How Collaboration and Research Can Affect School Counseling Practices: The Minnesota Story

Article excerpt

Collaboration among various professional groups to enhance student learning is a very useful strategy. This article describes how one state, Minnesota, over time (1960-1990), employed collaboration among schools, universities, professional organizations, and the State Department of Education to affect student counseling practices where needed. Efforts were directed to investigate and integrate all components of the school counseling profession by beginning with the possible impact of current practice, then researching various implementation models based on appropriate psychological theories, and finally changing counselor certification and graduate education to close the gap between relevant theory and professional practice. Such efforts have supportive implications for the national standards of the American School Counselor Association.

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The National Society for the Study of Education, in a recent Yearbook, addressed the use of collaboration among various groups to affect student academic achievement. The groups included schools, universities, communities, and professions (Brabeck, Walsh, & Latta, 2003). One of the authors reviewed the necessary components for successful collaboration and identified the following: connecting and communicating, cooperation, coordination, community building, and contracting (Lawson, 2003).

THE VALUE OF COLLABORATION

This notion of collaboration parallels the experience in Minnesota to affect school counseling practices during a 30-year period (1960-1990). It confirms the above paradigm for collaborative success. Sequential efforts began with State Department of Education personnel, who were instrumental in initiating a series of activities to relate theory and research to strengthening the profession of school counseling. Various authors have stressed the importance of a research-based practice as fundamental to all professions (Greenwood, 1966; Gross, 1964) including counseling (Hanna & Bemak, 1997; Lapan, 2005). Additionally, developmental theory, research, and evaluation are a continuing need for program development (Aubrey, 1982; Bauman et al., 2003; Gysbers, 2004). Using student development as a guide to teaching and learning really goes back to Dewey (1904). He noted that once educators know the nature of developmental growth (in K-12), they then can establish the conditions necessary to encourage developmental learning. Developmental growth or maturity (personal competence, ego development, motivation, independence, and psychological maturity), not grade point average, predicted critical indicators of adult success (e.g., occupational success, mental health, and adaptation and competence; Miller, 1981; Sprinthall, 1980). This research about the importance of psychological factors over school grades tends to support Dewey's developmental approach to education.

NATIONAL SUPPORT FOR GUIDANCE COUNSELING: A BACKGROUND

The greatest influence on school counseling in America occurred four decades ago with the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) of 1958 (U.S. Office of Education, 1964). Although the primary purpose was to improve academic instruction, federal funds also were available to provide relevant career guidance for students. State Departments of Education were responsible for distributing these funds to local schools with qualifying programs of guidance, counseling, and testing.

State guidance personnel were responsible for approving each local program. This included reviewing each school's application as well as making onsite visits. After hundreds of program reviews were made, the nagging question surfaced as to whether or not these program standards made any actual impact on students. The need for evaluation, although not in the federal regulations, was actually raised earlier by the U.S. Office of Education staff (Wellman & Twiford, 1961).

HIGH SCHOOL GUIDANCE IMPACT STUDY

To examine the question of evaluation, a state committee representing various educational groups was convened to explore the major aspects of a state study of guidance and counseling in Minnesota. …