|Year : 2015 | Volume
| Issue : 1 | Page : 59-66
Counseling activities in schools: A mixed method
Loghman Ebrahimi1, Kumars Farahbakhsh2, Masumeh Esmaeili2, Hossein Salimi Bejestani2
1 Department of Psychology, University of Zanjan , Zanjan, Iran
2 Department of Psychology, Allameh-Tabatabai University, Tehran, Iran
|Date of Web Publication||19-Dec-2014|
Dr. Loghman Ebrahimi
Department of Psychology, University of Zanjan
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
Aim: Qualitative and quantitative development of counseling program in education system can be regarded as an indicator of development in education system. The present research was conducted in schools with the aim of identifying the damaging factors of counseling activities. Methodology: The study was conducted using the mix method. The research population included principals, consultants, teachers and students working and studying in the educational system of West Azarbaijan Province during the 2012/2013 educational year. The sample size was 416 respondents comprising of 46 individuals in the qualitative section who were selected based on comments saturation and 370 individuals in the quantitative section selected by use of stratified sampling method. Data were collected by use of researcher-made interview schedules, and questionnaire then analyzed using Chi-square, regression, Mann-Whitney, Kruskal-Wallis and Z-test. Result: The findings indicated the damaging factors of counseling activities and their level of effect were identified. Discussion: Based on the identified levels of effects, the interpersonal factors showed the highest vulnerability toward counseling activities. Therefore, it was recommended that identification and classification of counseling activities' damaging factors; educational needs assessment by consultants; professional and psychological empowerment of consultants and timing of counseling activities' implementation may moderate the damaging factors and convert threats into opportunities eventually leading to achievement of the desirable status of counseling activities in schools.
Keywords: Administrators of counseling activities, counseling activities, damaging factors
|How to cite this article:|
Ebrahimi L, Farahbakhsh K, Esmaeili M, Bejestani HS. Counseling activities in schools: A mixed method. Int J Educ Psychol Res 2015;1:59-66
| Introduction|| |
The aim of evaluation of the activities of an organization not only is discovering its real problems the organization is facing with, but also to identify the reason behind these problems and to help the origination to design a plan for solving these problems. Organizational evaluation is an powerful tool for development of a comprehensive evaluation in gaining cognition of an organization, regarding currently at what condition it is, to where it intends to reach, how it will understand whether it has reached its destination and what instruments will contribute to the organization achieving its goals.  In other words, improvement and reconstruction of performance and efficiency of the activities of every organization including educational system requires the evaluation of society which is performed with the aim of identification of the nature and type of the emerged problem requires a systematic and disciplined approach to the whole process. 
Serious attempt to organization improvement and its programs are derived from the evaluation and includes special measures that are taken with the aim of solving the problems, impediments, damages and eventually improving the organization's performance.  In the evaluation of the activities and performances of the employees of an organization and in relation with the employees' characteristics and environmental necessities organizations have to resort to new solutions. In order to correct and improve the performance of the employees, organizations requires efficient methods in the field of performance assessment, methods which assess the employees' performance based on the job description and certain criteria, identifies the weaknesses and strengths in their performance and with correcting their performance guarantees the increase of services' quality. 
Realization of the globalization strategy requires comprehensive and Jihad-like efforts in all the dimension of institutional performance, in a way that in every activity the common global standards will be met and the educational system of any society is the first step and the most important step in this course. Hence, assessment of individual and institutional performance of this man-making institution seems to be necessary for the context of Meritocracy based on performance efficiency.
With an extensive glance to the roles of the educational activities, we can perceive the complexities and delicacy of the stream of education. Here, one of the roles of educational activities is to actualize the potential talents of individuals and to increase knowledge and create the necessary skills for a better living which is among the duties of the counseling and guidance of the educational system. Quantitative and qualitative development of counseling and guidance services in education is so much important and can be one of the indicators of qualitative development and progress of educational programs. 
