Checklists Enhance School Counseling Services

By Susan Roudebush

Checklists are often underutilized yet powerful tools for the workplace and school counseling programs. Many industries have seen drastic improvements after the implementation of checklists. Dr. Peter Pronovost, a critical-care specialist demonstrated that checklists save lives and money. His Michigan hospital reduced deaths caused by infection to zero in three months by using a checklist. A subsequent Michigan hospital study found that checklists saved over 1,500 lives and $75 million in an 18-month study period. Similarly, the aviation field implemented pilot checklists (after a Boeing 299 needlessly crashed) resulting in 1.8 million miles flown without another serious accident.


With checklists saving money, time and lives within industry, why not harness checklist power to help students complete increasingly complex career development tasks, such as meeting graduation requirements. Would we see a similar rise in high school graduation rates with the use of this simple, yet effective, memory tool? Could school counselors collaborate more effectively, equally and efficiently with all students and their parents using checklists?


Graduation and Career Development Expectations Made Simple


Graduation requirements and career development expectations may be too complex for many teenagers’ memories. How many students have not graduated because the process overwhelmed them, or a crucial deadline oversight prevented access to a desired college? Or valuable financial aid was not received when paperwork (such as teacher recommendations) was not followed up. Though many youth believe planners and checklists are unnecessary, the numbers of tasks most teens need to complete to fulfill school and graduation requirements are substantive. These same students hope to be future employees in industries that will use checklists, so the student should learn the value of checklists now.


In the workplace, checklists have improved quality, reduced risk, saved time, and assured consistency. Checklists in the workplace communicate priorities and provide baselines for improvement. Similarly, in the fast changing school environment, checklists can help counselors maintain quality standards and efficiently communicate expectations. School checklists assure that students know and are able to track their performance meeting school and state requirements and expectations. School checklists can also communicate recommended activity sequence, priorities, and behavioral expectations.


How to Develop a Checklist


To establish a school counseling checklist, you must first assemble the source documents (such as state Department of Education graduation requirements, guidance department's lists, university entrance requirements and district community service documents) that will shape your checklist contents. Next, work with staff to list all activities that need to be completed, establish behavioral benchmarks for completion, and sequence the activities by grade level. As you implement your first checklist, be sure to note and save needed edits for future checklist revisions. Measure the effectiveness of your checklist by comparing graduation and salient task completion rates before and after you implement the checklist. Gaining the feedback of students using the checklists would also be helpful.


Powerful Preparation for the Future


High School career development checklist are indeed powerful. They help prepare students for future success and document accountability for counseling programs and schools. Checklists can also reduce the risk of recidivism, save both counselor and student time, and promote equity for all students. Checklists can also improve parental participation by helping parents track and monitor their children’s completion of clearly stated graduation requirements. Parents care, counselors care, and students can care enough also to participate in the use of checklists in career development.




Susan RoudebushSusan Roudebush, M.S., CDF, CDFI, works as a User Services Specialist for the University of Oregon's intoCareers. In addition to her work as a school counselor and educational consultant, Susan has worked with the Career Information System for 30 years. She served in the first CDF Instructor Training and CDF Master Trainer groups and trained over 500 CDF students in Oregon and roughly 50 CDFI instructors throughout the Northwest. Ms. Roudebush can be reached at susan@intocareers.org

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1 Comment

Romella Lee   on Wednesday 04/04/2012 at 06:03 PM

Thanks Susan for pointing out the positive aspects of using a checklist. "People can focus on the negative perceptions that checklists sometimes have, mostly in that you're 'dumb' if you need one and that technically competent people shouldn't need to use a checklist." However checklists have been proven to help avoid accidents when used by airplane pilots and prevent problems in surgery when used by surgeons. I think I would want a surgeon that used a checklist rather than winging it! ;)

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