ERIC Identifier: ED260366
Publication Date: 1984-00-00
Author: Walz, Garry R.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Counseling and Personnel Services Ann Arbor MI.

Counseling and Educational Excellence: A Response to "A Nation at Risk". In Brief: An Information Digest from ERIC/CAPS.

A review of the reports on excellence in education would suggest that the student is frequently viewed as a non-person, and that his/her motivation, needs and interests are insignificant in improving the quality of learning. Recommendations consistently refer to what should be done to and about students. Only rarely are students' attitudes and feelings discussed, or the effect of these on student involvement in and response to schooling.

Student excellence will, in the long run, depend on the attitudes, values and decisions of individual students. We can legislate the length of the school year, extend the school day, and provide more rigor in the school curriculum. However successful these changes may seem to be, their ultimate effect on educational excellence will depend on how students respond to them, and on whether they personally value the proposed changes and see them as meaningful in their own lives.

It is absolutely essential that we pay attention to the persons for whom change is intended. More than anyone in the school, the counselor is in a position to interpret the student to educational decision-makers and to emphasize the importance of understanding and working with students. Conversely, counselors have a unique role to play in helping students understand their options and make wise and informed educational choices.

Choice by the learner is and always will be an important aspect of American education. The way to improve education is not to take the choice away from those who will be most affected by choices, but to improve their ability to make their own decisions.


Our current crisis in education, like all crises, confronts us not only with serious problems and challenges, but also with new opportunities. The opportunities for counselors to contribute to educational excellence can be described in the following set of imperatives.

Provide an Increased Emphasis on Learning and Cognition

The orientation of the counselor is to view students as whole persons, not to separate a problem or concern from those who are experiencing it. Yet to help students master present and future challenges, counselors need to assist them in analyzing and improving their learning efficiency. Through assessment of basic learning style, use of time, learning/study habits, attitudes, and decision-making skills, counselors can identify areas for student improvement. How a student manages his/her learning is as important as how the curriculum is constructed. To focus solely on the curriculum and ignore the learner will negate much of what is desired.

Diffuse Guidance and Counseling Throughout the Curriculum

To be most effective, guidance and counseling need to be thought of as integral parts of the curriculum. They are not special services or curricular add-ons, but a vital force within the school environment. Frequently designated as comprehensive guidance, this approach establishes specific goals and objectives for guidance at each grade level and utilizes a wide variety of techniques and approaches to achieve them. Comprehensive guidance programs call for a high degree of flexibility and resourcefulness on the part of counselors. It is the counselor's responsiblity to help all students through a variety of learning modes and activities, to gain greater insights into themselves, and to make the plans and undertake the actions which will enable them to achieve their potential as effective learners and contributing citizens.

Incorporate Life-Career Planning in Counseling

Students perform best when they see that their learning leads to a high-priority personal goal. Establishing and working toward important life goals is a powerful motivator for students to undertake difficult learning tasks. A continuously reviewed and upgraded life career plan for each student can become the focus of his/her educational effort--it can become the glue that binds together many disparate educational activities and experiences.

Plan for Professional Renewal

The ability of counselors to contribute to the excellence of the school and the attainments of individual students is strongly influenced by counselors' own level and recency of knowledge. Counseling is not a craft to be practiced as it was by one's predecessors. A continually changing society requires that the counselor know the culture and be able to communicate with students about it. In particular, counselors need to understand the major changes that technology is bringing to all spheres of our information society.

They can profit by their own renewal, as well as by their capacity to facilitate the learning of others in the judicious use of computers and other high technology. They need to be consumers of technology and, more importantly, program designers--persons who take the lead in describing which technology can be nd what content can be presented appropriately through technology. Counselors who are neither given the opportunity for nor reinforced in continuing their professional growth will serve as poor role models for others; they will also be unable to untilize the resources which would most likely help students achieve their goals.

Assess Personal and Program Effectiveness

Positive change in programs and services depends upon having a systematic procedure for establishing objectives and assessing outcomes. An important responsibility for the counselor is to insure a regular and systematic assessment of individual and program effectiveness. Exotic and complicated research designs are not needed as much as commitment to the systematic collection of data about what is offered to students in the way of assistance and counseling, and what kinds of outcomes or changes are the result of what has been provided. The emphasis here is the commitment to continually examining and re-examining programs and practices and to using the insights gained from that analysis to make changes and refinements in the program.

Students "competently guided" to acquire the capacity for making mature and informed judgments, for securing gainful employment, and for managing their lives so that they are personally rewarding--it is to these ends that counseling is directed. Counselors who see this as their role and bring their many talents and skills to the task can contribute enormously to a "renaissance" in guidance and in the schools. The consequences of such an emphasis are not totally discernible, but are likely to produce individuals who have both the know-how and the vision to master the tasks that confront us as we approach the twenty-first century.


French, Michael P. THE COUNSELOR'S ROLE IN THE SECONDARY READING PROGRAM: SELECTED ISSUES AND IMPLICATIONS. Paper presented at the annual meeting fo the Wisconsin State Reading Association Spring Conference, Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, March 18-20, 1982. ED 216 341.

Griggs, Shirley A. COUNSELING HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS FOR THEIR INDIVIDUAL LEARNING STYLES. Jamaica, NY: St. John's University, 1983. ED 237 879.

Herr, Edwin L., Jean A. Thompson, and Garry R. Walz. THE ROLE OF COUNSELING IN ACHIEVING EDUCATIONAL EXCELLENCE. Ann Arbor, MI: ERIC Counseling and Personnel Services Clearinghouse, 1984. ED 251 785.

Krick, Robert L., and Earl J. Moore. THE LIFE CAREER ASSESSMENT: A STRUCTURED INTERVIEW TECHNIQUE FOR COUNSELORS AND ADVISORS. GEORGIA COMPREHENSIVE GUIDANCE SERIES. Columbia, MO: Missouri University, Department of Counseling and Personnel Services, 1980. ED 222 849.

Lawrence, William W. HOW TO DEVELOP A BETTER GUIDANCE PROGRAM. Paper presented at the National School Boards Association Convention, San Francisco, California, April 23-26, 1983. ED 241 889.

McLaughlin, Betty L., and others. STATE OF MAINE COMPREHENSIVE LIFE-LONG GUIDANCE PLAN. Augusta, ME: Maine Personnel and Guidance Association; Maine State Department of Educational and Cultural Services, 1981. ED 230 845.

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Walz, Garry R., and Libby Benjamin. SHAPING COUNSELOR EDUCATON PROGRAMS IN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS: AN EXPERIMENTAL PROTOTYPE FOR THE COUNSELOR OF TOMORROW. Ann Arbor, MI: ERIC Counseling and Personnel Services Clearinghouse, 1983. ED 237 867.

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