Printer Friendly

Enhancing Student Learning by "Building a Caring Climate": School Counselors' Experiences With Classroom Management.

School counselors are responsible for meeting students' school-based academic, career, and social/emotional needs through a comprehensive school counseling program; the ASCA National Model (American School Counselor Association [ASCA], 2012) is one such framework. A component of the ASCA National Model is delivering school counseling core curriculum to all students, including classroom lessons. School counselors use classroom management to maximize the impact of classroom lessons, with the goal of improving the classroom climate, student engagement, and outcomes (Geltner & Clark, 2005; Greenberg, Putman, & Walsh, 2014; Korpershoek, Harms, de Boer, van Kuijk, & Doolaard, 2014; Mitchell, Hirn, & Lewis, 2017). Although effective classroom management can assist with the delivery and results of classroom lessons, research on school counselor-specific classroom management strategies is limited (e.g., Buchanan, Mynatt, & Woodside, 2017; Quarto, 2007). In this article, I describe a qualitative thematic analysis focused on school counselors' experiences with classroom management (N = 221), with the aim of filling a void in the literature and providing applicable classroom management suggestions for practicing school counselors.

School Counselors and Classroom Lessons

According to ASCA (2012), 80% of school counselors' time should be spent serving students directly or indirectly. One component of direct student services is the core curriculum, which includes school counselors delivering systematic instruction for all students through classroom lessons. Classroom lessons are a vehicle to meet students' academic, career, and social/emotional needs, such as those detailed in the ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors standards (ASCA, 2014).

Classroom lessons are an introduction to the school counselor for many students and a strategy for school counselors to proactively and preventatively work with all students on their caseload. Developing a positive relationship with students during classroom lessons may increase students' familiarity and comfort with the school counselor (Geltner & Clark, 2005). Also, given the high student-to-school-counselor ratios throughout the country (Glander, 2017), classroom lessons can be an efficient strategy for school counselors to serve every student.

School counseling classroom lessons are recommended as a professional best practice, and they remain a core component of school counselor roles, being implemented throughout the country. In multiple national studies, school counselors reported designing and delivering classroom lessons (e.g., Goodman-Scott, 2015; Lopez & Mason, 2018; Mullen & Lambie, 2016). For example, Lopez and Mason (2018) conducted a content analysis of school counseling lessons plans (n = 139) uploaded on a national platform, the ASCA Scene, examining both content and quality. In national studies, both Goodman-Scott (2015; n = 1,052) and Mullen and Lambie (2016; n = 693) analyzed school counselors' responses to the School Counselor Activity Rating Scale (Scarborough, 2005), finding that school counselors reportedly conducted moderate levels of classroom lessons on a given 5-point Likert-type scale, including topics such as career and personal/social.

One key aspect of effectively facilitating school counseling classroom lessons is the use of classroom management strategies (ASCA, 2019; Geltner & Clark, 2005; Geltner, Cunningham, & Caldwell, 2011; Quarto, 2007). According to Geltner and Clark (2005), school counselors' use of effective classroom management strategies can enhance students' development and the creation of a positive classroom culture and is therefore a crucial dimension of implementing classroom lessons. Similarly, the ASCA School Counselor Professional Standards & Competencies (2019) recommends that school counselors demonstrate effective classroom management when leading classroom lessons. The next section describes classroom management as applicable across K-12 education, followed by research on school counseling-specific classroom management.

Classroom Management

Classroom management comprises of ongoing interactions between educators and students, in which the educator facilitates activities within a supportive classroom environment to enhance student learning (Korpershoek et al., 2014). Specifically, classroom management strategies should focus on improving student academics, behaviors, social/emotional competencies, and/or motivation class-wide (Korpershoek et al., 2014). Educators can use some strategies proactively to prevent behaviors, such as setting classroom expectations and procedures at the start of the school year or class. Other strategies can be responsive, reacting to student behaviors or needs, such as providing students with corrective feedback on their behaviors (Korpershoek et al., 2014). Overall, classroom management is crucial to ensuring that students are engaged and available for academic and social/emotional learning (Greenberg et al., 2014; Korpershoek et al., 2014; Mitchell et al., 2017).

Educational organizations have recommended empirically based classroom management strategies to teach and reinforce desired classroom-based student behaviors that can better enable students' engagement in academics (Mitchell et al., 2017; Simonsen et al., 2015). First, the U.S. Department of Education suggested several evidence-based classroom management strategies to improve students' social behaviors (Mitchell et al., 2017; Simonsen et al., 2015). Specifically, these strategies pertained to (a) the physical layout of the room, (b) teaching student expectations and classroom routines, (c) providing students with specific behavioral praise and behavioral reminders, (d) actively supervising and engaging students, (e) providing students with opportunities to respond, and (f) educators implementing classroom management strategies with consistency (Simonsen et al., 2015).

Second, based on an examination of 150 related studies from the previous 60 years, the National Council on Teacher Quality (Greenberg et al., 2014) recommended five primary classroom management strategies that were strongly supported by research. These strategies included (a) rules: teaching and practicing expected classroom behaviors, (b) routines: establishing and practicing classroom and school protocols (e.g., walking in the hallway), (c) praise: positively and specifically acknowledging desired student behaviors (e.g., tangible or verbal reinforcement), (d) misbehavior: enlisting consistent consequences for undesired student behavior, and (e) engagement: presenting interesting information and enlisting student participation. The National Council on Teacher Quality also reported a second tier of classroom management strategies, which were supported by some research (a) managing the physical classroom structure, (b) motivating students, (c) using the least intrusive means to prevent or stop potential misbehavior, (d) family/community involvement, (e) attending to social/cultural/emotional factors, and (f) building strong student relationships (Greenberg et al., 2014).

School Counseling and Classroom Management

Akos, Cockman, and Strickland (2007) proposed that because school counseling is rooted in education, school counselor-facilitated classroom lessons require strategies similar to those used by teachers. At the same time, school counselors' roles are distinctively different from teachers (ASCA, 2012) and, as such, a need remains to examine the unique nature of classroom management specific to school counselors.

