Action Research Project Summary "A Study of the Effectiveness of a Career Peer CounselingProgram on the Career Knowledge and Decision-making Skills of Senior High School Students"
In 2010-2011, a peer counseling program was created at Centennial High School to disseminate college information; in 2011-2012, the Career Peer Counseling Program expanded to include a career focus and peer advising sessions. The study asks: Did the interventions performed by trained Career Peer Counselors increase the knowledge and skills regarding career planning of senior students?
In September 2011, Career Peer Counselors were given daily tasks and weekly assignments to prepare them to advise peers. Their role was to work alongside the School Counseling Team to increase students’ development of skills and knowledge related to career planning, according to the ASCA National Career Standards. Supervision was provided by Professional School Counselor, Brandon Coupe and School Counseling Intern, Stephanie Graupmann.
In mid-January, Ms. Graupmann trained Peer Counselors regarding career counseling skills (e.g. listening, goal-setting) and adherence to procedures (e.g. forms, safety measures). Peer Counselors then met with seniors who requested advisement, including study participants who completed an initial survey, to discuss advisee needs and interests and develop goals. Each Peer Counselor met with 3-5 students per week, for about 30 minutes per session. Peer Counselors completed a Peer Advising Form explaining session progress; advisees completed a Student Advisee Form about their experience, as well. All forms were reviewed by the School Counseling Team in order to follow up with any safety concerns. Each week, Ms. Graupmann reviewed a random selection of forms with each Peer Counselor to provide constructive feedback. After eight weeks, participants and parents in the study were asked to complete a final survey regarding student knowledge and skills of career planning.
In 2011-2012, Centennial High School served suburban neighborhoods in both Portland and Gresham. The diverse student body consisted of approximately 121 African American students (6.4%); 244 Asian students (12.8%); 380 Hispanic/Latino students (20%); 26 Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students (1.4%); and the remaining students Caucasian (approx. 60%). Also relevant to the study were 158 English language learners (8.3%) and 196 students with disabilities (10.3%).
A random sample of 40 senior students were selected from the caseloads of the two participating professional school counselors (each caseload consists of approximately 100 senior students), for a total of 80 study participants. The random nature of the sample served to ensure that the selected students better represent the Senior Class; the size of the sample accounts for the possibility of attrition (e.g., moving away, lack of parental consent, lack of participation). To achieve a random sample, student names listed alphabetically from the two caseloads were numbered, then 80 numbers were drawn at random. Students selected to participate in the study were invited to attend a presentation given by the Career Peer Counselors and the team of school counselors. They were invited to complete the student consent form and survey, and received a parental consent form if under the age of 18. The School Counseling Team followed up with parents of students under 18 by telephone to discuss any additional questions or concerns they may have had about the study.
The greatest potential benefit for the participants of the study was to gain more time to discuss options for the future. With well over 400 senior students at Centennial High and only four counselors, students were rarely afforded opportunities to meet at length and discuss individualized career options and goals for the future. In addition, empirical studies show that students often feel more comfortable talking with a peer than to an adult. In particular, students are more likely to discuss personal topics such as interests, relationships and social pressures that likely influence their career decisions. Peer counselors gave senior students a safe place to talk openly about their interests and needs, explore possible career paths, discuss social pressures, and set achievable goals, among many other topics.
It was hoped that advisory sessions would directly increase senior students’ career knowledge and ability to make purposeful decisions about their future, with indirect impact in providing opportunities to practice effective interpersonal skills and in improving students’ chances of becoming a successful and productive citizen in the future. To read about the finding from the research study, go to the final research analysis.