in the case of diaries or systematic subjective reports, can significantly change the resulting data, especially in the control group. On this basis, it was decided not to get and analyze experimental data, but rely on data from previous studies.

The purpose of the study was to identify the connection between mental states and the development of professional awareness among student psychologists. The task of the study was to study the peculiarities of the development of students’ professional awareness.

The hypothesis of the study was that one of the factors significantly slowing down the development of professional awareness of the student is the negative emotional states arising during educational and professional activities.

In the processing of the results, Fisher’s angular transformation, Student’s t-test, and the Kramer’s V-test were used.

Results

During the experiment, the following data describing the development of professional awareness were obtained. According to the indicators of strength and activity, significant differences between the groups of second and fourth year students were not revealed. However, in terms of clarity, the difference turned out to be significant (p < 0,05 according to Student’s t-criterion). The average values were 2,9 and 3,6 for the second and fourth year, respectively. The difference in the rating indicator was also significant (p < 0,05 by Student’s t-criterion). The average values were 2,7 and 3,5 for the second and fourth year, respectively.

Since the study didn’t make it possible to find correlations between the development of professional awareness and other professionally significant qualities, data on them are not provided.

Values of professional awareness indicators are presented in Tables 1 and 2.

For fourth-year students, the normal distribution is the characteristic of both the activity indicator and the clarity indicator. Thus, in terms of clarity, not only the average value increases, but also qualitative structural changes take place. The number of students with a low indicator decreased from 65,7% to 34,6%. This reduction is considered significant by Fisher’s criterion (p < 0,05).

Evaluation and strength indicators behave in a completely different way. For the evaluation indicator, the share of averages was only 19,2%, while low and high values were 53,8% and 26,9%, respectively. A similar picture is observed with an indicator of strength. For this indicator, the average values were 19,2%, and low and high — 50% and 30,8%, respectively. It turns out that for an indicator of strength, even despite an increase in the average value, the share of low values increased from 42,9% to 50%. Such a difference is not statistically significant, but the general distribution of the values of the development of indicators of strength and assessment indicates the presence of a factor or group of factors that impede the development of professional awareness.

It should be noted that measures of strength and evaluation are an affective component of professional awareness. The assessment is responsible for the person’s attitude to the components of professional activity. Low levels of the evaluation indicator demonstrate a negative attitude to the object of activity, its conditions, goals, etc. Low levels of strength indicate a lack of strong-willed resources for the implementation of activities. We can also talk about a lack of motivation. Perhaps this deficiency is determined by a negative attitude towards the goals of the activity. Thus, a low measure of strength can have the same reason as a low measure of evaluation — a negative attitude to the components of activities.

Observing such dynamics of the development of indicators of professional awareness, it is necessary to note its coincidence with the dynamics of the occurrence of various mental states [3]. So, it was noted that, starting from the second — third courses, the frequency of equilibrium and non-equilibrium negative states begins to increase. The frequency of negative states of reduced mental activity is also growing.

Thus, it can be assumed that the reason for the slowdown in the formation of professional awareness may be negative emotional experiences associated with educational and professional activities and projected on the components of future professional activities. Since the values and the structure of the activity indicator remained unchanged, we can say that these experiences are not related to the sphere of communication. Considering the significant growth of the cognitive component expressed in the indicator of clarity, it can also be assumed that the cause of negative conditions is not the difficulty of mastering the material. This fact is confirmed by the results of the interviews conducted with the participants of the study. As the negative and most disturbing experiences of learning, they show a fear of receiving low grades for learning results and attribute this to the fact that the final assessment of their performance in the subjects studied was lower than their expectations. The reasons for these experiences are individual and do not directly depend on the content of the training. The logical result of such experiences is the reduction of the goals of training and a negative attitude to the attributes of the future profession.

Therefore, changing the training program or the structure of interaction between students and the teacher or among themselves, most likely, will not give a significant result. In this case, the effective means should be to teach students techniques for identifying and overcoming negative emotional states, including fields of educational and professional activities.

To test this thesis, a formative experiment was conducted. Its goal was to identify the impact of negative emotional experiences on the development of professional awareness.

The hypothesis suggested that reducing the acuity of negative experiences associated with educational activities would significantly increase the level of formation of professional awareness.

To reduce the acuity and duration of negative emotional states, students of the experimental group mastered the technique of processing negative experiences. As a technique, the method of challenge used in cognitive-emotional therapy of A. Back and A. Ellis was applied [9].

The course of mastering the technique of processing negative experiences was developed based on Halperin’s concept of phased formation of mental actions.

The first lesson of the course was motivational. In addition, the first and second lessons introduced the basics of the theory of cognitive-emotional therapy. According to this theory, the basis of negative experiences is often the so-called automatic thoughts formed by irrational attitudes (cognitive distortions). Identifying such thoughts and the irrational attitudes is the key to overcoming negative experiences.

During the third and fourth classes, the participants of the experimental group on the description of situations revealed automatic thoughts. Students learned to recognize automatic thoughts and irrational attitudes in proposed situations, first on the basis of personal experience, and then on the basis of a reference scheme. At the end of the third class, students were asked to keep a diary of emotions, which is a folded reference scheme for identifying the triad “Experience — Automatic Thought — Irrational Mindset.”