To date, only two published studies have examined school counseling-specific classroom management. Quarto (2007) conducted a study in which school counselors (N = 80) completed a 24-item, closed-ended survey related to their large group lessons. Participants identified utilizing classroom management strategies, most frequently noting the use of eye contact (50%), adjusting their vocal volume (42%), and walking near the student (30%). Further, the majority of participants indicated a lack of classroom management content in their preparation programs, thus hindering their classroom management as practicing school counselors. However, Quarto's study is bound by limitations, including a narrow sample size and closed-ended survey responses, which may have restricted participant input and expansion. Further, Quarto's study was conducted more than 10 years ago and the need remains for more current research.

More recently, in an effort to inform graduate preparation, Buchanan, Mynatt, and Woodside (2017) conducted a phenomenological study examining the classroom management experiences of first-year school counselors (N = 7). Three themes emerged from this study: the benefit of previous experience, acknowledging each classroom's unique language, and specific classroom management strategies. However, the study by Buchanan and colleagues has limited relevance for practicing school counselors due to participants' homogeneous experiences as first-year school counselors. Further, this study was published in a counselor preparation journal and framed for counselor educators, which did not address the need to examine classroom management specifically for practicing school counselors.

Purpose and Rationale

School counselors facilitate classroom lessons to efficiently, proactively, and directly meet students' needs as part of implementing a comprehensive school counseling program (ASCA, 2012). Classroom management is critical during school counselor-led classroom lessons (ASCA, 2019; Geltner & Clark, 2005; Geltner et al., 2011) and can be used to enhance students' availability for learning (Greenberg et al., 2014; Korpershoek et al., 2014; Mitchell et al., 2017). Despite its importance, only two published studies have examined classroom management strategies used by school counselors (i.e., Buchanan et al., 2017; Quarto, 2007). A need remains to research school counseling classroom management across a heterogeneous sample, utilizing open-ended questions to elicit participant-guided responses and expansion, and capturing current school counseling trends. As a result, I conducted a qualitative study (N = 221), utilizing Braun and Clarke's (2006) approach to thematic analysis to answer the research question: What are school counselors' experiences with classroom management? The results and implications of the present study provide information and examples for practicing school counselors to consider within their classroom management and establish a foundation for future research.


Thematic analysis is a six-phase process to identify patterns within and across qualitative data (Braun & Clarke, 2006). Qualitative research is often used for exploratory purposes (Hunt, 2011), a necessary approach given the limited research on school counselor classroom management. As a result, to gain a better understanding of the unique perspectives of practicing school counselors, I utilized thematic analysis to examine open-ended survey responses and focus group interviews. As is common in qualitative research, I subscribe to a social constructivist perspective, acknowledging multiple, subjective realities (Creswell & Poth, 2018; Hays & Singh, 2012).

Data Collection Procedures and Participants

Qualitative researchers select participants based on their ability to provide information on a phenomenon (Hays & Singh, 2012). As such, I included data in this study from practicing school counselors who self-identified as having classroom management experiences. Data were collected from a national archival survey data set (n = 200) and two focus groups (n = 21), which are described subsequently. University human subjects review committee approval was granted prior to analyzing the archival survey data and collecting the focus group data.

Archival survey. In August 2016, ASCA sent a survey to its members inquiring about their classroom management. After obtaining permission and the archival survey data from ASCA, I removed identifying information and used a random number generator to select 200 cases for analysis. My objective was capturing school counselors' experiences nationally, yet also in alignment with the goals of qualitative research: seeking a description rather than generalizability (Creswell & Poth, 2018; Hays & Singh, 2012). Survey participants (n = 200) were employed in 37 states in the United States and two additional countries. Survey participants reported working in elementary (39%; n = 77), middle (20%; n = 40), high school (20%; n = 40), and multiyear/K-12 settings (22%; n = 43; percentages were rounded). The present study included responses to the following survey question: What's your best tip for working with disruptive students during your classroom lessons?

Focus group. Focus groups are a strategy for gathering qualitative data by asking a group of people open-ended questions pertaining to a common topic (Krueger & Casey, 2015). Further, they provide opportunities to gain rich data due to the synergistic effect of participants' interactions (Creswell & Poth, 2018; Hays & Singh, 2012). I recruited focus group members (n = 21) from attendees at a statewide, daylong school counseling training (N = 100). The week of the training, all attendees received an e-mail notification of the opportunity to voluntarily participate in the focus groups and the inclusion criteria: practicing school counselors who self-identified as having experience with classroom management. Participants who expressed interest in participating were confirmed when checking in for the training. I facilitated two different focus groups during the training's lunch break. Participants received the informed consent, demographic questionnaire, and interview questions in advance. I also verbally described this information immediately before the start of the interview, then collected signed consent forms and demographic questionnaires. Participants were offered a gift certificate and could withdraw from the study without penalty. Interviews were recorded, then transcribed by a secure transcription service.

Focus groups usually include between 4 and 12 participants (Krueger & Casey, 2015) and last between 1 and 2 hr in duration (Patton, 2015). The two focus groups in the present study were each 1 hr in duration; one group had 10 participants and the other had 11. Focus group participants identified as women (81%, n = 17) and men (19%, n = 4); White (67%, n = 14) and Black/African American (33%, n = 7); with a mean age of 46 years. They had a mean of 14 years of school counseling experience and were employed at the elementary (33%, n = 7), middle (14%, n = 3), and high school (52%, n = 11) levels in suburban (48%, n = 10), urban (24%, n = 5), rural, (24%, n = 5), and unidentified (5%, n = 1) environments. Just over half of the participants had previous teaching experience (57%, n = 12).

The focus group interview questions replicated and expanded upon the question from the archival survey data set. Sample focus group interview questions included: (a) What's your best tip for working with disruptive students during your classroom lessons? (b) When you think of classroom management for school counselors, what comes to mind? How does that look? and (c) Tell me about gaining classroom management skills.

Data Analysis

I analyzed the survey and focus group data utilizing Braun and Clarke's (2006) six steps to thematic analysis: (a) increasing familiarity with the data, (b) systematically creating codes across the data set, (c) developing initial themes, (d) reviewing themes, (e) defining and naming themes, and (f) creating a research report. In alignment with the constructivist paradigm, I used a contextualist method of thematic analysis, which emphasizes that participants make individualized meaning of their experiences. I also performed inductive data analysis, using data to guide the creation of codes and themes, rather than using predetermined theory or literature (Braun & Clarke, 2006). Overall, when analyzing data in the current study, I looked for patterns related to the research question: school counselors' experiences with classroom management.

