Collaborative action research and school counselors.Collaborative action research is an effective tool for helping school counselors A school counselor is a counselor and educator who works in schools, and have historically been referred to as "guidance counselors" or "educational counselors," although "Professional School Counselor" is now the preferred term. to strengthen the link between practice and research. Action research methods for school counselors are summarized, and a model for collaborative action research linking counselor training and school counselor practitioners is presented. The model is based on ongoing action research projects currently being carried out in several school districts. Examples of action research projects based on this model are illustrated.
Research and school counseling have had a rather rocky relationship to date. Like other academic disciplines, and as a specialization A career option pursued by some attorneys that entails the acquisition of detailed knowledge of, and proficiency in, a particular area of law.
As the law in the United States becomes increasingly complex and covers a greater number of subjects, more and more attorneys are within the field of counseling, school counseling is assumed to have an important relationship with a scientific way of knowing (Heppner, Kivlighan, & Wampold, 1992). Research is considered essential as a means of "controlled inquiry" (Heppner et al., p. 8) in which the counseling profession is able to advance its understanding of all aspects of the counseling experience. Yet concerns regarding the relationship between research and school counseling go back more than 40 years (Bauman Bauman is a surname and may refer to:
Swift-moving, slim marine game fish (Rachycentron canadum), the only member of the family Rachycentridae. Found in most warm oceans, this voracious predator may grow as long as 6 ft (1.8 m) and weigh 150 lbs (70 kg) or more. , 1990; Sexton sex·ton
An employee or officer of a church who is responsible for the care and upkeep of church property and sometimes for ringing bells and digging graves. , 1996). Others have expressed serious concern regarding the lack of school counseling research (Lee & Workman WORKMAN. One who labors, one who is employed to do business for another.
2. The obligations of a workman are to perform the work he has undertaken to do; to do it in proper time; to do it well to employ the things furnished him according to his contract. , 1992; Loesch, 1988; Whiston Whiston is the name of several places in England:
For school counselors as well as counselor educators, there is some urgency attached to addressing this split between practice and inquiry. Whiston and Sexton (1998) described the growing significance of counseling outcome research to daily practice in school counseling. They tied this significance in large part to the increasing pressure for accountability in counseling interventions and programs. The 1997 publication of the National Standards for School Counseling Programs was a clear indication that the future of school counseling would be tied to the larger school reform movement with its emphasis on accountability and standards (Campbell Campbell, city, United States
Campbell, city (1990 pop. 36,048), Santa Clara co., W Calif., in the fertile Santa Clara valley; founded 1885, inc. 1952. & Dahir Dahir can refer to:
People with the surname Isaacs:
ASCA Australian Shepherd Club of America
ASCA Arab Society of Certified Accountants
ASCA American Swimming Coaches Association
ASCA American Society of Consulting Arborists
ASCA Association of State Correctional Administrators National Model[R] (American American, river, 30 mi (48 km) long, rising in N central Calif. in the Sierra Nevada and flowing SW into the Sacramento River at Sacramento. The discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill (see Sutter, John Augustus) along the river in 1848 led to the California gold rush of School Counselor Association, 2003) incorporates data collection and data analysis into the management system of the school counseling program and asserts that "school counselors should be proficient pro·fi·cient
Having or marked by an advanced degree of competence, as in an art, vocation, profession, or branch of learning.
An expert; an adept. in the collection, analysis and interpretation of student achievement and related data" (p. 49). In a larger context, Gysbers (2004) has cautioned that we not forget that accountability always has been a part of school counseling. Although we may need to sharpen sharp·en
tr. & intr.v. sharp·ened, sharp·en·ing, sharp·ens
To make or become sharp or sharper.
sharp our focus on issues of accountability tied to the new programmatic pro·gram·mat·ic
1. Of, relating to, or having a program.
2. Following an overall plan or schedule: a step-by-step, programmatic approach to problem solving.
3. focus for school counseling, we should not lose sight of the accountability standards and frameworks for counseling and guidance created in the past.
Despite recent progress, however, little hard evidence of a large-scale large-scale
1. Large in scope or extent.
2. Drawn or made large to show detail.
1. wide-ranging or extensive
2. commitment to a renewed emphasis on research can be found within school counseling. Representing important new initiatives are research-oriented centers that encourage university-practitioner collaboration Working together on a project. See collaborative software. and focus attention on researching school reform and school counseling as well as outcomes in school counseling (e.g., Seattle Pacific University's Washington School Many schools are named Washington School including:
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. Whiston (2002), the profession of school counseling is "at risk because we do not have substantial research showing that school counseling programs produce positive results for children" (p. 152).
