ERIC Identifier: ED315699
Publication Date: 1990-00-00
Author: Ellis, Thomas I.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Counseling and Personnel Services Ann Arbor MI.

The Missouri Comprehensive Guidance Model. Highlights: An ERIC/CAPS Digest.

Traditional organizational patterns for school guidance have emphasized the position and duties of the counselor or the therapeutic process of counseling, at the expense of a coherent programmatic focus. As a consequence, guidance has been widely regarded as an ancillary support service, rather than as an integral part of education. This pattern has placed counselors in a remedial and reactive role, a role in which their duties were ill-defined, large blocks of time were spent working with a small number of students, and they were likely to be saddled with extra administrative and clerical duties, such as scheduling and record keeping.

In response to this widespread lack of an appropriate organizational structure, Norman C. Gysbers and associates at the University of Missouri (Columbia) developed a Comprehensive Guidance Program Model that has been adopted by schools and statewide educational agencies throughout the country, from Alaska to New Hampshire (Starr & Gysbers, 1988). The purpose of the model is to help districts develop comprehensive and systematic developmental guidance programs, kindergarten through grade twelve. It is also to provide guidance with specific educational content, with accountability for attaining certain student competencies. When fully implemented, the program allows counselors to devote all their time to the program, thus eliminating many of the non-guidance related tasks that they now carry out.


The Missouri Comprehensive Guidance Program Model has two major parts: structural and programmatic. The structural part has five components: Definition and Philosophy, Facilities, Advisory Council, Resources, and Staffing Patterns and Budget. This part addresses administrative aspects of the program that do not involve contact with students, but are essential in maintaining the administrative and structural integrity of the overall program.

The programmatic part has four components: Guidance Curriculum, Individual Planning, Responsive Services, and System Support. The Guidance Curriculum consists of structured developmental experiences presented systematically through classroom activities, to provide students with knowledge of normal growth and development and to promote good mental health and assist them in acquiring life skills. The curriculum is organized around (1) career planning and exploration; (2) knowledge of self and others; and (3) educational development.

The Individual Planning component consists of activities that help all students set goals, plan, and manage their own learning, as well as their personal and career development. Conversely, the Responsive Services component consists of activities to meet students' immediate needs and concerns, whether these require counseling, consultation, referral, or information.

The System Support component consists of management activities that establish, maintain, and enhance the guidance program as a whole through professional development, staff and community relations, consultation with teachers, advisory councils, community outreach, program management, and research and development.


The Comprehensive Guidance Program Model is predicated on the concept of life career development, defined as self-development through the integration of roles, settings, and events in a person's life (Gysbers & Moore, 1975). (The concept of "career" refers to one's whole life, and not just occupation.) The program emphasizes three domains of human growth in life career development: self-knowledge and interpersonal skills; life roles, settings, and events; and life career planning.

In the self-knowledge and interpersonal skills domain, the focus is on helping students to understand and accept themselves and others, and to become aware of their personal characteristics--interests, aspirations, and abilities. Through learning about the interactive relationship of self and environment, they learn how to create and maintain relationships, and they develop personal standards and a sense of purpose in life.

The second domain emphasizes various life roles (learner, citizen, consumer), settings (home, school, work, and community), and events (job entry, marriage, retirement) in which students participate over their life span. This domain focuses on the sociological, psychological, and economic structure of their world, and encourages students to overcome stereotypes and plan for the future.

The Life Career Planning domain is designed to help students understand that decision making and planning are important tasks in everyday life. Students learn of the many occupations and industries in the work world. Students also develop skills in gathering information from relevant sources and using that information to make reasoned decisions. Students are also encouraged to assess their personal values as these relate to prospective plans and decisions.


Counselors, teachers, administrators, parents, students, community members, and business and labor personnel all have roles to play as human resources in the guidance program. While counselors provide the services and coordinate the program, they must enlist the involvement, cooperation, and support of teachers and administrators for the program to be successful, for the program is predicated on an assumption that guidance is central to the educational process. To involve parents, community members, and business and labor personnel, a school-community advisory committee can be formed to provide recommendations and support services to counselors and others involved in the program.

