Core Counseling Results Report
Core curriculum lessons are a major component of the elementary school counseling program, as its reach extends to all. At Avaxat Elementary, the staff has generously given me access to classrooms to provide support regularly over the last 3 years. I have instructed well over 400 lessons per year! One highly successful unit, Empathy, gives students skills, which help them, interact with peers as well as trusted adults. By teaching the attitudes, knowledge, and skills of empathy and respect, we educate and empower students to achieve academic success, develop life skills, and become responsible community members.
Effectiveness of Core Curriculum Empathy Unit
In implementing a Tier I intervention, I always reflect back on the data from the previous year to determine the need. At the end of the 2016-2017 school year, multiple data points suggested that initial support for these students would be needed. By the end of the previous year, the 1st Grade group was one of the most challenging groups with 87 office referrals, the highest for the school. The largest referral category was “lack of citizenship skills” (67%) which teachers generally select when students have excessive low-level behavior issues with fellow students or teachers, which escalates to an office referral. For that reason, I chose to put special attention on working to have students build the empathy skills to build better relationships with their peers as well as their teachers.
Process Data. I adapted four lessons from the Second Step empathy unit (2nd Grade) to deliver to each class, delivering a total of 20 classroom lessons (4 lessons taught 5 times) to 109 students. I collaborated with 2nd grade teachers and my intern to create a relevant evaluation instrument, which would be appropriate to measure the student’s perceptions.
I aligned the pre/post-test with the objectives of the lessons as well as the mindsets and behaviors set in the lesson plan. In collaboration with teachers, I created an online pre/post test to enhance accessibility to teachers and students. We used pictures and read the questions to students to make the assessment accessible to struggling readers.
Perception Data. Several perception data points indicated positive results. The first was a large decrease in “needs improvement” on quarterly report cards. In fact, the number of negative behavior marks on report cards dropped by 45% from quarter one to quarter two. This teacher perception was an indicator that students and teachers were improving their relationships and that there was more learning occurring in the classroom. Second, immediate pre and post test results yielded positive results in student attitudes, knowledge, and skills required to be empathetic, which allows them to have supportive relationships with adults and students. 35% of students shifted their beliefs about other student’s preferences, 95% understood what compassion is, and 95% of students were able to make a good choice on a scenario question that asked them to take responsibility. By giving students positive examples about how leading with empathy and compassion would improve their relationships with others, I hypothesized that this would lead to fewer behavior incidents.
Outcome Data. Outcome data supported the effectiveness of this intervention. Over the first semester, office discipline referrals dropped by 57% and attendance Improved by 1% allowing. Students spent more time in the classroom learning. There were no changes in suspensions because there were none. As a result, by the end of the 1st quarter we saw a 2% growth in math scores. By the end of the 2017-2018 school year, this group of students went from being the highest referred group to the lowest, demonstrating a 65% decrease year to year!
Informing Future School Counseling Activities
The series of lessons on empathy was one of four different units delivered to second grade. After reviewing the success outcomes data, I look forward to using this unit regularly. The lessons could not have been successful without the support and collaboration of our teachers for relevance and appropriateness. In the future, the pre/post test questions will be modified to tie them more closely to the behavior. Two of the pictures seemed to be confusing to some students; thus, they will be replaced. Nevertheless, the lessons were very successful and I will continue to implement them with small adjustments to meet the needs of new students.