How can school counseling address the risk? As an initial step, Whiston (1996) argued that counselors need to develop an awareness that "practice and research are not two mutually exclusive Adj. 1. mutually exclusive - unable to be both true at the same time
incompatible - not compatible; "incompatible personalities"; "incompatible colors" activities" (p. 616). She advocated action research as a way to bridge the gap between counseling practice and research. Anecdotal evidence anecdotal evidence,
n information obtained from personal accounts, examples, and observations. Usually not considered scientifically valid but may indicate areas for further investigation and research. from school counselors often indicates a lack of site or district data linked to counseling outcomes. In addition, in some states school counselors using data and working to initiate site-based changes in counseling programs anecdotally report leering leer
intr.v. leered, leer·ing, leers
To look with a sidelong glance, indicative especially of sexual desire or sly and malicious intent.
A desirous, sly, or knowing look. frustrated frus·trate
tr.v. frus·trat·ed, frus·trat·ing, frus·trates
a. To prevent from accomplishing a purpose or fulfilling a desire; thwart: and isolated in their efforts (L. Whitson, personal communication, August 2003). Action research, and in particular collaborative action research, can address both conditions.
Although some researchers in counseling and education will continue to pursue basic research, the trend within education and psychology research circles increasingly has been to orient o·ri·ent
1. To locate or place in a particular relation to the points of the compass.
2. To align or position with respect to a point or system of reference.
3. the work toward applied research (Hadley & Mitchell Mitchell, city (1990 pop. 13,798), seat of Davison co., SE S.Dak.; inc. 1881. Mitchell is a trade, distribution, and shipping center for a dairy and livestock area. , 1995; Mertens, 1998; Merrier & Charles, 2005). Action research is a form of applied research tied to the efforts of practitioners to improve their practice (Sagor, 1992). This form of research utilizes the scientific method of fact-finding, yet its distinguishing characteristic Noun 1. distinguishing characteristic - an odd or unusual characteristic
distinctive feature, peculiarity
characteristic, feature - a prominent attribute or aspect of something; "the map showed roads and other features"; "generosity is one of his best is the linkage linkage
In mechanical engineering, a system of solid, usually metallic, links (bars) connected to two or more other links by pin joints (hinges), sliding joints, or ball-and-socket joints to form a closed chain or a series of closed chains. of grassroots activity with educational improvement (Gillies, 1993). Although action research has been discussed as a methodology more often in education (e.g., Arhar, Holly, & Kasten, 2001; Johnson, 2005; Sagor, 1992), it has received some attention in the school counseling literature (Gillies; Pine, 1981; Ponte, 1995; Zinck & Littrell, 2000) and counseling in general (Whiston, 1996). Collaborative action research involving counselor educators, preservice school counselors, and practicing school counselors may help overcome the current dearth of school counseling research and generate greater practitioner interest and involvement in research in general and outcome research in particular.
The purpose of this article is to examine a model for collaborative action research in school counseling. The model involves research collaboration among graduate students in school counseling, counselor educators, and practicing school counselors, and dissemination dissemination Medtalk The spread of a pernicious process–eg, CA, acute infection Oncology Metastasis, see there of research findings through an annual forum. The author developed the model as part of a course in school counseling. This article describes the model, presents examples of completed collaborative action research projects, and summarizes the use of the model with local schools and school districts.
Since 1997, there has been a great deal of activity in California California (kăl'ĭfôr`nyə), most populous state in the United States, located in the Far West; bordered by Oregon (N), Nevada and, across the Colorado River, Arizona (E), Mexico (S), and the Pacific Ocean (W). in an effort to address the generally deplorable de·plor·a·ble
1. Worthy of severe condemnation or reproach: a deplorable act of violence.
2. state of school counseling in the state (e.g., last in the nation in per-pupil spending on student support services support services Psychology Non-health care-related ancillary services–eg, transportation, financial aid, support groups, homemaker services, respite services, and other services [EdSource, 1999], inadequate state department of education resources to support the work of the state's 6,000 school counselors, 50% of the state's school districts without school counselors). Activities have included (a) organizing a joint legislative advocacy task force by leaders of the state school counseling and counselor education and supervision associations (Rowell & Lawyer, 1997); (b) creating a statewide network of counselor leadership academies (C. D. Johnson, personal communication, June 15, 2002); (c) drafting school counseling legislation (Rowell, 1998a); and (d) initiating local efforts to encourage school districts to adopt the National Standards for School Counseling Programs (Campbell & Dahir, 1997) (e.g., San Diego San Diego (săn dēā`gō), city (1990 pop. 1,110,549), seat of San Diego co., S Calif., on San Diego Bay; inc. 1850. San Diego includes the unincorporated communities of La Jolla and Spring Valley. Coronado is across the bay. County Office of Education, 2000). Numerous workshops and trainings have been held around the state to promote adoption of the National Standards and the ASCA National Model (2003) and to strengthen skills in program development and program evaluation Program evaluation is a formalized approach to studying and assessing projects, policies and program and determining if they 'work'. Program evaluation is used in government and the private sector and it's taught in numerous universities. (Rowell, 1998b).