What is considered as the counseling activities in schools is the best type of cooperation at the level of schools, the aim of which is solving social, family, educational, behavioral and mental problems. Identification of the students' problems with the help of cooperation and interaction and counseling plays a fundamental role in this relationship. 
Damaging factors in the workplace can lead to absence, sickness, leaving a job, low spirit and other destructive consequences.  The content of the problems and damages of every type of activity and job is so much different, and these problems and damages can lead to the cause of disturbance and confusion of identity in a person. 
Hence, many studies have confirmed the effect of management activities and policies and leadership style on the institutional environment and as a result of it on effective performance. ,,,,,,, The findings of Peterson and Nisenholz  indicate that factors such as trust, participatory decision-making, support, openness of relationships from top to bottom, listening to reports from top level individuals and giving attention to the high performance targets exist in strong institutional environment. In addition, there are solid evidences regarding the relationship between institutional environment with other factors such as Emotional Intelligence,  institutional teaching,  and job satisfaction. 
The reason behind dissatisfaction of the individual from his job and activities can be sought in the job itself (job activities), in the environment (for example having tyrant Colleagues) or inside the individual (personality traits such as stress tolerance and job motivations).  For the assessment of damaging factors, the comprehensive spectrum of psychological, sociological and physiological influential factors on Individual user settings should be studied.  Shertzer and Stone  distinguish efficient and inefficient counselors in the context of experience, relationship type and personality traits from each other. On the other hand, a minimum of master degree in counseling course is among other conditions that are necessary for so many countries for the qualifications of a counseling job. George and Cristiani  emphasize on the presence of a number of traits in efficiency of counselors which are: Ability to create an intimate and deep relationship with other, accepting oneself; awareness of personal values and opinions; responsibility acceptance; necessary skill and experience and having realistic goals.
Achieving educational goals and improving educational performance requires evaluation of its activities including counseling activities in schools. For this purpose, evaluation of counseling activities and assessment of counseling activities in schools for improving the quality of the services and the performance of counselors.
In the present study with the use of a combinational method (qualitative and quantitative) in addition to identification of the damaging factors of counseling activities in schools from the perspective of its administrators in each job category in separation, an attempt was made to determine the magnitude of the effect of each of the identified factors on counseling activities and to provide some solutions for moderating these effects. In order to achieve these research aims, the following questions should be answered: What are the different types of damaging factors of counseling activities in schools? What is the desirable status of counseling activities in schools considering the empirical and theoretical principles of the topic? What is the current status of counseling activities in schools? Is there any difference in general between desirable and undesirable status of counseling activities in schools? What are the proper solutions for improving the counseling activities status?
| Methodology|| |
The present study was conducted using the mix method. Research population includes the principals, consultants, teachers and students during the educational year of 2012-2013 in West Azarbaijan Province For the quantitative data, multistage cluster random sampling and stratified random sampling methods were used to select a sample of 370 individuals who constituted 50 principals, 52 counselors, 150 teachers and 118 students. Similarly, for the qualitative data, comment saturation method was used to select a sample of 46 individuals who constituted 12 principals, 16 counselors, 10 teachers and 8 students. The present research has been conducted in two stages. In the first stage, first the administrative respondents under study (including principles, counselors, teachers and students) were specified and then the counseling activities in schools were assessed and studied in their views with the use of interview and questionnaire and data regarding these activities in schools were collected. In the 2 nd stage and based on the collected data, the damaging factors were classified into a number of dimensions namely intrapersonal, interpersonal, and meta-personal.
The instruments used for data collection were: (1) Information form (interview) for collecting the required data for the qualitative part; (2) researchers-made questionnaire for collecting the required data in the quantitative part. The semi-structured interview form was developed with the use of the valuable opinions and guidance of university professors and experts in the field of school counseling. In the development of this form, we have also referred to scientific counseling texts related to counseling activities in schools and studying the duties and role of the counselors in schools.
