Academic journal article Counselor Education and Supervision

Prepracticum Service-Learning in Counselor Education: A Qualitative Case Study

Academic journal article Counselor Education and Supervision

Prepracticum Service-Learning in Counselor Education: A Qualitative Case Study

Article excerpt

Prepracticum service-learning (PPSL) was investigated through a qualitative case study of a counselor education program. Participants were PPSL instructors, coordinators, and alumni of the selected program. As it relates to the counselor education program under study, this article illustrates perceived effects of PPSL on student counselors' overall development and comparisons of PPSL and practicum training. Implications for counselor education are addressed.


Counselors aim to promote the advancement of society. This aim is reflected in the American Counseling Association's (ACA) mission statement: "to enhance the quality of life in society by ... using the profession and practice of counseling to promote respect for human dignity and diversity" (ACA, n.d., ACA Mission Statement, [paragraph] 1). ACA presidential themes of Social Action (Lee, 1998b) and Advocacy (Bradley, 1999) as well as scholarly writings (see Lee & Walz, 1998) further demonstrate counselors' commitment to society. However, despite calls for social involvement in counseling, some counselors remain uncomfortable adopting a socially active role (Sexton & Whiston, 1998). One concrete strategy that might help student counselors become socially active is service-learning.

Kenny and Gallagher (2000) posited that service-learning, defined as an experiential learning strategy that blends academic learning and community service, can help prepare student counselors for social action as professionals. They stated that service-learning has several positive effects: it familiarizes student counselors with systemic factors that affect human development, affirms student counselors' commitment to social justice, and aids student counselors' understanding of the social problems facing community members.

Historically, service-learning has occurred in the United States at the undergraduate level. Ideally, service-learning joins community service and traditional classroom learning. In a seminal work, Bringle and Hatcher (1996) proposed a definition of service-learning:

   A credit-bearing educational experience in which students
   participate in an organized service activity that meets identified
   community needs and reflect on the service activity in such a way
   as to gain further understanding of course content, a broader
   appreciation of the discipline, and an enhanced sense of civic
   responsibility. (p. 222)

Bringle and Hatcher addressed service-learning's dual emphasis on educational and community goals. Moreover, with respect to educational goals, Bringle and Hatcher suggested that service-learning promotes student development in multiple ways, particularly by fostering understanding of course material, strengthening appreciation of the discipline, and enhancing social service ideals.

Reflection and reciprocity are considered core elements of service-learning (Jacoby & Associates, 1996). Reflection is defined as the thoughtful consideration of service to promote student development. Reflection takes many forms, such as keeping a journal, group discussion, or in-class activity. Reciprocity is defined as the way the service component is planned and carried out. The idea underlying reciprocity is that all parties (e.g., students and community members) assist in determining service processes and goals (Jacoby & Associates, 1996).

Service-learning, although diversely practiced in undergraduate programs (Cone, 2001), seems amenable to graduate counselor education. First, service-learning seems to be aligned with counselors' responsibility to society (Lee, 1998a). Second, because of their training, student counselors' are well suited for facilitating social change (Grieger & Ponterotto, 1998). Third, service-learning seems to be consistent with the call for counselor education programs to encourage community partnerships (House & Sears, 2002).

A review of the counselor education literature indicated that service-learning in counselor preparation is generally conducted before practicum training. …

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