School Counselors' Roles in RAMP and PBIS a Phenomenological Investigation (Part Two)

Added December 29, 2017

School counselors’ roles facilitating a comprehensive school counseling program (CSCP), such as the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) National Model (ASCA, 2012) can include myriad related responsibilities, such as contributing to their school’s positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) (ASCA, 2014; Author, 2016) framework. A plethora of single-subject case studies have examined school counselors’ roles in PBIS, elucidating the benefits of school counselor leadership in PBIS planning and implementation. Yet, there is a lack of published research examining school counselors’ roles in PBIS implementation across multiple schools. Examining the perceptions of school counselors in recent RAMP (Recognized ASCA Model Program) schools may be particularly meaningful, as their CSCPs have undergone rigorous peer-review. Thus, the purpose of this study was to understand the perceptions of a sample of school counselors in current or recent RAMP schools that also implemented PBIS with high fidelity. Examining model or exemplary CSCP and RAMP implementation in particular may lead to a greater understanding of the potential relationship between these two frameworks. Correspondingly, the following research question guided this study: What are the lived experiences of professional school counselors regarding their current or recently Recognized ASCA Model Program and school-wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports?

Researchers conducted a qualitative, phenomenological investigation of the lived experiences of a sample of school counselors (N = 10) in current or recent RAMP schools that also implemented PBIS with high fidelity. Researchers found two themes and related subthemes related to school counselor roles. The first theme was school counselors’ roles and responsibilities, with the following subthemes: (a) makes sense with their role, and (b) roles across tiers. The second theme was ASCA National Model themes in action. Subthemes were: (a) advocacy and systemic change, (b) leadership, and (c) collaboration.

School Counselors’ Roles and Responsibilities: While the majority of participants in the current study displayed a confident and optimistic view regarding the effects of PBIS involvement on their roles, a minority indicated a lack of PBIS training and a more muted assessment of the ‘sense’ of taking on roles in PBIS implementation. Thus, while overall positive, school counselors may have a plethora of roles and experiences with PBIS implementation.

Makes sense with their roles: According to most of the school counselors in this study, PBIS fit well with their roles implementing RAMP. They appreciated that both frameworks focused on students’ academic, career, social/emotion success, thus, putting them in a position to act as leaders for and a liaison between RAMP and PBIS. Further, several of the school counselors believed that their flexible role was also a benefit in assisting with PBIS.

Roles across tiers: Many of the school counselors in the present study described performing roles across the three-tiered continuum. This included tier one supports such as positive reinforcement and school-wide efforts and also roles in advanced tiers, for instance identifying students and assisting in choosing or providing interventions. With the growing prevalence of PBIS nationally, incorporating the widely-used three-tiered language into school counselors’ terminology regarding direct and indirect services may further align school counseling programs with their school’s mission and vision.

Almost all participants described the ASCA Model themes as key roles and responsibilities.

Advocacy and systemic change: Participants in the current study widely embraced their roles in advocacy and systemic change. School counselors’ advocacy and systemic change roles are crucial, given the insidious achievement and access gaps among groups of students in U.S. schools. This commitment keeps school counselors at the forefront of necessary educational initiatives, engaging in advocacy and service to and with students whose needs have been disproportionally neglected.

Leadership: This study’s results featured a number of the participants engaging in PBIS leadership roles, similar to the school counselor-led PBIS team portrayed in a recent case study (Author, 2014a). Not surprisingly, the participants involved in leadership roles saw multiple benefits to both the school counseling program and themselves in terms of visibility, respect, and influence. Implementing RAMP and PBIS led to a strong sense of leadership in both.

Collaboration: Most of the school counselors in the present study enthusiastically relayed the benefits of collaboration, suggesting that implementing RAMP and PBIS strengthened their roles as collaborator. At the same time, many of the school counselors in the present study struggled with delegation (Author, in press). While the results of this study enhances the call for school counselor collaboration with stakeholders, the challenges are also clearly elucidated.

While consensus regarding optimal school counselor roles is continuing to evolve and solidify, the education and advocacy efforts promoting the efficacy of CSCPs has yielded growing numbers of programs proclaiming their RAMP status and increasing levels of stakeholder awareness. Given the preliminary yet promising investigations into school counselors’ complementary roles in both RAMP and PBIS engagement, including the vigorous endorsement of the ASCA themes, there appears to be merit behind continuing to examine and enact CSCP/RAMP and PBIS congruence, especially with regards to advocacy, leadership, collaboration and systemic change efforts.

Emily Goodman-Scott, PhD, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA; Tim Grothaus, PhD, Old Dominion University.


Emily Goodman-Scott, PhD, Tim Grothaus, PhD