Scholarly article on topic 'An analysis of the vocational education undergraduate students’ levels of assertiveness and problem-solving skills'

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Abstract of research paper on Economics and business, author of scientific article — Mehmet Güven

Abstract This study examines the assertiveness levels and the problem-solving skills of the undergraduate students attending to the different vocational education departments. The sample of the study includes a total of 302 undergraduate students. The data of the study were collected through the use of the Voltan-Acar Assertiveness Inventory and Problem Solving Inventory. The data obtained were analysed using t-tests and ANOVA. The findings reveal that both assertiveness levels and the problem-solving skills of the subjects are not significantly affected by their gender, age, department, the level of satisfaction from the department and the perceived father attitude. However, it is found that the perceived achievement level and satisfaction from peer relationships significantly influences the subjects’ assertiveness levels and their problem-solving skills. Furthermore, it is also determined that increase in the assertiveness levels leads to increase in the problem-solving skills.

Academic research paper on topic "An analysis of the vocational education undergraduate students’ levels of assertiveness and problem-solving skills"

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Procedía Social and Behavioral Sciences 2 (2010) 2064-2070

WCES-2010

An analysis of the vocational education undergraduate students' levels of assertiveness and problem-solving skills

Mehmet Güvena*

aDepartment of Educational Sciences, Vocational Education Faculty, Gazi University, Ankara, 06500, Turkey Received October 16, 2009; revised December 25, 2009; accepted January 8, 2010

Abstract

This study examines the assertiveness levels and the problem-solving skills of the undergraduate students attending to the different vocational education departments. The sample of the study includes a total of 302 undergraduate students. The data of the study were collected through the use of the Voltan-Acar Assertiveness Inventory and Problem Solving Inventory. The data obtained were analysed using t-tests and ANOVA. The findings reveal that both assertiveness levels and the problem-solving skills of the subjects are not significantly affected by their gender, age, department, the level of satisfaction from the department and the perceived father attitude. However, it is found that the perceived achievement level and satisfaction from peer relationships significantly influences the subjects' assertiveness levels and their problem-solving skills. Furthermore, it is also determined that increase in the assertiveness levels leads to increase in the problem-solving skills. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Assertiveness; problem solving; undergraduate student; vocational education; counselling; guidance.

1. Introduction

For individuals to be satisfied with interpersonal relationships and life, hormonius relationships are very significant. One of the basic characteristis of such behavior is to be respectful for the others' rights and to protect one's own rights. Efficient communication requires assertively expression of one's feelings without being aggressive and withdrawn. Assertiveness refers to interpersonal relationships without neglecting the others and allowing individuals to protect their individuals (Voltan-Acar, 2008). An assertive conduct calls for the equality in regard to the interpersonal relationships and also, allows for individuals to behave in accordance with their own interests, defend themselves, express honestly and freely their own feelings and to make use of their own rights without violating the others' rights in a manner indepently of unnecessary concerns (Alberti ve Emmos, 1998).

The problem-solving skill is also significant for having healthy interpersonal relationships. Individuals may come across several problems during their life span. A problem is defined as a conflict resulting from not being succesful in reaching an objective (Morgan, 1999) or as barriers or difficulties experienced while attempting to change a situation into more desired one (Stevens, 1998). Cuceloglu (1993) states that a problem occurs when there are barriers in front of an objective. Ogulmu§ (2006) argues that a problematic situation has certain characteristics as

* Mehmet Güven. Tel.: +090-312-2162966; fax: +090-312-2123640 E-mail address: mehmetguven@gazi.edu.tr

1877-0428 © 2010 Published by Elsevier Ltd. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2010.03.282

follows: a difference between the actual situation and projected situation, awareness or perception about his difference, tension resulting from this difference, attempts to eliminate this tension and barriers against this attempt. Individuals inevitably meet various barriers, difficulties, conflicts and problems. The significant point is having necessary skills to deal with and solve them.