According to Hays and Singh (2012), "triangulation of data methods refers to using multiple methods to illustrate themes" (p. 210). Within the thematic analysis in the present study, I triangulated, or converged, the survey data and focus group data to produce one set of corroborated findings: themes across data methods. Triangulating data methods can produce rich, rigorous results (Hays & Singh, 2012) such as breadth (e.g., a national data set), depth (e.g., focus groups), and confirmability. In the next section, I outline the six steps of thematic analysis I used, including triangulating data methods.

Per the first step in thematic analysis, first, I became familiar with the data by reading through the survey responses, noting my reactions. Second, I read the survey responses again, systematically assigning codes to the data and creating an initial codebook. Next, I conducted the focus group interviews, then read through the focus group transcripts multiple times, and noted my reactions. Subsequently, I systematically coded the focus group transcripts and added the codes to the existing codebook. I then reviewed all data (e.g., survey responses and focus group transcripts) and the codebook comprising coded data from both methods, collapsing overlapping codes. In alignment with Steps 3 and 4 of thematic analysis, I grouped the coded data into potential themes within the codebook, continually reviewing, collapsing, and rereviewing themes, in an iterative process. During the fifth step of thematic analysis, I defined and named the themes. As a final step, I created the research report, incorporating quotations to illustrate participants' subjective realities (Creswell & Poth, 2018). In the final research report, I described two themes, which were based on corroborated findings from the thematic analysis of both survey and interview data.

Strategies for Trustworthiness

Research trustworthiness, also known as rigor, is "the systematic approach to research design and data analysis, interpretation, and presentation" (Hays, Wood, Dahl, & Kirk-Jenkins, 2016, p. 173). Hays, Wood, Dahl, and Kirk-Jenkins (2016) listed trustworthiness strategies frequently utilized in counseling-specific qualitative research, several of which I used in the present study: peer debriefer, external auditor, reflexivity, triangulation, member checking, an audit trail, and a thick, rich description.

As the solo researcher in this study, I relied on an advanced doctoral student as an external peer debriefer (to discuss the methodology and findings) and auditor (to compare the audit trail, processes, and findings); she completed these roles as a paid graduate research assistant. We discussed our respective roles at the start of and throughout the study (e.g., power differential, consensus coding processes). She was equipped for this role due to her prior qualitative doctoral coursework and related research projects as lead and coauthor. After each round of my coding and theme development, she examined my audit trail (e.g., coded data, proposed themes, codebook, reflexive journaling, and field notes). We then had lengthy conversations in which she provided feedback, rival explanations, and engaged in consensus coding; she noted perceived inconsistencies in my coding, which we discussed until reaching consensus (Hays & Singh, 2012).

In terms of reflexivity and aligned with the social constructivist paradigm, I acknowledged axiological assumptions, or the role of researchers' values (Creswell & Poth, 2018). Thus, I attempted to monitor and bracket, or set aside, my assumptions and biases related to the study, to highlight the participants' experiences. As such, I regularly used journaling, field notes, and reflective discussions with the peer debriefer/external auditor. As described previously in the Data Analysis section, I triangulated data methods (e.g., survey and focus groups) and data sources (e.g., comparing data across the two focus groups) to confirm and strengthen findings. Member checking was used throughout the research process to verify the accurate portrayal of participants' meaning. Specifically, I reflected participants' content during focus group interviews and also sent focus group members their blinded transcript and the drafted results section, inviting feedback, expansion, and confirmation. Last, I maintained an audit trail and utilized a thick, detailed description of the research process and results, to assist in future application and replication.

Reflexivity Statement

I, the researcher, am a counselor educator specializing in school counseling. I have previous experience as both a school counselor and a special education teacher in a self-contained setting. I identify as a White woman of European descent. As a result of my professional experiences, I entered this study with assumptions and biases regarding school counseling classroom management. For instance, as a practicing school counselor, I had limited training in classroom management and was therefore self-taught. Thus, as a school counselor educator, I am biased toward including classroom management strategies in both my teaching and supervision.


To investigate school counselors' experiences with classroom management, I conducted a thematic analysis (N = 221), resulting in two overarching themes: (a) school counselors appreciating and utilizing classroom management strategies and (b) factors that influence school counselors' classroom management. Below, I describe the themes and corresponding subthemes.

Appreciating and Utilizing Classroom Management Strategies

According to the school counselors in the present study, they valued using classroom management strategies for students with disruptive behaviors and globally for all students participating in lessons. Specifically, participants described five subthemes: acting proactively, engaging students, implementing positive reinforcement, using varied modalities, and utilizing discipline.

Acting proactively. According to school counselors in the present study, being proactive was an important dimension of their classroom management, such as preventatively communicating behavioral expectations, and planning in advance of the lessons. A school counselor noted, "When I'm in the classroom ... first of all ... I go over my rules for while I'm in there ... what I expect from them, and what they can expect from me." Other school counselors echoed the importance of proactively teaching and reminding students of desired behaviors such as needing to "set clear behavioral expectations for all students," "preteach the expected behavior," and "start the lesson by reminding students of expectations." According to one school counselor, acting proactively saved effort and time:
   Get into the classroom as soon as possible at the beginning of the
   year.... If I go to [every] classroom in September ... [students]
   know who I am, they know ... [my] expectations.... The rest of the
   year is usually a piece of cake.... You save time setting up in the
   beginning; it'll pay off in the end.

Engaging students. The school counselors aimed to use their classroom management strategies to engage students in lessons. School counselors shared that "having engaging lessons is the best technique overall," and "I really try to keep the kiddos ... engaged so that students are occupied at all times." Specifically, the school counselors described engagement strategies, mainly "keep the lesson interesting," "make the lesson interactive," and provide "exciting lessons, hooks, contests." The school counselors also identified using structure as a helpful engagement strategy. One school counselor relayed:
   We use a lot of entrance and exit tickets with students.... [They]
   need to have something as they walk in, and then scheduled
   consistently for every minute.... [I] put an agenda on the board
   ... stay on track and be finished by a certain time.

