Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Changing Schools, Changing Counselors: A Qualitative Study of School Administrators' Conceptions of the School Counselor Role

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Changing Schools, Changing Counselors: A Qualitative Study of School Administrators' Conceptions of the School Counselor Role

Article excerpt

This qualitative study utilized a grounded theory methodology to assess the conceptions about the school counselor role held by 26 administrators employed in public elementary, middle, or high schools. The study was designed to build a deeper understanding of how school administrators conceptualized the school counselor role. Four distinctive role sets were found. They were differentiated in terms of primary work activities valued, extent of counselor-staff work role coordination, and type of specialized knowledge required. Findings suggest that there is a need for a more conscious development of counselor leadership skills and role expectations by counselors themselves and by counselor preparation programs.


Today's schools face a unique set of demands. They are expected to provide an education in basic skills to a large, widely varying student population while at the same time preparing their graduates for a technologically sophisticated work force (Schlechty, 1997). Schools also are expected to compensate for the shifts in society that affect children and their families, such as (a) the change from the traditional worker-homemaker family structure to that of either a two-worker or a single-parent family structure; (b) the increased rate of students from minority and non-English-speaking families attending school; (c) the growing incidence of poverty and economic instability experienced by families; (d) the increased incidence of family transience; and (e) the growth of commercialism, violence, and sexualized behavior depicted in popular culture (Hodgkinson, 2003). Moreover, as a result of school busing and the significant increase in school size experienced in many regions of the country, schools now educate children in a more impersonal social context far removed from a student's family and community life (Goodlad, 1984; Ornstein, Behar-Horenstein, & Pajak, 2003). Legislation such as No Child Left Behind (U.S. Department of Education, 2001 ) has increased pressure on educators to raise academic achievement at all levels.


As a result of these demands, educators are rethinking their ideas about what needs to be done in schools and by whom (Schlechty, 1997; Sizer, 1992). Teachers are being asked to rethink how teaching and learning occur in schools by embracing the concepts of diverse learning styles and practicing instructional variety (Gardner, 1999; Sternberg, 1996). They also are being encouraged to use learner-centered versus teacher-centered assessment strategies (Austin, 1994; Davies, Cameron, Politano, & Gregory, 1999; Schlechty), and to reintegrate teaching and learning within peer, family, and community social networks (Benson & Barnett, 1999; McCaleb, 1994). Principals also are being invited to rethink their roles concerning how they should lead their staff and how staff roles and relationships should be organized. One popular new leadership model is to create "schools that learn" (Schlechty; Senge et al., 2000), where decision-making is actively shared with staff, students, and their families (Barth, 1988, 1990; Blase & Anderson, 1995; Fullan, 2001). Principals also are being challenged to rethink the boundaries of their school by developing school-based full-service centers (Dryfoos, 1994) or by supporting the development of community coordinating teams of service providers (Adelman & Taylor, 2001) so as to give students greater access to mental health services.

School counselors also are being asked to rethink their roles. Many writers have encouraged school counselors to see themselves as educational leaders, student advocates, and social change agents (American School Counselor Association, 2003; Clark & Stone, 2000; House & Martin, 1998, Stone & Clark, 2001) in addition to providing direct guidance and counseling services to students. For example, some authors (Bemak, 2000; Keys & Bemak, 1997) have described school counselors as being instrumental in the integration of community-wide mental health services. …

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