The Educating of Students’ Decision Making Competence in the Problem Based Learning Context: Facing the Perspective of the Contemporary Knowledge Society

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The Educating of Students’ Decision Making Competence in the Problem Based Learning Context: Facing the Perspective of the Contemporary Knowledge Society
Prof. Liuda Šiaučiukėnienė

Kaunas University of Technology

Paper presented at Higher education for knowledge society, Kaunas University of Technology, 27 September 2002


In the context of the post-modern information and knowledge society change one of the most urgent priorities is the quality of the personal decision making. It is a very complex social, physiological, educational and philosophical phenomenon, the concept of which can be revealed with help of multidisciplinary aspectual approach.

Analysing the way of life considerations, choices and decision making situations it is evident that the people face a necessity to accept responsibility for their actions, purposefully act in the changing conditions, when they have to contemplate about the projection of their needs, desires and actions in the future. In the traditional society the decision used to be taken once and for all times, but the changing work environment causes transformations in the way of life choice situation. The greatest achievement would be a new system of creating our well-being – based on the power of mind, rather than muscles (A.Toffler, 2001, p. 26). A personal success in life would become no longer just an individual value, but society value as well.

Therefore special skills are necessary, the complexity of which can be called decision-making competence. Decision and choice making give rises to various character stresses for a person. According to Z.Bauman (1993) stresses can be classified into the dichotomies under the following pattern: between lure and compulsion, between choice and lack of it, between possibility of self-creation and absence of such possibility, between the personal independently percept decision making and on other side, forced categorical evaluations experienced as a constraint and weakness.1 The stress raises importance of capacity to make competent decisions.

Therefore, the research question arises: who has to determine the individual choice regarding the way of life: what is the roll of education in forming decision making competence? Thus, the aim of this article is to offer the philosophical critical exploration of the decision making competence and the ways of its formation, problem-based learning being among them.

The exploration is performed according the following methodological guidelines:

  • J.Raz (1986) concept of personal autonomy;

  • P.J.Hartung and D.L.Blustein (2002) interpretation of Parsons's Career DecisionMaking Model;

  • P.Thagard’s (2001) ideas on emotional coherence based theory of decision making and Informed Intuition model;

  • M.Savin-Baden (2002) research on problem based learning experience domains.

The article consists of two parts. The first part, while being orientated into different philosophical, psychological perspectives contains the discussion of the following issue: “The Understanding of the Decision-Making Competence Concept and who is going to Predetermine Personal Choice and Decision-Making”. The second part deals with the exploration of some discrepancies in decision making and educational means to form decision making competence.

The article is generalized while presenting the conclusions with the main discussion principles summarized.

1. What is the Decision Making Competence and What Problems Accompany the Choice of a Life Path?

As the main message of this article is to analyse the decision making competence and the educational possibilities of its formation, the exploration of the decision making2 competence will be interpreted with the starting point of educational understanding.

V.Žydžiūnaitė (2002)3 states that characteristics of the “competencies” concept from the standpoints of education are: the elements (knowledge, skills, attitudes, standpoints, values); components (behavioural and mental); complexity of the activities; transferring and evaluation of competencies; dimensions (personality, expertise of the activity). The notion of competence reminds successful activity, effective use of recourses and adequate choices.

According to P.J.Hartung and D.L.Blustein (2002), the crucial component of the competence concept is the third element - adequate choice which might be interpreted as a wise choice: especially stressed in the classical F.Parsons model:

In the wise choice of a vocation there are three broad factors: (1) a clear understanding of yourself, your aptitudes, abilities, interests, ambitions, resources, limitations, and their causes; (2) a knowledge of the requirements and conditions of success, advantages and disadvantages, compensation, opportunities, and prospects in different lines of work; (3) true reasoning on the relations of these two groups of facts. (Parsons, Chosing a Vocation, 1909, p. 5, quoted in P.J.Hartung and D L.Blustein (2002).

