Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Supportive Learning Communities and the Transformative Role of Professional School Counselors

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Supportive Learning Communities and the Transformative Role of Professional School Counselors

Article excerpt

This article considers some of the key processes and methods needed to reenvision and transform comprehensive school counseling programs (CSCPs) as strengths-based, prevention-focused learning communities. Specifically, following a discussion of evidence-based "school as community" models found in the literature and how they relate, in part, to the American School Counselor Association's (2005) CSCP framework, professional school counselors are provided with effective techniques to assess student resiliency characteristics and enhance multicultural competency to support and maintain their CSCPs as caring communities of learning.

Articles published in this special issue and in earlier psychological and counseling-related publications indicate that positive, caring, and educationally focused school environments promote student development, especially in the academic and personal-social domains (e.g., Baker, Dilly, Aupperlee, & Patil, 2003; Lehr & Christenson, 2002; Linares et al., 2005). Although there is a dearth of publications focusing specifically on the school counselor's role in developing a strengthsbased school culture and environment, much can be gleaned from the literature base of related helping professions (e.g., Baker, 2008; Gleason, 2007).

Our primary intent is to add to the scholarly discussion linking positive psychology and a strengthsbased orientation to the work of professional school counselors. To accomplish this end, two evidencebased "school as community" approaches are first overviewed and synthesized into a "caring community of learning" approach (CCL; Bulach, Brown, & Potter, 1998; Sink, 2004; Sink & Rubel, 2001), which is already, in some ways, aligned with the American School Counselor Association's (ASCA, 2005) comprehensive school counseling program (CSCP) framework (Doll & Cummings, 2008; Galassi & Akos, 2007; McGrath, 2003). Second, through a prevention-focused lens, the implications of a CCL approach to CSCP are provided, including a discussion of useful methods to (a) assess student resiliency characteristics and resources, and (b) enhance multicultural competency.


For at least a decade, prominent American educational scholars, such as Howard Gardner (1993, 2004) and Jerome Bruner (1996), have repeatedly called for schools to be reconceptualized into learning communities or schools as communities. Since then similar proposals have surfaced (e.g., Brown & Campione, 1998; Kohn, 1996; Walsh, Sattes, Corallo, & McDonald, 2003) in educational and psychological literature. Nevertheless, most implementation- oriented publications focus on revisiting education's pedagogical and administrative functions and structures, leaving the important work of other "auxiliary" educators (e.g., school counselors, psychologists, paraprofessionals, special education staff) who contribute to school community off the restructuring agenda.

Interestingly, even before publications surfaced in the school-as-community literature, the CSCP movement in the United States was well underway. School counselors were already rethinking their activities, services, and interventions, attempting to reframe them in accord with current research in developmental and social-ecological psychology (Galassi & Akos, 2007; Gysbers & Henderson, 2006; Sink, 2005). School counseling programs are collaborative systems, where all school stakeholders partner to enhance the learning milieu (ASCA, 2005; Sink). In the following section, we summarize the two major strengths-based orientations to K-12 learning communities.


American educational and related publications have roughly split into two major foci (Sink, 2004; Sink & Rubel, 2001). One camp aims at primarily fostering in students positive cognitive and academic outcomes, whereas another group of researchers emphasize the value of school-based communities to provide students and their families with ongoing care and socio-emotional support. …

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