Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Principals' Perceptions of Elementary School Counselors' Role and Functions

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Principals' Perceptions of Elementary School Counselors' Role and Functions

Article excerpt

This study used a 140-item questionnaire to determine how elementary school principals view school counselors in the state of Florida. Responses from 500 elementary school principals revealed that counselors were perceived as having a positive impact on the academic, behavioral, and mental health development of their students," and most principals indicated that they would recommend school counseling to others as a career. Results from this study can inform school counseling training programs on ways they may better prepare students for a career as a professional school counselor.


Research has shown that the support of school principals for counselors' roles is essential to the development, application, and maintenance of counseling programs, as well as to the success of these professionals and their programs (Brock & Ponec, 1998; Niebuhr, Niebuhr, & Cleveland, 1999). School counselors and counselor educators are aware of the strong influence the principal exerts on a school's counseling program and also of the need to make graduating school counselors aware of their future supervisors' views of the counselor's role (Fitch, Newby, & Ballestero, 2001). Establishing a positive working relationship with principals is vital to the success of counselors (Niebuhr et al., 1999; Ponec & Brock, 2000). The teamwork of counselors and principals is a decisive factor in determining the effectiveness of comprehensive school counseling programs (Kaplan, 1995; O'Connor, 2002). For this reason, principal-counselor collaboration should be addressed in training programs (Fitch et al.). Effective principals need to be knowledgeable of the challenges, including legal and ethical issues, that counselors encounter, and about the counselor's roles within the school system (O'Connor; Taylor, 2002).


The principal largely determines the role and functions of the counselor within the school (Ribak-Rosenthal, 1994). Principals select and appoint counselors and direct their on-the-job training, which often helps define the counselors' functions (Beale & McCay, 2001; Kaplan & Evans, 1999). When their own administrative positions face excessive demands, some principals use counselors to perform various clerical tasks rather than counseling duties (Ribak-Rosenthal). Moreover, many principals seem to hold a view of the proper role for school counselors that is different from that described in the standards of the counseling profession (Lampe, 1985; Murray, 1995). Research suggests that ignoring the influence of a principal can negatively impact the implementation and maintenance of counseling programs (Ponec & Brock, 2000). Thus, there is a need for a better understanding of principals' perceptions of school counselors.


More than three decades ago, principals suggested that counselors have a primary responsibility to the students in need of service but that they also have a responsibility to the school administration and to society (Hatch, Dressel, & Costar, 1963). Considerable debate within the field regarding this issue led to a school counselor job description that has often included roles and duties that are broad in scope, vaguely defined, and sometimes incompatible with the professional standards developed by national organizations such as the American School Counselor Association (ASCA, 2003). Many attempts have been made to clarify the functions of school counselors. The ASCA National Model[R] (ASCA, 2003) and the ASCA National Standards (Campbell & Dahir, 1997) describe the common body of knowledge and skills guiding the practice of school counseling. Despite ASCA's National Model attempt to clarify the functions of school counselors, it is evident that many differences of opinion still exist among school principals (e.g., Shoffner & Williamson, 2000). This confusion remains an impediment to progress establishing the counselor's role within a comprehensive school counseling program (Ponec & Brock, 2000; Ponce & Dickel, 1991). …

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