The involvement of the teaching staff is critical, so teachers should have the opportunity to volunteer for active participation in program planning and implementation. Counselors and teachers should work together to plan the delivery of the guidance curriculum, so that guidance learning activities are presented in the appropriate content areas, and so that teachers do not feel displaced by counselors in the classroom.


Furthermore, to make the guidance curriculum, individual planning, responsive services, and system support components function effectively, the program requires a new way to organize guidance program facilities. Besides the usual individual offices for one-to-one counseling sessions, the program requires reorganization of space into a guidance center, which brings together guidance information and resources and makes them accessible to students. Such a center could also be used for such activities as group sessions and self-exploration. The guidance center could also include a library and/or computerized database, providing advice and materials for career planning, educational opportunities, community involvement, and recreational opportunities.


Step 1. Sell the model to the counselors in the department, since those participating in it must feel some ownership. According to Gloria Morgan, who has implemented the Missouri model in two high schools, approximately three years is needed to implement a comprehensive guidance program (Gysbers, 1990). Because many counselors and administrators resist change, it is essential to lay the groundwork for implementation by thoroughly discussing the program in advance with all affected staff members.

Step 2. Develop an inservice workshop for teachers, so that faculty will understand and support the purposes of the Comprehensive Guidance Program.

Step 3. Launch a public relations program to inform students, parents, and the community about proposed changes in the guidance program. This can be done through workshops, talks at local civic groups, newspaper articles, and even local television spots.

Step 4. Conduct a thorough assessment of the current guidance program, including available resources, both human and financial. This means evaluating the time and task allocation of the counseling staff, and taking inventory of materials.

Step 5. Conduct a needs assessment, including a survey of students, parents, and teachers, in order to help counselors identify important program categories and competencies in the three major areas around which the guidance curriculum is organized: career planning and exploration, knowledge of self and others, and educational and vocational development. The self-assessment and needs evaluation both provide baseline information to use in designing the new program along the lines of the model, but in a way that addresses the needs of each school.

Step 6. Develop the guidance curriculum, introducing specific competencies sequentially. In the initial planning stages of the curriculum, it is best to concentrate on cooperative departments and teachers, and to plan the entire year's curriculum in advance, if possible. The guidance curriculum is usually the most difficult part of the program to implement, because it must fit in with existing curricular constraints, and must overcome the reluctance of teachers to give up class time or to alter and supplement their existing instructional plans. It is thus essential to seek administrative support, be well organized, and give teachers as much advance notice as possible.

Step 7. Establish a coherent annual evaluation procedure that assesses attainment of student competencies, personnel performance, and the achievement of program goals.


According to Gysbers and Henderson (1988), the Comprehensive Guidance Model is intended, above all, to lead to guidance activities and structured group experiences for all students, and to de-emphasize administrative, clerical tasks, reliance on reactive personal counseling, and limited accountability. To fully implement the model program, it is essential that all constituencies understand the following characteristics: - that the program is oriented toward overall student development, rather than ad hoc crisis management; - that the four programmatic components constitute 100% of the counselor's activities, with no add-ons; - that guidance is an integral part of the overall curriculum, and not an ancillary service; - that the focus is on the program, rather than the counselor's position, and on education, rather than clinical or agency-based assistance.


Gysbers, N. C. (1990). Comprehensive guidance programs that work. Ann Arbor, MI: ERIC Counseling and Personnel Services Clearinghouse, The University of Michigan.

Gysbers, N. C., & Henderson, P. (1988). Developing and managing your school guidance program. Alexandria, VA: American Association for Counseling and Development.

Gysbers, N. C., & Moore, E. J. (1975). Beyond career development---life career development. Personnel and Guidance Journal, 53, 647-652.

Starr, M. F., & Gysbers, N. C. (1988). Missouri Comprehensive Guidance: A model for program development, implementation and evaluation. Jefferson City: Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

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