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Professional Capacity Building for School Counselors

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Professional Capacity Building for School Counselors Through School-wide Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports Implementation

Nowadays, the issues of students’ behavior within the school settings attract great attention. The necessity to foster the development of positive environment and eliminate negative incidents led to the elaboration of various programs and mechanisms to influence the educatory institutions and its members. One of such approaches to deal with negative behavior that becomes more popular among the schools is school-wide positive behavioral interventions and supports or SWPBIS. Recent studies (Martens & Andreen, 2013) stress the significance of school counselors in general while other studies (Goodman-Scott, 2014; Cressey, Whitcomb, McGilvray-Rivet, Morrison, & Shander-Reynolds, 2014) describe them as leaders of SWPBIS processes. Nevertheless, there is incomplete understanding of the role of school counselor in the process of actual SWPBIS implementation. The article “Professional Capacity Building for School Counselors Through School-wide Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports Implementation” aims at analyzing the collaboration between the school counselor and SWPBIS. It suggests that active involvement of counselors in the implementation of the new strategy results in mutual benefits for the schools and counselors as well as more effective solution of the tasks related to the student’s misbehavior.

Literature Review and Prior Conclusions

The issue of student’s behavior has been the central subject of various researches. The analyzed article refers to the works of Martens & Andreen (2013) and Sullivan, Long, & Kucera, (2011) as the major evidence of present-day school reformative procedures. These sources demonstrate the integration of multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS), response to the intervention (RTI) as well as school-wide positive behavioral intervention and encouragement (SWPBIS) (Betters-Bubon & Donohue, 2016, p. 3).

The authors point to some studies that presumably analyze SWPBIS. The general understanding of this program is provided by Sugai et al., while other literary sources refer to the subject from the perspective of applied behavior analysis (Carr & Sidener, 2002) or students’ achievement tendencies (Lassen, Steele, & Sailor, 2006; Luiselli, Putnam, Handler, & Feinberg, 2005). According to Sugai et al. (2000) SWPBIS is defined as “the application of positive behavioral systems within schools to change and improve behavior among students” (Betters-Bubon & Donohue, 2016, p. 4). However, the school counselors are the specialists, who work on creating comfortable environment at school and directly interact with the students. Moreover, they are distinguished by the impact they have on the formation of their behavior, development of skills, and increase of the personal success level (Betters-Bubon & Donohue, 2016, p. 5). The subsequent study by Chaparro, Smolkowski, Baker, Hanson, & RyanJackson (2012) emphasizes the common goals between the school counselors and SWPBIS. It is worth noting that both counselors and the program direct their corresponding activities to the prevention of undesirable incidents or negative outcomes. Moreover, there exists a common idea of providing support to every student in the difficult situations. Despite the number of similarities, the counselors and the described approach were functioning in different directions. Having analyzed the literature describing all the stages of SWPBIS (Sugai & Horner, 2006), the authors indicate the lack of evidence related to the participation of school counselors in the program and the potential positive impact of their engagement as prior conclusions that are proved in the subsequent part of the research.

Population and Sample

The conducted research is focused on demonstration of the positive changes in the school environment attained after complete involvement of the school counselors in SWPBIS. It was conducted using elementary and middle schools. The two participants were school counselors each working in the different school: the first one was working at the elementary school in the Middle West (total number of students in the district – 4900) while the second one was working at the middle school in the North East (total number of students in the district – 1100). It is worth noting that multiculturalism was not the central concern in this research, though the analyzed schools contained representatives of different ethnical background.

Research Design and Methods

The researches applied descriptive approach that presupposed live communication with the participants in order to gather necessary information and allowed them to support the suggestions with the actual examples.

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They collected data from the interviews with the two participants and the records of school statistics related to the behavioral issues. The major part of the analyzed article consists of the recorded direct speech of the participants using first person singular. Both participants had to describe the implementation of SWPBIS approach in their school, define their duties as school counselors, and characterize the impact of the introduced modification. Hence, the researchers organized the obtained answers in three sections for each participant. The paragraphs related to the analysis of the alliance impact were accompanied by the charts that demonstrated dependence between the students, incidents, and implementation of SWPBIS.

