During the 2017-18 school year, we led 21 small groups about 10 different topics across all grade levels. The part-time counselor, Ami Balderson, led six of those groups, while the full-time counselor, Emily Kitching, led the remaining 15. Groups met for 4-6 sessions, with 4-7 students participating in each group. The topics were selected based on school data and teacher and student needs assessments, while the students who participated were selected based on school data; teacher, parent, and self-referrals; and a student needs assessment. For example, we participated in student data meetings each quarter to identify students who needed support/intervention. We used this time to talk with teachers about students who struggled with anxiety related to test-taking. These students in 3rd-5th grades were offered small group support in the spring as they prepared for state testing in support of our first program goal to improve literacy and reading benchmark performance. After analyzing attendance records, we also knew that we wanted to provide small group support for students who struggled with attendance during the previous school year in support of our second program goal. The meetings for 3rd-5th grade students focused on work habits and the importance of attendance, as well as an incentive program to encourage attendance throughout the first semester. Tying our group topics and outcomes to program goals was an important way to prioritize student needs, and we were able to support all three of our program goals with small group counseling during the 2017-18 school year.
The self-control group highlighted was chosen because of its strong tie to our third program goal concerning decreasing behaviors leading to office referrals for defiance, disrespect, and disruption. On a needs assessment, teachers identified friendship, social skills, and self-control as areas of need for K-2nd grade students, and 1st-grade teachers mentioned self-control as a particularly pronounced need. High numbers of minor office referrals for 1st-grade students concerning disruption and disrespect to peers also confirmed this need. Four students were identified for participation through a combination of analyzing discipline data and gathering teacher and parent referrals. The students met for 6 40-minute sessions over the course of 6 weeks. The first step in building the group curriculum was to select the most applicable ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors that we wanted students to develop; then, learning objectives and activities were planned for each session.
Outcome and perception data indicate that this group was effective in building students’ knowledge, attitudes, and skills concerning emotional regulation and self-control. Pre- and post-surveys were used to collect perception data. Students’ average score increased from 43.5% on the pre-survey to 85.1% on the post-survey, and students’ average score increased by 96% overall. From pre- to post-survey, all students who participated had a sizable increase in their score, and the percentage of correct answers increased for each question asked. Outcome data was collected by analyzing discipline data. In the second semester of 2016-17, 51 office referrals concerning defiance, disruption, and/or disrespect were made for 1st-grade students. In the second semester of 2017-18, this number decreased to 22 office referrals. This contributed to a schoolwide 39% decrease in referrals concerning defiance, disruption, and disrespect during the second semester of 17-18. Classroom teachers also reported that the group had a significant impact on improving students' self-control in the classroom.
The perception and outcome data collected indicate that this small group successfully addressed students’ identified needs concerning emotional regulation and self-control. Perception data shows that participation led to an increase in knowledge and more positive attitudes. The first five questions on the pre- and post survey measured student knowledge, or whether they understood the content delivered through the lessons. The last two questions, however, measured student attitudes, or whether they believe that they can show self-control at school and whether they are proud of their behavior choices. Each student made significant gains in both areas, but we were excited about the results of the attitude-focused questions, as we were aiming to build not only knowledge, but also self-concept. Outcome data also illustrated this small group’s contribution toward positive results both within the grade level and overall. This group will be delivered again, and will also be adapted for kindergarten and 2nd grades, since these grade levels share similar behavioral challenges, as evidenced by SWIS discipline data. In the future, we will also develop a second semester 3- or 4-session “follow-up” group to re-engage students with the content and extend their successes related to emotional regulation and self-control.