Taken together, these activities have represented a determined effort on the part of school counselors and counselor educators in the state to recover from legislative and fiscal blows delivered to school counselors and other student support providers over the past several decades. In particular, in the period from 1979 to 1989, California school districts "sought to reduce expenditures in all ancillary Subordinate; aiding. A legal proceeding that is not the primary dispute but which aids the judgment rendered in or the outcome of the main action. A descriptive term that denotes a legal claim, the existence of which is dependent upon or reasonably linked to a main claim. services including guidance and counseling guidance and counseling, concept that institutions, especially schools, should promote the efficient and happy lives of individuals by helping them adjust to social realities. " (Association for the Improvement of Secondary Education, 1989, p. 1). Many districts eliminated counseling altogether and others replaced credentialed cre·den·tial
1. That which entitles one to confidence, credit, or authority.
2. credentials Evidence or testimonials concerning one's right to credit, confidence, or authority: counselors with paraprofessional paraprofessional
1. a person who is specially trained in a particular field or occupation to assist a veterinarian.
2. allied animal health professional.
3. pertaining to a paraprofessional. guidance aides and academic advisors (R. Pyle, personal communication, August 2001).
When the author of this article looked within the county in which his university is located, it was evident that almost no data existed on the state of school counseling in the county's 43 school districts. A preliminary review of data from the California Department of Education The California Department of Education is a California agency that oversees public education. The Department oversees funding, testing, and holds local educational agencies accountable for student achievement. did reveal that 29 of the 43 districts (67%) in the county had at least one school counselor, including 10 of 26 elementary districts, 9 of 11 unified districts, and 5 of 6 high school districts (Rowell, 1999). However, no data existed regarding the current status or quality of the counseling programs within those districts or the impact of counseling interventions at school sites or within districts. This indicated a need for a local school-counseling database. In addition, anecdotal evidence from local school counselors revealed frustration and isolation among those attempting to initiate change in their counseling programs at the site or district level and pointed to the need for a focal point focal point
See focus. for local efforts to strengthen school counseling and advocate for change.
Furthermore, the author, as an instructor in the university's school counseling program management course, sought ways to utilize this course to bring students face-to-face with leadership, supervision, and policy and advocacy issues in school counseling program development, implementation, and evaluation. Given the urgency of school counseling reform efforts (Bemak, 2000; Johnson, 2000; Rowell, 2002), it also seemed important to create a means for getting students involved at the front end of their training, rather than at the terminal point, with the real organizational and institutional challenges of their chosen field. After discussions with university colleagues and counselors from a number of local districts, the author decided to initiate a project combining collaborative action research with an annual event that would bring together a variety of stakeholders Stakeholders
All parties that have an interest, financial or otherwise, in a firm-stockholders, creditors, bondholders, employees, customers, management, the community, and the government. interested in counseling issues to hear the results of the research projects and to receive encouragement and support in their efforts to strengthen the practice of school counseling. So far, school counselors, counselor educators, counselor supervisors, preservice school counselors, school administrators, and others interested in counseling issues from around the county (e.g., district staff, superintendents, school board members, a representative of the state department of education, local mental health officials, and representatives from community-based organizations) have attended. This process also is described in Figure 1, which illustrates the Collaborative Action Research Model for School Counseling.
In this model, teams of counseling graduate students working together with local school counselors conducted collaborative action research, with the author serving as supervisor of the students, consultant to the research teams, and overall director of the annual forum. Thus, an event was created that would provide an annual opportunity for those most directly involved in school counseling--the counselors, counselor supervisors, counselor educators, and preservice school counselors--to interact based on research activities and research results and to gain a greater respect for the significance of research in school counseling. Furthermore, the hope was that the event would help motivate members of the local school counseling community to continue taking action to improve their practice.
COLLABORATIVE ACTION RESEARCH
The action research projects undertaken each year have one overriding (programming) overriding - Redefining in a child class a method or function member defined in a parent class.
