The purpose of our study was to examine and describe rural school counselors’ usage of consultation under the system support component of the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA, 2004a) guidelines for a comprehensive guidance program as perceived by Texas rural school counselors and measured by Counselor-Consultant Survey-Modified (CCS-M). Texas rural school counselors participating in our research study report they spent more than 21% of their time in the area of consultation under the system support component. This is in excess of the TEA (2004a) model’s suggested time distribution (10-15%) for elementary middle school counselors, with 15-20% recommended for high school counselors. The perceptions of Texas rural school counselors’ perceptions regarding support from their supervisor in their consultative role under the system support are described.
Consultation as Perceived by Rural School Counselors Under the System Support Component of a Comprehensive Developmental Guidance Model
School counselors in the 21st century face a number of tremendous challenges. A Model Comprehensive, Developmental Guidance and Counseling Program for Texas Public Schools: A Guide for Program Development Pre-K-12th Grade (Texas Education Agency [TEA], 2004a) proposes that the primary responsibility of school counselors is to assist each student, through counseling, to develop their academic, career, personal, and social abilities. According to the guidance model, development of these abilities for some students may be challenged by threats of suicide, school safety, bullying, gang pressure, death of family/friends, divorce, substance abuse, and family abuse. Because of multiple role expectations, interference with school counselors’ availability to students is experienced as a challenge for school counselors (Strayhorn, 2003). Counselors serve all students in the school and utilize counseling, coordination, guidance, program implementation and facilitation, referral, assessment, program management, and consultation to deliver services to the population they serve (TEA, 2004a). However, utilization of consultation by school counselors might assist in the delivery of counseling services to address the many needs of students today (Dougherty, 2000).
School counseling has been described as an important profession that affects the lives of thousands of students everyday. According to White and Mullis (1998), “[t]he role of the school counselor is to facilitate student learning and successful socialization by focusing on the affective aspects of education” (p. 242).
The ASCA National Model: A Framework for School Counseling Programs (ASCA, 2003) and the Texas model, A Model Comprehensive, Developmental Guidance and Counseling Program for Texas Public Schools: A Guide for Program Development Pre-K-12th Grade (TEA, 2004a) guide professional school counselors in their program planning as well as their daily activities. According to both models, a professional school counselor’s job responsibilities fall into the four delivery system components of school guidance curriculum, individual student planning, responsive services, and system support.
Our study focused on the system support component. ASCA’s system support component includes professional development, consultation, collaboration and teaming, and program management and operation. For the purpose of our study, it is important to note that consultation is included under responsive services as well as the system support component of ASCA’s model.
According to Dougherty (2000), consultation is defined as “a type of helping relationship in which a human service professional (consultant) delivers assistance to another person (consultee) so as to solve a work-related or caretaking-related problem the consultee has with a client system” (p. 18). In other words, consultation is a type of service performed by human service workers (counselors, psychologists) in which they assist another professional who has responsibility for a case or program with the ultimate goal to solve problems.
Statement of the Purpose
The purpose of our study
was to examine and describe consultation under the system support component of
the 2004 Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) guidelines for a comprehensive
guidance program as perceived by
Consultation is an important skill for counselors to utilize in the school setting. According to A Model Comprehensive, Developmental Guidance and Counseling Program for Texas Public Schools: A Guide for Program Development Pre-K-12th Grade (TEA, 2004a), consultation is listed under each of the four components of the comprehensive developmental school guidance and counseling program.
With the limited resources of most public schools today, particularly in rural schools, it is important that school counselors make effective use of their time. Myrick (2003) reasoned that consultation is effective because it mobilizes more school resources to help students, provides a learning experience for the consultee, and assists teachers with positive relationships with students.
Most administrators support counselors who utilize their time efficiently and effectively serve students. Dougherty (2000) stated that principals often request school counselors consult with them or others (outside consultants). These consultations include organizational development and program development. When counselors consult with administrators, they take on part of the responsibility for the outcome. Morrissette (2000) reported that administrative support was advantageous for rural school counselors, especially in professional development, workload balance, and relationships with teachers.
In 2000, Burnham and Jackson surveyed 80 school counselors regarding their duties to determine their perceived level of participation in various counselor functions. Counselors in their study utilized consultation with community agencies, faculty/ teachers, students, and parents in this order from highest to lowest. The average time spent in consultation varied, but averaged 18.42% in their study. The concern with consultation, according to Burnham and Jackson, was consultation needed to be better defined for counselors. It may be difficult for some counselors to distinguish between counseling and consultation as separate functions because the time spent in consultation in their study was elevated.
