ERIC Identifier: ED378462
Publication Date: 1994-04-00
Author: Feller, Rich - And Others
Clearinghouse on Counseling and Student Services Greensboro NC.
School Counselor Role in Planning and Integrating Basic Skills.
A condemning finger is being pointed at the country's public school system.
Industry leaders claim that postsecondary students are not graduating with the
"basic skills" needed for success at work, at home, and in further education
(Carnevale et al., 1988).
What are these basic skills? The contemporary list goes far beyond the
traditional Three R's to include the attitudes, knowledge, and behaviors needed
to function in an increasingly self directed, interpersonal, and technological
workplace. In addition to reading, writing, and computing, these skills include:
learning to learn; effective verbal and nonverbal communication; adaptability
(including creative thinking and problem solving); personal management
(including self esteem, goal setting/motivation, and personal/career
development); group effectiveness (including personal skills, negotiation, and
teamwork); influence (including organizational effectiveness and leadership);
the ability to understand technology; the ability to apply scientific knowledge
to work situations; and the ability to balance and manage family and work
(Feller et al., 1992).
HOW COUNSELORS CAN HELP
Schools are being challenged to
integrate these new basic skills across their curricula. This presents school
counselors with an opportunity: if they can prove their effectiveness in helping
students plan for and acquire the basic skills and prepare for life after high
school, they can trade their traditionally services oriented, possibly
expendable positions in schools for positions of influence in matters such as
school reform and restructuring. Currently, the most promising models for
helping school counselors take this active role are "comprehensive counseling
and guidance programs."
Comprehensive counseling and guidance programs are the "umbrella programs" of
the 1990s (Gysbers, 1990), designed to provide all students with life
competencies through personal, social, and career counseling. Abandoning the
traditionally passive, service approach to counseling, comprehensive counseling
and guidance programs employ four interactive components that take the vagueness
out of the school counselor's role (Gysbers & Henderson, 1988):
The Guidance Curriculum -- counselors provide structured, competency based
activities in the classroom or in group situations, using this focused time with
students to focus on content areas such as self knowledge, educational and
occupational exploration, and career planning (NOICC, 1989).
Individual Planning -- Counselors help students think ahead and think for
themselves, teaching them how to plan rigorous and coherent sequences of
courses, as well as monitor and manage their lives.
Responsive Services -- Counselors meet the immediate needs of students
confronting personal or educational challenges.
System Support -- Counselors work to sustain and enhance the implementation of
comprehensive counseling and guidance programs.
INTEGRATING BASIC SKILLS INSTRUCTION
An essential part of
the effort to equip students with the basic skills is the integration of
academic and vocational instruction. Basic competencies in these areas are
prerequisites for lifetime learning. Additionally, as technology continues to
become more sophisticated, the competencies with which students graduate are
rapidly becoming requirements for landing and keeping good jobs with growth
potential. Conversely, college-bound students can benefit from vocational
methods of instruction and experiences connecting school to work. By using
academic theory in real life settings, they can acquire skills needed outside
Schools emphasizing acquisition of the basic skills recognize the critical
role counselors can play in helping students plan a demanding sequence of
academic and vocational courses that will prepare them both for employment and
postsecondary education. School counselors promote the idea that vocational
education is better supported when vocational and academic education are seen as
complementary strategies for student success, not as competing programs of
study. An example: a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, school district has discontinued
its general education track. Students must now make specific curriculum choices
early on. It is therefore necessary for guidance professionals to contact all
students earlier and stay in contact with them. To receive a diploma, each
student must plan and complete a focused curriculum leading to an academic or an
applied technology and career development certificate, or both.
To inform the community about the methods the district is using to infuse
career education into curriculum, the district sends letters to parents of all
eighth graders, and requires all tenth graders to view a video explaining
graduation and certificate requirements within a group guidance class.
Counselors now find it much easier to promote the merits of Pittsburgh's 40
vocational options and their relation to graduation, the workplace, and
postsecondary education. This action, along with other initiatives, has
significantly reduced dropout rates (personal communication, Fred Monaco,
Division of Applied Technology and Career Development, 1991).
THE COUNSELOR'S DILEMMA
Without a comprehensive counseling
and guidance program to address the needs of all students, developmental needs
are overlooked and students unable to state their needs fall through the cracks.
Due to the large student to counselor ratios, many students end up selecting
courses based on availability, instructor popularity, or other criteria that may
have nothing to do with career plans, learning styles or basic skill needs.
Traditionally, counselors have been rewarded for attending to students who
already know their career needs and their principal's priorities. Little
attention has been given to what has been called the "forgotten half" (William
T. Grant Foundation, 1988).
Part of this stems from the nebulous role of school counselors. Counselors
are expected to perform roles as varied as the schools within which they work.
Some are advocates for students confronting severe family and social change,
while others are saddled with large amounts of "administrivia." Many confront
substance abuse, suicide, and teen pregnancy as regular parts of their day.
Comprehensive counseling and guidance programs call for counselors' reduced
involvement in administrative and clerical work. They place counselors in fewer
one-on-one counseling situations. At the same time, they strengthen counselors'
accountability for effectively helping all students prepare for the world beyond
high school (Gysbers, 1990). Unfortunately, implementing comprehensive
counseling and guidance programs has been a low priority in the school reform
movement. This could be due to (a) hesitancy of school counselors to vocalize
their positions, (b) school counselors' traditional isolation from schools'
mainstream instructional programs, or (c) school counselors' limited involvement
in reform (Levi & Ziegler, 1991).
Implementing comprehensive counseling and guidance programs on a large scale
requires the revamping and greater standardization of school counselors'
education. Preservice school counselors need a more specific, focused program
that arms them with the essentials of professional renewal. School counselor
education should be built on a foundation of educational developmental theory
and practice as well as psychological theory. Preservice school counselors need
training in several areas: 1) helping students plan their coursework and
futures; 2) promoting curricula and instructional methods which integrate
academic and vocational education; and 3) implementing comprehensive counseling
and guidance programs.
The workplace, families, and a democracy require
resilient workers able to think, use technology correctly, get along with
others, adapt to change, and embrace lifelong learning. Through comprehensive
counseling and guidance programs, school counselors can help ensure that all
students, regardless of their immediate plans after high school, receive
instruction in the basic skills through an integrated program of vocational and
academic coursework. This coursework and a commitment to planning can be the key
to students' lifelong success at work, at home, and in further education.
Carnevale, A.P., Gainer, L.J., & Meltzer,
A.S. (1988). "Workplace basics: The skills employers want." Alexandria, VA:
American Society for Training and Development. (ED 299 462)
Feller, R., Daly, J., Gloeckner, G., Cobb, B., Stefan, J., Love, C., Lamm,
J., & Grant, B. (1992). "Counselor Role and Educational Change: Planning,
Integration, and Basic Skills: Review of Literature." Fort Collins, CO: Colorado
Gysbers, N. (1990). "Comprehensive guidance programs that work." Ann Arbor,
MI: ERIC Counseling and Personnel Services Clearinghouse.
Gysbers, N., & Henderson, P. (1988). "Developing and managing your school
guidance program." Alexandria, VA: American Association for Counseling and
Levi, M., & Ziegler, S. (1991). "Making connections: Guidance and career
education in the middle years." Toronto, Ontario: MGS Publications Services.
National Occupational Information Coordinating Committee. (1989). "National
development guidelines: Local handbook for high schools." Washington, DC: NOICC.
William T. Grant Foundation Commission on Work, Family, and Citizenship.
(1988). "The forgotten half: Non-college youth in America. An interim report on
the school-to-work transition." Washington, DC: Author.