Updating the School Counseling Research Agenda: A Delphi Study

By Villares, Elizabeth; Dimmitt, Carey | Counselor Education and Supervision, September 2017 | Go to article overview

Updating the School Counseling Research Agenda: A Delphi Study


Villares, Elizabeth, Dimmitt, Carey, Counselor Education and Supervision


The authors updated an earlier Delphi study identifying the research priorities for school counseling (Dimmitt et al., 2005). A 29-member expert panel selected research questions from the prior study, generated new questions, and rank ordered the combined set. The results provide guidance for prioritizing dissertation topics, targeting future research, and focusing the scholarly efforts of counselor educators.

Keywords: research, school counseling, best practices, ASCA National Model

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The school counseling profession has embraced the power and importance of research to inform practice and to support both internal accountability and external legitimacy (American School Counselor Association [ASCA], 2012; Carey & Dimmitt, 2012; Sink, 2009; Wester & Borders, 2014; Whiston & Quinby, 2009; Zagelbaum, Kruczek, Alexander, & Crethar, 2014). A Delphi study was conducted in 2005 to develop consensus about research questions that would most effectively "help counselor educators, researchers, doctoral students, and funding organizations target research efforts on the questions that would be of most benefit to the profession" (Dimmitt, Carey, McGannon, & Henningson, 2005, p. 215). In the current study, we aimed to update these findings and to reposition research priorities to reflect contemporary educational contexts. Additionally, we sought to support counselor educators, graduate students, practitioners, and researchers in their efforts to form collaborative partnerships related to specific areas of focus.

Before the original school counseling Delphi study (Dimmitt et al., 2005), there were impassioned calls for more research in all areas of school counseling (House & Hayes, 2002; Whiston & Sexton, 1998). The need for information about research-based school-based interventions and programs has been addressed by national clearinghouses such as the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (www.casel.org), the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices (www.samhsa.gov/nrepp), and the Institute of Education Sciences' What Works Clearinghouse (www. ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc), but more studies specific to school counseling are needed. School counseling, like all professions, has continued to evolve. Over the past decade, the number of states with written school counseling models has increased (Martin, Carey, & DeCoster, 2009), more attention has been paid to evidence-based interventions (Dimmitt, Carey, & Hatch, 2007; Leon, Villares, Brigman, Webb, & Peluso, 2011; Webb, Brigman, Carey, & Villares, 2011; Whiston, Tai, Rahardja, & Eder, 2011), and more schools have been using the ASCA National Model for school counseling programs and attaining Recognized ASCA Model Program status (ASCA, 2012; Martin et al., 2009; Wilkerson, Perusse, & Hughes, 2013).

In counselor education, related changes include greater focus on closing achievement and access gaps (Dahir & Stone, 2009; Feldwisch & Whiston, 2016), increasing the number of school counselor preparation programs accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP; Urofsky, 2013), and providing more preservice training on the use of data (Hatch, Poynton, & Perusse, 2015). The profession also has more sophisticated models of collaboration and leadership (Janson, Stone, & Clark, 2009; McMahon, Mason, & Paisley, 2009).

In addition to these improvements, as well as changes in school counselor (SC) practice and preservice education, several significant national initiatives have impacted school counseling during the last decade. The College Board launched its National Office for School Counselor Advocacy, which "promotes the value of school counselors as leaders in advancing school reform and student achievement" (College Board, 2010, p. 7). The Gates Foundation funded a Public Agenda study of school counseling (J. …

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