Still, the precise meaning of the ‘wise choice’ component of Parsons's model remains unclear even today (Spokane & Glickman, 1994, quoted in P. J. Hartung and D. L. Blustein, 2002): did he mean that wise vocational choices are only made rationally, cognitively, independently, systematically, deliberately, and methodically? Or, as K. E. Mitchell, Levin, and Krumboltz (1999, ibid) recently argued, is there any wisdom in making choices intuitively, emotionally, collaboratively, spontaneously, and even haphazardly? For most of these past 100 years since Parsons's original work, counsellors, theorists, and researchers have replied "yes" to the former question and "no" to the latter question. In the manner of Renэ Descartes, "true reasoning" has been relentlessly interpreted to mean logic and rationality devoid of context. Career development and counselling professionals may have, as Krumboltz (1998, p. 391, ibid) recently put it, brought into the notion of true reasoning "hook, line, and sinker". P.J.Hartung and D. L. Blustein (2002) conclude that Parsons may not have intended such a literal meaning for the phrase that is gradually expanding to include both rational and nonrational meanings.

Recent work by Phillips (1994, 1997) suggests that "true reasoning" may be best interpreted as part of two basic types of career decisionmaking models: (a) rational–choice models and (b) alternative–to–rational–choice models. Rational–choice models traced directly to Parsons and long prized in research and practice as the most accurate portrayal of career decision making, value reason, logic, objectivity, and independence. These models view the wise decision maker as an "objective scientist" who is "methodical, systematic, independent, and unimpulsive ... and maintains as an ultimate goal the maximization of personal gain" (Phillips, 1997, p. 276). As F.Parsons stresses a single person profession choice, it is important to analyze the works of E.Ginsburg, S.Axelrod, D.Herma, and D.E.Super. A special attention is paid to the D.E.Super’s career conception, which includes human roles, working place, and position. D.E.Super treats vocational orientation as a process paying a lot of attention to ensuring the competence, necessary for decisionmaking and choices, avoid hasty and irrational decisionmaking and its consequences. According to D.E.Super psychological-pedagogical measures may prevent these career choice difficulties, such as insufficient maturity, internal conflicts, lack of self confidence, information or problem solving skills. J.L.Holand in his profession choice theory (1973) reveals the importance of correct information about oneself and considers a personality the main factor of profession choice as the result of genetic potencies and interaction with environment.

By contrast, alternative or "other–than–rational" models value intuition, emotion, subjectivity, and interdependence. Such models point out that the decisionmaking process is replenished with ambiguity and uncertainty that frequently activates the process.

Rational models emphasize the individual decision maker (i.e., the person). Alternative models emphasize the circumstances surrounding the decisionmaking process (i.e. the environment or context). In contrast to rational models that focus on maximizing personal gain, alternative models incorporate meaningful contextual and circumstantial elements of person’s lives. Some scientists point out, that human rationality has its own limits. In most cases people fail to get the most important information, they tend to pick out data rather subjectively. Thus, a lot of data remain beyond the individual control.

Hartung and D. L. Blustein (2002) position is that a systematic integration of rational and the alternative–to–rational approaches are both timely and theoretically defensible. The timeliness is based on the reality that the intellectual climate and supporting research and theory are now moving to a more pluralistic phase. Consistent with this pluralistic movement is the awareness that cultural and individual differences are to be valued, understood, and respected.

Applying Savickas's (1993, ibid), post-modern discussion of career counselling to this analysis, rational models of career decision making reflect the modern era's emphasis on logical positivism and objectivistic science. Alternative models align more with the post-modern emphasis on "interpretivism," meaning making, relationship, agency, and community.

Like Krumboltz (1998) and others, ibid) believe, however, that a post-modern perspective interprets true reasoning to mean different things for different people depending on their worldviews, decisionmaking styles, cultural value orientations, and life circumstances. Rather than emphasizing rationality and reason devoid of context it is better to recognize the complementarity of these perspectives rather than viewing them as conflictual. 4

Thagard P. (2001) also offers a synthesis and partial reconciliation of intuition and calculation models of decision, using a recently developed theory of emotional coherence. This theory builds on a previous coherence-based theory of decision making.