University education period is significant for young people in regard to be prepared for the future life and occupational life. It is also significant for young people to acquire assertiveness and problem-solving skills. Particularly, undergraduate students attending to various vocational educational departments need to be assertive in order to search for job opportunities, perceive themselves sufficient during the job interviews and to realize their occupational potentials. They also need to have the problem-solving skills to deal with the problems they experience. In order to assist the students in terms of both assertiveness and problem-solving skills, the current levels of students' assertiveness and problem-solving skills should be examined. Therefore, this study examines the assertiveness levels and the problem-solving skills of the undergraduate students attending to the vocational education departments in relation to several variables and the interaction between assertiveness and problem-solving skills.

2. Method

2.1. Participants: The participants of the study are a total of 302 undergraduate students attending to various departments of the vocational education faculty of Gazi University during the summer semester of the academic year of 2008-2009. 223 of the subjects are females (73.84%) whereas 79 are males (26.16%).

2.2. Data collection tools

2.2.1. Voltan-Acar Assertiveness Inventory: This inventory is developed by Voltan-Acar and Ogretmen (2007) to assess the undergraduate students' assertiveness. There are a total of 28 items of which seventeen items are about withdrawn conduct and eleven items about assertiveness. The minimal score is 28 while maximum score 168. Voltan-Acar and Ogretmen (2007) found that internal consistency coefficent for the withdrawn dimension is 0.83 and for the assertiveness dimension it is 0.78 and overall internal consistency coefficent is 0.87. test-retest reliability coefficent is found to be 0.78 (Voltan-Acar, Aricioglu, Gultekin and Gengtanirim, 2008).

2.2.2. Problem Solving Inventory: This inventory was originally developed by Heppner and Petersen (1982) and adapted to the context of the Turkish culture by Taylan (1990) and §ahin, §ahin and Heppner (1993). The scale includes 35 items which are both positive and negative, and 32 items are taken into evaluation. The minimal score is 32, while the maximum score is 192. Higher scores on the scale refer to the lower levels of perception in regard to problem-solving skills. Test-retest reliability coefficient is found to be 0.86 (Taylan, 1990). Its Cronbach alpha correlation coefficient is found to be 0.88 and the reliability coefficient that is determined through the division of the test into two parts is found to be 0. 81 (Sava§ir and §ahin, 1997).

2.2.3. Demographic Form: The information about the independent variables of the study, namely gender, age, department, satisfaction from the department, perceived achievement level, peer relationships, parental attitude and participation in social and cultural activities, were collected through the use of the demographic form developed by the author.

2.3. Data analysis: The SPSS 16.0 was employed for the statistical analysis of the data. Specifically, t-test, ANOVA and the Pearson correlation coefficent were used.

3. Findings

The assertiveness levels and the problem-solving skills of the subjects in relation to the independent variables mentioned above are found as follows.

Table 1. t-test results in regard to the assertiveness and problem-solving scores based on gender

Dependent variables Gender N Mean Std. Dev. t p

Assertiveness Female 223 116.00 20.04 0.45 0.652

Male 79 114.84 18.30

Problem Solving Female 223 90.28 20.95 -1.21 0.226

Male 79 93.48 17.57

As shown in Table 1, there is no significant difference in the mean assertiveness score (t=0.45, p>.05) and in the mean problem-solving score (t=-1.21, p>.05) based on gender. Table 2 shows the subjects scores on assertiveness and problem-solving in relation to their ages.

Table 2. ANOVA results in regard to the assertiveness and problem-solving scores based on age

Dependent variables Age N Mean Std. Dev. F p

Assertiveness 19-20 41 117.76 19.15 1.69 0.150

21-22 131 114.76 20.10

23-24 79 112.72 19.58

25-26 34 119.88 18.32

27+ 17 123.35 16.87

Problem Solving 19-20 41 88.73 23.34 2.31 0.057

21-22 131 93.64 19.48

23-24 79 89.15 20.70

25-26 34 94.26 18.52

27+ 17 80.29 12.72

Table 2 indicates that there is no significant difference in the mean assertiveness score (F=1.69, p>.05) and in the mean problem-solving score (F=2.31, p>.05) based on the age of the subjects.

