Career development learning framework: DOTS model

Developed by Professor A.G. Watts international policy consultant on career guidance and career development and founding Fellow and Life President of the National Institute for Careers Education and Counselling (UK).

The DOTS framework represents Career Development Learning outcomes. This framework has sustained decades of implementation in the higher education sector, particularly in the United Kingdom.

The DOTS theoretical framework outlined in the UK ‘Careers Education Benchmark Statement’succinctly describes the framework.

‘Although there are different theories and developmental approaches to careers education, the most widely used framework in the UK has evolved from the dynamic relationships between Self, Opportunities, Decisions and Transitions. This framework states that four components are fundamental to careers education:

  • Self-awareness (the ability to identify and articulate motivations, skills and personality as they affect career plans);
  • Opportunity awareness (knowledge of opportunities and the ability to research these);
  • Decision-making (being able to weigh up personal factors to make a sound plan);
  • Transition learning (understanding of how to seek and secure opportunities).

To be effective, these elements need to be dynamically articulated (see Figure 1). That is to say, an individual will need to relate their understanding of themselves to the opportunities available before arriving at and attempting to implement a sound career decision. Indeed, a person may go through many iterations of this cyclical pattern during their lifetime as they progressively revisit their plans.

These components can be delivered flexibly. They can be tailored to a subject or occupational field, or to the needs of special groups such as mature students. Indeed the emphasis upon personal development means that it is possible to use different models (e.g. narrative approaches) to configure a programme of careers education (see case study C). Similarly careers education can also be placed within a wider framework for employability. However, there is a consensus amongst careers educationalists that any theoretical model for the educational process of careers education should be congruent with, and encompass as a minimum, all these four elements, if it is to enable students to implement fully informed and sound career plans.’

Figure 1. The dynamics of career learning