ERIC Identifier: ED347477
Publication Date: 1992-12-00
Author: Allen, Jackie M.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Counseling and Personnel Services Ann Arbor MI.
Action-Oriented Research: Promoting School Counselor Advocacy
and Accountability. ERIC Digest.
School counselors have not effectively utilized research. They even ask: "Why
should we do research?" A study of school counselor research as perceived by
American School Counselor Association leaders (Deck, Cecil, & Cobia, 1990)
revealed little real interest in research, a lack of understanding of the
relevance of research to the practicing school counselor, but a willingness to
accept research if done by someone else. The connection between research and
school counselor accountability is not apparent to many school counselors.
Many misunderstandings regarding the school counselor and research exist.
These common myths seem to cause road blocks which impede the initiation of
school counseling research. School counselors may believe that they do not have
the knowledge and skills required to do research. School counselors fear
engaging their time and efforts in research activities which they do not
consider as a job priority. A general lack of support, both in funding and
administrative encouragement, for school-based counseling research has persisted
for many years. Rewards, both intrinsic and extrinsic, for doing school
counseling research have not been apparent; therefore school counselors continue
to respond: "Why do research?"
Research when understood as a
proactive professional activity becomes imperative for the advocacy,
advancement, and accountability of school counseling. Action-oriented research
is appropriate for school counselors to use in the local school setting and
beyond (Allen, Gallagher, & Radd, 1992). School counselor efficacy and
efficiency thus may be enhanced.
Action-oriented research is very versatile. Both qualitative and quantitative
assessment may be used in conducting action-oriented research studies. Survey
and experimental designs may be used. Methods may include, but are not limited
to, behavioral observations, needs assessments, rating scales, and student
portfolios. Action-oriented research focuses on immediate application, instead
of the development of theory or general application. Results, usually applicable
to the local school situation, may be published in counselor journals.
Action-oriented research is appropriate for assessing student-based outcomes and
evaluating the effectiveness of school counseling programs.
In action-oriented research, assessment methods and techniques may be used to
determine characteristics of students, programs, or ideas. Changes in students,
programs, or ideas which may result from a specific treatment, intervention, or
process are also measured.
The application of action-oriented research in the local setting, the local
school or school district, enables the school counselor to examine a specific
counseling practice, program, or intervention. Action-oriented research studies
concentrate on the here and now, the local situation, and strive to improve both
the school counselor and the counseling services (Allen, Gallagher, & Radd,
Applications of action-oriented research are also found beyond the local
school setting. Professional associations may use action-oriented research
methods and techniques while gathering data to support credential and licensure
efforts or to promote changes in school counseling legislation.
Assessment should be an integral part
of school counseling. Assessment, using action-oriented research methods,
assists school counselors to systematically solve problems. When viewed as a
problem-solving model, assessment assists school counselors in the following
ways (Hood and Johnson, 1991): (a) to motivate school counselors and students to
examine various issues; (b) to clarify the nature of a problem, characteristics
of a program, or aspects of an idea; (c) to make suggestions for alternative
solutions to a problem; (d) to provide a means for comparing various
alternatives to facilitate decision-making; and (e) to assess school counselors
and students in the evaluation of the effectiveness of a proposed solution to: a
problem, a particular program, or a specific intervention.
INITIATING THE RESEARCH PROCESS
When initiating an
action-oriented research project, the following decisions must be made (Hood & Johnson, 1991):
1. Who will be doing the action-oriented research? School counselor, teacher,
intern, aide, parent, administrator, etc.
2. What is being measured or evaluated? What is the population/sample--a
program, a group of students, an individual student, or an idea or concept? What
type of measurement will be used--self-assessment; a subjective observation; an
objective test; or a projective, cognitive, or behavioral measurement?
3. Where will the assessment take place? What is the setting--office,
classroom, conference room, etc.?
4. When will the assessment take place? Will it be before or after a
5.Why is the research being done? What is the purpose? What are the goals and
6.How will the action-oriented research be conducted? What is the length of
time and the method for gathering data? What are the materials and other
School counselors need support to undertake and
complete action-oriented research projects. Support is available through
collaboration, funding, and technology. Collaborative efforts with other school
professionals, public and private agencies, and corporations provide school
counselors with support to conduct action-oriented research. Multidisciplinary
teams for special education and at-risk student identification and screening
provide opportunities for local school collaborative research efforts. Counselor
educators are natural partners for action-oriented research efforts (Allen,
Gallagher, & Radd, 1992). Other collaborative efforts might be pursued with
public and private agencies, corporations, and departments of education.
When planning to do action-oriented research, school counselors should
consider adequate funding to complete the research project. Local school budgets
and district funds often need to be augmented with additional funding from state
and federal grants, professional association grants, or public and private
A variety of technological resources are available to assist school
counselors in the research process. Computerization of data bases, record
keeping, and data analysis have improved research capabilities enhancing the
research process. Consultants are available to assist during any step of the
research process. Nearby colleges and universities provide computerized data
base searches, consultants, and a wide variety of computer hardware and
software. ERIC/CAPS has a very large computer bank of counseling data and
LEGAL AND ETHICAL CONCERNS
School counselors need to
consider certain legal and ethical ramifications when doing action-oriented
research. Specific areas of concern include: confidentiality of assessment data;
parent permission for minors; adequate orientation of parents and students;
treatment for all students in experimental groups, and an awareness of culture
and gender bias in test selection. School counselors may need a written
agreement regarding ownership of findings when working with other institutions
and agencies (Allen, Gallagher, & Radd, 1992). Legal and ethical standards
for school counselors are found in the American Counseling Association "Ethical
Standards" (1988) and the American School Counselor Association "Ethical
Standards for School Counselors" (1984). Guidelines for the use and
administration of tests are found in the Association for Assessment in
Counseling "Responsibilities of Users of Standardized Tests" (Revised) (1989)
and the American Psychological Association "Code of Fair Testing Practices in
There are numerous benefits to be gained by the
school counselor who chooses to do action-oriented research. Program evaluation
and planning are facilitated through the use of measurable student outcomes
obtained through action-oriented research. Collaborative research efforts are
made possible by data gained through action-oriented research. Practical
action-oriented research is the basis for proactive public relations for school
counselors and school counseling. School counselor efficacy is enhanced by
action-oriented research which documents the value, effectiveness, and necessity
of school counseling programs. Action-oriented research may serve as the basis
for grant applications and legislative efforts to improve and expand school
counseling programs or mandate K-12 developmental school counseling. Research is
truly a proactive professional activity which will contribute to the
accountability, advocacy, and advancement of school counseling.
REFERENCES AND RESOURCES
Allen, Gallagher, & Radd.
(1992). Action-oriented research desk guide for professional school counselors.
Alexandria, VA: American School Counselor Association.
American Counseling Association (formerly AACD). (1988). Ethical standards.
Alexandria, VA: Author.
American School Counselor Association. (1984). Ethical standards for school
counselors. Alexandria, VA: Author.
Association for Assessment in Counseling (formerly AMECD). (1989).
Responsibilities of users of standardized tests (revised). Alexandria, VA:
Deck, M. D., Cecil, J. H., & Cobia, D. C. (1990). School counselor
research as perceived by American School Counselor Association leaders:
Implications for the profession. Elementary School Guidance and Counseling, 25,
Hood, A. B. & Johnson, R. W. (1991). Assessment in counseling: A guide to
the use of psychological assessment procedures. Alexandria, VA: ACA.