Embracing innovation: What matters to school counselors as they decide to adopt new professional practices

Judith L Madden, University of Pennsylvania


As the mandates of the No Child Left Behind legislation require schools to boost academic achievement for all students, school leaders are focused on closing the achievement gap between minority and majority youth. School counselors can contribute a great deal to this effort by helping all students acquire the academic, social, emotional, and career skills crucial to school success. Yet counselors are nearly invisible in school reform initiatives. To bring counselors to the forefront of educational reform, leaders of the school counseling profession developed a transformed school counseling paradigm that is systemic, programmatic, proactive, collaborative, and concentrated on academic achievement. This study applied organizational change concepts to an investigation of how school counselors decide to adopt the transformation initiatives. Using a mixed methods approach, the research explored the perceptions of counselors working in a large, diverse, suburban school district as they considered adopting new professional paradigms. Through a survey of 221 counselors that combined quantitative and qualitative elements and through 18 counselor interviews, the research examined what counselors perceived as important as they decided whether or not to change their practices. The study found that all counselors sought evidence that new practices work to help youngsters succeed. In addition, all counselors identified training in the new approaches and time to implement novel practices as key to their decision to accept innovation. Despite these commonalities, differences in perception based on race, school level, and other characteristics also emerged. The lack of time was the most frequently mentioned barrier to the implementation of new practices. Lack of adequate training and administrative support were also viewed as important impediments. Other barriers were also identified, as were differences in the self-reported implementation of new approaches. As an outgrowth of these findings, this study provides recommendations for policy and practice that may facilitate the transformation of school counseling services. It concludes with a series of proposals for school districts, universities, professional associations, and professional school counselors seeking to introduce and implement innovative counseling approaches.

Subject Area

Academic guidance counseling

Recommended Citation

Madden, Judith L, "Embracing innovation: What matters to school counselors as they decide to adopt new professional practices" (2006). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3209975.