Myrick (2003) defined consultation as a technique that allowed professional school counselors to effectively and efficiently reach a larger number of students. Myrick reasoned consultation was effective because it mobilized more school resources to help students, it was a learning experience for the consultee, and assisted teachers with positive relationships with students to provide additional assistance to them.
Rural School Counseling
According to the
Dunbar (1999) stated, “Rural
communities suffer from a shortage of resources, a lack of service
coordination, and restrictions of categorical funding streams” (p. 15).
For example, in rural settings there were few practitioners or facilities to make
mental health or substance abuse referrals for specialized treatment
(Morrissette, 1997). In rural communities, the school counselor was often
“called upon to fill gaps that exist in the community’s mental
health resources” (Sutton & Pearson, 2002, p. 271). Rural school
counselors worked with the total school population, which included a wide
variety of problems (
Rural professional school counselors fill an important position in schools and communities today, serving over one-quarter of the nation’s children. Although limitations may include few resources, lack of professional development and community cultural issues, many professional school counselors are choosing to serve in rural schools. Some of the advantages include working as a generalist in a school and a close community with a small and more stable student body.
Statement of the Problem
Senate Bill 518 (2001) requires school counselors to provide services to all students in the school setting by delivery of counseling services as presented in A Model Comprehensive, Developmental Guidance and Counseling Program for Texas Public Schools: A Guide for Program Development Pre-K-12th Grade (TEA, 2004a). This is challenging for all school counselors, but specifically for rural school counselors who often have many non-counseling related responsibilities. In rural schools, counselors are often required to be generalists, taking responsibility for many non-counseling activities rather than serving in the role as a specialist (Sutton & Pearson, 2002). Therefore, time available for counseling must be used very efficiently in order to positively influence the greatest number of students. Consultation is a skill that will facilitate effective use of counselors’ time in delivery of counseling services to all students. When a counselor consults with a teacher, multiple students often benefit from the consultation services.
been researched as a counseling skill in general (Dougherty, 2000), but we did
not find research on the usage of consultation under the system support
component of TEA’s model (2004a) in rural school settings. In 2003,
Strayhorn, the Texas State Comptroller, conducted a statewide study of all
school counselors in
Significance of the Study
A review of the literature revealed many studies on consultation and school counseling (Dougherty, 2000; Gysbers, 2004); however, there were few studies on rural school counseling (Morrissette, 2000) and no studies on rural school counselors’ usage of consultation under the system support component of Texas Education Agency’s A Model Comprehensive, Developmental Guidance and Counseling Program for Texas Public Schools: A Guide for Program Development Pre-K-12th Grade (2004a). Our research study adds to the body of literature available to researchers concerning rural schools. In addition, our study investigated rural school counselors’ usage of consultation under the system support component of TEA’s guidance model. Therefore, the results of our study will contribute to the body of knowledge concerning consultation and rural school counseling.
Our study is significant for the following reasons:
1. Results of our study emphasizes the importance of consultation training as a valuable component of school counselor pre-service training programs.
2. Our study supports findings of Strayhorn’s (2003) study in which school counselors request relief from non-counseling duties in order to perform more counseling and consultation.
The original study included five research questions. This article focuses on two of the five research questions, which were selected for discussion and presentation herein. These two research questions are:
1. Do Texas rural school counselors utilize consultation more than the
recommended amount suggested by A Model Comprehensive, Developmental Guidance and Counseling Program for Texas Public Schools: A Guide for Program Development Pre-K-12th Grade (TEA, 2004a) under the system support component for their appropriate grade level?
2. What are the perceptions of
The participants surveyed in our
research study were rural school counselors in the state of
The Texas Education Agency defines rural school districts under community type. A rural school district may not meet the qualifications for the following community types: major urban, major suburban, other central city, other central city suburban, independent town, non-metro – fast growing, non-metro – stable (TEA, 2003a). Hence, the definition for rural is as follows:
School districts that do not meet the criteria for placement into any of the above categories. These districts either have a growth rate less than 20 percent and the number of students in membership is between 300 and the state median, or the number of students in membership is less than 300. (p. 1)
Data were collected through Internet e-mail (SurveyMonkey, 2005) and regular mail when e-mail was not available. SurveyMonkey is intelligent survey software that allows for the professional creation of online surveys quickly and easily. We were able to monitor the results as received through Internet access. The results analyzed via SurveyMonkey presented as response percent, response total, and total respondents to each question.
