Identifying a School Counseling Research Agenda: A Delphi Study

By Dimmitt, Carey; Carey, John C. et al. | Counselor Education and Supervision, March 2005 | Go to article overview

Identifying a School Counseling Research Agenda: A Delphi Study


Dimmitt, Carey, Carey, John C., McGannon, Wendy, Henningson, Ivar, Counselor Education and Supervision


The authors conducted a Delphi study to identify important research questions regarding school counseling. During 3 consecutive rounds of e-mail queries, an expert panel of 21 school counseling educators and practitioners were asked to identify the goals of school counseling research, develop specific research questions, and rate the importance of the questions. The highest rated research questions concerned school counseling interventions that have an impact on academic achievement and the effects of school counseling programs on student outcomes. The panel's final list of 42 research questions can help counselor educators, graduate students, and practitioners develop research projects that most effectively meet the needs of the field.

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The need for school counseling practice to be grounded in solid research and the related paucity of this research have been ongoing themes in the field's professional literature (Bauman et al., 2002: Borders & Drury, 1992: Gerler, 1985; House & Hayes. 2002: Remer. 1981: Whiston & Sexton. 1998; Wilson. 1986). Research is crucial because it identifies best practices, supports accountability, demonstrates the impact of school counseling on student outcomes, and helps professionals in the field develop their knowledge base (Cramer. Herr, Morris. & Frantz, 1970: Deck, Cecil, & Cobia, 1990; Dimmitt. 2003; Erpenbach, 1984: Myrick, 1984). With the advent of the No Child Left Behind Act (2002), developing a school counseling research agenda has new urgency, because public school professionals will be required to demonstrate that they are implementing evidence-based interventions and counselor educators will need to train school counselors in rigorous program evaluation, research. and data use skills (Carey, 2003). In this era of standards-based education and professional accountability, research demonstrating that school counseling programs and interventions are making a difference in the academic outcomes of students is fundamentally necessary and invaluable to the profession.

The Center for School Counseling Outcome Research at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst (hereafter referred to as the Center) was developed to facilitate the development of the profession's research base by identifying critical research questions: evaluating existing research evidence: communicating the implications of research findings to practitioners: identifying outcomes that are most critical for evaluating, identifying, and developing good outcome measures; developing new research approaches; and coordinating multisite research efforts across the field (Center for School Counseling Outcome Research, 2003). As its initial project, the Center conducted a Delphi study to help the profession develop a research agenda through the identification of significant research questions. Currently, the counseling profession does not have an accurate picture of the possible range of relevant research questions and lacks an assessment of the relative value of different questions. We believed that the identification of a finite list of important research questions would help counselor educators, researchers, doctoral students, and funding organizations target research efforts on the questions that would be of most benefit to the profession. Identification of a coherent research agenda would allow maximal effectiveness and efficiency in an era of scarce resources.

University-based school counselor education programs have a particularly important role in leading research efforts to address critical questions in school counseling. Several authors have suggested that university-public school research partnerships are needed to address critical research needs (Fields & Hines, 2000; Hayes, Paisley, Phelps, Pearson, & Salter, 1997; House & Hayes, 2002). The identification of specific critical research questions can help focus and direct the efforts of such partnerships. …

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