Not to be confused with "overloading". theme: How can school counseling practices in local schools be strengthened? As indicated, the intention of the author was to involve local school counselors with preservice school counselors in a self-improvement process for local school counseling programs. According to Sagor (1992), collaborative action research involves "people who want to do something to improve their own situation" (p. 7) taking action. The focus of the research process is "teams of practitioners who have common interests" (p. 10) working together to investigate issues relevant to their interests. Sagor (p. 8) sees action researchers conducting projects related to one of three stages of action: (a) initiating action, such as adopting a guidance curriculum or planning a new counseling program; (b) monitoring and adjusting action, such as improving a current counseling practice or assessing the progress of a new program; and (c) evaluating action, such as preparing a final report on a project that has been completed. Extending Sagor's discussion of action research conducted by teachers (p. 9), two guidelines guidelines,
n.pl a set of standards, criteria, or specifications to be used or followed in the performance of certain tasks. for collaborative action research in school counseling are essential: (a) The phenomena chosen for study must concern some aspect of the school counseling program, and (b) those phenomena must be within the counselor's scope of influence.
The author chose to extend the collaboration component described by Sagor to include preservice school counselors. Although this extension pushes against the limits of the guidelines presented above, the author, in consultation with local school counselors, concluded that the benefits of this extension would outweigh out·weigh
tr.v. out·weighed, out·weigh·ing, out·weighs
1. To weigh more than.
2. To be more significant than; exceed in value or importance: The benefits outweigh the risks. the costs. Although the preservice school counselors are not professional practitioners and the phenomena under investigation are not currently within their scope of influence, the graduate students were assigned as·sign
tr.v. as·signed, as·sign·ing, as·signs
1. To set apart for a particular purpose; designate: assigned a day for the inspection.
2. to work closely with professional practitioners in the field whose scope of influence does include the phenomena chosen for study. More significantly from the standpoint The Standpoint is a newspaper published in the British Virgin Islands. It was originally published under the name Pennysaver, largely as a shopping-coupon promotional newspaper, but since emerged as one of the most influential sources of journalism in the of bridging the gap between research and practice, based on their experience with current practitioners, the students are able to develop attitudes, skills, and knowledge that will enable them to more effectively work with data and with the design and utilization of research in school counseling.
From the counseling practitioner's standpoint, action research has significant implications for the future of the profession. Again extending Sagor's ideas, as long as school counseling continues to be a profession in which practitioners work largely in isolation, where the knowledge that informs practice comes almost exclusively from experts and scholars outside the sites where school counseling is practiced, and where quality control efforts are split from the standards of professional school counseling (e.g., counselors evaluated by instruments developed for teacher evaluation), counseling will be "more like a blue-collar job than an intellectual professional pursuit" (Sagor, 1992, p. 5). In this context, increasing involvement of school counseling practitioners in action research can contribute significantly to the increased professionalization pro·fes·sion·al·ize
tr.v. pro·fes·sion·al·ized, pro·fes·sion·al·iz·ing, pro·fes·sion·al·iz·es
To make professional.
pro·fes of school counseling (Johnson, 2000). Furthermore, when action research is focused on counseling outcomes--for example, research questions that address what the counseling program is doing to facilitate student success and how students benefit from the activities provided by the counseling program (Johnson)--the potential contribution to strengthening public perception of the value of school counseling is greater.
To date, 16 action research projects have been completed in conjunction with the annual event described below. Six projects have been completed at elementary sites, one at a middle school site, six at high school sites, and one was a district-wide project in a large K-12 district. The 13 site-specific studies were completed in collaboration with six school districts within the county. Three other action research projects cut across districts in various ways. In the first year of the model's development, Langer, Lee, Mulligan mul·li·gan
A golf shot not tallied against the score, granted in informal play after a poor shot especially from the tee.
[Probably from the name Mulligan.]
Noun 1. , Prise, and Shirley (1999) surveyed and interviewed in all of the county's 43 districts. Another study (Acers, Edrington, Jones, Makaimoku, & Radestock, 2000) involved interviews with select school counseling reform leaders throughout the region. In a third study (Uriarte, Dexter dexter /dex·ter/ (deks´ter) [L.] right; on the right side.
Of or located on the right side. , Loya, & Roty, 2003), all local districts with school counselors were surveyed to obtain a preliminary assessment of the impact of state budget cuts in 2002-2003.
