Academic journal article Education

The Effect of Reciprocal Peer Counselling in the Enhancement of Self-Concept among Adolescents

Academic journal article Education

The Effect of Reciprocal Peer Counselling in the Enhancement of Self-Concept among Adolescents

Article excerpt

Introduction

The desire for a positive evaluation of self affects a person's feelings, actions, and aspirations throughout life. School experiences play an important role in the development of self-perceptions in the course of childhood and adolescence and this can have powerful long-term effects on an individual's self concept; yet most proposals for school improvement and reform emphasize either teachers, administrators, parents, or class size, overlooking one of the most crucial change agents--the students. All of this is contrary to the peer principle, which believes that deep, lasting changes, individually and structurally, must ultimately come from sharing with like individuals.

The effectiveness of the use of peer counsellors within the school system has been well documented in foreign literature (Hsiao-Chen, 2003; Ladyshewsky 2001; Hoffman and Warner, 1976). Gartner and Riessman (1998) in their study proposed the application of the peer counselling principle in schools since research has shown that peer counselling and other peer support programmes are effective in improving attitudes and behaviour and even have a ripple effect on the schools' overall dynamics. Shechtman (2002) reviewed the outcome of research on group psychotherapy with children and found a consensus on its effectiveness. Shechtman's review also found that in order to improve achievement, the social and emotional dimensions along with academic need must be addressed. Peer counsellors fall under the general rubric of paraprofessionals--that is those without professional training who are selected from the group to be served, trained and given on-going supervision to perform some key functions generally performed by professionals. Peer group counselling provides a non-judgemental acceptance, care and support; provides opportunities to give and receive from others and creates a non-competitive, empowering environment.

In the Nigerian society, the child in school is expected to receive instruction and guidance from the adults in the school. There is no evidence in literature about the use of peers as counsellors in Nigerian secondary schools. However, it is critical to note that young people are far more influenced by their peers than by parents, teachers or other adults (Gartner and Riessman, 1998). Peers have a profound effect on each other's fashions, social attitudes and decisions. For better or for worse, they model themselves on other young people. While there may be unquestionably much negativity in peer influence, there are lots of young people who are dedicated to their own advancement and that of their mates. These students, if trained can form the core of the peer counselling programmes, the essential idea being that people are influenced and can be helped best by others who share their problems or conditions.

Brigman and Campbell (2003) opined that one of the most promising interventions for school counsellors interested in making their impact felt on students' achievement and behaviour is peer group counselling. Peer group counselling is a mode of counselling which involves a relationship among three or more person of relatively same age and status in which all mutually seek the goal of bringing about positive behavioural changes in group members. One of them acts as the facilitator. A modification of this mode of counselling is the reciprocal peer group counselling in which group members act as facilitators in turns. Such developmental programmes are proactive and preventive, helping students acquire the attitudes necessary for successful mastery of normal developmental tasks. But do our educational administrators understand fully the potentials and significance of peer programmes? Do they understand that peer influence can be positive? If a child is given the opportunity to participate in peer counselling as a counsellor having the opportunity to share a valuable and worthwhile experience, will he or she not gain in self worth? …

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