Understanding decision making in terms of emotional coherence enables persons to appreciate the merits of both intuition and calculation as contributors to effective practical reasoning. Experts on decision making recommend a more systematic and calculating approach.

Decision-making is a kind of inference. Many philosophers have advocated coherence theories of inference but have left rather vague how to maximize coherence (e.g. Harman 1986, Brink 1989, and Hurley 1989, ibid).

The theory of Informed Intuition 5 combines the strengths and avoids the weaknesses of the intuition and calculation models of decision making. Like the intuition model, it recognizes that decision making is an unconscious process that involves emotions. Like the calculation model, it aims to avoid decision errors caused by unsystematic and unexamined intuitions.

Scientific consensus concerning competing scientific theories can emerge from a process of individual coherence and interpersonal communication (Thagard 1999, ch. 7, ibid), but conflict resolution concerning what to do require a more complex process of comparing and communicating the diverse goals driving the various decision makers. A crucial part of this process is becoming aware of the emotional states of others, which may benefit as much from face-to-face interactions involving perception of people's physical as from purely verbal communication. This does not mean that practical and theoretical reasoning should be sneered at. Making reasoning explicit in decisions helps to communicate to all the people involved what the relevant goals, actions, and facilitation relations might be. If communication is effective, then the desired result will be that each decision maker will make a better informed intuitive decision about what to do.

Improving inference is both a matter of recognizing good inference procedures such as Informed Intuition and watching out for errors that people commonly make. A full theory of decision making would have to include an account of where human goals come from and how they can be evaluated. People who base their decisions only on the goals of sex, drugs, and rock and roll may achieve local coherence, but they have much to learn about the full range of pursuits that enrich human lives.

Wisdom of decision making regarding a life is connected with the person’s none/maturity and available in/competence. The people’s misconception and reality indetermination mark their decisions with the sign of inferiority (R.Grigas, 2001, p. 36). The behaviour’s inferiority of the social process participants increases proportionally to the increase in the complexity of a social object or expression and its changeability rates. This is the objective part of the decisions’ inferiority. The subjective one depends on the subjects’ readiness for accumulation of information and disposition to follow it. Various environments and causes often determine not only lateness of cognition and practical actions, the degree of their inferiority but also the correction of everything.

Decision-making is a complex process. The fact that it encompasses irrational elements raises a question whether preservation of human independence is possible if the person takes irrational decisions and whether the development of his decision making competence is possible.

Thus, it is important to discuss what can decrease the misconception.

  1. The Ways of Decision Making Competence development: Problem Based Learning (PBL) Phenomenon

In this part some controversies are highlighted and stressed on the kind of decision making ways offered, in attempts to get closer to the right choice of the way of life while investigating PBL educational possibilities.

The theory of continuous professional improvement (Heathcote, 1997) is based on the conceptual idea of personal identity and autonomy development and preservation of throughout the career. In this respect personal identity and autonomy as the expression of combined value is one of the preconditions of career success. In fact the decision-making mandate often falls on to different variables (accordingly to N.A. Fouad, 1995; D.E.Super, B.Sverko, 1995, F.A.Ibrahim, H.Ohnishi, R.P.Wilson, 1994; quoted in D.Brown, 2002) such as values of social relations and family interacting with sex, socio-economic status, abilities and etc instead of the people themselves. This proves that the choice makers are taking the “decision burden” in a rather passive way.

Personal autonomy can only be achieved when individuals have the basic resources enabling them to act consistently with the tasks and expectations imposed upon them by the society. Some degree of resource equality is a prerequisite for achieving autonomy and sharing the society benefits and burdens. Some minority groups may have no opportunities for choosing profession due to the lack of information and therefore (D.Brown, 2002), they also have less possibilities for autonomy. To be autonomous and to have an autonomous life, a person must have options which enable him to sustain throughout his life activities which, taken together, exercise all the capacities human beings have an innate drive to exercise, as well as to decline to develop any of them, so not the number of options available but variety matters. The autonomous person is the one who warships his personal identity, “makes his own life and may choose the path of self realization or reject it” (J.Raz, 1986, p. 376).