The researcher -made questionnaire was developed in the following manner: This questionnaire deals with the damaging factors of counseling activities derived from grounded theory and it contains 36 items (12 items for each dimension). The questions in the questionnaire were designed according to a five-point Likert scale (so much = 5 to so little = 1). For testing the validity of the questionnaire, five experts were requested to provide their comments about the content of the questionnaire and from these comments, ambiguous phrases and words were modified. To determine the reliability of the questionnaire, first the questionnaire were distributed among 30 of the colleagues of those involved in counseling activities who were not included in research sample. These 30 individuals were selected considering the nature of the research population and then by use of Cronbach's alpha coefficient the questionnaire's reliability coefficient was calculated. For the purpose of identification and classification of the damaging factors of counseling activities in schools the Friedman's test was sued. For testing whether the average ranks were significant the Chi-square test was used. The calculated Cronbach's alpha coefficients for each of the types of damages (traumas) were as follows: (Intrapersonal dimension = 0.089, interpersonal dimension = 0.84, and meta-personal dimension = 0.81).
| Results|| |
Considering the results obtained from interviewing the administrators of counseling in schools and the author-made questionnaire, vulnerability of the counseling activities were intrapersonal, interpersonal and meta-personal damaging factors. Each of these damaging factors in a way interfered with the performance of counseling activities by counselors in schools.
The results of this test indicated that the average rating for intrapersonal damaging factors was 2.64 and therefore, these factors were ranked first among other factors [Table 1]. The results indicated a value of P < 0.001. Hence, with a 95% certainty the proper ranking for different damaging factors of counseling activities as per [Table 1] are represented on [Table 2].For measuring the effect of the damaging intrapersonal, interpersonal and meta-personal factors on vulnerability of counseling activities in schools the regression test was used. With 95% certainty it can be claimed that the level of effect of meta-personal, intrapersonal and interpersonal traumas were equal to 0.994, 0.995 and 0.992, respectively. With comparing the beta coefficient of the damaging factors it can be concluded that the effect of intrapersonal damaging factors was more than the effect of other damaging factors [Table 3].
|Table 1: Friedman's test results regarding different types of damaging factors of counseling activities|
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|Table 2: Chi-square test results regarding different types of damaging factors of counseling activities|
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|Table 3: Regression test results for determining the level of effect of damaging factors on counseling activities|
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For comparing the opinions of the administrators regarding the vulnerability of counseling activities toward damaging intrapersonal, interpersonal and meta-personal factors in separation with job categories, and considering the nature of the research variables Kruskal-Wallis test was used. The results of the average rank of each of job categories are presented separately in [Table 4]. For testing the significance of the rank averages Chi-square test was used and the results of this test is P < 0.001; hence, with 95% confidence it can be claimed that there is a significant relationship between the opinions of the administrators regarding the vulnerability of counseling activities toward damaging interpersonal, intrapersonal and meta-personal factor for different job categories [Table 5].
|Table 4: The results of Kruskal-Wallis test for analysis of the damaging factors and job category|
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|Table 5: Chi-square test for the analysis of the damaging variables and job category|
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In the present study, a semi structured interview with a three point Likert scale including disagree, no comment and agree was used to determine the difference between the current status and desirable status of counseling activities in schools. In analyzing the interview questions the score of each option was done as follows: Disagree: 3 scores, no comments: 2 scores and agree: 1 score. After determining these scores, the author for obtaining the current and desirable status have calculated each of the questions of the weight average of items and have explained the difference between the current and desirable status. In studying the existing status of the damaging factors of counseling activities in schools based on the views of the sample individuals, interviews' analysis were used. As it was mentioned earlier, for obtaining the average and standard deviation (SD) indicators, the contractual valuation of interview items was used. The obtained results from interviews indicate that the average of the current status for interpersonal, intrapersonal and meta-personal dimensions is 2.17, 2.46 and 1.86, respectively [Table 6]. To explain the significance of these averages, obtaining the average of desirable status was necessary [Table 7].
