Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

University-Urban School Collaboration in School Counseling

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

University-Urban School Collaboration in School Counseling

Article excerpt

Models of effective collaboration are needed to best serve the needs of students in 21st-century schools. The Career and Education Connection program, an elementary career intervention developed for an economically challenged urban school district, is described. The article discusses theoretical frameworks and lessons learned through professional and personal experiences with (a) initiating a collaborative research-practice initiative; (b) making connections and enhancing collaborative relationships among university faculty, graduate students, and school professionals; and (c) facilitating graduate student professional development and training.


Schools in the 21st century are facing a multitude of complex and multifactored problems (Paisley & McMahon, 2001), including poverty, violence, and poor academic achievement. The intensity of students' needs has led some to question whether school counseling programs are actually comprehensively meeting the needs of all students (Green & Keys, 2001; Whiston, 2002). Ecological (e.g., Bronfenbrenner, 1979) and developmental contextual models (e.g., Lerner, 1995) have been introduced into the school counseling literature as paradigms for understanding and responding to the needs of today's youth (Whiston). These models emphasize the interaction of personal characteristics and the context in which the person lives as central to intervening in developmental contexts such as schools.

Although such paradigms provide a powerful means of conceptualizing and intervening in the lives of children, school counselors are faced with a daunting task if left to their own devices. Thus, multiple challenges point to the need for multidisciplinary collaborative efforts (Bemak, 2000; Green & Keys, 2001). Despite repeated calls for social action and collaboration (e.g., Bemak, 1998; Keys & Bemak, 1997; Paisley & McMahon, 2001), the extant literature indicates that school counselors do not participate in the extensive collaborative program development that is needed for comprehensive developmental school counseling programs in the 21st century (Green & Keys). Moreover, demands for evidence-based practices make clear the need for programmatic research to substantiate the effectiveness of school counseling programs (Green & Keys; Whiston, 2002; Whiston & Sexton, 1998).

Given the complex challenges facing 21st-century schools, school counselors can no longer function in isolation from their communities (Hobbs & Collison, 1995). Recent literature has emphasized the importance of collaborative partnerships between school counselors and various stakeholders as a necessary component of effective school counseling programs (e.g., Bemak, 2000; Fall & VanZandt, 1997; Green & Keys, 2001; Hayes, Paisley, Phelps, Pearson, & Salter, 1997; Keys, Bemak, Carpenter, & King-Sears, 1998; Paisley & McMahon, 2001; Walsh, Howard, & Buckley, 1999). Although collaborative alliances are critically important, there are no standard frameworks in school counseling to guide the design and implementation of the alliance-building processes. Models of effective collaborative practice are needed to contribute to our knowledge base and sustain school counseling's professional contribution to prevention and social justice. Interprofessional collaborative efforts have great potential to improve urban schools and communities. Professional disciplines can inform one another if researchers grounded in different schools of thought suspend their initial skepticism and become more familiar with one another's work (Ferguson, 1999).

Despite best intentions, proactive efforts often are met with challenges in terms of initiating and maintaining productive interprofessional relationships that foster collaboration and personal involvement. This article provides the theoretical backdrop for reflecting on lessons learned from developing and implementing a collaborative university-elementary school career intervention-based research program, Career and Education Connection (CEC). …

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