Table 3. ANOVA results in regard to the assertiveness and problem-solving scores based on subjects' departments

Dependent variables Departments N Mean Std. Dev. F p

Assertiveness Home economy and nutrition 73 118.74 17.61 1.21 0.304

Child development 45 116.64 20.60

Hand crafts 74 113.01 19.16

Clothing industry 67 112.73 21.49

Hairdressing and beauty 26 119.81 19.14

Applied arts 17 117.12 18.68

Problem Solving Home economy and nutrition 73 91.91 19.09 0.39 0.855

Child development 45 89.26 21.08

Hand crafts 74 90.66 19.83

Clothing industry 67 91.13 22.34

Hairdressing and beauty 26 89.69 18.55

Applied arts 17 96.70 18.20

As shown in Table 3, there is no significant difference in the mean assertiveness score (F=1.21, p>.05) and in the mean problem-solving score (F=0.39, p>.05) based on the subjects' departments.

Table 4. ANOVA results in regard to the assertiveness and problem-solving scores based on subjects' satisfaction

from their departments

Dependent variables Satisfaction levels N Mean Std. Dev. F p

Assertiveness Satisfied 90 117.86 18.69 0.81 0.442

Partially satisfied 161 114.98 19.00

Dissatisfied 51 114.12 22.73

Problem Solving Satisfied 90 89.44 21.53 0.61 0.543

Partially satisfied 161 92.28 19.76

Dissatisfied 51 90.39 18.93

Table 4 displays that there is no significant difference in the mean assertiveness score (F=0.81, p>.05) and in the mean problem-solving score (F=0.61, p>.05) based on the subjects satisfaction from their departments.

Table 5. ANOVA results in regard to the assertiveness and problem-solving scores based on subjects' perceived

achievement levels

Dependent variables_Perceived achievement_N_Mean_Std. Dev._F

levels

Assertiveness Very good 24 125.71 17.14 2.81 0.040

Good 143 114.41 19.39

Not bad 114 116.11 19.86

Not good 21 110.76 19.25

Problem Solving Very good 24 77.16 20.17 4.51 0.004

Good 143 91.44 20.03

Not bad 114 93.36 19.24

Not good 21 92.61 20.83

Table 5 shows that there is a statistically significant difference both in the mean assertiveness score (F=2.81, p<.05) and in the mean problem-solving score (F=4.51, p<.01) based on the subjects' perceived achievement. In order to identify which groups have significant different, the Tukey test was used. It is found that mean assertiveness score of the group with the perceived achievement of "very good" is higher than that of the group with the perceived achievement of "good" (p<.05). In regard to the mean problem-solving scores, the results of the Tukey test reveal that mean problem-solving score of the group with the perceived achievement of "very good" is higher than those of the groups with the perceived achievement of "good", "not bad" and "not good" (p<.05).

Table 6. ANOVA results in regard to the assertiveness and problem-solving scores based on subjects' satisfaction

from peer relationships

Dependent variables Peer relationships N Mean Std. Dev. F p

Assertiveness Satisfied 161 120.45 18.05 11.05 0.000

Partially satisfied 119 110.66 19.97

Dissatisfied 22 108.05 19.73

Problem Solving Satisfied 161 87.69 20.00 5.45 0.005

Partially satisfied 119 94.44 20.09

Dissatisfied 22 98.18 17.23

Table 6 shows that there is a statistically significant difference both in the mean assertiveness score (F=11.05, p<.001) and in the mean problem-solving score (F=5.45, p<.01) based on the subjects' satisfaction from the peer relationships. The results of the Tukey test indicate that mean assertiveness scores of the subjects who are satisfied from their peer relationships are higher than those of the subjects who are partly satisfied or not satisfied from their peer relationships. In regard to the mean problem-solving scores, the results of the Tukey test indicate that there is a statistically significant difference between the mean scores of the subjects who are satisfied from the peer relationships and those of the subjects who are partly satisfied from the peer relationships (p<.05).

