Promoting School Adjustment for English-Language Learners Through Group Work

Added May 29, 2018

The purpose of the current study was to foster school adjustment and improve academic achievement for recently immigrated middle school ESL students using the Achieving Success Everyday Group Counseling Model (ASE Model) (Steen, Henfield, & Booker, 2014) as an intervention. Recently-immigrated middle school English-as-Second-Language (ESL) students need academic, language acquisition, and acculturation supports. School counselors can use group counseling to foster positive school adjustment. Results in this study showed students in the treatment group received significantly higher scores on school adjustment after controlling for pre-intervention scores. Additionally, students’ GPA increased following the intervention. Participant journal responses to school counselor prompts revealed expressions of sadness, loneliness, and hope for the future.

Several implications can be drawn from the current study. First, it is important to use an evidence-based curriculum for working with this population. The ASE model has been used with this population in prior research however, in this study the use of bilingual counselors was crucial so support the students socially, academically and as they were learning English. If the school counselors are unable to communicate with the students or if the conversations only occur in English, this could limit the student growth. Another implication is the school counselors facilitating this intervention discovered that journaling became a practical tool to explore issues and personal concerns that the students may have been reluctant to share openly in the group sessions. School counselors should consider using journals in groups to help students explore their concerns. Journals provide a venue to express one’s fears, hopes and dreams.

The third implication is that when working with newcomer ESL students, it is important to establish rapport and to get to know the students and their culture. Newcomer students might feel very foreign in their new schools and thus might need more time and extra support to get adjusted. Even if school counselors cannot fully communicate to students in their language of origin, school counselors can provide a safe place for students to interact with others who come from similar backgrounds. School counselors could also have students share about their cultural backgrounds and even ask students to bring in a cultural artifact they treasure from their country of origin that could describe who they are and where they are from. Showing genuine interest in what a student values will let them know the school counselors care about their well-being and growth and development. More importantly, establishing rapport and getting to know students and their culture will help school counselors to know what the students need and what interventions will best serve them (Rowland & Davis, 2014).

Last but not least, reaching out to community members who might provide support within the school and the surrounding community is something school counselors could consider. It is suggested in the literature that school counselors take the lead in their schools to develop and implement school-family-community partnerships to improve immigrant students’ educational outcomes (Aydin, Bryan, & Duys, 2012; Mitchell & Bryan, 2007).

Sam Steen, PhD, University of Arizona, Tucson; Xi Liu, George Washington University, Washington, DC; Qi Shi, PhD, Loyola University of Maryland, Timonium; Joy Rose, Marana Unified School District, Marana, AZ; Georgina Merino, Fairfax County Public Schools, Fairfax, VA.


Sam Steen, PhD, Xi Liu, Qi Shi, PhD, Joy Rose, Georgina Merino