Some school counselors found technology to be a useful strategy for engagement. As one said,
   Technology is great.... You can use those apps for randomizing the
   names in the class, and if you want to ask a question real quick, a
   name pops up and that child has to respond so it keeps them
   engaged.... Things like that can be fun ... to keep things rolling.

Music was another suggested engagement strategy. As one participant said, "Kids seemed to enjoy playing music during transitions. .. .It's much easier to manage a room using music ... to kind of start and stop activities."

According to the school counselors, some students needed extra attention and tasks to maintain their engagement in the classroom lessons. For instance, a school counselor recommended "assigning tasks to disruptive students to keep them occupied." Another school counselor stated:
   I am aware of students who have a tendency to be disruptive, so I
   touch base with them prior to my lesson about how they can "help"
   me. They love the extra attention and rise to the challenge. For
   younger students ... they are my manager, or timekeeper. Older
   students, I plant a question on a card for them to ask at a certain

Implementing positive reinforcement. School counselors found positive reinforcement to be a helpful classroom management strategy, suggesting "acknowledge and praise when students are on task and participating" and "reinforce students who exhibit that [desired] behavior." Further, one school counselor suggested "giving positive attention to students ... before they act out ... look for, and praise, the positive behaviors." Another school counselor provided an example of positive reinforcement: "Praise the students who are doing things well. Actually say things like, 'I see Annie is sitting quietly and focused and ready to learn.'"

Some school counselors described systems in place for providing positive reinforcement, such as "positive recognition system within the classroom," a "positive reinforcement chart," and having "a plan for a [short- and long-term] reward system." Other school counselors elaborated on their positive reinforcement systems. One said, "I bring little index cards with a sticker on it, 'I caught you,' and I won't say a word.... I'll just put it on their desk." Another relayed, "I share a positive reward system prior to beginning my lesson where students can earn a magic trick I perform tied to the lesson based on positive behavior during my lesson." The schoolwide positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) approach was recommended by another school counselor to positively reinforce students: "Keep lots of built-in positive reinforcers ... schoolwide, as well as individual classrooms ... all part of PBIS."

Using varied modalities. As part of their classroom management, school counselors reported using several modalities to communicate with and engage students, such as nonverbal, vocal, and physical strategies. For instance, some school counselors mentioned used nonverbals to communicate with students: "Use a nonverbal signal/item to help [students] calm down" and provide "directions in signing or gesturing." Some other school counselors appreciated using eye contact as a nonverbal modality, including "facial signals/eye contact." Next, school counselors conveyed using their voice as an aspect of classroom management, including "pausing," "lowering your volume sometimes.... They have to work harder to listen to you," and performing call and responses to students: "[If] you hear my voice, clap once." Finally, school counselors mentioned using physical movement as part of their classroom management, reporting that they would often move around the room: "If problems manifest, using proximity, moving closer to the student, can be effective" and "walk around the room and do not stay in one place." Similarly, school counselors valued engaging their students in movement: "Have the student sit near you," "plan your lesson so that it is broken up into places where they can move," and "I usually pull my kids [students] out of the classroom and go to a neutral location.. .just getting them out of [their] classroom."

Utilizing discipline. School counselors in the present study appreciated and described using a range of classroom management strategies such as those described above. However, some school counselors communicated enlisting disciplinary procedures, as one said, desiring to "have consequences" for students who did not successfully respond to initial classroom management strategies. One school counselor noted that "discipline is ours. It is what we teach ... self-discipline. It's OK to set standards and limits." Relatedly, other school counselors said, "You can't teach if the students are not under control. Don't let the classroom teacher be your disciplinarian while you are teaching. The students will quickly run over you" and "If somebody breaks it [classroom attention/focus], I have to make an example out of you.... You disrupted my class, you have to go."

Some school counselors relied on protocols for disciplining. For instance, one said, "I have discretely given out poker chips as a warning about behaviors, and students with more than two warnings have a lunch detention or miss recess." Others said, "they [students] have [to] move their clip" and "three strikes you're out ... walking by and giving them the red card or the yellow card as a warning." As part of providing purposeful discipline, school counselors sought assistance from other school stakeholders: "If the student becomes so disruptive and doesn't positively respond to redirection, I request that they be removed from the class" and "Should the situation continue to escalate, then either admin or security should be notified."

Although some school counselors in the current study preferred to engage in disciplinary actions, others purposefully avoided such behaviors, seeing them as poorly aligned with their school counseling role. For example, school counselors stated that they "enlist the help of the classroom teacher, since discipline is not a role that I believe school counselors should play," while another said, "I think the classroom teacher should remain in the classroom and handle the problem(s). I don't think a counselor should take on the role of disciplinarian." Another school counselor described their communication with students, to avoid disciplining them:
   "Come on, guys. Don't make me put on my other hat." They [students]
   laugh, and then they stop and they listen, because they know. They
   know I don't want to be a person that gets mad because they're
   talking. That's not who I am. I'm there to support them.

Factors That Influence Classroom Management

The school counselors in this study communicated several factors affecting their classroom management experience. Specific factors included school counselor characteristics, knowing students, varied previous experiences, and teacher collaboration.

School counselor characteristics. Many school counselors reported personal characteristics that aided in their classroom management processes, including being calm, confident, consistent, and genuine. For instance, when managing a classroom, school counselors should "maintain a calm demeanor," "keep your emotions under control," and have "patience ... try not to take kids' disruptive behavior personally." Next, school counselors made recommendations to "be confident" and "remain confident and in control ... maintain composure." School counselors in the present study also highlighted the importance of consistency: "Set your expectations and stick to it" and be "consistent. They [students] need to know that if you say something, you're going to follow through." Last, school counselors valued genuineness: "You have to love what you're doing" and "being your authentic self is really significant."

Knowing students. According to the school counselors, knowing their students was critical to their classroom management process, including developing relationships with students individually, building a sense of community within the classroom, connecting with students through humor and respect, and understanding students' underlying concerns. Thus, school counselors emphasized "having a good rapport with students is the first step" and "relationship is key when managing student behavior.... Once the trust is established, you can most often get them to do as you ask." School counselors recommended creating rapport by finding common interests and interacting with students outside of the classroom. One counselor relayed, "Show genuine interest in them [students] by finding something you like or can connect on," and another suggested, "You build those relationships outside of the confines of the classroom ... or counseling sessions.... Be a part of the school day for those kids ... build that relationship."