|Table 6: Results of the current status of the counseling activities dimensions|
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|Table 7: Results of the desirable status of counseling activities dimensions|
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The obtained results from the analysis of the difference between the current status and the desirable status of the damaging factors of counseling activities with the use of Z-test indicate that indicated that there is a difference between the averages and SD in all the relevant dimensions and elements meaning that there is a distance and difference between the current and desirable situation. The negative sign of these differences also indicate that the current status is lower than the desirable status and this negative sign is seen in all the dimensions. However, for testing whether this difference between the current status and desirable status is significant we should refer to the Z-value and the obtained significance level which we can see that in all the dimensions and elements of counseling activities including damaging interpersonal, intrapersonal and meta-personal factors the significance level is smaller than P = 0.05. Based on this, with 95% certainty it can be claimed that the difference between the desirable and current status of counseling activities is significant. It should be mentioned that with considering P = 0.001 also the differences will be significant and with 99% of certainty results will be as well confirmed [Table 8].
|Table 8: The results derived from the difference between current and desirable status of counseling activities dimensions|
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The findings of this study indicated that most of the damages from interpersonal damaging factors were targeted toward counseling activities in schools, although other damaging factors were as well involved. By interpersonal damaging factors we mean those factors which are related to the individual counselor including personal, emotional, cognitive and personality, scientific and practical counseling experiences. According to the obtained results from the comparative study of the two current and desirable status of the counseling activities in schools [Table 6], [Table 7], [Table 8], review of the scientific text about the most important counseling standards in school, that is, counseling, advising, coordination, referrals and follow-ups  as well as professional empowerment of counselors some solutions were provided for achieving the desirable status in counseling activities in schools.
| Discussion|| |
Achieving purposes of education system and improving its performance need to identify vulnerabilities of its activities including counseling activities in schools. Counselors activities have always been in danger of damage factors that part of them are related to the counselor himself/herself. This part has been called "Intrapersonal factors" in this study. As findings of the present research reveal, problems related to academic major and occupation class of counselors, and those difficulties related to personal characteristic and interactional skills of counselors, have the most powerful effects on counseling activities. "Interpersonal factors" constitute the other part. These factors belong to interpersonal interactions of counselors with their work settings. "Transpersonal factors" are the other damage factors that are beyond the personal characteristic of counselors and their interactions. Among these factors, problems related to atmosphere of education system and attitudes of its officials toward counseling activities, and problems of employment, supervision, evaluation, and procedures of performing counseling activities had the strongest influences. Combination of all these factors has been terminated in a gap between the present and favorable status of counseling factors in schools. This gap is caused by vulnerabilities in counseling process in schools and it has disturbed counselors' performances in schools.
In the context of counseling activities, its approaches and its challenges studying the dimensions the findings of this study indicated the present research, is one of the most important aspects of achieving counseling goals in schools and hence the educational goals. Therefore, desirable status of counseling activities in consideration of the theoretical and empirical principles of this subject in the dimensions of damages of counseling activities in desirable status is so much important and this dimension should receive a great deal of importance in the department of education. In the present research the findings indicated that counseling activities in schools were faced by three-dimensional damages, namely interpersonal, intrapersonal and meta-personal. The results indicated that the average rank of interpersonal damages was 2.64 which was allocated the 1 st rank among other damaging factors meaning that among these types of damages the highest damage was inflicted by interpersonal damages. Further, the meta-personal and intrapersonal damages were allocated the 2 nd and 3 rd ranks respectively. The results of the present research are consistent with the findings of Baggerly and Osborn,  who indicated that having proper counseling responsibility is a positive determinant for professional commitment, while stress is a negative determinant for professional commitment.  The findings of the present study are also consistent with the findings of Melchert et al.,  who noted a strong relationship between personal counseling efficiency of the counselor and his/her experience.