Methodology and Findings

In the course of the research there were recorded the stories of the two counselors regarding the process of SWPBIS introduction in their schools. The first participant referred to the initiatives implemented in his school prior to SWPBIS and marked the lack of expected results. The adaptation of the new program occurred during 2009 – 2010 (Betters-Bubon & Donohue, 2016, p. 10). There was an organized team that consisted of 25 trained members who were following the universal goal of meeting the needs of all the students. Being a school counselor, the participant became the leader of the team and their guide. The members of the team conducted specific trainings with all the school personnel in order to propagate the SWPBIS moral values during the lessons and their communication with the students. The introduction of acknowledgement system that presupposed public praise for positive behavior reached a great success. The students who misbehaved had to attend the meetings in groups guided by the participant of this research in order to communicate on the topic of the occurred incidents. The participant was also responsible for monitoring the general dynamic of SWPBIS and the changes occurred in the school environment. The interesting point indicated by the participant was that all the innovations changed the students’ behavior as well as the relationships and interactions between the students and teachers.

The second participant indicated 2007 as the year of the big changes. Everything started with trainings that “gave both structure and relevance to the behavioral support and planning” (Betters-Bubon & Donohue, 2016, p. 16). Positive behavior and conflicts became the subjects of some lessons. Moreover, the awareness of negative incidents was raised through various posters and in-classroom discussions. This participant also indicated method of rewarding positive behavior as the stimulating factor for other students to follow this example. However, it was stated that the implementation of SWPBIS required certain changes as well as monitoring of the effects of these changes. Hence, the school stuff was engaged in the behavioral data collection and analysis. The major duty of this participant was actually to implement the SWPBIS. He stated that the corresponding process changed the way counseling was performed and increased own professional capacity as a school counselor (Betters-Bubon & Donohue, 2016, p. 21). In general, the program helped the participant and school personnel to realize the weak points of their work, make necessary changes, and improve inner climate of the school.

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The sections dedicated to the impact of SWPBIS containing statistics data strengthen the subjective conclusions of the participants. It demonstrates positive dynamics in students’ behavior in both elementary and middle schools. The data gathered in the elementary school demonstrates the decrease of ODR’s from 26% to 16,9% during the four years and reduced overall number of students attending the principal’s office for behavioral incidents (Betters-Bubon & Donohue, 2016, p. 15). Regarding the middle school, they observed 30% reduction of sending students to the office during one year. In addition, “the percentage of students receiving ODRs decreased during the study years from 20% to 6%” (Betters-Bubon & Donohue, 2016, p. 21). In four years, the total number of behavioral incidents was reduced by 60% from the initial number registered in 2007.

Study Limitations

The discussion section of the research refers to the analysis of the received answers and data collected from two schools. It identifies common features and effects produced by SWPBIS implementation under the guidance of school counselors, such as increase of professional capacity, students’ acquaintance with the concepts of positive and negative behavior, and reduction of the incident rate. However, the authors of the research state that their study contains specific limitations. It takes into consideration the evidence regarding only two schools that is not enough to provide the complete picture of the analyzed subject. In future, it will be necessary to analyze the SWPBIS and counselor’s activities based on the other types of educational institutions with the students of different age and social or economic background. In order to receive geographically based results, it is required to provide the same researches from the same schools located in different regions of the country.

Conclusions and Implications for Practice

In general, the research proves effectiveness of SWPBIS implemented by the efforts of school counselors. The authors emphasize the benefits obtained by the schools and the stuff. The section dedicated to the methodology and findings of this paper demonstrates the advantages of alliance between the school counselor and SWPBIS. In addition, the research suggests the possible set of actions universal in application related to the activities of the school counselors within the program. It requires to take the leadership role, collaboration with the school personnel, to raise students’ awareness and understanding of own behavior. It is also strongly recommended to conduct analysis of the occurred changes in order to monitor dynamics of the students’ behavior, define the children who need more attention and support. Following these rules will help to create positive climate in any school setting and reduce the number of behavioral incidents among the students.

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