The school counselor can reduce barriers to college access for students in underserved communities but there is a lack of focused support and professional development resources to assist them with this task. The purpose of this paper is to gain insight into how a collaborative partnership reframed professional development to increase counselors’ capacities and enrich their role in addressing educational inequities in a local context.
The authors employed an action-oriented qualitative case study through the lens of social justice to critically consider how urban school counselors took action to address local educational inequities in the postsecondary process. Data were collected over a ten month period and consisted of semi-structured interviews, 17 hours of meeting transcriptions, meeting notes, field observations, numerous field notes, researcher reflections, weekly e-mail correspondence, electronic data, counselor demographic surveys, and document analysis.
The inter-agency networked learning community model encouraged the school counselors to take ownership for their professional development, starting small led to greater collaboration, the counselors engaged in collective learning and counselors took a responsibility for the broader school community.
Inter-agency partnerships can address social inequities and initiate transformative change but further research is needed to explore how to address what happens as actors move in and/or out of the partnership. Acknowledging and validating the experience of the school counselors empowered them to take risks, invite new ideas, and adapt the new idea to their local school site. Reframing professional development began to transform how the counselors were viewed by the broader school community. Further research is needed to explore how educational systems can be empowered to engage in conversations to embrace change.
This study illustrated the transformative power of school counselors in building community, collaborating, and constructing bridges between each other, school administrators, and postsecondary researchers. Unless the current devaluing of school counselors shifts, the benefits associated with networked collaborative partnerships will likely go unrealized. We call on policymakers to reconsider the role of school counselors and call on them to ensure these positions are mandatory in all K-12 schools.
This study demonstrated how an inter-organizational collaboration between a university and a K-12 local education agency initiated transformative change. The collective action of the network equipped counselors with tools to build community with each other, within their individual school sites, and in the local community. Many studies provide models regarding what school counselors should do but few explore how to empower them to use the models to enact change. The action-inquiry approach provided an opportunity to explore how urban school counselors experienced and understood the process of engaging in professional development designed to help them try something new in addressing educational inequities in underserved communities.
Griffen, J.M. and Hallett, R.E. (2017), "Reframing professional development: An action-inquiry case study of a collaborative school counselor network", Journal of Professional Capital and Community, Vol. 2 No. 3, pp. 146-168. https://doi.org/10.1108/JPCC-04-2016-0011
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