Based on the concept of liberal education, personal independence and autonomy is one of the social morality values which instilment is part of the moral education task, raised by the secondary school. The achievement of personal thinking autonomy and independent thinking of the students is the main focus. It is not simple for the students, therefore it is feared that those, who haven’t made choices regarding a certain morality and, based on the topic of this paper, regarding the issues of choosing a way of life, are not improperly influenced or indoctrinated. Therefore “critically thought over decisions” of the individuals are important not only for the “personal morals” (T.McLaughlin, 1997, p. 24). For instance Swann in his report of the Education Research Committee regarding the education of children and ethnic minorities groups (Great Britain Parliament, House of Commons, 1985, ibid) stresses the development of children independence and autonomy, as revelation of their individualities, so that they become free from beforehand and forced stereotypes, because that would mean the limitation of “his or her freedom of self decision making regarding the choice of further way of life. This requirement to grant “the individuals a free choice that everybody could act and educate themselves in the pluralistic society structure as they please“ at least theoretically does not allow the communities deciding and controlling adolescents’ beliefs and lives. The internal group and society member’s limitations seeking cultural purity and solidarity may initiate the coercion of an individual, therefore it is a significant line not supposed to be crossed – asserts W.Kymlicka (1995, ibid).

From the psychological point of view adolescence and young adults gain emotional independence from their parents, whose authority starts competing with peer groups. This is the age when people contemplate about the future profession, when existential issues becoming very important, while lacking experience and conscientiously perceived criteria of values for addressing them. Even after choosing further studies the young people haven’t made final decisions as P.Johnson, C.N.Nichols, Jr. W.C.Buboltz and B.Riedesel (2002) summarize.

On the other hand in the traditional culture the relationship between the older and younger generation was certainly predetermined by the tradition of authority. But this tradition along with diminishing process of all traditions became devaluated. The younger generation is noticing that “any novelty which can be offered by the elder is certainly older them“, according to H.Arendt (1996, p.197) it is not adequate to the changed world and not suitable for the youngsters, while all educational and other influence is concentrated in the hands of adults. There is only one way out – the younger generation should be allowed as much self governance as possible with adults only helping. The positions of post-modern state scholars differ due to the moral responsibility of the acting subject. But this responsibility is not left to one person, stressing the importance of the social institutions, such as vocational orientation or specialists’ obligation “to develop the ability of the individuals to choose profession (career) in a free and informative way”.

Nevertheless it is usual for the future plans to be developed in the family first. It is based on parental birthrights and responsibility, assigned to the parents by society. Therefore a controversy reveals itself – even though it is accepted in the liberal society concept that the decision necessarily lies upon the child, the parents influence her decisions regarding the profession, choice of school and etc.

Counsellors make another group of people, participating in choice and decision-making regarding the profession and the way of life. According to R.Tatsuno (2002) career guidance in schools is affected by the changes in companies' hiring and management systems. Those changes that are taking place in industries will accelerate changes in career guidance. The focus of career guidance in schools will shift from "which company they choose" to "how students should develop their own career." It is not guidance from a short–term perspective which is connected to school education. Hartung and D. L. Blustein (2002) argue that counsellors can once again be inspired to give back to their communities by helping all citizens find satisfaction in their lives.

Nowadays, the vocational and career guidance theorists and practitioners are urged to rethink paradigms and concepts, come up with new approaches, theories and techniques helping the individuals to acquire knowledge, attitudes and skills, to self-manage their educational and work paths. Counsellors are urged to change and become similar to the role of a coach or a consultant who works together with the client in order to help clarifying his/her difficulties and setting individual strategies and plans for life and career. More than decidedness, counsellors should help clients – students or workers – to improve their decision-making skills and ability to cope with change, they have to include activities to promote the development of self-esteem and ego-strength, purposefulness, self-management and life-career planning skills, job search skills, and skills to cope with career transitions and unemployment (Krieshok 1998, Harris-Bowlsbey 1996, quoted in L.Tractenberg and oth., 2000). Career guidance to be effective in the 21st century can no longer focus on career decisions alone, but has to broaden its horizons to a more comprehensive approach in order to help the individuals to think strategically and holistically about work, education, leisure and other aspects of their life (ibid).