The 16 projects completed to date were selected based on interest expressed by counselors at the sites and/or within the districts and the instructor's evaluation of the feasibility of each project. Initially, the selection process also was tied to participation by the site or district in one of a series of School Counselor Leadership Academies sponsored by the County Office of Education. The three-day academy provided training in the National Standards, comprehensive counseling and guidance programs, comprehensive developmental school counseling, and results-based student support programs. The curriculum for the academies was based primarily on Johnson and Johnson's (1998) results-based student support programs approach. The author's intention was to provide some incentive to school sites or districts working to reform their counseling programs by offering a team of school counseling graduate students to assist with the reform efforts through the utilization of collaborative action research. From 1999 to 2001, more than 150 school counselors in the county completed the training. As this County Office of Education training tapered ta·per
1. A small or very slender candle.
2. A long wax-coated wick used to light candles or gas lamps.
3. A source of feeble light.
a. off, beginning in 2002, an informal request-for-proposal process was created for the selection of collaborative action research projects.
For each school or district selected, a team of two to five graduate students was assigned to work with either an individual school counselor or a small group of counselors from a single school site, several sites, or an entire district. The graduate students receive an intensive orientation to working as part of a team, are provided with team-building resources, and are assisted by the instructor with establishing cooperative and productive group relations. Each team selects a team leader and a team recorder with the leader serving as a key contact among the team, the course instructor, and the "practitioner partners" (Rowell, 2003, p. 2). Some class time is assigned each week for team meetings, and during this time the instructor rotates among the teams, consulting on research design, project planning project planning - project management , and other issues. Outside of class time, the graduate students and the practitioner partners meet to refine the action research question, plan the research process, periodically evaluate the progress of the project, and prepare for their presentations at the annual forum. Following the forum (described below), an extensive course and team evaluation process is completed.
THE ANNUAL FORUM: DISSEMINATION OF RESEARCH FINDINGS
The Annual Forum on the State of Counseling and Guidance in San Diego County School Districts was piloted in 1999 as a project in one of the school counseling emphasis classes at the university where the author teaches. Initially, the class utilized problem-based learning problem-based learning Medical education An instruction strategy in which groups of students are presented with clinical problems without prior study or lectures. See Cooperative learning. (Bridges & Hallinger, 1997) and action research to engage students with local school-counseling issues and to prepare them for the end-of-semester event. The author conceptualized the forum as a way to strengthen the link between theory and practice and to initiate and sustain dialogue among local school counseling practitioners and counselor educators concerning strengthening the practice of school counseling within the county through the use of action research.
For the first forum in 1999, based on discussions with local counselors in several districts, the author and students in the class determined that the most pressing need was to establish baseline The horizontal line to which the bottoms of lowercase characters (without descenders) are aligned. See typeface.
baseline - released version data on the status of counseling programs in the county's 43 districts. The mission of the student-researcher team was "to conduct a program audit of comprehensive guidance and counseling programs within San Diego County school districts" (Langer et al., 1999, p. 2). The research team based the audit on criteria from Johnson and Johnson (1998), Gysbers and Henderson (2000), and the National Standards for School Counseling Programs (Campbell & Dahir, 1997). The team gathered data utilizing a telephone interview, a 22-item questionnaire sent to each district that had a school counseling program, and in-depth interviews with a small number of local counselors active in efforts to implement comprehensive guidance and counseling programs. The findings of Langer et al. indicated that based on the audit criteria, only one district in the county came close to having what could legitimately be called a comprehensive counseling and guidance program.
Approximately 70 people attended the first forum to hear the results of the Langer et al. (1999) study and to hear C. D. and Sharon Johnson, authors of the results-based comprehensive guidance and counseling model (Johnson & Johnson, 1998), and speakers from the County Office of Education and the California Department of Education. Evaluations of the 1999 event were very positive and the decision was made to make it a major local event for the professional counseling community.
In 2000, the event expanded to a half-day format with presentations by five student-researcher teams and a networking luncheon at the end of the event. Approximately 180 people attended representing 15 local school districts. In 2001, the event was expanded to a full-day format with six 20-minute action research presentations, panels of respondents In the context of marketing research, a representative sample drawn from a larger population of people from whom information is collected and used to develop or confirm marketing strategy. , a keynote address keynote address
An opening address, as at a political convention, that outlines the issues to be considered. Also called keynote speech.
Noun 1. by Carol Dahir, co-author co·au·thor or co-au·thor
A collaborating or joint author.
tr.v. co·au·thored, co·au·thor·ing, co·au·thors
To be a collaborating or joint author of: "He and a colleague . . . of the National Standards for School Counseling Programs (Campbell & Dahir, 1997), 11 breakout sessions, a luncheon, and an end-of-event reception. The 2001 forum involved 30 graduate students in school counseling at two universities; there were seven collaborative action research teams containing the 30 students working with more than 30 counselors, head counselors, and counselor supervisors in five local school districts. Three counselor educators provided instruction, supervision, and consultation to the research teams. Approximately 200 counselors, counselor educators, counselor supervisors, preservice school counselors, and others attended the 2001 forum, and attendance has remained at this level for each subsequent forum. Nineteen of the 29 districts in the county that have school counselors sent representatives to the 2001 forum (66%). Three districts sent more than 20 participants each. The forum has continued to evolve and in 2003, a Spring Symposium symposium
In ancient Greece, an aristocratic banquet at which men met to discuss philosophical and political issues and recite poetry. It began as a warrior feast. Rooms were designed specifically for the proceedings. on Action Research in School Counseling was added to complement the fall forum.