The Texas Education Agency School Directory (TEA, 2004b) supplied the
names of the superintendents and counselors from the rural school districts.
There was no evidence of a response
bias and the assumption was made that this was a representative sample of rural
school counselors in
Online construction of the survey instrument facilitated ease of participation, as well as collection of data for the researcher through SurveyMonkey (2005). The response to the online survey required approximately 15 minutes. When e-mail was not available, surveys were sent via regular mail. Raw data were downloaded into an Excel spreadsheet and the 2002 Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS) version 11.5.0.
Counselor-Consultant Survey was minimally altered to conform to A Model Comprehensive, Developmental Guidance
and Counseling Program for Texas Public Schools: A Guide for Program
Development Pre-K-12th Grade (TEA, 2004a) and to fit the
population of all
To establish content validity of the
CCS-M, we piloted a written survey to five
Our original research study began with the five proposed research questions with two of those questions being reported in this article. Analysis of the data collected through the survey instrument was performed through the 2002 Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS) version 11.5.0. Whereas our study was survey research, frequencies and percentages were appropriate for measuring survey instrument results (Gall, Gall, & Borg, 2003). Quantitative analyses were performed for the questions related to the counselor’s perception of their role as consultant.
Analysis of the Research Questions
Research question 1. Do Texas rural school counselors utilize
consultation more than the recommended amount suggested by A Model
Comprehensive, Developmental Guidance and Counseling Program for Texas Public
Schools: A Guide for Program Development Pre-K-12th Grade (TEA,
2004a) under the system support component for their appropriate grade level? A one-sample t test was used to
determine what percentage of time
question 2. What are the perceptions of
To better understand rural school counselor’s experiences and to answer the research questions guiding our study, the Counselor-Consultant Survey – Modified (CCMS) was used. The instrument, CCMS included 27 items with 21 requesting respondents provide demographic data describing personal qualities (age, gender, ethnicity); professional information (years of experience, graduate school experiences, consultation training, level of perceived consultation skill, certification/licensure status); and school descriptors (enrollment, number of counselors in the district, location of district).
The demographic characteristics of the sample
(N=131) revealed that almost
two-thirds, or 64.9%, of respondents were mature in age, ranging in age from 41
to 60 years of age. One hundred thirteen (86.3%) respondents reported they were
female, while 18 respondents (13.7%) reported they were male. With regard to
race/ethnicity, most of the respondents (95.3%, n = 123) reported they were White. The majority of the respondents
(93.7%, n = 119) had more than five
years of teaching experience. The respondents to our survey had considerable
teaching experience over and above the minimum of the two years currently
required by the state of
Participants Experiences with Consultation
Participants responded to a question requesting the estimated amount of time spent each week in consultation within the systems support activities. An analysis of the responses, revealed 69% (n = 89) reported spending an average of 21% of their time each week in consultation within the systems support component of the counseling program responsibilities.
Results of Research Question 1
Do Texas rural school counselors utilize consultation more than the recommendations suggested by A Model Comprehensive, Developmental Guidance and Counseling Program for Texas Public Schools: A Guide for Program Development Pre-K-12th Grade (TEA, 2004a) under the system support component for their appropriate grade level? A one-sample t test was used to determine what percentage of time Respondents utilize consultation in delivery of the system support component of the model. The responses to Question #24 were collapsed as 0-15%, 16-50% and 51-100% with a test value of 1 (0-15%) utilized. As shown in Table 1, there was a significant difference between what was reported in our study and the report of 10-15% with an average value of two or 16-50%; therefore, respondents reported they are utilizing consultation more than TEA’s model suggested.
Under TEA’s model (2004a), consultation is a skill required under each of the four components. The suggested time distribution for the system support component, which includes consultation and is the focus of our study, is 10-15% for elementary and middle school counselors and 15-20% for high school counselors.
