In the past, the counseling department devoted the majority of its services to individual student planning. As we grew in our department and our program, we set a goal to implement small groups in the 2016-2017 school year. Lacking small group programming was also identified as a major need in our annual agreements conversation. We started with Grief Group and Girls Group. We selected these topics due to the number of referrals to our office and the Deans’ office. The groups were run by school counselors, counseling interns, and our social worker. We personally invited students and we reached out to all staff members for referrals for the groups. We grounded our work for grief group in one of our priority behaviors (B-SMS 7: "Demonstrate effective coping skills when faced with a problem"). These new coping skills will help them to engage in their daily learning and interactions while dealing with grief.
We also piloted Career Fridays. We took a different direction and implemented a non-social emotional group. From our school-wide school counseling fall needs assessment, career exploration stood out as an area in which students wanted more support. This group took place twice a month with the support of our TRiO advisor, with each session exploring a different career pathway. The pathways were chosen to match the Colorado Career Cluster model. During the sessions local professionals discussed their career journeys with students. The sessions were advertised to all grade levels and they signed up electronically. On average 10 students attended each session. We are receiving positive anecdotal feedback from students and guest speakers alike. We believe that career interest, providing appealing lunch options, and the increases to our counseling group programming has enabled Career Fridays to be successful.
Girls Group was conducted at lunch in the 2016-2017 school year and we quickly learned that we didn’t have a consistent number of attendees to consider it effective. In the 2017-2018 school year we decided to try again with Girls Group due to the number of ninth grade girl behavior referrals to the Deans’ office. We used portions of the Salvaging Sisterhood curriculum and conducted the group during our advisement class time. We reached out for referrals and the girls nominated for the group had poor attendance and a high number of deans’ office referrals.
The data collected in our small group results report proved to be positive, effective, and a major learning opportunity for our team. For example, many students in Girls Group had increased attendance and decreased behavior referrals when comparing semester 1 to semester 2. We worked to address B-SMS 7: “Demonstrate effective coping skills when faced with a problem”. Our perception data indicated that 52% of participated had knowledge of three coping skills. We wish to increase the number of student impacted (as measured by process data) by running the same groups twice a year with two different sets of participants and therefore increase the overall impact.
We must strengthen our pre/post tests in all of our groups to gather more consistent perception data, which will, in turn, aid us in analyzing the effectiveness of our groups. We are missing baseline perception data for our groups for a variety of reasons. The Girls Group was facilitated by a counseling intern. She left for a full time counseling position but did not leave the group data behind. In Career Fridays, we relied too heavily on interest surveys. We now have a pre/post survey that assesses the relevant attitudes, skills, and knowledge (please see supporting documents). We will maintain records of all surveys in our office so we do not lose data when interns finish their program. This is a systemic change to how we interact with our interns and the data that they collect moving forward.
This coming year we will be expanding our small group curriculum by adding a boys and anxiety groups. One of our school counselors will partner with one of our male campus safety officers who has positive relationships with many of our male students. Bringing on a boys group will help us continue to address M 1: “Belief in development of whole self, including a healthy balance of mental, social/emotional and physical well-being,” and a new mindset for us, M 2: “Self-confidence in ability to succeed.”
We found by adding small groups to our counseling program, we reach more students, increase the sense of community, and increase the effectiveness of our program.