Table 7. ANOVA results in regard to the assertiveness and problem-solving scores based on subjects' perceptions about their mothers' attitude

Dependent variables Mothers' attitude N Mean Std. Dev. F p

Assertiveness Democratic 237 117.43 19.08 4.44 0.013

Authoritarian 46 109.50 20.21

Indifferent 19 109.00 20.70

Problem Solving Democratic 237 90.26 19.88 1.36 0.256

Authoritarian 46 92.86 21.25

Indifferent 19 97.57 20.38

Table 7 displays that there is a statistically significant difference between the mean assertiveness score (F=4.44, p<.05) and the subjects' perceived mother attitude while there is no significant difference between the mean problem-solving score and the subjects' perceived mother attitude. The results of the Tukey test clearly indicate that those students who perceive their mother as democratic have higher levels of assertiveness in contrast to those of the students who perceive their mothers as authoritarian (p<.05).

Table 8. ANOVA results in regard to the assertiveness and problem-solving scores based on subjects' perceptions about their fathers' attitude

Dependent variables_Father attitude_N_Mean_Std. Dev._F_p_

Assertiveness Democratic 205 116.15 19.79 0.74 0.475

Authoritarian 65 113.23 20.27

Indifferent 32 117.75 16.63

Problem Solving Democratic 205 90.61 20.45 0.41 0.662

Authoritarian 65 91.24 18.93

Indifferent 32 94.09 20.89

Table 8 shows that there is no significant difference in the mean assertiveness score (F=0.74, p>.05) and in the mean problem-solving score (F=0.41, p>.05) based on the subjects' perceived.

Table 9. ANOVA results in regard to the assertiveness and problem-solving scores based on subjects' participation in the social and cultural activities

Dependent variables Participation levels N Mean Std. Dev. F p

Assertiveness Active participant 63 123.68 19.80 7.01 0.001

Audience 146 113.11 18.75

Indifferent 93 114.33 19.47

Problem Solving Active participant 63 86.52 21.19 2.12 0.121

Audience 146 92.61 18.84

Indifferent 93 91.88 21.15

Table 9 displays that there is a statistically significant difference between the mean assertiveness score (F=7.01, p<. 01) and their participation in the social and cultural activities, while the mean problem-solving score is not affected by this participation. The Tukey test reveals that those students who are active participants of such activities have higher levels of assertiveness in comparison to those who are just audiences or indifferent to these activities (p<.05).

The correlation between the subjects' levels of assertiveness and their problem-solving skills is calculated through the use of the Pearson Moments Correlation Coefficient and it is found that there is a negative significant correlation between the subjects' levels of assertiveness and their problem-solving skills (r=-0.433, p<.01). Since the higher problem-solving score refers to lower levels of problem-solving skills, this finding indicates that increase in the assertiveness levels leads to increase in the problem-solving skills.

4. Discussion

The findings of the study suggest that assertiveness does not significantly vary based on the gender of the subjects. There are mixed evidence on the relationship between assertiveness and the gender. More specifically, although there are several findings in parallel to our finding, there are also opposite findings in the related literature. Becet (1989), Ugur (1996), Goru§ (1999), Onur (2006), Voltan-Acar et. al. (2008) also concludes that the levels of assertiveness do not vary based on gender. However, some studies suggest that males are much more assertive than females (An, 1989; Aydin, 1991; Aksakal, 1997; Kaya, 2001) and the other studies argue that females are much more assertive than males (Ugurluoglu, 1996; Deniz, 1997; Yektatalab, 2009). Therefore, it is difficult to provide a definite assumption on the effects of the gender on the levels of assertiveness.

Similarly, the gender is not found to have significant effects on the subjects' problem-solving skills. The previous findings (Basmaci, 1998; Taylan, 1990; Saygili, 2000; Gultekin 2006) are in parallel to the current finding. The reason for determining no effect of the gender on the levels of assertiveness and the problem-solving skills may be a result of the fact that in the today's world, women actively participate in the occupational domains leading to increase in their self-confidence. Moreover, university education seems to have the effect on the elimination or reduction of this difference.

