Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Differentiating Classroom Guidance

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Differentiating Classroom Guidance

Article excerpt

To differentiate is to make different, distinct, or specialized (Costello, 1994). Differentiation has become popular in education as an instructional philosophy aimed at equitably meeting the learning needs of all students in the classroom. Differentiated planning and delivery of classroom guidance is also necessary for appropriate school counselor practice. This article reviews the literature on classroom guidance, describes the concept of differentiation, and provides applied examples of differentiated classroom guidance for school counselor practice.


Classroom guidance is an important element in the delivery system of the ASCA National Model[R] (American School Counselor Association, 2005). It is suggested that school counselors spend from 45% (elementary school) to 25% (high school) of their time delivering classroom guidance. According to the ASCA National Model, a guidance curriculum provides all students with the knowledge and skills appropriate for their developmental level. Specifically, the curriculum component is a developmental, systematic method by which all students receive structured lessons designed to assist them in achieving their academic, career, and personal/social competencies (ASCA, 2005).

Classroom guidance lessons are an efficient way for school counselors to inform students about school-wide opportunities (e.g., counseling department services), distribute information (e.g., educational resources, postsecondary opportunities), and address student needs (e.g., preparing for school transitions, learning skills to eliminate bullying). The proactive nature of large group guidance also allows counselors to focus on preventing problems such as violence in schools (e.g., Second Step [Committee for Children, 1992]), or on promoting social-emotional development, such as positive body image (e.g., Akos & Levitt, 2002), or academic competence (e.g., Gerler & Anderson, 1986).

Although classroom guidance is a large part of the ASCA National Model and high student-to-counselor ratios require efficient services, there is minimal research on the effectiveness of classroom guidance. Further, even less literature has explored appropriate or optimal ways to design and deliver classroom guidance, thus providing minimal direction for school counselors. The purpose of this article is to outline the extant literature on classroom guidance and to explore the concept of differentiating instruction and its application to classroom guidance.


School counseling has its original roots in teachers providing primarily vocational guidance in schools. Through the last century, school counseling evolved from a position, to a set of services, to a multifaceted developmental program. The notion of a guidance curriculum has endured throughout, and it is widely accepted that classroom guidance remains critical for a developmental, sequential, and systemic school counseling program (Gysbers & Henderson, 2006). An implicit assumption of classroom guidance has been that it is an effective way to impact student development (Lee, 1993).

Classroom Guidance Outcomes

In their review of school counseling outcome research, Whiston and Sexton (1998) catalogued studies using the four components of a comprehensive developmental guidance program. "Although the guidance curriculum component is philosophically the center of a counseling program (Gysbers & Henderson, 1994), it is not where the preponderance of the current research is conducted, with only 24% of the studies being classified in this area" (Whiston & Sexton, p. 414). Of the 12 outcome studies reviewed by Whiston and Sexton that examined classroom guidance, few provided support for the efficacy of classroom guidance, especially in regards to enhancing self-esteem or self-concept (8 studies) (Whiston & Sexton). Although some of the other classroom guidance studies documented positive effects (e. …

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