Academic journal article Counselor Education and Supervision

Engaging Preservice School Counselors and Principals in Dialogue and Collaboration

Academic journal article Counselor Education and Supervision

Engaging Preservice School Counselors and Principals in Dialogue and Collaboration

Article excerpt

School counselors should be prepared to address student concerns and school problems in collaborative ways and to work cooperatively with school principals. The authors describe an innovative seminar designed to help students in school counseling and in school administration to develop a greater appreciation of the roles, responsibilities, and perspectives of each other in their respective professions.

The training, schoolwide responsibilities, and visibility of school counselors and school principals often lead them to assume primary responsibility for working with parents, teachers, and community groups to more effectively serve students (Coy, 1999; Murray, 1995). Because of their professional preparation and philosophical backgrounds, however, these two groups often have different approaches to addressing student concerns and use different paradigms in dealing with the challenges inevitable in the school setting (Kaplan, 1995). These differences can lead to conflict and ineffective use of energy and time for both school counselors and school principals. However, despite these challenges, a collaborative approach between the two groups can lead to productive communication and effective, efficient programs and services that affect student academic, personal, and social growth (Breen, & Quaglia, 1991; Cole, 1991; Huey, 1987; Vaught, 1995; Wagner, 1998).

Often, school principals and school counselors do not agree on counselor role and responsibilities (Lampe, 1985; Murray, 1995). School counselors frequently see their purpose as indirectly increasing student achievement. They are individual student advocates and focus on the causes of student behavior. They often view student discipline as an issue of self-management and view school climate as an affective description of student, faculty, and staff responses to being in the school environment. For counselors, confidentiality is perceived as absolutely necessary for building and maintaining trust and the development of the counselor-student relationship. This relationship is viewed as a critical component of the change process (Kaplan, 1995).

School principals see the counselor's role in the school as working with students to build skills that have a direct effect on school-related work and functioning. They see counselors as directly supporting student learning and achievement. Principals are whole-group student advocates and tend to focus on the effects of student behavior. They view student discipline as providing and enforcing consequences and see issues of school climate in the expression of an orderly, disciplined, and safe environment. For school principals, strict adherence to confidentiality limits the quantity and quality of information available for the decision making and problem solving necessary for an optimal learning environment (Kaplan, 1995).

Currently, various professionals in the schools, including school counselors and school principals, are trained separately and have few opportunities to learn about the roles, responsibilities, and perspectives of each other. School counselors trained in programs accredited by the Council of Accreditation for Counseling and Related Programs (CACREP) are trained as professional counselors who will work in the schools. This means that they often have limited exposure to the perspectives of other school personnel. Although they have a 600-hour school-based internship, during which they interact with teachers, parents, students, and principals, their interaction with the school principal may be minimal. Principals often come from a teacher background and, therefore, understand the teacher perspective. However, like school counselors, principals receive minimal training regarding the roles and perspectives of school personnel other than teachers and, therefore, often do not understand the role of the school counselor (Studer & Allton, 1996).


At the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, the School of Education has been committed to the process of partnership and collaboration. …

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