Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Expanding the Developmental School Counseling Paradigm: Meeting the Needs of the 21st Century Student

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Expanding the Developmental School Counseling Paradigm: Meeting the Needs of the 21st Century Student

Article excerpt

Since the late 1970's, school counseling programs have been based on a comprehensive developmental model supported by various stage theories of human development (Borders & Drury, 1992; Paisley, 2001). With this transition to a developmental model, services became more preventative in focus, with an emphasis on assisting all students with mastery of appropriate developmental tasks.

Dinkmeyer and Caldwell's (1970) seminal work, Developmental Counseling and Guidance: A Comprehensive School Approach, provided early direction for establishing developmental guidance programs. They articulated several key philosophical principles as guidelines for program development: (a) developmental guidance should be an integral part of the overall educational process and consistent with the school's mission and philosophy; (b) developmental guidance is for all students; c) teachers must be a part of the program delivery system; (d) programs function best when planned as a continuous set of services that help the student accomplish tasks that lead to effective cognitive and affective development; (e) programs include direct counseling, appraisal, and group guidance services as well as the indirect service of consultation; and (f) programs focus on and encourage students' assets.

Later work by Myrick (1997) and others (Gysbers & Henderson, 2000; Wittmer, 2000) continued to support these principles, with additional emphasis on the need for an organized, planned, and sequential guidance curriculum. Gysbers and Henderson also moved the profession forward from thinking of school counseling as a set of developmental services to a broader emphasis on comprehensive developmental programs. Johnson and Johnson (1982) advocated that programs be organized around specific outcomes, further defined as student competencies. Gysbers and Henderson (2000) affirmed this approach. Most recently, the American School Counselor Association articulated National Standards for School Counseling Programs in support of students' academic, career, and personal/social development (Campbell & Dahir, 1997).

Theoretically Based Developmental Programs

During the past 30 years, a developmental orientation has become a highly desired, core characteristic of school counseling programs. With this in mind, two important questions emerge as programs enter the 21st Century: (a) Have school counseling programs effectively transitioned to theoretically based developmental programs? (b) Are programs as currently conceptualized and implemented accomplishing their mission of positive development for all students? Unfortunately little research exists to answer unequivocally these questions.


MacDonald and Sink (1999) found mixed results in the capacity of state-level, comprehensive developmental school counseling programs to address adequately the developmental benchmarks stated in program mission and goal statements. Constructing programs that assist students in attaining critical developmental milestones appears to be harder than initially imagined. All of the program models in the MacDonald and Sink (1999) study sought to assist all students in their pursuit of well-established developmental tasks. Program development in the personal/social domain received the strongest support, with fewer programs having components that adequately addressed academic and career development. Although many programs intended to address identity development, results revealed a weak connection between this intention and actual program components, particularly in the area of cultural identity. MacDonald and Sink (1999) posited that the absence of a sound understanding of developmental theory on the part of program authors or practitioners, or confusion regarding the difference between scope and sequence and the core theoretical principles that lead to healthy development, could account for these discrepancies.

Collecting data from state departments of education program descriptions rather than from individual districts and schools produced some methodological limitations. …

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