From the fifth to the tenth lesson, training was conducted in the reception of contesting automatic thoughts. The essence of the technique is to discredit the irrational attitude that gives rise to an automatic thought. First, the challenge takes place individually. The task is to identify the components of the mindset that do not correspond to the actual state of affairs. The next step is to challenge the irrational mindset in the pair. At the same time, one participant, as before, identifies unrealistic mindsets, pointing to them, and another tries to justify the existence of such components. As a result, students are developing a skill in recognizing irrational attitudes and discrediting them successfully.

During the last two classes, reflexing the acquired skills and analysis of emotion diaries was carried out.

After completing the training, participants in the experimental and control groups completed I.E. Rogov’s questionnaire of professional awareness. There was no direct study of mental states in the control and experimental groups, since such studies would give accurate data only on available mental states and very approximate ones about those tested in the previous period. Studying emotion diaries showed a reduction in negative states in the second half of the course compared to the first. However, since emotion diaries were only filled by the experimental group, this reduction cannot be considered reliable data.

The results of the control group were practically not different from those previously presented during the ascertaining experiment. At the same time, the degree of development of professional awareness among the participants in the experimental group increased significantly. The average value was 4,1 versus 3,6 in the control group. The clarity was 3,9 versus 3,2 in the control group (Table 3). The increase in these rates is obvious, but by Student’s t-test is not significant (Table 4). However, the differences in strength were significant for the r≤0,05 (average values were 4,8 for the experimental and 3,5 for the control group). A greater difference is recorded in the evaluation. According to Student’s t-criterion, it is significant for r≤0,01. The average values were 5,2 for students of the experimental group and 2,8 of the control group.

A review of the distribution of the strength and evaluation indicators showed that for both indicators there was a shift to high values. Average values at the same time occupy the second most frequent position. These changes are especially visible in the evaluation indicator. The number of low values was 71,1% in the control group and 17,6% in the experimental group. The number of high values, in contrast, was 6,6% in the control group and 54,9% in the experimental group. Both of these changes are significant according to Fisher’s criterion for r≤0,01.

Conclusions

Thus, it becomes obvious that moving away from negative emotional experiences by means of mastering special coping mechanisms has contributed a lot to the development of professional awareness, especially its emotional component. This means that negative emotional experiences arising in the course of educational and professional activities are a significant factor influencing the formation of professional awareness and, as a result, the success of mastering the profession. Even the partial escape from these negative states will significantly intensify the professional training of students in the educational environment of the university.

In theoretical terms, the results of the study highlight one of the possible approaches to identify factors that affect the development of professional awareness of university students. Further research in this area could provide the key to a better understanding of the phenomenon of professional awareness and provide the basis for the development of tools for its diagnostics and development.

In practical terms, the results of the study can be used both in the work of the psychological service of the university, and to create special programs aimed at forming adequate professional awareness of university students.

Table 1

Results of the Survey on the Indicators “Activity” and “Strength” According
to E.I. Rogov’s Questionnaire on Professional Awareness of, %

Indicators

Groups

Activity

Strength

low

average

high

low

average

high

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

2 year

38.60

40

21.40

42.90

31.40

25.70

4 year

34.60

38.50

26.90

50

19.20

30.80

Table 2

Results of the Survey on the Indicators “Clarity” and “Evaluation” According
to E.I. Rogov’s Questionnaire on Professional Awareness of, %

Indicators

Groups

Clarity

Evaluation

low

average

high

low

average

high

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

2 year

65.70

21.40

12.90

71.40

18.60

10

4 year

34.60

42.30

23.10

53.80

19.20

26.90

Table 3

Results of the Survey Conducted on the basis of E.I. Rogov’s Questionnaire
of Professional Awareness

Indicators

Groups

Activity

Strength

Clarity

Evaluation

1

2

3

4

5

Experimental group before the experiment

3.90

3.80

3.00

2.70

Experimental group after the experiment

4.10

4.80

3.90

5.20

Control group before the experiment

3.60

3.60

2.80

2.80

Control group after the experiment

3.60

3.50

3.20

2.80

Table 4

Results of Student’s T-test Application Regarding the Survey based
on E.I. Rogov’s Professional Awareness Questionnaire

Indicators

Groups

Activity

Strength

Clarity

Evaluation

1

2

3

4

5

Values of the experimental group before the experiment and after the experiment

0.825

0.191

0.073

0.006

Values of the control group before the experiment and after the experiment

0.954

0.872

0.765

0.989

Values of the control and experimental groups after the experiment

0.738

0.047

0.237

0.009

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Information About the Authors

Sofia A. Gaponova, Doctor of Psychology, Professor, Social Psychology and Social Work Department, Academy of Law Management the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia, Ryazan, Russia, ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1526-4378, e-mail: sagap@mail.ru

Sergey G. Lovkov, Ph.D. Student, Chair of Practical Psychology, Department of Psychology and Pedagogy, Minin Nizhny Novgorod State Pedagogical University (Minin University), Nizhniy Novgorod, Russia, ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3692-0402, e-mail: lovscom@yandex.ru

Elena E. Gavrina, PhD in Psychology, Аssociate Professor, Head of Department of General Psychology, Federal State Educational Institution of Higher Education "Academy of Law and Administration of the Federal Penitentiary Service", Ryazan, Russia, ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8131-8122, e-mail: Gawrina_Elena@mail.ru

Galina B. Andreeva, PhD in Education, Associate Professor, Head of the Institute,, Academy of Law Management the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia, Ryazan, Russia, ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3951-1815, e-mail: g.b.andreeva@mail.ru

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