EXAMPLES OF THE COLLABORATIVE ACTION RESEARCH PROCESS
This section provides examples of the collaborative process at work within the model developed by the author. Data for these examples come from the project reports completed by the graduate students and practitioner partners involved with each project, interviews conducted by the author, and field notes maintained by the author during work with each project team. The examples are collaborative action research projects completed in 2000 and 2001 at a suburban high school in the county. Two projects were completed at this site (1 of 11 schools in a high school district). The site's three counselors along with the assistant principal in charge of student support programs attended the first School Counselor Leadership Academy and later indicated a strong interest in reorganizing and revitalizing re·vi·tal·ize
tr.v. re·vi·tal·ized, re·vi·tal·iz·ing, re·vi·tal·iz·es
To impart new life or vigor to: plans to revitalize inner-city neighborhoods; tried to revitalize a flagging economy. their school counseling program. Based on this interest, a graduate student research team was first assigned to work with the counselors in the fall of 2000.
The project completed in 2000 involved design, distribution, and analysis of data from a 31-item high school student survey based on competencies included in the National Standards for School Counseling Programs (Booth-Calero et al., 2000). The purpose of the project was "to examine the self-perceptions of a high-school student body in relationship to student competencies in three areas: academic development, career development, and personal/social development" (Booth-Calero et al., p. 21). In planning its project, the research team had concluded that gathering data on how students saw themselves in relationship to select competencies would provide feedback for the counselors on their current work with students as well as a baseline for comparing levels of student competencies following anticipated reforms in the school counseling program. The National Standards, counseling competencies, and the results-based approach in general were new phenomena for the site, and no prior work on student competencies associated with the school's counseling program had taken place.
The site counselors secured support for the project from the school's administrators and teachers and worked with the graduate student researchers on the necessary informed consent and assent procedures The assent procedure is one of the legislative procedures of the European Community, the first of the three Pillars of the European Union.
It was introduced by the Single European Act. for gathering data from high school students. Under the direction of the student research team and with assistance from the school's student government and math department, surveys were distributed, collected, and analyzed an·a·lyze
tr.v. an·a·lyzed, an·a·lyz·ing, an·a·lyz·es
1. To examine methodically by separating into parts and studying their interrelations.
2. Chemistry To make a chemical analysis of.
3. , with a return from 1,435 students (67% of the student body). Results indicated significant strengths and weaknesses in student competencies. The research team suggested that their findings pointed to "areas that will need to be emphasized in aligning a·lign
v. a·ligned, a·lign·ing, a·ligns
1. To arrange in a line or so as to be parallel: align the tops of a row of pictures; aligned the car with the curb. the school's counseling and guidance program with both the National Standards and the County Standards" (Booth-Calero et al., 2000, p. 24). The author remained in contact with the head counselor following completion of the 2000 research team's work to follow progress on reforming the school's counseling program.
Based in part on the Booth-Calero et al. (2000) results, during the spring and summer following the research, the site's head counselor developed grade-level planning guides "to assist students in acquiring specific information that relates to their academic success while in high school, and to help direct them as they transition out of high school into colleges or careers" (Jacobson, Leiser, Lowy, & MacRostie, 2001, p. 3). The guides were to be the centerpiece of a classroom guidance activity planned by the school's head counselor for the 2001-2002 academic year. The head counselor's intention was to create a tool that would help the counselors, in her words, "get out of the guidance center" and into classrooms where they could be more proactive. The counselor also hoped that use of the guides could be tied to some form of documentation of attainment of student competencies. Although she created the guides in part based on the results of the Booth-Calero et al. study, her accumulated ac·cu·mu·late
v. ac·cu·mu·lat·ed, ac·cu·mu·lat·ing, ac·cu·mu·lates
To gather or pile up; amass. See Synonyms at gather.
