The school counseling program chooses groups based on teacher, parent, and student requests well as goals and the Mindsets and Behaviors. Just like the core curriculum, not all of our groups are specific to a department goal, however they all are grounded in the ASCA domains and are specific to our school population. Most groups have on average 6 sessions. Sometimes we have found it difficult to extend groups for six consecutive weeks due to absences from one week to the next. To circumvent inconsistency, some groups were held daily and called “intense groups”. The Students have a much higher success rate when they put strategies learned into practice and recall their efforts and experiences from day to day. Some groups are lunch bunches, these groups are better suited for the older students who can eat independently and allow more time spent in group to be utilized for activities.
We chose to facilitate Separated Families because this impacted many students who have separated families’ due to divorce, imprisonment, deportation, and death. Parents request this group every year. Another yearly group is Stress Busters which helps with coping skills. Ms. Cottle-Makhene provides a core curriculum lesson for testing anxiety, and the perception data is students self-report of anxiety symptoms. Students are recommended by self and teacher report. We used to provide an anger management group, however had difficulty getting returned permission slips. After discussions with identified group members and their parents they didn’t feel as though there was an anger problem. The group name was changed to “impulse control” and we have had remarkable success with having permission granted. Each group runs at least two times throughout the school year to address students’ needs.
Based upon teacher and parent request, Ms. Freybler facilitated Super Student School Success Group to improve Work Habits marks on report cards and to decrease behavior referrals. Research shows that when students are not on task this is often the time when poor behavior choices are made. Teachers provided input regarding students who showed difficulty with skills needed to be successful. Perception data was gathered by giving teachers a pre/post-test to rate the students’ school success skills. Student perception data was collected by an instrument that examined understanding of these same concepts. Some questions were designed to assess if students knew how skills could benefit them (e.g, why it is important to listen in class) others were whether they knew how to perform that skill (e.g., what to say to a friend who keeps talking to you, making it difficult for you to listen in class). Outcome data was derived from comparing Work Habits marks on the quarterly report card pre-group vs. post-group. Lesson plan contents were selected and/or created to align with the ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors and to address the skill deficits which were impeding students’ classroom success.
While Work Habits marks increased only slightly and student pre/post-test scores increased by a 7% margin, there was a 15% increase in teacher pre/post-test scores. After reviewing the data, it was noticed that one student went from a 1 to a 0 in her Work Habits mark pre/post-group. Shortly after the group concluded, this student was moved to a different classroom which resulted in improved Work Habits. This illustrates the importance of matching student needs to the teaching style of the teacher. For instance, the student needed a teacher with structure to control her behaviors. Therefore, student Work Habits appear to be directly impacted by the teacher’s classroom management approach, at least for some students.
Often this was not possible to administer the posttest within a week of completing the group due to Ms. Freybler’s schedule between two schools and lack of student availability due to inconsistent classroom schedules. The gap of time between the end of the group and the administration of the post-test was likely a factor in the minimal increase in student pre/post-test scores.
After facilitating this group, we recognize changes that should be made. Asking students to name a strategy or skill that will be covered in the group would likely result in a greater margin of difference between pre/post-test scores. Also, including incentives may boost student motivation. For example, when students returned to group each week, asking them to name two things they did in the past week to demonstrate the skill learned in the prior session could earn them a point. The student with the most points accumulated would get to choose the beverage for the final "celebration" session.