JILPT Research Report No.182
Research and Development of the “Workshop for Visualization of Vocational Counseling Skills―‘Kan’ and ‘Kotsu’”:
Training Research that incorporates cognitive task analysis

May 31, 2016


Research Objective

The “Workshop for ‘Visualization’ of Vocational Counseling Skills―Kan and Kotsu(Note1)” (referred to below as “Kan-Kotsu Workshop”) is a training program that aims to improve vocational counseling skills at the workplace by “verbalizing” important decision-making behind the responses made by personnel assigned to vocational counseling (“career consultant”), and sharing them with other career consultants. So far, 18 training courses including the Kan-Kotsu Workshop have been held by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW), Prefectural Labour Bureaus, local employment support organizations, the Japan Institute for Labour Policy and Training, etc., and 365 career consultants have taken part in it.

The aim of this report was to ascertain the extent to which participants in the Kan-Kotsu Workshop acquired information and knowhow that will be useful in promoting vocational counseling services, based on questionnaire surveys for the participants. The results were used to study improvements designed to promote the use of the Kan-Kotsu Workshop. Based on this study, Manual Ver.3.0 of the Kan-Kotsu Workshop was developed with the aim of wider use by personnel involved in counseling work in general (Ver2.0 is incorporated in this report).

Research Method

To Research and develop the Kan-Kotsu Workshop, we first studied the application of cognitive task analysis to vocational counseling training programs― [Research]. Cognitive task analysis is an analytical method that focuses on workers’ decision-making and other “mental” activity in their jobs, and the mechanism of this activity. By applying this method, we developed a “Kan-Kotsu interview” as an interview technique that “verbalizes” the skills active in vocational counseling, based on specific experiences of career consultants. Next, we developed a training program for sharing important judgments and choices in vocational counseling among career consultants, incorporating the fundamental concept and methods of this Kan-Kotsu interview. We then implemented this training program in training courses for career consultants held at “Hello Work” (public employment security offices) and elsewhere― [Training]. We conducted a questionnaire survey aimed at participants in the training program, asked how far they had been able to obtain information and knowhow useful in promoting vocational counseling services, and studied the usefulness of the training program that was made for practical situations― [Practice]. By repeating this cycle of Research → Training → Practice, we will Research and develop more effective training programs that apply the fundamental concept and method of cognitive task analysis, and through practice, promote further improvements to vocational counseling.

Main Findings

  1. To ascertain the effects of the training program, we asked participants to take part in a questionnaire survey after the end of the program. In order to understand these effects in terms of the participants’ individual attributes, we targeted our analysis at nine training courses in which the questionnaire survey had included questions about individual attributes. As the breakdown of these nine courses, four were held by MHLW, another four by Prefectural Labour Bureaus and one by the Japan Institute for Labour Policy and Training. A total of 191 participants took part in the training program.
  2. To ascertain the effects of the training program, we asked “Are you satisfied to have experienced the training?” (referred to below as “Satisfaction with training”), “Have you obtained hints for ‘verbalizing’ vocational counseling skills?” (“Understanding of cognitive task analysis”), “Have you acquired information and knowhow useful in promoting vocational counseling services?” (“Acquisition of useful information and knowhow”). Answers were chosen from five options ranging from “No (Negative)” to “Yes (Positive)”. As a result, the three areas of “Satisfaction with training”, “Understanding of cognitive task analysis” and “Acquisition of useful information and knowhow” were all evaluated positively by almost 100.0% of the participants, as shown in the Figure. In other words, the participants seem to have been satisfied with a training program that incorporates cognitive task analysis, to have understood cognitive task analysis, and to have obtained useful information and knowhow for vocational counseling work. Although it has previously been assumed that cognitive task analysis should be carried out by experts, these results suggest that cognitive task analysis can be used by coworkers in the workplace, rather than by experts in cognitive tasks.