On one hand, the results indicated that there was a significant difference between the opinions of the employees involved in counseling activities in schools regarding the damaging factors of counseling activities in all the three-dimension in terms of different job categories. On the other hand, there was a significant difference between the opinions of the employees of counseling activities in schools in terms of gender regarding the damaging factors of counseling activities in all the three-dimension. The findings of the present study about the effects of meta-personal damaging factors on counseling activities are consistent with a number of studies conducted regarding the effect of management and policy activities and leadership style on institutional atmosphere and hence effective performance. ,,,,,,, The findings of the study conducted by Peterson and Nisenholz (1987)  indicating that a number of factors such as trust, participatory decision-making, support, openness of relationship from top to bottom of an organization, getting to listen to reports from high level individuals in the organization and attention to high performance goals in strong institutional atmosphere confirm the findings of the present research regarding the effect of meta-personal damages on counseling activities in schools. In addition, regarding the relationship between institutional atmosphere with other factors such as emotional intelligence,  institutional learning  and job satisfaction  there are solid evidence and in other words the findings of the present research regarding the effect of damaging factors in meta-personal dimension on counseling activities can be considered as consistent with these findings. The findings in the present research regarding the variable related to employment, supervision, evaluation and the way counseling activities are performed is consistent with the findings of the study of Hoseinian Hassanian and Momeni Javid  regarding the role of counseling supervision on facilitation of professional growth and development, increasing qualification and improving accountability of counselors and the study of Amiri  regarding the necessity of a pattern for building efficiency of schools' counselors selection in high schools based on personality and personal characteristics. The findings of the present research with respect to the effect of damaging interpersonal factors on counseling activities are consistent with the findings of the study conducted by Akhavan Tafti  regarding the knowledge of counselors from the compatibility of the perception of the referees from counseling activities and its positive effect on counseling activities. Also, other research evidence in line with the findings of the present research, considers positive perception of referees regarding the counseling as an important factor in prediction of the counseling program success. On the other hand, the findings of this research regarding the counseling activities, the role of counselor and personal and communicational characteristics of the counselor are inconsistent with the findings of Akhavan Tafti  who noted a lack of any relationship between the satisfaction level of referees and counseling quality. The findings of the present research regarding the effect of damaging intrapersonal factors on counseling activities are consistent with the finding of Ahghar  regarding the effect of the role of institutional atmosphere of school on counselors' job stress; Kaviani et al.  regarding the lack of formation of proper mental structure and its effect on desirable performance of psychological counseling and van Velsor  regarding the effect of school counseling on emotional and social teachings to students.
It was noted that the findings of the present research regarding the existing gap between the current and desirable status of counseling activities were consistent with the findings of Baggerly and Osborn  in the area of Predictors of professional commitment in school counselors; Hadian et al.  who have studied the awareness and knowledge level of counselors and those who receive counseling activities; Hassanian and Momeni Javid  who have studies the role of counseling supervision on facilitation of professional development, increasing qualifications and improving accountability of counselors; Kiani et al.  who have studied factors related to following Professional ethics by counselors and Psychologists; Ahghar  who have studied the role of institutional atmosphere of schools in counselors' job stress; Amiri  who have developed a pattern for building efficiency in school's counselors selection in high schools based on their personality characteristics; Kaviani et al.  which has been conducted in the area of studying the role of schools' counselors and psychological counseling impediments; and Abbaszadeh  who has studied the role and position of counseling in the new educational system of high schools.
To answer the study questions by considering the desirable status of counseling activities according to empirical and theoretical basis on one hand and with a glance to the current status of counseling activities in schools on basis of the obtained data in this study on the other hand, there is a gap between these two situations which is a result of a number of damages which exist in the counseling process in schools (which were categorized in three groups in the present study) and have interfered with the counseling programs performance which make it necessary to give serious attention to evaluation (identification of damaging factors) of these activities and trying to solve the impediments and damages in order to achieve educational goals and objectives.
| Recommendation|| |
Based on the findings of this study, the following recommendations were made; School counselors should try to prevent occurrence of problems; delay the emergence of the consequences of these problems; decrease the effects of these problems; improve knowledge, attitude and behavior of others in order to obtain mental and physical health; Ask for family, group, and social support more than ever and etc.
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[Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4], [Table 5], [Table 6], [Table 7], [Table 8]