Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Collaborative Action Research and School Counselors

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Collaborative Action Research and School Counselors

Article excerpt

Collaborative action research is an effective tool for helping school counselors to strengthen the link between practice and research. Action research methods for school counselors are summarized, and a model for collaborative action research linking counselor training and school counselor practitioners is presented. The model is based on ongoing action research projects currently being carried out in several school districts. Examples of action research projects based on this model are illustrated.

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Research and school counseling have had a rather rocky relationship to date. Like other academic disciplines, and as a specialization within the field of counseling, school counseling is assumed to have an important relationship with a scientific way of knowing (Heppner, Kivlighan, & Wampold, 1992). Research is considered essential as a means of "controlled inquiry" (Heppner et al., p. 8) in which the counseling profession is able to advance its understanding of all aspects of the counseling experience. Yet concerns regarding the relationship between research and school counseling go back more than 40 years (Bauman, 2004). Some have asserted that few practitioners use findings from counseling research (Bauman et al., 2002; Deck, Cecil, & Cobia, 1990; Sexton, 1996). Others have expressed serious concern regarding the lack of school counseling research (Lee & Workman, 1992; Loesch, 1988; Whiston, 2002). Lee and Workman asserted that the lack of empirical evidence on the efficacy of school counseling likely reflects the low value that school counselors place on research. Most recently, Bauman concurred with Loesch's earlier conclusion that research has not been "valued, emphasized, or endorsed as an important role function for school counselors" (p. 170).

For school counselors as well as counselor educators, there is some urgency attached to addressing this split between practice and inquiry. Whiston and Sexton (1998) described the growing significance of counseling outcome research to daily practice in school counseling. They tied this significance in large part to the increasing pressure for accountability in counseling interventions and programs. The 1997 publication of the National Standards for School Counseling Programs was a clear indication that the future of school counseling would be tied to the larger school reform movement with its emphasis on accountability and standards (Campbell & Dahir, 1997; Dahir, 2004; Rowell, 2002). Some authors (e.g., Dahir & Stone, 2003; Fairchild & Seeley, 1995; Isaacs, 2003) have provided frameworks and strategies for addressing the call for greater accountability. The ASCA National Model[R] (American School Counselor Association, 2003) incorporates data collection and data analysis into the management system of the school counseling program and asserts that "school counselors should be proficient in the collection, analysis and interpretation of student achievement and related data" (p. 49). In a larger context, Gysbers (2004) has cautioned that we not forget that accountability always has been a part of school counseling. Although we may need to sharpen our focus on issues of accountability tied to the new programmatic focus for school counseling, we should not lose sight of the accountability standards and frameworks for counseling and guidance created in the past.

Despite recent progress, however, little hard evidence of a large-scale commitment to a renewed emphasis on research can be found within school counseling. Representing important new initiatives are research-oriented centers that encourage university-practitioner collaboration and focus attention on researching school reform and school counseling as well as outcomes in school counseling (e.g., Seattle Pacific University's Washington School Research Center, University of Massachusetts-Amherst's Center for School Counseling Outcome Research, and University of San Diego's Center for Student Support Systems). …

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