Promoting College and Career Readiness: Experiential Learning Activities for School Counselors-In-Training
By Taheera N. Blount
School counselors are key proponents to ensuring that students are college and career ready (ASCA, 2019). For example, the American School Counselor Association developed ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors for Student Success: K-12 College and Career Readiness Standards for Every Student (ASCA, 2014) which is intended to “describe the knowledge, skills, and attitudes students need to achieve academic success, college and career readiness, and social/emotional development” (p. 1). Given that school counselors are charged with not only ensuring students graduate within four years, school counselors are also expected to support students with postsecondary plans. To this end, research indicates that counselor educators infuse college readiness counseling curricula within courses (Savitz-Romer, 2012). Based on recent literature conducted by Brown et al. (2016), practicing school counselors felt as though they could have gained additional knowledge regarding college readiness counseling during their graduate programs. The purpose of this article is to provide counselor educators with several experiential learning activities to incorporate in their curriculum for school counselors-in-training.
Three Experiential Learning Activities
Activity One: Career Genograms
The career genogram (Okiiski, 1987) has been widely used to gather information regarding the influence of family and the career decision making process. It is an activity that school counselors can implement across academic levels (elementary, middle, and high school). Chope (2005) purports that career genograms allow an individual to understand the origins of career expectations and orientation about career choices. The Peterson and Gonzalez Family Constellation Questionnaire (2005) has been used as a guiding framework to assist with asking questions related to finding specific information relative to career choices. The questions may be practiced within the context of the counselor-in-training’s coursework. To facilitate this process, school counselors-in-training interview family members to assess their own family career history. Based on the results from the interview, the school counselor-in-training develops a pictorial representation that describes family career patterns. Upon the completion of this activity, the counselor-in-training may discuss the results of their family career genograms either in written form or with a classmate. The goal of this activity is to help students understand family career patterns and gain practice in completing a career genogram.
Activity Two: College and Career Readiness (CCR) Software Programs
Nandhini (2016) maintains that technological advancements in recent decades have changed the landscape of education, resulting in increased opportunities for educators to embrace technology for learning advancement and productivity enhancement. Technology is a major tool used to help students with gaining awareness regarding career discovery. Counselor educators can provide school counselors-in-training the opportunity to experience, in real-time, the process of navigating, accessing, and understanding various college and career related (CCR) software program features.
For example, Naviance is a popular CCR software program used by many school districts. There is a cost involved to access Naviance, but access to this CCR program provides counselors-in-training the opportunity to experience software they may use in the future, engage in self-discovery of careers that might be of interest to them and to gain additional information about the college process.
Activity Three: My Grade Point Average Matters
Students transitioning from middle school to high school often encounter developmental, social, and academic challenges (Blount, 2012). Ninth-grade is a pivotal year for students, as research indicates that ninth-grade students exhibit higher rates of failure in courses, decline in test scores, and experience behavioral problems more than students in all other grade levels (Smith, 2006). One activity that counselor educators can infuse within their classes involves the engagement in an activity that helps ninth graders to understand the importance of their grade point average (GPA).
For this activity, school counselors-in-training will need a pseudo transcript. To facilitate this process, counselor educators can have school counselors-in-training divided into groups of two. One school counselor-in-training student will serve as the school counselor and the other school counselor-in-training will serve as the high school student being advised. The student portraying the school counselor will
- review components of transcript
- explain the difference between weighted classes versus unweighted classes
- explain the total number of credits required for graduation
- review number of credits mandated to be promoted to the next grade level
- discuss the importance of engaging in extracurricular activities
- encourage the student to select three colleges of their choice and review the admission requirements (specifically the grade point average required for admission)
- discuss goals to ensuring academic success as a ninth grader.
Upon the completion of this exercise, students should understand how grade point average matters as ninth graders.
Putting College Readiness Counseling into Practice
Practicing school counselors need not feel like they could have gained additional knowledge regarding college readiness counseling during their graduate programs (Brown et al., 2016). It is believed that infusing activities such as three three mentioned above will help school-counselors-in training to feel more prepared to conduct college readiness counseling.
American School Counselor Association. (2019). The ASCA National Model: A framework for school counseling programs (4th ed.). Alexandria, VA: Author.
American School Counselor Association. (2014). Mindsets and behaviors for student success: K-12 college- and career-readiness standards for every student. Alexandria, VA: Author.
Blount, T. N. (2012). Dropout prevention: Recommendation for school counselors. Journal of School Counseling, 10(16), 1-33.
Brown, J., Hatch, T., Holcomb-McCoy, C., Martin, P., Mcleod, J., Owen, L., & Savitz-Romer, M. (2016). The state of school counseling: Revisiting the path forward. Washington, DC: National Consortium for School Counseling and Postsecondary Success.
Chope, R. C. (2005). Qualitatively assessing family influence in career decision making. Journal of Career Assessment, 13(4), 395-414.
Nandhini, M. (2016). Web 2.0 tools in education. In E. Ramganesh, I. Muthuchamy, S. Senthilnathan, & S. Amutha (Eds.), National conference on higher education in the knowledge age: Technopedagogical perspectives and innovations (pp. 64–66). Retrieved from http://www.sjctni.edu/IQAC/NCHEKA.pdf
Okiishi, R. W. (1987). The genogram as a tool in career counseling. Journal of Counseling and Development, 66, 139-143.
Savitz-Romer, M. (2012). The gap between influence and efficacy: College readiness training, urban school counselors, and the promotion of equity. Counselor Education & Supervision, 51, 98-111. doi.org/10.1002/j.1556-6978.2012.00007.x
Smith, J. S. (2006). Research summary: Transition from middle school to high school. Retrieved from: http://www.amle.org/Portals/0/pdf/research_summaries/Transition_from_MStoHS.pdf
Taheera Blount, PhD, NCC, LPC, is an Assistant Professor of Counselor Education at North Carolina Central University. She earned her Ph.D. in Counseling and Counselor Education from North Carolina State University. Prior to transitioning to higher education, Dr. Blount worked as a Professional School Counselor and as a Licensed Professional Counselor, serving children and adolescents with mental health disorders.
Dr. Blount’s research agenda focuses on school counselors implementing data driven comprehensive school counseling programs, career and college readiness among urban youth, and dropout prevention strategies for school counselors. Currently, Dr. Blount serves on the Editorial Board for Professional School Counseling and the Journal of Mental Health Counseling. Dr. Blount can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org