Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

The School Counselor Activity Rating Scale: An Instrument for Gathering Process Data

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

The School Counselor Activity Rating Scale: An Instrument for Gathering Process Data

Article excerpt

The importance of collecting process data describing school counselor practice is widely supported as a component of accountability. However, the lack of practically significant and valid instruments may hamper this practice. The School Counselor Activity Rating Scale was designed to measure how school counselors actually spend their time versus how they would prefer to spend their time in job-related activities. Its development, initial validity and reliability results, and potential applications are presented in this article.


"What do school counselors do?" is not a new question. Indeed, on any given day, practicing school counselors need to provide an answer to this question for teachers, administrators, parents, and in truth, themselves. One way to answer this question is to collect and analyze process data. Process data can describe an important aspect of school counselor practice and effectiveness, that is, how school counselors are spending their time in their day-to-day activities (American School Counselor Association [ASCA], 2003). Given that there is a continual need for school counselors to describe and account for what they do, it follows that an instrument that can be used to collect relevant process data is warranted. The purpose of this study was to examine initial validity, and reliability data on the School Counselor Activity Rating Scale, an instrument that school counselors could use to gather process data.

Information describing what school counselors do has been collected and has received a great deal of attention in school counseling literature. Past research has focused on how school counselors spend time in particular activities (Bonebrake & Borgers, 1984; Carroll, 1993; Hardesty & Dillard, 1994; Vandegrift, 1999) and the difference between how school counselors actually spend their time and how they want to be spending their time (Johnson, 1993; Mustaine, Pappalardo, & Wyrick, 1996; Partin, 1993; Tennyson, Miller, Skovholt, & Williams, 1989; Wilgus & Shelley, 1988). In addition, the difference between school counseling practice and best practice, as advocated by leaders of the profession, has received attention (Burnham & Jackson, 2000; Carter, 1993). Although there has been little consistency in the measurement of time in activities, or the types of activities studied, the consistency of findings reveals that there remains a discrepancy between what is advocated as best practice (the type of activities and the time devoted to various tasks as related to program objectives) and what is actually practiced in schools (Burnham & Jackson; Carter; Hutchinson, Barrick, & Groves, 1986; Mustaine et al.; Partin; Scarborough, 2002).

For the practicing school counselor, the main purpose of collecting process data is for program evaluation. Gysbers and Henderson (1988) stated, "The purpose of evaluation is to provide data to make decisions about the structure and impact of the program and the professional personnel involved" (p. 263). Process data describe the way the school counseling program is structured and conducted (i.e., what activities have been done) and whether prescribed practice was followed (ASCA, 2003). According to The National Standards for School Counseling Programs,

   As a first step to understanding your site's use
   of time, all the school counselors should keep
   track of their time and document activities
   performed throughout their days. This allows
   school counselors and administrators to determine
   the amount of time being spent in each
   of the delivery system components [e.g., consultation,
   coordination, counseling, curriculum]
   and in non-school-counseling activities.
   (ASCA, p. 51)

Assessing the amount of time spent in activities addresses what is happening and then provides an opportunity to discuss what should or could be happening (ASCA). In situations with a discrepancy between actual and prescribed practice, school counselors then can make adjustments that will lead to greater effectiveness. …

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