Figure: Effectiveness of the Training Program

Image, figure
  1. Besides this, we also studied the effectiveness of the Kan-Kotsu Workshop in terms of participants’ individual attributes, group formation, and the composition of the training program. The result was that all (or nearly all) of the participants evaluated the effectiveness of the Kan-Kotsu Workshop positively in nearly all compositional categories.
  2. To compare the degrees of positive evaluation, on the effectiveness of the Workshop, the proportion of “Yes (Positive)” responses was more than 70% for “Satisfaction with training” (73.8%), but lower at around 60% for “Understanding of cognitive task analysis” (61.8%) and less than 60% for “Acquisition of useful information and knowhow” (57.1%). The degree of positive evaluation seems to be higher in “Satisfaction with training” in general, but tends to be lower with “Understanding of cognitive task analysis”, i.e. obtaining knowledge and “Acquisition of useful information and knowhow” for practical situations.
  3. Viewing the ratios of “Yes (Positive)” answers by gender, “Females” were all higher than “Males”, in “Satisfaction with training”, “Understanding of cognitive task analysis” and “Acquisition of useful information and knowhow”, by 10.2 points, 3.7 points and 13.6 points, respectively. By age group, for the acquisition of knowledge in “Understanding of cognitive task analysis” and “Acquisition of useful information and knowhow” for practical situations, the proportion of positive answers were less than 60% among respondents in their “40s”, at 58.0% and 50.0%, respectively. This was notably lower than in other age groups, where the ratio was around 60% or more. These results are expected to serve as useful data when considering combinations of gender and age groups. For example, considering synergistic effects between participants, care could be taken not to include too many “male” participants or participants in their “40s” in the groups.
  4. The 181 participants who responded positively to “Acquisition of useful information and knowhow” were asked “What sort of information and knowhow was acquired?”, and were asked to give specific answers. The response rate was 96.6%. As a result, the most common answer was “Awareness and understanding of vocational counseling skills (kan and kotsu)” (62.9%), followed by “Information and knowhow on other career consultants and workplaces” (24.8%), “Understanding of knowhow for clarifying vocational counseling skills” (15.4%) and “Understanding of the merits of clarifying vocational counseling skills” (12.7%). Both of the last two are related to knowhow for clarifying skills (kan and kotsu). The total ratio of those two groups who responded either “Understanding of the knowhow or merits of clarifying vocational counseling skills (kan and kotsu)” was 25.1%, which accounted for the same 20% range as “Information and knowhow on other career consultants and workplaces”.

Policy Implications

By using this program to train career consultant at “Hello Work” and elsewhere, it may be possible to share tacit knowledge of vocational counseling accumulated through experience by individual career consultants in the workplace, thereby helping to improve the quality of vocational counseling.

Policy Contribution

  1. On September 5, 2014, August 28, 2015, and September 4, 2015, “Leader Navigator Training” was held at MHLW for Employment Support Navigators in “Hello Work”. At the training, group work incorporating the method of cognitive task analysis developed under this Research project was undertaken with the aim of sharing and improving the skills and knowhow of employment support navigators.
  2. The “Kan-Kotsu” interview method in this Research project was used in the “Project to Develop Support Tools for Judging the Employment Readiness of Socially Disadvantaged Persons”, a project commissioned by MHLW in FY2014. Specifically, it was used to Research viewpoints, standards and other factors needed for judging the general employment readiness of welfare recipients and others, when a welfare office or similar has issued a support request to a “Hello Work” office. We contributed to the development of a “Checklist on the Employment Readiness of Socially Disadvantaged Persons to Ensure Smooth Support at Hello Work Offices” (the outcome of the above project) as well as a “Manual for Use” of the checklist.
  3. In the “Project for Development of Employment Support Methods for the Socially Disadvantaged”, a project commissioned by MHLW in FY2015, we clarified methods of effective employment support by navigators for welfare recipients and others, by identifying issues in employment support under the “Project to Promote Employment Independence of Welfare Recipients and Others”, as well as collecting and analyzing actual cases of support, etc. In the project, the “Kan-Kotsu” interview was used to Research what sort of judgments and choices were made by employment support navigators in situations that they feel difficult to deal with. This contributed to the development and compilation of “What to do in such a situation? – Collection of methods of responding to difficult situations in the employment support of socially disadvantaged persons”, the outcome of that project.

Main Text (only available in Japanese)

Research Category

Project Research: “Survey Research on Lifelong Career Formation Support and Employment Promotion”
Subtheme: “Survey Research on Matching and Consulting to Materialize Employment and Hiring”

Research Period

FY2012 – FY2015


Senior Researcher, The Japan Institute for Labour Policy and Training

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