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Introduction and Rationale
School counselors work with students in academic development, social and emotional skill development, and college/career development. Their work supports student success through education in these domains, improvement of skills, reduction of stress, and improvement in mental health functioning. As I read the article, School Counseling Outcome: A Meta-Analytic Examination of Interventions, I couldn’t help but realize the importance of continued research on the effectiveness of school counseling interventions. This article focuses on the effectiveness of an array of school counseling interventions and not solely on individual and group counseling.
The primary aim of this research was to review various literature pieces that relate to school counseling and identify their outcome and implications to the practice of school counseling. In this study, Meta-analysis 1 involved treatment control comparisons and Meta-analysis 2 involved pretest-posttest differences. The overall average weighted effect size for school counseling interventions was .30. The study examined whether relevant moderator variables influenced effect sizes.
The pretest-posttest size was not significant, so moderator analyses were conducted on treatment control comparisons. Analyses of moderator variables indicated school counseling program activities or interventions varied in effectiveness
Strengths and Weaknesses
A meta-analysis of school counseling outcome research found an overall effect size of .30. Students who participated in the interventions improved almost a third of the standard deviation more than their peers who did not receive the interventions. In other words, school counseling interventions have a larger effect size than aspirin for preventing heart attacks (ES of .06) and an equivalent effect size to sertoline (Zoloft) compared to placebo, for treating major depressive disorder (ES of .31).
(Whiston & Quimby, 2009). The use of meta-analysis offers some weakness on the research which is actually a common thing for meta-analytic researches. This results from the fact that the effect size’s quality is dependant on the quality of research and accuracy. Sampling inaccurate of ineffective research cases may also render the meta-analytic research weak due to the weakness of the researches sampled.
The meta-analytic research may also be stronger due to the fact that it samples a mean of similar variables under various researches and thus providing an average that is a true representative of all researches. In order to improve the meta-analytic exercise it is good to first make an analysis of the article and ensure that they are classified appropriately and their content has high validity so that they may not negatively affect the analysis (Sexton, L.T., & Whiston, S., 1998).
Summary of Research Outcome
A meta-analysis of school counseling research (117 studies, 153 school counseling interventions, and 16, 296 students) found an overall effect size of .30. The authors found that students who participated in school counseling interventions tended to score on various outcome measures about a third of a standard deviation above those who did not receive the interventions. School counseling interventions produced quite large effect sizes in the areas of discipline, problem-solving, and increasing career knowledge.
The effect sizes were smaller, but significant, related to school counseling interventions’ impact on academic achievement. Surprisingly little school counseling research was found related to individual counseling. Concerning guidance curriculum, small groups were more effective than interventions that involved entire classrooms. Outcome research reflects that group counseling can be effective with students who are experiencing problems and difficulties.
Applying this Research to Practice
School counselors can improve the climate in their schools. They can also draw from a vast array of interventions that will help students increase their academic achievement (Brown, 1999). One intervention that has been used for more than a quarter of a century is behavioral contracts. Behavioral contracts must have specific objectives, set attainable short-term goals, be monitored regularly, allow for immediate reinforcement, and be adjusted when they are not promoting the desired change.
Other direct interventions frequently employed by school counselors include study skills groups, time management training, classroom guidance units aimed at improving test taking skills, and achievement motivation groups. Achievement motivation groups are led by the counselor, but involve input from the teachers and support for increased achievement from the students in the group. When students have educational and career goals, they do better in school.
Counselors can facilitate the development of educational and personal goals by engaging students in individual and group activities that focus on goal setting. Some school counselors routinely ask students about interests, educational plans, and occupational goals and record these in their portfolios as one way of emphasizing the importance of goal setting.
Research supports what educators have long understood: parent involvement is an important factor in student achievement (Brown, 1999). Parents who have a high level of commitment to their children, set high standards, maintain a stable home environment, and support achievement, have children who do better in school. Counselors can involve parents through parent consultation, parent education classes that teach parents how to support their children in schools as well as parenting skills, and by advocating for parents and students when students are not treated fairly by the educational establishment.
They can also help keep the parents of children who are having difficulty in school apprised of their children’s progress by encouraging teachers to communicate more frequently with parents than once per grading period.
School counselors are under pressure to assist in the effort to increase student achievement. They can respond to this challenge by working to improve the school climate, using direct interventions such as teaching
study skills and involving students in achievement motivation groups, and by increasing the involvement of parents in the educational process. As our culture and educational institutions change, school counseling practices are emerging to better meet the needs of today’s students.
Brown, D (1999). Proven strategies for improving learning and academic achievement. Greensboro, NC: CAPS Publications
Sexton, L.T., and Whiston, S.C. (1998). A review of school counseling outcome research: Implications for practice. Journal of Counseling and Development volume 76, issue number pp 412-426.
Whiston & Quinby (2009). Review of school counseling research. Psychology in the Schools 46(3), 267-272. Schatzberg & Nemeroff (2009). Textbook of Pyschopharmacology. Arlington, VA: The American Psychiatric Publisher.
Whiston, Susan C; Wendi, Lee Tai; Rahardja, Daryn; Eder, Kelly. Journal of Counseling and Development. Winter 2011. Vol. 89. Issue 1, p. 37-55.