To mount up; increase. practice wisdom (e.g., Hanna & Ottens, 1995) as a school counselor seemed to be the main source for her summer work. Thus, although the planning guides addressed issues important to the school's students, they were not created by means of a formal and systematic process for implementing change (e.g., Johnson, 2000). It seemed rather more as if the counselor looked for somewhere to begin addressing concerns raised by the survey and chose the guides as that beginning point. Unfortunately, it later emerged that she made this decision in isolation from her counseling colleagues at the school site. Nevertheless, because the head counselor knew that data collection was important, she created
a pretest-posttest instrument to be used in conjunction with the classroom guidance interventions and hoped that the resulting data could be used at the site and district levels to show the effectiveness of school counseling program interventions.
With this background, the next team of graduate student action researchers began working with the school counselors at the site beginning in the fall of 2001. The team's first task was to determine how best to move forward in assisting the site in its efforts to reform the school counseling program. Ultimately, Jacobson et al. in their 2001 project decided to cross-walk the competencies addressed in the new planning guides with competencies from three sources: (a) the student competencies selected by the site for its guidance center program, (b) the competencies included in the County Standards (San Diego County Office of Education, 2000), and (c) the National Standards for School Counseling Programs (Campbell & Dahir, 1997). The research team, in consultation with the head counselor, concluded that making the competencies addressed through the guides explicit and comparing them with other sets of competencies could contribute to the site's planning for the new school counseling program.
In addition, it was thought that analyzing the pretest pre·test
a. A preliminary test administered to determine a student's baseline knowledge or preparedness for an educational experience or course of study.
b. A test taken for practice.
2. and posttest post·test
A test given after a lesson or a period of instruction to determine what the students have learned. data from the first use of the guides would contribute to a better understanding of the impact of the planning guides. Thus, the planning guides were reviewed, and the information "was then compiled into tables that identified the specific competencies that were addressed by the planning guides' intervention A procedure used in a lawsuit by which the court allows a third person who was not originally a party to the suit to become a party, by joining with either the plaintiff or the defendant. " (Jacobson et al., 2001, p. 3). The research team also "utilized data from two student surveys and counselor interviews to assess which identified student needs were specifically addressed by the planning guides' intervention" (Jacobson et al., p. 3). Regarding the pretest-posttest data, the research team found that serious errors in administration of the instruments by the counseling center staff made the data unusable.
The cross-walking process completed in the 2001 project coupled with interviews with the site counselors revealed gaps in the school's proposed new counseling program and raised questions concerning its "comprehensiveness" (Jacobson et al., 2001, p. 6). For example, although the student planning guides addressed important aspects of high school planning, they were not linked to any clear assessment of needs at the site or to the results of the 2000 action research project. The head counselor thus put herself in the position of having to "sell" her work on the guides to her colleagues and site administration from an individual interest rather than a collaborative finding standpoint. This increased her frustration and slowed her efforts to implement the guides. In addition, because the guides had been created without attending to the linkage of their content to school counseling standards and competencies, the counselors at the site were unclear as to how introduction of the guides through classroom guidance presentations fit with their intention to align align (līn),
v to move the teeth into their proper positions to conform to the line of occlusion. their counseling program with the National Standards and a results-based program.
Nevertheless, the research project helped the site counselors gain further clarity concerning the procedures needed to measure the effectiveness of interventions and reinforced the general idea that program accountability requires ongoing assessment of how counseling activities help students. The Jacobson et al. study indicated that the school's counselors continued to struggle with "being able to show the positive impact they believe they are having" (2001, p. 5). One of the counselors described the difficulties she was having with the new direction in general because of the "pressures of the daily workload The term workload can refer to a number of different yet related entities. An amount of labor
While a precise definition of a workload is elusive, a commonly accepted definition is the hypothetical relationship between a group or individual human operator and task demands. " (Jacobson et al., p. 4). Nevertheless, at the 2001 forum, the head counselor, participating as a respondent In Equity practice, the party who answers a bill or other proceeding in equity. The party against whom an appeal or motion, an application for a court order, is instituted and who is required to answer in order to protect his or her interests. to the research results, asserted that the site's counselors were continuing to learn and that they remained determined to continue moving forward despite a lack of support from their district office, the ever-present feeling of being overworked, and the frequent feeling of being overwhelmed o·ver·whelm
tr.v. o·ver·whelmed, o·ver·whelm·ing, o·ver·whelms
1. To surge over and submerge; engulf: waves overwhelming the rocky shoreline.
a. by the high student-counselor ratio at the site. (The school's ratio was approximately 700 students for each credentialed counselor. From the district's perspective, the presence of three guidance aides made the ratio 350 students per counselor.)
The two projects described fit within Sagor's (1992) stage of initiating action. The site had decided to adopt the results-based approach to improve its situation and now faced the hard work of shifting to a new paradigm New Paradigm
In the investing world, a totally new way of doing things that has a huge effect on business.