In addition to strengthening individual relationships, school counselors valued getting to know students by creating a sense of community in classrooms. One school counselor stated that they worked to "build a sense of community, like collaborat[ive] community.... We're learning together." Other school counselors communicated strategies they used to build a positive classroom culture, including "Prior to beginning the lesson, I do an icebreaker [that] is fun and allows the students to connect with me and their classmates" and "A handshake is powerful.... One of the things we try and do ... is to meet the kids at the door as they walk in, shake their hands and greet them."

Further, school counselors also mentioned building student relationships through the use of humor and respect. For example, "Humor is a big part of our success in a classroom" and "Humor: Don't be afraid to be silly.... That often catches them [students] off guard and wins them over." Respect was also valued by the school counselors, who recommended having "a positive, respectful relationship with them [students]" and said, "Be respectful, and show you care for them [students]."

In relation to building student relationships, school counselors sought to understand students' underlying concerns, which informed their knowledge of students and thus their classroom management approaches. One school counselor said, "I work hard to look for the root cause to the problem. Is the student misbehaving because they don't know an answer or something is hitting a trigger? Responding to the catalyst rather than the reaction." Another school counselor said, "I'll take that child to the side and say, 'What's going on?' so that I can understand their behavior, and we can kind of try to fix it."

Varied previous experience. The school counselors appreciated having graduate preparation and teaching experience related to classroom management, but some also described the challenges associated with a lack of such educational and practical experiences. To start with, some school counselors communicated the benefits of having previous teaching and classroom management experience. One said, "For 16 years I taught special ed. Just implementing some of those strategies," while another said, "That teaching experience is really helpful.... When I came aboard ... you had to have 3 years of teaching. So, you had to learn that classroom management." Other school counselors also lauded previous classroom management experience: "The best teacher is experience" and "I think having a previous experience in the classroom is instrumental."

Next, some school counselors detailed the struggles associated with a lack of classroom management preparation, training, and prior teaching experience. One noted,
   I had no training whatsoever and [learned classroom management] by
   observing teachers that I respected ... but it's hard to walk into
   a class [without training] ... because you set that tone the first
   day.... You [can] lose control [of students] at the beginning.

Some school counselors described the challenges faced by other school counselors who lacked classroom management experiences: "You see the difference in the classrooms with the kids. You see the frustration with that counselor [who lacks classroom management experience]." Another school counselor said, "I've had shared counseling [responsibilities] where another [school counselor] ... didn't have that [classroom management/teaching] experience. So it took a lot of my time to help to support them." Other school counselors mentioned the obstacles faced by their school counseling practicum and internship students lacking classroom management experience: "They don't know how to talk to that many kids at once [in a class setting]" and "One practicum student ... didn't have the teaching experience and had stage fright and really struggled in front of the group [class of students].... If you haven't gotten up and done it...."

Collaborating with teachers. According to the school counselors in the present study, collaborating with classroom teachers was instrumental in their classroom management process. Specifically, school counselors mentioned utilizing classroom management approaches used by individual teachers, schoolwide initiatives, providing teachers with support, and learning from teachers. For instance, school counselors found it beneficial to "utilize classroom management system[s] the teacher uses" and "know what the teachers' classroom rules are ... and meld them together [with my rules]." One school counselor appreciated the consistency in using teachers' strategies: "Every teacher has their own approach to [classroom] management. I learn the classroom teacher's strategy and apply it while I instruct. This creates consistency for the students and I get to learn a variety of classroom management strategies."

In addition to using teachers' individual classroom management approaches, school counselors detailed using approaches implemented by teachers schoolwide, including specific frameworks, programs, and tools. For instance, one school counselor described "using responsive classroom and PBIS approaches and interventions that are aligned with how the classroom teachers support their classroom and/or using schoolwide common language." Other school counselors said, "I like GoNoodle because you are then tying into the day ... [because] teachers do it, too" and "utilizing the system that's already in place throughout the school, or at least in the classroom; it's [Class]Dojo."

In terms of collaboration, some school counselors reported providing teachers with classroom management guidance and learning from teachers' expertise. For instance, school counselors relayed: "The principal there [at my school] asked me to do a workshop on classroom management [for teachers]" and "Because I was a school counselor, administrators and teachers were like, 'So what do I do about classroom management?'" However, some school counselors found that these requests could be problematic if the school counselor lacked related skills or training. As one school counselor noted, "I was being asked to be an expert at something I was really green in [classroom management]." As described previously, some school counselors lacked classroom management experiences and thus valued learning from teachers. In particular, some school counselors said, "I have learned the most from watching the teachers in my building who maintain a positive classroom environment" and "observing teachers ... I would mimic some of their [classroom management]."


Results from the present study validated and expanded on previous school counseling research (e.g., Buchanan et al., 2017; Quarto, 2007). Compared to findings by Buchanan and colleagues (2017) and Quarto (2007), school counselors in the current study provided a wider range of strategies for student engagement (e.g., using technology, music), positive reinforcement (e.g., charts, reward systems), collaborating with teachers through schoolwide classroom management initiatives (e.g., responsive classroom, GoNoodle, ClassDojo), and modalities (e.g., nonverbal signaling; vocal tone, pace, and volume; and student movement). Participants in Buchanan et al.'s study and those in the current investigation appreciated previous teaching experience and emphasized the importance of graduate preparation for classroom management and the challenges of lacking such preparation. However, distinctive to the present study, the school counselors also suggested observing and learning from teachers while practicing as a school counselor.

Beyond validating and expanding on previous school counseling literature, the present study provided novel findings not otherwise published in regard to school counseling-specific classroom management. First, school counselors relayed prioritizing student relationships and described personal characteristics that aided in their classroom management process. Thus, the present study provides insight on some school counselors' perceived behaviors and personal characteristics for building student relationships during classroom management. Also original to the current study, school counselors reported being asked to provide teachers with classroom management training and feedback, which several noted as challenging due to their limited expertise. Although other researchers have documented school counselors providing consultation services to teachers (e.g., Cholewa, Goodman-Scott, Thomas, & Cook, 2017; Goodman-Scott, 2015), the present study highlights consultation and collaboration specific to classroom management, including the inherent-related challenges.