The third group of people, participating in choice and decision-making regarding the profession and the way of life are teachers who can foster student’s autonomy. It is not meant to reduce it to a set of skills that need to be acquired, rather the teacher and the learner can work towards personal independence and autonomy by creating a friendly atmosphere characterised by 'low threat, unconditional positive regard, honest and open feedback, respect for the ideas and opinions of others, approval of self-improvement as a goal’ (Candy, 1991, quoted in D.Thanasoulas, 2000). Promoting learner independence and autonomy does not mean leaving learners to their own devices or learning in isolation. There has to be a teacher who will adapt resources, materials, and methods to the learners' needs and even abandon all this if it would be necessary. But even if learner independence and autonomy is amenable to educational interventions, it should be recognised that it 'takes a long time to develop, and simply removing the barriers to a person's ability to think and behave in certain ways may not allow him or her to break away from old habits or old ways of thinking' (Candy, 1991, ibid).

Nonetheless as R.N.Evans, G.McCloskey (2001, ibid) assert, much of the current school program actually discourages decision-making by students. Most young people make tentative occupational choices several times before entering high school. If a child aged 7 or 17 announces that he wants to be a lawyer or a truck driver, we may be reasonably sure of three things: (a) this tentative decision is made on the basis of inadequate knowledge of his own characteristics and of the demands of the job; (b) the school has done little to provide either type of knowledge; and (c) the school will say, in effect, "You are too young to concern yourself with such things. They should be decided later". Some educators seem to have an almost irrational fear of teaching decision-making in relationship to the world of work. They seem to feel that such instruction will lead to early, irrevocable occupational decisions, which will minimize future student options. Thus we may argue that students’ autonomy problem is closely related to teachers’ autonomy.

While summing up what was said before it is necessary to stress the importance of educating in decision making. Such educating should have in mind the personal identity and autonomy, the level of personal experience, which dominates in decision making process; it should also create the enabling environment helping the students to match rational and emotional levels of decision making, supporting self-confidence and exercising informational, problem-solving skills, providing the effective communication the result of which would be “a better informed decision about what to do”. Problem based learning might be one of the solutions, because as one of the problem based learning researchers Maggi Savin-Baden (2002, p.3) states: “problem based learning can offer students opportunities to engage with complexity and help them both to see: ambiguity and learn to manage the ambiguities that prevail in professional life”. The latter approach stresses the importance of personal experience which is closely linked with the concept of personal stance identity and autonomy. According to M.Savin-Baden (2002, p. 67) learner experiences and stances can be presented in the 1 and 2 figures.

The term ‘personal stance’ was used by M.Savin-Baden (2002) with the purpose to depict the way in which staff and students see themselves in relation to the learning context and give their own distinctive meaning to their experience of that context. Personal stance encompasses the means of which they discover, differ and place themselves within the problem-based learning environment and express the interplay between what they bring to, and take from their learning experiences. The ways in which people speak about themselves, view their profession, their peers, the facilitator and the institution, their decision making strategies are explored within the conceptual framework of personal stance.
Figure 1 Domains within personal stance (M.Savin-Baden, 2002)
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Personal stance by its way is always transient, inspiring the context of problem-solving and decision making. Personal stance starts with fragmentation domain, which is so characteristic for the initial stage of decision making, because a person has to evaluate rational and emotional aspects of their problem solving and decision making. In ‘fragmentation’ domain students experience challenges to their values and beliefs, which appear to be at risk or are threatened through this challenge and reluctant uncertainty. Educating through problem based learning may challenge students’ current sense of self and their way of both seeing the world and acting within it, “This is because of the way in which problem based learning encourages students to assemble their own body of knowledge and to make decision about what counts as knowledge. This leads to a sense of fragmentation” (M.Savin-Baden, 2002, p.60).

