REVISED SECTION (UPLOADED LESSON PLANS ALSO REVISED)
Thetford Academy is a small independent school that uses block scheduling for high school students which enables them to have great flexibility and diversity in creating schedules and meeting their personal academic needs. This approach leads to grade level populations that travel in a myriad of directions and do not usually share common free time during the school day. For this reason it is challenging to arrange group-based interventions due to lack of common time for students, but in the 2016-2017 school year, we utilized lunch time and advisory to run two groups.
When planning our groups for the year, we felt it important to focus at least one on academics, and at least one on social-emotional skills. For social-emotional needs, we focused on 7th grade girls, who tend to struggle with the transition to middle school; we often see a lot of “drama” and social aggression in this transition. Students in this group self-selected; the group was presented to all 7th grade girls, who were given the option to sign up for the 6-week group with the request that if they chose to attend, they complete the full 6 weeks.
For the academic success group, we focused on 9th grade students since the transition to high school comes with a jump in academic expectations.
We also planned to run a resilience group for 9th graders that focused on a balance of academic and self-care skills, but we did not end up doing so this year.
For the academic success group, participants were selected based on students receiving a D or lower in a core class on their initial progress report that went home approximately six weeks into the semester. We chose to use an established curriculum that was created by the Counseling Geek and can be found at thecounselinggeek.com.
These academics groups specifically targeted new freshmen who face a big transition to classes that are twice as long as they previously experienced. They specifically need to learn the critical-thinking skills necessary to make informed decisions, develop organizational skills, and understand the importance of both short and long term career and social/emotional goals, as reflected in the ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors under the Behavior: Learning Strategies category (specifically BLS: 1, 3, and 7). Two groups were formed, one led by each counselor.
The groups met a total of four times for approximately twenty minutes each. Prior to beginning each lesson students were provided with a pre-assessment that measured their knowledge and attitudes toward the content to be addressed. For example, they were asked about their perceptions of goals in general, of short- and long-term goals, their perceptions about their organizational skills and their ability to turn assignments in on time. Upon completing the four sessions, students were given a post-assessment that measured the same concepts. For lesson 1 students were asked for their perception about the importance of goals. From pre- to post-assessment their rating about the importance of setting goals rose from 83% to 94%. For lesson 2 students were asked to provide examples of both a long- and short-term goal. Students’ ability to identify both short-term and long-term goals rose from 60% to 100%. For lesson 3 students were asked for their perception of their organizational ability and their ability to get work turned in in a timely fashion.
For organizational ability their confidence in their own ability rose from 80% to 83% and for timely homework submission it rose from 65% to 79%.
Although the academic success groups did not yield an increase in student GPA’s between the first and second quarter of the year, students emerged more knowledgeable about goal setting and their organizational skills. For this reason our plan is to continue to offer these groups at the start of each semester. We think it may be more effective to start these groups earlier in the year as a means of better serving at-risk students and are exploring a few different avenues to elicit referrals to the groups, including speaking to former 8th grade teachers, and speaking to Special Education case managers about students who may benefit from the groups.