As a counseling department, we believe small groups provide an important opportunity for us to apply our counseling skills and have a deeper influence on students’ holistic development. The 8-classes-per-day schedule in our middle-school requires a significant amount of planning to avoid disrupting class time. As a result, our small group action plan (attachment 10.1) reflects our collective focus on quality over quantity. Focused engagement of middle school students in a small group is something we are always trying to improve. Thus we value student’s suggestions, feedback, and general perception and outcome data, as we make decisions about the effectiveness of a lesson or group.
Often groups are organized as a direct response to referrals for interventions from teachers, administration, and parents. For example, our New Student Ambassador’s group was inspired by our principal’s request to make new students who arrive mid-year feel welcome, and our HILT reunification group was established after several students reported trauma from crossing the border into the United states. Other groups, such as the group sessions discussed in our results report, are directly related to achieving our program goals.
We chose to highlight the “Academic Excellence Group” because it addressed our 3rd program goal, was adapted from a research-based curriculum, and was the group that impacted the largest number of students this school-year (attachment 10.2). This group was an important part of our effort to provide early intervention to 6th grade students as well as affect the disproportionate number of Hispanic students on the D/E list in 6th grade. This curriculum was aligned to the ASCA mindsets and behaviors that we thought were most relevant to helping students to improve academic achievement. Furthermore, we appreciated that the pretest doubled as a selection tool for narrowing down which of the provided lesson plans were most relevant to students based on their self-identified strengths and weaknesses.
The Academic Excellence group, highlighted in our results report was structured so that 8 of the 12 optional lessons could be chosen based on need indicated from the pretest (attachment 10.4). It is important to note that we were frustrated that the pre-test and post-test had slightly different wording; however, we kept the questions the same because it was our first time using the tool.
On the pretest, motivation did not seem a particularly high-need of students with it earning a pre-test score of 48%, which was the second lowest need reported from all 10 sections. However, a key takeaway from the post-test data was that motivation was the only area in which students reported a higher need on the post-test (4% Increase). Motivation was the last lesson topic the students participated in before the posttest, so it clearly was not an effective lesson and if anything, it seemed to remind students of their lack of motivation. Based on this we agreed to try another research-based approach to motivate students in the future. Though it is always hard to draw strong conclusions from outcome data because of the many variables at play, the perception data indicated strong improvement in knowledge, attitudes and skills. As a result, we will use the curriculum again and are considering using it with other grades.
The results report (attachment 10.3) served as a significant reflection point for the counseling department, and we look forward to using the implications to refine our groups for this upcoming year. We concluded that we need to refine our perception data questions to clarify perception data and the effect our interventions have on outcomes. We should review questions for upcoming lessons as a group to make sure the questions align directly with objectives and are relevant to knowledge, attitude, and skills. This way we are assured that our questions align and connect as closely as possible to the outcome data we are trying to change.