Fragmentation inspires another domain – “discovering my self”. In “discovering my self” domain students’ experiences of self-validation (i.e. the self-reexamination) are the means by which self–discovery occurs. Self-discovery arises through forms of problem–based learning that promote a reflexive search for self–knowledge and self–improvement within students. Alternatively problem based learning may prompt conflict which forces a reappraisal of personal values and re-evaluation of learner identity, at the same time forming the context for building the personal autonomy, the kernel aspect of personal improvement.

One more personal stance is ‘defining my future self’. In this domain students position themselves in the learning context in terms of their view of themselves as future professionals. They seek to understand themselves and the learning they are undertaking in terms of a perceived future role “and they see the material being learned in relation to their future self. The way students place themselves in the learning environment as a future professional governs the possibilities and limits of engagement with the material, the context and other people” (ibid).

The next stance is connected with future perspectives and may be called “placing myself in relation to my life-world”. As M.Savin-Baden (2002, p. 61) states, students gain a heightened understanding of their world and the world of higher and professional education and all that that entails. Learning in a problem based way challenges students to confront the relationship between the previous experiences of their life-world (Habermas, 1989, ibid) and their new experiences emerging from interaction with the objective world. This can lead to new understanding of their own reality, based on problem solving strategies”.

The last personal stance is “re–placing my self: knowing the world differently”. It captures the idea that students are able to frame their learning experiences for themselves, to take up alternative perspectives in order to challenge both themselves and the knowledge society. The analysis of alternative perspectives involves the student into rational communicating with the purpose to make decision. In this stage the personal stance intermingles with interactional stance.

Interactional stance encompasses the way in which students interpret the way they see themselves as individuals, and others with whom they learn, construct meaning in relation to one another. Interactional stance comprises the domains shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2 Domains within interactional stance (M.Savin-Baden, 2002)
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Domain ‘the ethic of individualism’ is characterized by the individual placing himself at the centre of the value system and therefore learning within the group is an activity that is only valuable in terms of personal gain for the individual, i.e. for desired competence formation: in our case decision-making competence formation.

Reality talking’ requires careful listening; it implies a mutually shared agreement that together you are creating the optimum setting so that half-baked ideas can grow. According to M.Savin-Baden (2002) for students in this domain learning in groups is often accompanied by a boost of self esteem and confidence and, as a consequence, a renewed exploration and facilitation of individual learning aspirations. Being in this domain enables students to come to value their personal and propositional knowledge by recognising its value through the perspectives of others.

Domain ‘Connecting experience trough interaction’ according to M.Savin-Baden (2002), is characterized by individual being facilitated through the group process in making sense, through reflection, of his own reality in confronting dilemmas and problems within that reality. Thus, in this domain students use the group to make sense of their world as it appears to be and will use the group to resolve dilemmas and discover meaning in their lives, which helps them to become autonomous.

Transactional dialogue (after Brookfield, 1985) is used to capture the idea that the group serves as an interactive function for the individual. Thus, individual students by making themselves and their learning the focus of reflection and analysis within the group are able to value alternative ways of knowing. Individuals within transactional dialogue domain will use dialogue and argument as an organizing principle in life so that through dialogue they will challenge assumptions, make decisions and rethink goals (M.Savin-Baden, 2002, p. 66).

Problem based learning also provides decision making strategies due to its structural elements and characteristics, which, as it was mentioned, create the conditions for the education of career decision making competence, which are revealed through the Dimensions of Problem Based Learner experience and stances

The very problem situation involves the development of critical thinking competence which is vital for any decision making. Critical thinking enables the analyses of choice contexts which might be presented in the frame of problem situation as well. The analysis of choice contexts leads to the forming of problem solving strategy which is presented in the adequate interaction revealing choice possibilities. At the end the quality of problem solution influences the final decision making. These steps of PBL exercising the Learner’s Experience dimensions may serve as an educational context for the formation of Informed Intuition, the later being the final result of decision-making competence.

