Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Promoting Competence and Resilience in the School Context

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Promoting Competence and Resilience in the School Context

Article excerpt

Four decades of research on resilience in young people provide compelling data and models for applications in the school context. Resilience theory and findings are highly congruent with Strengths-Based School Counseling (SBSC) as formulated by Galassi and Akos (2007). In this article, resilience is defined in relation to competence in developmental tasks and risks to positive development, with reference to key promotive and protective roles of schools and school personnel. Implications of a resilience framework for schools are delineated, including positive approaches to mission statements, models of change, measuring positive progress, and mobilizing powerful systems for changing the direction of human development. New horizons of research on resilience are described, along with the potential of integrating SBSC and resilience-based frameworks in transformative efforts to promote the successful development of young people.

Four decades of research on competence and resilience in young people have yielded a compelling set of models and evidence for promoting and protecting positive youth development in the school context. In this article we highlight the findings from research on resilience in children and adolescents, with particular reference to Strengths-Based School Counseling (SBSC; Galassi and Akos, 2007).

Resilience refers to positive adaptation of a system during or following significant disturbances. In research on young people, investigators have studied resilience in relation to patterns of positive adaptation among individuals during or following exposure to adversities or risks that have the potential to harm development (Luthar, 2006; Masten, 2007). In addition to the life of a single human organism, however, the idea of resilience can be applied to many other kinds and levels of systems (Masten & Obradovic, 2007). Children, for example, develop in the context of many systems, including families, peer groups, schools, communities, and societies (Bronfenbrenner, 1979), and the resilience of each of these systems also can be considered. Systems operating within a single individual can be considered as well, including the central nervous system and the immune system. Masten (2003) provided an illustration of interrelated and embedded systems for a child's life in relation to family, peer, and school systems, and the larger systems connected to children through schools or school personnel.

In most economically developed societies of the 21st century, schools play a central role in child development. Schools function as a vitally important context for child development, while at the same time a classroom or school also can be viewed as a system that may be threatened by adversities. A school that functions well in a context of adversity also can be said to manifest resilience, and there is considerable interest in the resilience of classrooms (Doll, Zucker, & Brehm, 2006) or schools (Wang & Gordon, 1994). The resilience of adults who work in schools is important because these individuals often play a central role in school resilience while also serving as protective adults or brokers of resources in the lives of high-risk children.

In research on resilience in development, the school context has been implicated in diverse ways as a promotive and protective environment for children and adolescents (Masten & Motti-Stefanidi, in press). Research findings implicate schools in many of the processes that promote positive development and prevent problems in the general population. In addition, the school context affords opportunities to facilitate resilience among children at risk for poor outcomes due to adversity exposure, ranging from divorce, family violence, homelessness, and maltreatment to war, natural disasters, and religious persecution.

In this article, we provide a concise overview of major findings from the resilience literature on children that have implications for schools and school counseling. …

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