Counselors as Leaders in Schools

By Wingfield, Robert J.; Reese, Ryan F. et al. | Florida Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, Winter 2010 | Go to article overview

Counselors as Leaders in Schools


Wingfield, Robert J., Reese, Ryan F., West-Olatunji, Cirecie A., Florida Journal of Educational Administration and Policy


School counseling emerged, and continues to evolve, in response to social, educational, political and economic trends (Paisley & Borders, 1995). Although each shift may be viewed as an inevitable reaction to societal demands, nonetheless, each shift has brought about increased ambiguity regarding their purpose within schools. Even during periods in which societal factors have remained relatively constant, the work of school counselors is often characterized by variety and fragmentation (Coll & Freeman, 1997; Lambie & Williamson, 2004; Martin, 2002). Consequently, school counselors have often been marginalized in schools. Further, despite training in child development and multiculturalim, school counselors are often overlooked as leaders or cultural brokers in school communities (Amatea & West-Olatunji, 2007). The literature on leadership, regardless of tradition, has focused primarily on those in formal leadership positions, such as in the case of schools, the principal (Spillane, Halverson, & Diamond, 2004). Research on schools has suggested that leadership is not the sole purview of the school principal; other professionals play vital roles in leading instructional innovation (Spillane et al.; Smylie & Denny, 1990; Heller & Firestone, 1995). This article offers valuable information to K-12 counselors, counseling supervisors, counselor educators, principals, teachers, and other school staff regarding the leadership capacity inherent in school counselors by virtue of their training, theoretical orientation, and mission. The authors describe the evolution of school counseling by outlining its developmental history (e.g. vocational guidance, mental health movement, and developmental guidance). A description of each era points to the current direction of school counselors as leaders, and suggests recommendations to school counselors seeking leadership status.

School Counseling Models

In this section, a brief overview of the major roles school counselors have exhibited in the past 100 years, and how these roles have addressed underachieving students during each era is provided. Each era has contributed its own characteristics to a position of community leadership that the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) (2005) National Model promotes in the 21st century (See Table 1). The vocational era shaped the notion that school counselors assisted students in finding career avenues relevant to their interests and passions. The mental health movement expanded the career focus of the school counselor to responding to the personal/social aspects of students and their families in the form of remedial services. This movement encouraged school counselors to consider the unique developmental circumstances their diverse students face in reaching quality education. Finally, the Comprehensive Competency Based School Counseling Guidance Programs (CCBSCGP) movement focuses more on how school counselors can serve as leaders to meet the academic, vocational, and personal/social needs of students while collaborating with school stakeholders. These eras are discussed below.

Vocational Guidance

Researchers have suggested that the school counseling profession began in the era of vocational guidance, in response to social reform when there was a public outcry against child labor and the industrial boom in the late 1800's (Krumboltz & Kolpin, 2003). Before vocational guidance found its way into schools, the field was dedicated to helping people find occupations that would allow them to become contributing members of society. Frank Parsons, considered the father of vocational guidance, is credited with advocating for trained professionals to perform vocational guidance in public schools during the first decade of the 20th century (Gysbers & Henderson, 2000, p. 4). Later, World Wars I and II compounded the need for widespread vocational assessment (Myrick, 2003). When the U. …

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