Education Literature

Comparison of the present study's results to classroom management strategies recommended by the Department of Education (Simonsen et al., 2015) and the National Council on Teacher Quality (Greenberg et al., 2014) revealed many overlaps. Thus, school counselors in the current study reportedly used several classroom management strategies aligned with the empirically driven strategies found in and recommended for K12 education (see the strategies listed in Table 1). These findings support the suggestion by Akos and colleagues (2007) that school counselors utilize strategies similar to those of teachers in K-12 settings.

Despite the overlap between the current study and educational recommendations, I also found differences. The National Council on Teacher Quality (Greenberg et al., 2014) recommended two strategies that were not present in the current study: family/community involvement and focusing on social/cultural factors. This omission on the part of school counselors is particularly interesting, given that school counselors are called to be school leaders who collaborate with family and community members and who provide culturally competent services, taking into account student/school social and cultural factors (ASCA, 2012, 2019; Betters-Bubon & Schultz, 2018; Ratts & Greenleaf, 2018; Young & Dollarhide, 2018). Hence, although instrumental to school counselors' roles, use of family/community partnerships or social/cultural issues within classroom management by school counselors in the current sample remains unknown.

Another interesting point was the reported use of discipline within school counselors' classroom management. Both the Department of Education (Simonsen et al., 2015) and the National Council on Teacher Quality (Greenberg et al., 2014) suggested strategies for disciplining or correcting students. Some of the school counselors in the present study echoed this sentiment in describing disciplining students, while other school counselors specifically avoided discipline, citing incongruences with their professional role. ASCA is very clear, in both the ASCA National Model text (2012) and the position statement on discipline (2013), that school counselors should refrain from disciplining students. Specifically, according to the ASCA (2013) position statement,
   The school counselor is not a disciplinarian but should be a
   resource for school personnel as they develop individual and
   school-wide discipline procedures. The school counselor
   collaborates with school personnel and other stakeholders to
   establish policies encouraging appropriate behavior and maintaining
   safe schools where effective teaching and learning can take place.
   (p. 1)

Further, ASCA (2013) continues, "It is not the school counselor's role to serve as an enforcement agent but rather a significant contributor to the development of the prevention and intervention programs through which problem behaviors are managed and positive behaviors are nurtured" (p. 1). In addition to consulting and collaborating with school stakeholders, ASCA recommends school counselors directly serve students by proactively promoting positive, prosocial behaviors through individual and group counseling and by assisting in the implementation of behavior plans and schoolwide and group programs. Aligned with the ASCA position statement, the school counselors in the present study reported using classroom management strategies to promote an inclusive, engaging classroom climate and proactively encourage positive, desired student behaviors. At the same time, school counselors had varied perspectives regarding providing discipline procedures directly to students during the classroom lessons. Despite ASCA's recommendation that school counselors not "mete out punishment" (ASCA, 2013, p. 1), the present study provided data that some school counselors are indeed disciplining students during classroom lessons, and may perceive it as part of their role, highlighting potential professional inconsistencies in school counselors' recommended role and actual practice.

Implications and Future Research

The current study highlighted school counselors' experiences with classroom management, including appreciating and using specific strategies and contributing factors. Because classroom management is necessary to conduct effective K12 classroom lessons, the results of this study can provide a foundation to inform future school counseling practice and research.

First, practicing school counselors may consider applying aspects of the discussed classroom management strategies and factors. Specifically, the empirically based list of recommended classroom management strategies from the Department of Education (Simonsen et al., 2015) and the National Council on Teacher Quality (Greenberg et al., 2014) can be a helpful start in guiding school counselors' classroom management, while keeping in mind the appropriate school counseling roles recommended by ASCA (2012, 2013). Table 1 shows a variety of school counseling-specific classroom management strategies and examples of implementation, gleaned from (a) U.S. Department of Education recommended evidence-based classroom management strategies for educators (Simonsen et al., 2015), (b) the results of the present study, and (c) recommended roles for school counselors (ASCA, 2012, 2013). Classroom management strategies should be implemented during the initial school counseling lesson and reinforced during subsequent lessons throughout the school year.

School counselors in the current study appreciated previous educational and practical experiences with classroom management and lamented the lack of such experiences. Further, the school counselors suggested the need for more school counseling-specific graduate preparation and experiential learning. For instance, one school counselor described taking "a unit of it [classroom management] in an exceptional students counseling class that I had in grad school," while another school counselor mentioned, "A lot of our classroom management learning was in our practicum, our internships." One participant noted, "In grad school, we had maybe a class talking about classroom management," while another said, "It wasn't even like there was a class period ... on classroom management." Relatedly, school counselors discussed the lack of training (e.g., "I had no training whatsoever" and "I didn't get any training at all") and lack of practical classroom management experiences (e.g., "I've not ever been a teacher" and "I had never been in a classroom. I had never taught").

One school counselor suggested an intentional, hands-on approach for school counselors to learn about classroom management:
   I think it would be really neat as part of a counseling program,
   that part of your internships ... to go and spend a couple of weeks
   co-teaching with a teacher.... Because experience is the only way
   to learn, and having a good role model to learn from.

Similarly, a different school counselor conveyed, "It's big during those practicum [and] internship experiences.... I wish we had more requirements ... when you watch videos of your peers doing it [classroom management]."

Although the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP, 2016) requires that accredited school counseling preparation programs include classroom management content, CACREP does not prescribe the type of content. Peterson and Deuschle (2006) noted that many school counselors lack prior school-based work experience and may benefit from exposure to content and experiences related to school culture, such as classroom management, including workshops, observations, and feedback in clinical supervision. As a result, school counselor educators may consider infusing classroom management content and experiences throughout their preparation programs, such as (a) including course content on evidence-based classroom management strategies specifically for school counselors, (b) requiring school counselors to observe teachers and/ or school counselors who demonstrate exemplary classroom management, and (c) incorporating classroom management experiences in practicums and internships, including classroom management-specific video/audio recordings to be reviewed and discussed in supervision.