The word "paradigm" is defined as a pattern or model, and it has been used in science to refer to a theoretical framework. for school counseling (Johnson & Johnson, 1998) and promoting a stronger professional identity for its school counseling center (Johnson, 2000). At a minimum, the collaborative action research projects assisted the counselors with their planning for the changes they intended to make. Against formidable odds (e.g., three counselors for 2,100 students and very little district leadership and support for upgrading the counseling program), the school's counselors have continued to look hard at how they are addressing standards and competencies and to innovate in·no·vate
v. in·no·vat·ed, in·no·vat·ing, in·no·vates
To begin or introduce (something new) for or as if for the first time.
To begin or introduce something new. and experiment with strengthening their program as much as the situation allows. Through the presentation at the forum, other counselors benefited from the practical inquiry tied to the efforts of this school's counselors to improve their practice (Sagor, 1992).
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
Action research is an important tool for school counselors to consider as they adjust to the emerging accountability environment in public education and as they advocate for further professionalization within their ranks. Action research is a form of applied research, and it can be conducted solely by practitioners or in conjunction with formal researchers. When done properly, it empowers practitioners and helps heal the divide between research and practice. Although results in action research are not intended to be generalizable gen·er·al·ize
v. gen·er·al·ized, gen·er·al·iz·ing, gen·er·al·iz·es
a. To reduce to a general form, class, or law.
b. To render indefinite or unspecific.
2. beyond the immediate problem of practice addressed by a particular action research project, experience with the model presented in this article demonstrates the value of creating local (or regional or statewide) forums for the sharing of action research results.
Reports on action research projects can generate serious discussion of critical issues in practice as well as comparisons across school sites, grade levels, and school districts. Each year since the founding of the forum described in this article, some participants have stepped forward at the end of the day to express their interest in using action research to examine some aspect of school counseling practice at their site. Increasingly, practitioners contact the author with proposals for utilizing graduate student action research teams to. assist with their efforts to strengthen school counseling at a site or within a district. In addition, a more professional environment of inquiry and application of research findings to strengthening practice in school counseling appears to be emerging in the county. A future action research project will empirically examine this development. As Johnson and Christensen (2004) put it, action research is a "state of mind" (p. 11) that emphasizes continuous improvement and critical inquiry. The key assumption in applying action research to school counseling is that if counselors wish to strengthen their status as professionals within the domain of education, they must take responsibility for generating new knowledge within their field, put their knowledge to the test of critical review and reflection, and base their actions to strengthen their practice on carefully thought-through inquiry.
The model developed by the author combines collaborative action research projects with an annual forum on the state of professional school counseling programs in the county's school districts. The research projects focus on initiating, monitoring and adjusting, and evaluating actions taken to improve school counseling in local school districts. The forum provides an annual opportunity to present the results of these projects to those most directly involved in school counseling (the counselors, counselor supervisors, counselor educators, and preservice school counselors) and to pause and reflect on school counseling reform, accountability, and advocacy. In its first 5 years, the Years, The
the seven decades of Eleanor Pargiter’s life. [Br. Lit.: Benét, 1109]
See : Time model has been successful in bringing together a variety of counseling practitioners and counseling graduate students in the context of improving practice, strengthening accountability, and promoting greater awareness of the need to combine inquiry and practice.
The projects and the forum have provided a foundation for better-informed reflection and action by practitioners and other interested parties. Participants, graduate students as well as school counselors, gain an increased appreciation for the link between practice and the production of knowledge. This is an effective way to develop the awareness that Whiston (1996) argued for--that is, an awareness that "practice and research are not two mutually exclusive activities" (p. 616). As overwhelming as their action research assignments can be at times for participating graduate students, their involvement in the field, working together with practitioners to investigate issues relevant to the interests of school counselors, orients these preservice school counselors toward norms that will, in the long run, strengthen them as well as the profession of school counseling. Little (1982) asserted that experimentation and collegiality col·le·gi·al·i·ty
1. Shared power and authority vested among colleagues.
2. Roman Catholic Church The doctrine that bishops collectively share collegiate power. were key ingredients in healthy school cultures. Taking the time once a year to invigorate in·vig·or·ate
tr.v. in·vig·or·at·ed, in·vig·or·at·ing, in·vig·or·ates
To impart vigor, strength, or vitality to; animate: "A few whiffs of the raw, strong scent of phlox invigorated her" the prospects for such cultures in our local schools and school districts is not a magical cure, but it surely is a step in the direction of strengthening the development of standards-based, data-driven school counseling programs.
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Lonnie L. Rowell is an associate professor with the School of Education, University of San Diego, CA. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org