The other major finding of the study is that age has no effect on the levels of assertiveness and the problemsolving skills. Gôruç (1999) and Onur (2006) also found that the age has no effects on the levels of assertiveness. The reason for the current finding may be due to the fact that the ages of the participants are close to one another.

Neither the department of the subjects nor their satisfactions from their department have any effects on their levels of assertiveness and problem-solving skills. The reason for this finding may be that the participants of the study are mostly graduates of the vocational high schools.

In regard to the perceived academic achievement, it is found that those students who perceive their achievement at the level of "very good" have both higher levels of assertiveness and higher levels of problem-solving skills. Ugurluoglu (1996) and Gemi (1997) also found a positive correlation between achievement and assertiveness. Therefore, it can be argued that the higher level of assertiveness positively affects academic achievement.

The study suggests that those participants who are satisfied from their peer relationships have higher levels of assertiveness and of problem-solving skills. Gemi (1997) similarly suggests that increase in the satisfaction from the peer relationships leads to increase in the levels of assertiveness. It is an expected result that the higher levels of assertiveness and problem-solving skills have positive influence on the peer relationships.

It is also found that student perceptions about their fathers' attitude do not have any effect on their levels of assertiveness and problem-solving skills. However, those students who perceive their mother as having a democratic attitude are found to have higher levels of assertiveness in contrast to those who perceive their mothers as having an authoritarian attitude. Becet (1989), Saruhan (1996), Voltan-Acar et. al. (2008) concludes that those individuals who perceive their parents as having democratic attitude are much more assertive than those who perceive their parents as having an authoritarian attitude. These findings are consistent with the recent finding on the students' perception about their mothers' attitude. The parental attitudes are very significant for people's personality development as well as for their preparation for the future life. The parents are models for their children in regard to assertive conduct. Furthermore, they can contribute to the development of the assertiveness in their children.

The findings of the study indicate that the students who are active participants of the social and cultural activities have higher levels of assertiveness in contrast to those who are just audiences of such activities or who are indifferent to them. Gemi (1997) found that increases in the level of participation in the extra curricular activities leads to increase in the level of assertiveness. Thus, this finding is consistent with the recent finding. It may be that assertive students have higher tendency to take part in social and cultural activities. Furthermore, active participation in such events may positively contribute to their levels of assertiveness.

The other significant finding of the study is that higher the level of assertiveness contributes to higher levels of problem-solving skills. It is a natural result. Because assertiveness allows for the development of other social skills, for making use of the opportunities, for being more successful in the social life as well as for having better communication skills (Voltan-Acar et. al., 2008). Thus, it is safe to argue that assertive individuals have better problem-solving skills.

5. Conclusion and Recommendation

The findings of the study reveal that both assertiveness levels and the problem-solving skills of the subjects are not significantly affected by their gender, age, department, the level of satisfaction from the department and the perceived father attitude. However, it is found that the perceived achievement level and satisfaction from peer relationships significantly influence the subjects' assertiveness levels and their problem-solving skills. More specifically, those participants who perceive their achievement as "very good" and are satisfied with their peer relationships have higher levels of assertiveness and problem-solving skills in contrast to the other participants. On the other hand, the students who perceive their mothers as having a democratic attitude and actively participate in the social and cultural activities also have higher levels of assertiveness. It is also found that the level of assertiveness is significantly correlated with the level of problem-solving skill, suggesting that increase in assertiveness leads to increase in problem-solving skills. Based on the findings of the study, the followings can be suggested to consider:

• Students may be offered training activities to improve their assertiveness and problem-solving skills.

• Students may be provided with meaningful social and cultural activities to improve their personal development and they can be encouraged to take part in such activities.

• Training activities can be organized by the school counseling and guidance services to improve the assertiveness and problem-solving skills towards students and their parents.

• Longitudinal studies may be performed to identify the effects of university education on the students' levels of assertiveness and problem-solving skills.

• Similar studies on different students groups may be carried out and the results obtained can be compared.

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