The Counselor Educator Academy: Promoting Best Practices in Teaching Career Counseling
By Melinda M. Gibbons
The NCDA Counselor Educator Academy (CEA) offers support to faculty and instructors teaching graduate level career counseling courses. The primary activity of the CEA is a 1.5 day workshop held every other year for career counseling instructors, designed to promote best practices and reenergize the career counseling course. We do this by providing information on current best practices and offering tools to use in these courses. The CEA also provides written resources to NCDA members on the NCDA website. In this article, I provide a brief history of the CEA, results from an alumni survey, and an overview of CEA activities.
History of the CEA
Prior to the CEA, a partnership between ACES and NCDA offered the ACES/NCDA Commission. The Commission’s purpose was to improve counselor educator commitment to career development in counselor preparation and to enhance the quality of career counseling course content. The Commission met regularly at ACES and NCDA conferences and sponsored various presentations on important issues related to career counseling preparation.
During Commission meetings, we often discussed the challenges of teaching the career course. These included: lack of student interest in the topic, faculty who suggested career counseling was irrelevant, and relegation of teaching the course to adjuncts or the newest faculty member. Literature supports these challenges. Two studies (Bjornsen et al., 2018; Lara et al., 2011) explored student beliefs about their career counseling course experiences and learned that many came into the course believing the topic to be disconnected from or irrelevant to their career path. By the end of the course, students understood the importance of the topic but still lacked perceived competence in their career counseling ability. Relatedly, Osborn and Dames (2013) surveyed faculty who taught the career counseling course and learned that most enjoyed teaching the course but were frustrated by student’s initial lack of interest in the topic. Clearly, support from our professional organizations is needed to promote the relevance of career counseling to training of counselors.
Given that we were the only Commission in either NCDA or ACES, we did not fit well within the existing structure of these organizations. Therefore, in 2015, the decision was made to dissolve the Commission. A small group of NCDA leaders and volunteers, under the leadership of then-NCDA President Cynthia Marco Scanlon, were tasked with determining how NCDA could better serve the counselor educators among its members. As a result, the CEA was born. The first CEA was co-chaired by Rebecca Dedmond and Melinda Gibbons and held in Denver, CO just prior to the 2015 annual NCDA conference. Twelve participants gathered for a one-and-a-half days of engaged professional development related to teaching the graduate level career counseling course. To date, 67 faculty, doctoral students, and instructors have participated in the CEA.
Engaging in the CEA
Activities included in the CEA range from hearing from career counseling experts to completing an analysis of current syllabi to conversations about the intersectionality of career and culture. One activity, which counselor educators and instructors can do at home as well, involves identifying problems or gaps in training and learning. Participants respond individually to questions such as “What do you think students need to know about career counseling?”, “What is your biggest challenge in teaching this course?”, and “What topics/issues are missing from your current syllabus?” Then, the group comes together to discuss responses, share ideas, and identify new ways to better engage students in the course topic.
After the CEA, participants attend the NCDA annual conference and engage in a post-CEA project that culminates in articles for Career Convergence and/or Career Developments Magazine. The goal is to continue providing ideas and activities to support best teaching practices for the graduate level career counseling course.
Benefits of CEA Attendance
In 2020, CEA surveyed alumni to learn more about the lasting experiences of CEA participation. Members from all five (at the time) cohorts participated, and 91% noted they found significant value in participating in the CEA, including improving their career counseling courses by:
- Providing practical resources
- Opportunities to collaborate with other educators
- Ideas to make their courses more active and engaging
- Increased self-efficacy for teaching the course.
CEA alumni also noted that there were benefits for their students, such as:
- Increased student engagement in the course
- Learned more from the practical information provided
- Increased knowledge of the relevance of the career course
- Recognition of the importance of career-related issues in counseling.
CEA alumni particularly appreciated:
- opportunities for networking,
- the expert guest presenters, and
- idea sharing amongst cohort members.
Upcoming Counselor Ed Academy in 2023
The next CEA will be held in Chicago, IL just prior to the 2023 NCDA conference. Applications will be available in late fall 2022 and a small cohort of 10-12 faculty, instructors, and advanced doctoral students will spend one-and-a-half days engaged in exciting and helpful activities designed to reenergize, modernize, and engage students in best understanding the role of work in all client’s lives. We hope you can join us. Further details can be found on the NCDA website, under Professional Development: CEA.
Bjornsen, A. L., Blount, A. J., & Moore, M. C. (2018). Student attitudes toward an online graduate career counseling course. International Journal of Online Graduate Education, 1(1), 2-24. https://doi.org/10.5281/ZENODO.1344728
Lara, T. M., Kline, W. B., & Paulson, D. (2011). Attitudes regarding career counseling: Perceptions and experiences of counselors-in-training. Career Development Quarterly, 59(5), 428-440. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2161-0045.2011.tb00969.x
Osborn, D. S., & Dames, L. S. (2013). Teaching graduate career classes: A national survey of career instructors. Counselor Education & Supervision, 52(4), 297-310. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1556-6978.2013.00044.x
Melinda M. Gibbons, Ph.D., NCC, is a professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and co-chair of the Counselor Educator Academy. She has taught the graduate level career counseling course for over 15 years. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org