In addition to desiring preservice education and experience, practicing school counselors in the present study requested greater classroom management support in their current positions. Mitchell, Hirn, and Lewis (2017) described a model of training educators on classroom management that may also apply to school counselors. Through this model, school counselors receive preservice education and training on classroom management, then, as a follow-up, obtain ongoing coaching and feedback on their classroom management implementation to increase their fluency (Mitchell et al., 2017). Thus, school district leadership may consider offering classroom management training to their practicing school counselors, then also creating avenues for school counselors to receive short-term coaching that provides supervision and feedback on their implementation of classroom management strategies.

Just as existing research examines the effectiveness of educators' classroom management strategies, future research could use similar research methods to investigate the effectiveness of school counselors' classroom management strategies, including assessing student outcomes and measures of classroom climate. For example, researchers could examine whether the use of school counselor-specific classroom management strategies relates to changes in students' on-task behavior during lessons. Researchers also might consider soliciting information on the existence of family/ community partnerships and social/cultural factors within school counselors' classroom management strategies. Last, researchers could examine school counselors' beliefs and practices regarding disciplining students, including their definition of discipline.


The results of this study should be examined within the context of the limitations. First, the survey data were archival, resulting in a lack of prior input on survey content and distribution and thus limited participant demographic information and the inability to conduct member checking. Second, although the focus group format does have benefits, anonymity could not be guaranteed between participants, and participants' responses could have been influenced by social desirability (Patton, 2015). However, participants had an opportunity to provide feedback during their individual member checking.


According to Korpershoek and colleagues (2014), "classroom management is about creating inviting and appealing environments for student learning" (p. 11). School counselors enlist classroom management as a vehicle to create an engaging and caring educational environment for all students, as part of the core curriculum of a comprehensive school counseling program. This article provides concrete suggestions for practicing school counselors to deliver classroom management to students (see Table 1), addressing their school-based academic, career, and social/emotional needs. Overall, this article richly highlights classroom management experiences through school counselors' unique lens, providing insight into their strategies and contributing factors, and underscoring school counselors' role enhancing student learning by "building a caring [classroom] climate" through their classroom management.

DOI: 10.1177/2156759X19852618

Declaration of Conflicting Interests

The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.


The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.


Emily Goodman-Scott [ID]


Akos, P., Cockman, C. R., & Strickland, C. A. (2007). Differentiating classroom guidance. Professional School Counseling, 10, 455-463.

American School Counselor Association. (2012). ASCA National Model: A framework for school counseling programs (3rd ed.). Alexandria, VA: Author.

American School Counselor Association. (2013). The school counselor and discipline. ASCA Position Statements. Retrieved from

American School Counselor Association. (2014). ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors for student success: K-12 college- and career-readiness standards for every student. Retrieved from

American School Counselor Association. (2019). ASCA school counselor professional standards & competencies. Retrieved from

Betters-Bubon, J. J., & Schultz, J. W. (2018). School counselors as social justice leaders: An innovative school-family-community partnership with Latino students and families. Professional School Counseling, 21, 1-11. doi: 10.1177/2156759X18773601

Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3, 77-101. doi: 10.1191/1478088706qp063oa

Buchanan, D. K., Mynatt, B. S., & Woodside, M. (2017). Novice school counselors' experience in classroom management. The Journal of Counselor Preparation and Supervision, 9, 33-62. doi: 10.7729/91.1146

Cholewa, B., Goodman-Scott, E., Thomas, A., & Cook, J. (2017). Teachers' perceptions and experiences consulting with school counselors: A qualitative study. Professional School Counseling, 20, 77-88. doi: 10.5330/1096-2409-20.1.77

Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs. (2016). 2016 CACREP standards. Alexandria, VA: Author.

Creswell, J. W., & Poth, C. N. (2018). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Geltner, J. A., & Clark, M. A. (2005). Engaging students in classroom guidance: Management strategies for middle school counselors. Professional School Counseling, 9, 164-166.

Geltner, J. A., Cunningham, T. J., & Caldwell, C. D. (2011). Identifying curriculum components for classroom management training for school counselors: A Delphi study. Journal of Counselor Preparation and Supervision, 3, 82-94.

Glander, M. (2017). Selected statistics from the public elementary and secondary education universe: School year 2015-2016. Retrieved from

Goodman-Scott, E. (2015). School counselors' perceptions of their academic preparedness and job activities. Counselor Education and Supervision, 54, 57-67. doi: 10.1002/j.15566978.2015.00070.x

Greenberg, J., Putman, H., & Walsh, K. (2014). Training our future teachers: Classroom management. Washington, DC: National Council on Teacher Quality. Retrieved from

Hays, D. G., & Singh, A. A. (2012). Qualitative inquiry in clinical and educational settings. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Hays, D. G., Wood, C., Dahl, H., & Kirk-Jenkins, A. (2016). Methodological rigor in Journal of Counseling & Development qualitative research articles: A 15-year review. Journal of Counseling & Development, 94, 172-183. doi: 10.1002/jcad.12074

Hunt, B. (2011). Publishing qualitative research in counseling journals. Journal of Counseling & Development, 89, 296-300. doi: 10.1002/j.1556-6678.2011.tb00092.x

Korpershoek, H., Harms, T., de Boer, H., van Kuijk, M., & Doolaard, S. (2014). Effective classroom management strategies and classroom management programs for educational practice: A meta-analysis of the effects of classroom management strategies and classroom management programs on students' academic, behavioural, emotional, and motivational outcomes. Groningen, 7-62.

Krueger, R. A., & Casey, M. A. (2015). Focus groups: A practical guide for applied research (5th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Lopez, C. J., & Mason, E. C. M. (2018). School counselors as curricular leaders: A content analysis of ASCA lesson plans. Professional School Counseling, 21, doi: 10.1177/2156759X18773277

Mitchell, B. S., Him, R. G., & Lewis, T. J. (2017). Enhancing effective classroom management in schools: Structures for changing teacher behavior. Teacher Education and Special Education, 40, 140-153. doi: 10.1177/0888406417700961

Mullen, P. R., & Lambie, G. W. (2016). The contribution of school counselors' self-efficacy to their programmatic service delivery. Psychology in the Schools, 53, 306-320. doi: 10.1002/pits.21899

Patton, M. Q. (2015). Qualitative evaluation and research methods (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Peterson, J. S., & Deuschle, C. (2006). A model for supervising school counseling students without teaching experience. Counselor Education and Supervision, 45, 267-281. doi: 10.1002/j.15566978.2006.tb00003.x

Quarto, C. J. (2007). Managing student behavior during large group guidance: What works best? Journal of School Counseling, 5, 1-22.

