Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Results-Based Comprehensive Guidance and Counseling Programs: A Framework for Planning and Evaluation

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Results-Based Comprehensive Guidance and Counseling Programs: A Framework for Planning and Evaluation

Article excerpt

School counseling is now well positioned to be one of the national and international forces that help shape more effective school environments and provide students unique development-enhancing opportunities. There can be no doubt that this profession has arrived at this opportune moment because of the creative, pragmatic, and resilient work of many professionals. Herr (2001) described how a young school counseling profession evolved in response to overriding national policy initiatives, economic trends, school reform movements, and pressing social needs. Practitioners and early counselor educators used these opportunities to move school counseling "from a position to a service to a comprehensive program" (Gysbers & Henderson, 2001, p. 246).

One central theme that connects this earlier work to the present has been a long-term commitment to define the essential work of the school counselor around activities that can be shown to bring about desired student outcomes. Comprehensive guidance and counseling programs have been conceptualized as results-based systems that construct essential counselor roles around critical outcomes to be achieved by all students (American School Counselor Association, 1997; Gysbers & Henderson, 2000; Herr, 2001; Herr & Cramer, 1972; Johnson & Johnson, 1982). This article explicates the interrelated structure between a comprehensive program, effective school environments, and the promotion of successful developmental pathways for all students. At a time when policymakers are requiring increased evidence that supports the effectiveness of different funding initiatives, the results-- based framework of a comprehensive program enables school counseling to seize this accountability mandate to improve counseling services available to all children and advocate for the profession (Lapan & Kosciulek, in press). As opposed to being mostly reactive to external forces, school counseling is now in an advantageous position to define itself and substantially enhance its professional image with the public at-large.

Results-Based Systems

Johnson and Johnson (1982) explicitly made the case for conceptualizing school counseling as a results-- based program. In their view, when essential outcomes to be achieved are defined, then processes likely to bring about these goals can be identified. They argued that counselor roles and program elements should evolve and adapt to maximize realized outcomes. Mitchell and Gysbers (1978) suggested that comprehensive guidance and counseling programs form a self-correcting system around four interrelated processes (i.e., planning, designing, implementing, and evaluating).

Herr and Cramer (1972) proposed a systems approach that linked valued outcomes to specific elements in a comprehensive guidance and counseling program. In their view, when building a comprehensive program, school counselors needed to connect specific resources for different types of learners, under different school conditions, for promoting different types of student development, and to achieve different purposes. The importance of making such distinctions can be clearly seen in conclusions drawn from program evaluation research of school-based interventions that have been conducted outside of the field of school counseling. For example, findings from extensive research evaluating the efficacy of early childhood education programs have led investigators to conclude that depending on the types and needs of the learner, either a didactic or a more student-centered approach would produce the best results (Paris & Cunningham, 1996). A program's ability to promote student growth is maximized when the conditional fit between learners and curricula is improved.

Many of the earlier pioneers in school counseling had at least an implicit commitment to a results-based approach. For example, in his classic longitudinal study, Rothney (1958) evaluated over the 5-year period following their graduation the impact for high school sophomores of receiving counseling services. …

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