Still, K.S.Meredith (2001, p. 26) asserts that in the democratic classes the students and the teachers may see positive and negative consequences of changing positions, perspectives and attitudes with minimum harm for society. Therefore this type of PBL class is a real learning society allowing mistakes and corrections of negative consequences. PBL may be treated as a liberal education (Savin-Baden M.,2002), which is characterized by the goal of autonomy and attention to critical thinking development, despite the related difficulties (T.McLaughlin, 1997, p.169).

As the common concern of the educators is to develop competent school leavers ready for the challenges they are going to encounter as adults, G.Kaminskienė (2002) suggests each school to implement “Preparation to choose a competence model” in such a way that the students could evaluate their desires and studying abilities from grade 1 to grade 10, and in the senior grades 11 – 12 would be able to perceive their further path in the education system or professional activity. In this case PBL might be one of the recommended ties. According to the scientists, for implementing these collaborative actions are necessary between the secondary and higher schools, branches of industry and labour exchange. Therefore contemplating about autonomy and decision-making competence dilemma it is very important that social units interact without dominating over another party and postulating mutual influence and understanding while seeking a decision, acceptable for both parties. This principle encourages defining educational dimensions enabling the person for competent choice of the life path. As K.S.Meredith (2001, p. 24) highlights the school leavers have to be ready not just to survive, but to be happy, live a fruitful and meaningful life.


The solution of personal autonomy dilemma and striving to reach the quality of decision-making is a very complex and wide problem. Ensuring personal autonomy during considerations, of choosing a life path and making decision means ensuring the acquisition of decision-making competence. Thus, while summing up the results of the investigation it is reasonable to point out the following conclusions:

  • Autonomy is not important in itself and it does not exist for itself, but is needed for enabling a person to act independently in a social context presenting the quality of decision-making competence.

  • As learners become aware of the social context they gradually become independent, dispel myths, and can be thought of as 'authors of their own worlds'. Therefore the school and parents task is not to be a decision maker, even with the best knowledge, what the child or the society needs, but to be the best enabler of student autonomy, providing the competence for making the decision.

  • Based on the concept of liberal education, autonomy of the person is one of the social morality values which instilment is part of the moral education task, raised by the secondary school.

  • Problem based learning orientated towards the learner experience dimensions directly deals with the decision making competence, providing the models of career decision-making which include both rational and alternative–to–rational perspectives.

  • When developing the personal autonomy, the basis of competence as well as the competence to make the right decision, all individuals will reach their growth and society with school will nurture the culture of consensus, seek bigger openness of society and political maturity.


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1 Bauman, Z. (1993). A Sociological Theory of Post-modernity. – In: Intimations of Post modernity. – London ant New York. Tonehstone. Cited in R. Grigas, 2001, p. 144.

2 Decision – a choice that you make after thinking carefully: the process of making a choice after thinking carefully, the ability to make choices quickly, confidently, and effectively. Decision–making – the process of deciding what to do about something (Macmillan English dictionary, 2002, p. 359).

Competence – the ability to do something in a satisfactory or effective way: a person’s range of skills or knowledge; a particular skill; competent – capable of doing something in a satisfactory or effective way (Macmillan English dictionary, 2002, p.280)

3 according to research by Barnett (1994), Kirschner (1997), Westera (2001) and P.Jucevičienė, D.Lepaitė (2000), D.Lepaitė (2001).

4 As evidence of this thesis, one of the guidance materials produced in the Vocation Bureau, and titled "Plan of Life" presaged an alternative perspective on career decision involving narrative and constructivism.

5 The theory of Informed Intuition includes the following steps: 1. Set up the decision problem carefully. This requires identifying the goals to be accomplished by your decision and specifying the broad range of possible actions that might accomplish those goals. 2. Reflect on the importance of the different goals. Such reflection will be more emotional and intuitive than just putting a numerical weight on them, but should help you to be more aware of what you care about in the current decision situation. Identify goals whose importance may be exaggerated because of jonesing or other emotional distortions. 3. Examine beliefs about the extent to which various actions would facilitate the different goals. Are these beliefs based on good evidence? If not, revise them. 4. Make your intuitive judgment about the best action to perform, monitoring your emotional reaction to different options. Run your decision past other people to see if it seems reasonable to them.

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