Test Value = 1
Question N Mean SD t Sig. (2-tailed)
24 128 1.81 .626 14.628.70 .000
Results of Research Question 2
What are the perceptions of
Likert rating n %
(n = 127)
1 Low 9 7.1
2 11 8.7
3 25 19.7
4 16 12.6
5 25 19.7
6 High 41 32.3
Students today are challenged by a multitude of societal problems, such as threats of suicide, school safety, bullying, gang pressure, death of family/friends, divorce, substance abuse, and family abuse suicides (TEA, 2004a). The primary responsibility of
school counselors is to assist each
student, through counseling services, to develop their academic, career,
personal, and social abilities. Utilizing counseling, coordination, and
consultation skills (“three C’s”), professional school
counselors deliver services to the population they serve (
In rural schools, professional school
counselors face additional challenges. A lack of resources and service
coordination were found in rural communities (
The findings of our study revealed the majority of respondents averaged spending 21% of their time in the area of consultation under systems support component. There was a significant difference between the results of our study and TEA’s (2004a) recommendation of time spent under the system support component. Respondents (32.3%) reported their perception of immediate supervisor support in their consultation role at the highest level. For elementary and middle school/junior high counselors, the TEA (2004a) model recommends that counselors spend 10-15% of their time in the delivery of system support services, with high school counselors spending 15-20% of their time under the system support component.
With the limited resources of most rural schools today, consultation is an important skill that school counselors can utilize to make effective use of their time. Myrick (2003) reasoned consultation was effective because it mobilized more school resources to help students, was a learning experience for the consultee, and assisted teachers with positive student relationships in order to provide additional assistance to students. Consultation and counseling are not the same roles. The American School Counselor Association (2003) defined counseling as “a special type of helping process implemented by a professionally trained and certified person, involving a variety of techniques and strategies that help students explore academic, career and personal/social issues impeding healthy development or academic progress” (p. 129). Myrick (2003) defined the counselor’s consultant role as “working with teachers, parents, administrators and other educational specialists on matters that involve student understanding and management” (p. 307). Dickinson and Bradshaw (1992) claimed consultation is a process that provides indirect service to individuals, whereas counseling provides direct service.
Based on our study, several important implications were found. The first implication is counselors utilize consultation with parents, teachers, administrators, and others to help students improve achievement, attendance, and behavior more than TEA’s (2004a) model recommendations under the system support component. Under TEA’s developmental model, consultation is a counselor responsibility listed under each component including guidance curriculum, responsive services, individual planning, and system support. In addition to consultation, the system support component includes program management and professional standards. Under the national model, ASCA (2003) lists consultation as a component under the responsive services and system support delivery systems.
In our research study, 70% (n = 89) reported spending in excess of 15% of their time each week in consultation, which exceeds the TEA’s (2004a) model suggested guidelines in system support. In response to Senate Bill 538 passed in May 2001 during the 77th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature, State Comptroller Strayhorn performed a study that included a survey on how counselors spend their time (2003). Strayhorn’s (2003) survey also found that counselors are spending more time in system support, which includes consultation, than TEA’s suggested guidelines. For the system support component, Strayhorn reported that elementary counselors spent 16%, middle/junior high counselors spent 11.6%, and high school counselors spent 11.6% of their time. Elementary counselors slightly exceeded TEA’s model guidelines, middle/junior high counselors were within the guidelines, and high school counselors fell lower than the guidelines for system support services.
In addition, Burnham and Jackson (2000) found the average time spent in consultation by counselors varied, but averaged 18.42%. Again, this finding is in excess of TEA’s model recommendations in system support for consultation.
The second implication for professional school counselors is administrative support for the counselor’s role as consultant is important. In our study, over 50% (n = 66) reported their immediate supervisor highly supports their role as a consultant. Bonebrake and Borgers (1984) found principals and counselors agreed consultation with parents and teachers was an important responsibility. Dustin (1992) also suggested counselors consult with principals on discipline issues by problem solving a specific strategy to assist both the teacher and the student. Morrissette (2000) reported that administrative support was advantageous for rural school counselors, especially in professional development, workload balance, and relationships with teachers.
Recommendations for Further Study
Rural school counseling research in the
Secondly, research could focus on the
amount of time used in consultation as defined by appropriate accountability
measures. Foster, Watson, Meeks, and Young’s (2002) single-subject
research design is one suggested accountability measure. In this design, a
counselor can repeatedly measure behavior beginning with a baseline and then
subsequent treatment conditions for either a group or a single student, which
can assess whether the treatment is effective. This information would more
accurately depict a counselor’s use of consultation rather than through
perceptions only. This is critical in
Thirdly, another possibility for further study would be the comparison of the findings in our research study to a study investigating the utilization of consultation in urban settings. Such a study could contrast and compare the use of consultation in rural schools and then in urban schools.
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