Ratts, M. J., & Greenleaf, A. T. (2018). Multicultural and social justice counseling competencies: A leadership framework for professional school counselors. Professional School Counseling, 21. doi: 10.1177/2156759X18773582

Scarborough, J. L. (2005). The school counselor activity rating scale: An instrument for gathering process data. Professional School Counseling, 8, 274-283.

Simonsen, B., Freeman, J., Goodman, S., Mitchell, B., Swain-Bradway, J., Flannery, B., ... Putman, B. (2015). Supporting and responding to behavior: Evidence-based classroom strategies for teachers. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. Retrieved from

Young, A. A., & Dollarhide, C. T. (2018). Introduction to the special issue: A case for school counseling leadership. Professional School Counseling, 21. doi: 10.1177/2156759X18772988

Emily Goodman-Scott [1] [ID]

[1] Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA, USA

Corresponding Author:

Emily Goodman-Scott, Old Dominion University, 2128 Education Building II, Norfolk, VA 23529, USA.

Table 1. Recommended School Counseling Classroom Management

Classroom Management
Strategy                    Description

Purposefully design the     Is the room well organized and
physical layout of the      physically conducive to
room                        learning? Can the students
                            move around comfortably?

                            Depending on the students'
                            ages, school counselors may
                            consider having students move
                            around the room at different
                            points during the lesson, to
                            maintain momentum and

Create and proactively      At the start of the year,
teach students              school counselors describe how
behavioral                  students should behave during
expectations                school counseling classroom
                            lessons. Expectations must be
                            culturally responsive to the
                            given population. School
                            counselors can remind students
                            of any schoolwide expectations
                            and adapt these expectations
                            to the school counseling
                            lessons. At the start of each
                            lesson, school counselors can
                            provide students with a quick
                            refresher, reminding students
                            of the expectations.

Develop and teach           School counselors develop and
predictable routines        teach students specific,
                            predictable routines
                            associated with their lessons.
                            This can include routines for
                            starting and ending the
                            lessons, routines for
                            administering positive
                            reinforcement, and so forth.

Give behavior-specific      School counselors provide
praise                      positive verbal feedback,
                            recognizing desired student
                            behavior. This feedback
                            specifically identifies the
                            desired behavior.

Supervise students,         While conducting lessons,
including scanning and      school counselors actively
proximity                   monitor the room, physically
                            moving around and supervising
                            students. They may scan the
                            room and check in with

Provide many                School counselors provide
opportunities to            students with a variety of
respond                     opportunities to respond to
                            questions such as verbal,
                            written, choral, small group,
                            and/or nonverbal.

Act consistently            When engaging in classroom
                            management, school counselors
                            act consistently, routinely
                            following through with
                            classroom procedures; teaching
                            and reteaching schoolwide and/
                            or class-specific behavioral
                            expectations; recognizing
                            desired student behaviors;
                            providing feedback; and so

Classroom Management
Strategy                    School Counseling Examples

Purposefully design the     School counselor, to a class
physical layout of the      of second-grade students:
                            "First, we are going to read a
                            story on the carpet, then
                            we'll move back to your chairs
                            to complete an activity."

Create and proactively      During their first lesson of
teach students              the year:
expectations                "Our schoolwide expectations
                            are be prepared, be
                            professional, be respectful.
                            How can we follow these
                            expectations during the school
                            counseling classroom lessons?
                            Let's make a list together."

                            Then, post each class-
                            generated list in the
                            respective classroom (as
                            developmentally appropriate)
                            and refer back to the
                            expectations at the start of
                            each lesson.

Develop and teach           "When my lessons start, I want
predictable routines        to see students in 'Ready'
                            position. 'Ready' position
                            means desks are clear and ..."

                            "Remember, if the class earns
                            three check marks for good
                            listening during today's
                            lesson, we can listen to a
                            song at the end of our

Give behavior-specific      During a lesson on
praise                      organizational skills:

                            "Kiera, I like how you wrote
                            your language arts homework in
                            your agenda. You wrote down
                            the page numbers for your
                            reading, and the upcoming quiz
                            on Thursday. Thank you for
                            being organized."

Supervise students,         While students are engaging in
including scanning and      small group work at tables,
proximity                   the school counselor
                            supervises, walking around the
                            perimeter and the middle of
                            the room, quietly checking in
                            with student groups on the
                            status of their group work.
                            The school counselor may make
                            observations and provide
                            feedback, as appropriate.

Provide many                School counselor:
opportunities to
respond                     "On a scale of 1-5, 1 being
                            little knowledge and 5 being a
                            lot of knowledge, raise your
                            hand and show me on your
                            fingers, how much you know
                            about ..."

                            Call and response:

                            School counselor: "One, two,
                            three ..."

                            Students: "Eyes on me!"

                            School counselor:

                            "Please get out your tablets,
                            and answer the questions on
                            the following Google Form.
                            I'll compile all the answers
                            and ..."

Act consistently            A student is off task during
                            the journal writing activity
                            in the lesson. The school
                            counselor will remind all
                            students of the care for self-
                            expectation that they taught
                            previously and quietly provide
                            an individualized reminder to
                            the student who is off task.
                            When appropriate, the school
                            counselor will positively
                            acknowledge the student when
                            they respond and return to
                            their work. The school
                            counselor will continue to
                            highlight the schoolwide
                            expectations in subsequent

Note. This table summarizes content from the U.S. Department of
Education report (Simonsen et al., 2015), in alignment with the
findings from the current study and the ASCA National Model (ASCA,
COPYRIGHT 2018 American School Counselor Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2018 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Featured Research
Author:Goodman-Scott, Emily
Publication:Professional School Counseling
Date:Sep 1, 2018
Previous Article:New School Counselors' Perceptions of Factors Influencing Their Roles as Leaders.
Next Article:Perceptions of School Counselors Surviving a School Shooting.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2020 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters