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Integrating academic interventions into small group counseling in elementary school.

Professional 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.  face the challenge of delivering 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.  services to students while connecting to the educational mission of schools. This article is a summary and evaluation of a small group counseling program that targets academic issues while addressing personal/social issues with elementary-aged children. Results suggest that integrating academic interventions and group counseling improved students' behavior related to school achievement. Implications for school counselors and application of the ASCA ASCA American School Counselor Association
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] are briefly discussed.


Professional school counselors are challenged to efficiently and effectively provide guidance and counseling services to all students while responding to the current initiatives to address the achievement gap between poor students and students of color not of the white race; - commonly meaning, esp. in the United States, of negro blood, pure or mixed.

See also: Color
 and their more advantaged peers (House & Hayes Hayes, river, c.300 mi (480 km) long, rising in a lake NE of Lake Winnipeg, central Manitoba, Canada, and flowing NE to Hudson Bay. It was the chief route used by Hudson's Bay Company traders from Hudson Bay to Lake Winnipeg and the interior; York Factory, an , 2002). Further, school reform has continued to encourage a more strategic focus on the importance of academic achievement for all students. The No Child Left Behind Act The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (Public Law 107-110), commonly known as NCLB (IPA: /ˈnɪkəlbiː/), is a United States federal law that was passed in the House of Representatives on May 23, 2001  (U.S. Department of Education, 2001) requires that all states implement standards-based instruction and annually measure student achievement. The added pressure on schools and students to meet academic standards has affected school counseling programs.

The purpose of this article is to describe an elementary school elementary school: see school.  counseling program that used small groups to help students increase learning behaviors (i.e., actions such as asking questions, completing assignments, and staying on task) and improve academic achievement, while addressing their personal/social concerns such as changing families, friendship, and/or and/or  
Used to indicate that either or both of the items connected by it are involved.

Usage Note: And/or is widely used in legal and business writing.
 anger management. The objectives of the groups centered on improving students' learning behaviors while including developmentally appropriate strategies to facilitate personal/social development. The ASCA 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, 2005) was used as a framework for the development and delivery of the groups and for monitoring student success. Data were collected before, during, and after the groups documenting the impact of group counseling on the students' learning behaviors.


The small group counseling program was designed by the school counselor as an efficient and effective way to provide services to a large number of students identified by their teachers and parents as having personal/social issues as well as academic difficulties. Small group counseling is part of the delivery system of the ASCA National Model and is an effective responsive service offered by school counselors to meet the personal/social and academic needs of all students (Cook & Kaffenberger, 2003). Topics for small counseling groups were developed in conjunction with teachers, administrators, and parents. School counselors, in many instances, consult with parents or guardians, school personnel, and other identified parties when developing plans and strategies for promoting student development (ASCA, 2005). In the case of the small counseling groups described in this article, the school counselor consulted with teachers and parents to understand their perceptions of the personal/social and academic needs of the students in the school. Small groups were offered that were consistent with the expressed needs of parents and teachers. ASCA's National Standards for School Counseling Programs provided the specific academic and personal/social objectives for the groups (ASCA, 2005).

The goal of the groups described in this article, therefore, was twofold: to address the students' personal/social needs, and to address their academic needs. Demonstrating the impact that school counselors have on student success is imperative as a new era of accountability exists and as school counselors continue to strengthen and define their roles.


School Demographics The attributes of people in a particular geographic area. Used for marketing purposes, population, ethnic origins, religion, spoken language, income and age range are examples of demographic data.  

This small group counseling program was developed for the students attending a suburban elementary school located in Northern Virginia Northern Virginia (NoVA) consists of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William counties and the independent cities of Alexandria, Falls Church, Fairfax, Manassas, and Manassas Park. . Approximately 725 students attend the school. The racial/ethnic makeup makeup

In the performing arts, material used by actors for cosmetic purposes and to help create the characters they play. Not needed in Greek and Roman theatre because of the use of masks, makeup was used in the religious plays of medieval Europe, in which the angels' faces
 of the student body is 74% Caucasian Caucasian or Caucasoid: see race. , 9% Latino, 9% Asian/Pacific Islander, and 8% African American African American Multiculture A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa. See Race. . The socioeconomic status socioeconomic status,
n the position of an individual on a socio-economic scale that measures such factors as education, income, type of occupation, place of residence, and in some populations, ethnicity and religion.
 of the students is primarily middle- to upper-middle-class Adj. 1. upper-middle-class - occupying the upper part of the middle socioeconomic range in a society
middle-class - occupying a socioeconomic position intermediate between those of the lower classes and the wealthy

Selecting Small Group Counseling Topics This list of counseling topics is incomplete, some of the linked articles are waiting to be composed. You can help.

See the main article Counseling for a description of what a counselor does and how the field developed.

The choices of small counseling group topics were based on information provided by a needs assessment completed by parents in the spring of the prior school year. The topics were anger management, changing families, friendship, social skills, grief, and an "other" category. The goals of the groups were listed under each topic and included academic achievement; therefore, the parents were alerted from the beginning that academic considerations would be integrated into all of the small counseling group sessions.

Student Selection Process

Approximately 120 students were given permission to participate in small group counseling by their parents. In order to ensure that the students who were most in need were provided with services, the school counselor consulted with the students' teachers to identify those students who also were having academic difficulty in school. The teachers checked the students' academic history to determine if they had an academic problem. For example, if a student was reading below grade level or performed below the 50th percentile percentile,
n the number in a frequency distribution below which a certain percentage of fees will fall. E.g., the ninetieth percentile is the number that divides the distribution of fees into the lower 90% and the upper 10%, or that fee level
 on a standardized test A standardized test is a test administered and scored in a standard manner. The tests are designed in such a way that the "questions, conditions for administering, scoring procedures, and interpretations are consistent" [1]  in the past, he or she would be targeted as having academic difficulty in school.

Of the 120 students, 80 (67%) were confirmed by their teachers as having academic difficulty in school and consequently were invited to participate in the group counseling topic selected by their parents. Thirty-six students participated in the groups during the first semester se·mes·ter  
One of two divisions of 15 to 18 weeks each of an academic year.

[German, from Latin (cursus) s
. Twelve of the students were in the first and second grades, and the other 24 students were in the third, fourth, and fifth grades. The data in this study were collected on the 24 students in grades 3, 4, and 5 who participated and excluded the 12 students in grades 1 and 2 due to the large amount of missing data for these students. The demographics of the students participating in the small groups were as follows: 63% Caucasian, 17% African American, 12% Asian Pacific Islander Pacific Islander
1. A native or inhabitant of any of the Polynesian, Micronesian, or Melanesian islands of Oceania.

2. A person of Polynesian, Micronesian, or Melanesian descent. See Usage Note at Asian.
, and 8% Latino.

Goals of Small Group Counseling Program

The purpose of the small group counseling program was to address the students' personal/social needs and to help them improve behaviors that have been identified as contributing to being successful in the classroom, such as attending to classroom tasks, completing assignments, and raising a hand to ask questions (Myrick, 2003). The school counselor also was interested in improving students', teachers', and parents' perceptions of the students' behavior related to school achievement, and communicating regularly with teachers and parents to get their support in assisting the students in conjunction with the group counseling sessions.

The objectives of the groups were divided into two sections, academic and personal/social, and were derived from the National Standards for School Counseling Programs (ASCA, 2005). The academic objectives of all the groups were (a) to improve academic self-concept self-concept
An individual's assessment of his or her status on a single trait or on many human dimensions using societal or personal norms as criteria.
, (b) to acquire skills for improving learning, (c) to achieve school success, (d) to relate school to life experience, and (e) to take responsibility for actions.

The specific personal/social objectives varied for each group due to the specific needs of the students participating. An example of the objectives for an anger management group was to learn how to deal with events that provoke pro·voke  
tr.v. pro·voked, pro·vok·ing, pro·vokes
1. To incite to anger or resentment.

2. To stir to action or feeling.

3. To give rise to; evoke: provoke laughter.
 anger, to know how to communicate feelings, to use strategies to relieve anger, and to apply anger management skills outside of group.

Group Procedures

The groups were structured into 8 to 10 counseling sessions depending on the progression of the members through the group (Gladding, 2003). The sessions took place during the students' lunch and recess time once a week. As a result no student missed any instructional time. The main focus of the group discussions and activities centered on the group topic (e.g., anger management, changing families, or friendship).

The school counselor used activities including bibliotherapy bibliotherapy /bib·lio·ther·a·py/ (bib?le-o-ther´ah-pe) the reading of selected books as part of the treatment of mental disorders or for mental health.

, communication strategies, artwork, role-play role-play
To assume deliberately the part or role of; act out.

, modeling, and a board game to facilitate the groups. The activities, strategies, and ideas were influenced by the information gathered from the preassessment and the group discussions that occurred during the sessions. The school counselor also used feedback and group processing as another strategy to facilitate group discussion during the sessions. Students were reminded of the importance of confidentiality; however, they were encouraged to discuss the meetings with their parents.

Collaboration/Communication with Parents and Teachers

Communicating with parents and teachers prior to and during the group counseling sessions had multiple benefits. The school counselor used the responses from parents and teachers to develop and modify specific goals for each student. The responses also were used during the group sessions for discussion. The communication from the counselor to the parents and teachers provided them with a positive story about the students' accomplishments, and it provided specific ways that parents and teachers could reinforce the students' participation in the groups.

Prior to the beginning of the groups, the school counselor asked if the teachers and parents wanted to be contacted regularly while their students participated in the small groups. For those teachers who were interested in communicating regularly, the school counselor offered a few brief comments on an index card following each session concerning the topic and any relevant insight. For the parents who were interested in communicating regularly, the school counselor contacted them either via e-mail, telephone, or a postcard with a few comments concerning the topic and relevant insights involving their child.

The focus of the comments shared with the parents and teachers related to the information provided by the parent or teacher from the preassessment. The comments to the teachers were straightforward and provided information related to classroom behavior and performance. The comments sent to the parents were phrased in a way that highlighted strengths, areas of improvement, and contributions made by their child within the sessions. The comments were informative yet confidential in nature, revealing only enough information to allow the parents and teacher the opportunity to inquire in·quire   also en·quire
v. in·quired, in·quir·ing, in·quires

1. To seek information by asking a question: inquired about prices.

, reinforce, or follow up on what was discussed within the group session.


Pre- and post-assessments completed by the teachers, students, and parents were compared to assess the effectiveness of the small group counseling 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. . The pre- and post-assessment questions produced two types of data, a targeted learning behavior score and responses to open-ended questions A closed-ended question is a form of question, which normally can be answered with a simple "yes/no" dichotomous question, a specific simple piece of information, or a selection from multiple choices (multiple-choice question), if one excludes such non-answer responses as dodging a . The targeted learning behavior score was calculated as a percentage of eight learning-related behaviors displayed by the student (e.g., participates in class, talks at appropriate times, attends to a given task). The open-ended questions provided an opportunity to receive feedback and comments in writing from the parents and the teachers. The relationship between the group interventions and academic achievement was evaluated by comparing the language arts language arts
The subjects, including reading, spelling, and composition, aimed at developing reading and writing skills, usually taught in elementary and secondary school.
 grades of the fourth and fifth graders before the group counseling interventions began and at the conclusion of the groups. The first- and third-quarter grades were compared for only the fourth and fifth graders (n = 10) and excluded the third graders (n = 14) because the grading scale of the latter group did not include traditional letter grades.

Program findings are as follows: Pre- and post=assessment data were collected on 24 of the students in the third, fourth, and fifth grades who participated in a small counseling group. The group counseling intervention had a positive impact on the ratings from students, teachers, and parents of the students' learning behaviors. Eighteen of 24 (75%) students who participated reported displaying a greater number of positive learning behaviors in the classroom, and 18 of 24 (75%) of the students' teachers reported that student learning behaviors had improved following the small counseling group intervention. The greatest increase of the students' self-rated learning behaviors was for the third-grade friendship group. The third graders' self-reported percentage of the eight learning behaviors that they displayed improved from 69% to 84%. The fifth-grade anger management group's self-ratings of their learning behaviors improved from 76% to 90%.

Additionally, communication was collected between the counselor and parents and the counselor and teachers. Out of the 24 students participating in the various groups, 14 (58%) of the students' parents were interested in receiving feedback from the school counselor and 18 (75%) of the students' teachers were interested in receiving feedback from the counselor. Although the professional school counselor offered more feedback than was received from parents and teachers, teachers responded more frequently to the professional school counselor's comments of the small group meetings than did the parents. Overall, the parents and teachers who offered written or verbal feedback provided positive comments about the program and benefits for the students.

Academic performance was assessed by comparing first and third report card language arts grades of the fourth- and fifth-grade participants (n = 10). Following the group intervention, 6 of the 10 (60%) fourth and fifth graders' language arts grades improved by at least one letter grade and 2 of the 10 (20%) stayed the same.


The purpose of this group counseling program was to integrate academic interventions with personal/ social interventions, and to use communication strategies to collaborate with teachers and parents to increase student learning behaviors. The initial results support the contention that group counseling interventions are effective in addressing student academic and personal/social concerns.

There are two important implications that result from this group counseling intervention. The first is the importance of collecting data and using external measures to inform the development and delivery of school counseling programs. The second is the value of linking academic objectives with personal/social objectives.

A limitation to this study is the lack of comparison data because a control group was not used. As a result, it is more difficult to state with confidence that the results were influenced entirely by the intervention. Also, a reliable and valid instrument used to measure student learning behaviors would strengthen the findings and allow for more appropriate statistical analyses.


This group counseling intervention provides an example of how professional school counselors can design and facilitate small counseling groups in an organized manner through the use of the ASCA National Model and ASCA's National Standards. The purpose has been to show how to collect and use data within group counseling sessions to contribute to the school's overall mission of assisting students in achieving academic success.


American School Counselor Association. (2005). The ASCA national model: A framework for school counseling programs (2nd ed.). Alexandria Alexandria, city, Egypt
Alexandria, Arabic Al Iskandariyah, city (1996 pop. 3,328,196), N Egypt, on the Mediterranean Sea. It is at the western extremity of the Nile River delta, situated on a narrow isthmus between the sea and Lake Mareotis (Maryut).
, VA: Author.

Cook, J., & Kaffenberger, C. (2003). Solution shop: A solution-focused counseling and study skills program for middle schools. Professional School Counseling, 7, 116-123.

Gladding, S. (2003). Group work: A counseling specialty (4th ed). Upper Saddle River Saddle River may refer to:
  • Saddle River, New Jersey, a borough in Bergen County, New Jersey
  • Saddle River (New Jersey), a tributary of the Passaic River in New Jersey
, NJ: Merrill/Prentice Hall.

House, R. M., & Hayes, R. L. (2002). School counselors: Becoming key players in school reform. Professional School Counseling, 5, 249-256.

Myrick, R. D. (2003). Accountability: Counselors count. Professional School Counseling, 6, 174-179.

U.S. Department of Education. (2001). The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Pub. L. No. 107-110. Retrieved January January: see month.  3, 2005, from index.html The default name for a home page in a Web server. The page is appropriately named, because the home page is an index to the entire Web site. When you type in a URL such as, it is the same as entering INDEX.  

Sam (1) (Security Accounts Manager) The part of Windows NT that manages the database of usernames, passwords and permissions. A SAM resides in each server as well as in each domain controller. See PDC and trust relationship.  Steen Steen   , Jan 1626?-1679.

Dutch genre painter known for his humorous and moralistic depictions of domestic life and revelry, including Village Wedding (1635) and Flemish Feast in an Inn (1674).

Noun 1.
, Ph.D., is a professional school counselor with Loudoun County Public Schools Loudoun County Public Schools (abbreviated LCPS) is a branch of the Loudoun County, Virginia government, and administers public schools in the county. LCPS's headquarters is located in Ashburn, an unincorporated section of the county.  in Northern Virginia. E-mail: Carol J. Kaffenberger, Ph.D., is an associate professor with the College of Education and Human Development, George Mason University Named after American revolutionary, patriot and founding father George Mason, the university was founded as a branch of the University of Virginia in 1957 and became an independent institution in 1972. , Fairfax, VA.
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Author:Kaffenberger, Carol J.
Publication:Professional School Counseling
Date:Jun 1, 2007
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