Integrating Academic Interventions into Small Group Counseling in Elementary School

Article excerpt

Professional school counselors face the challenge of delivering guidance and counseling services to students while connecting to the educational mission of schools. This article is a summary and evaluation of a small group counseling program that targets academic issues while addressing personal/social issues with elementary-aged children. Results suggest that integrating academic interventions and group counseling improved students' behavior related to school achievement. Implications for school counselors and application of the ASCA National Model[R] are briefly discussed.

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Professional school counselors are challenged to efficiently and effectively provide guidance and counseling services to all students while responding to the current initiatives to address the achievement gap between poor students and students of color and their more advantaged peers (House & Hayes, 2002). Further, school reform has continued to encourage a more strategic focus on the importance of academic achievement for all students. The No Child Left Behind Act (U.S. Department of Education, 2001) requires that all states implement standards-based instruction and annually measure student achievement. The added pressure on schools and students to meet academic standards has affected school counseling programs.

The purpose of this article is to describe an elementary school counseling program that used small groups to help students increase learning behaviors (i.e., actions such as asking questions, completing assignments, and staying on task) and improve academic achievement, while addressing their personal/social concerns such as changing families, friendship, and/or anger management. The objectives of the groups centered on improving students' learning behaviors while including developmentally appropriate strategies to facilitate personal/social development. The ASCA National Model[R] (American School Counselor Association, 2005) was used as a framework for the development and delivery of the groups and for monitoring student success. Data were collected before, during, and after the groups documenting the impact of group counseling on the students' learning behaviors.

SMALL GROUP COUNSELING

The small group counseling program was designed by the school counselor as an efficient and effective way to provide services to a large number of students identified by their teachers and parents as having personal/social issues as well as academic difficulties. Small group counseling is part of the delivery system of the ASCA National Model and is an effective responsive service offered by school counselors to meet the personal/social and academic needs of all students (Cook & Kaffenberger, 2003). Topics for small counseling groups were developed in conjunction with teachers, administrators, and parents. School counselors, in many instances, consult with parents or guardians, school personnel, and other identified parties when developing plans and strategies for promoting student development (ASCA, 2005). In the case of the small counseling groups described in this article, the school counselor consulted with teachers and parents to understand their perceptions of the personal/social and academic needs of the students in the school. Small groups were offered that were consistent with the expressed needs of parents and teachers. ASCA's National Standards for School Counseling Programs provided the specific academic and personal/social objectives for the groups (ASCA, 2005).

The goal of the groups described in this article, therefore, was twofold: to address the students' personal/social needs, and to address their academic needs. Demonstrating the impact that school counselors have on student success is imperative as a new era of accountability exists and as school counselors continue to strengthen and define their roles.

THE SMALL GROUP COUNSELING PROGRAM

School Demographics

This small group counseling program was developed for the students attending a suburban elementary school located in Northern Virginia. …