Saturday, April 4, 2015

Evidence-Based School Counseling and The Flashlight Approach

Part 2 of a 4 part series

“Don’t wait for a miracle! The time is now! Go create one!” Dr.Trish Hatch, EBSC conference 2015

After attending Trish Hatch’s inspiring keynote and nearly a dozen sessions about all aspects of data and how other schools were using data to show the value of School Counselors (and actually adding counselors to their districts) I couldn't wait to get started.  Using data to drive and evaluate my program had seemed like such an insurmountable task, I had no idea how or where to start.  But now, I felt empowered to begin. I had a tool. The flashlight approach.  It is quick and simple and can generate real results quickly.  So, I am creating my own miracle as Dr. Hatch suggested.

The Flashlight Approach: Measuring one thing WELL!
The idea behind evidence-based school counseling is to build an entire comprehensive school counseling program totally driven by data.  But that can take a few years and Trish Hatch knows that. She wants School Counselors to start NOW! 

Gathering and analyzing the data from all the sources a School Counselor has available can be daunting and overwhelming.  Thus, the idea of starting small and focused like the beam of a flashlight. A flashlight does not light up a whole room.  It shines its beam of light in one area, on a specific target, chosen by the person holding the flashlight. So it should be for School Counselors as we begin to use data to direct our programs.  We don't need to measure everything we do.  Hatch says, “Choose ONE thing and measure it well.”

Maybe you will choose to shine your flashlight on something you already do, or maybe a program or idea you've been wanting to try.  Whether tried and true or something new, a curriculum lesson plan or a small group, shine your flashlight on it.  Use the flashlight approach to help you measure your effectiveness and show the impact of the intervention you have implemented. This is your evidence to show how you make a difference, how students are different because of what you do.  

Using the ASCA National Model Action Plan as a guide
The flashlight approach helps School Counselors show immediate results using the ASCA National Model Action Plan.  In her book, The Use of Data in School Counseling, Dr. Hatch suggests following your counseling activity all the way through using these steps and ASCA's action plan samples.

Identify the problem:  Use available data. Maybe you've noticed an increase in referrals in the quarterly discipline reports.  Upon disaggregating the data you find a number of 3rd grade boys with 3 or more referrals and a large number of bullying complaints involving 5th graders.  You may decide to do a small group with students with 3 or more referrals. Or maybe you've been doing a bully lesson for a year or two and you would like to measure its true effectiveness with  your 5th graders.
Set a goal: For example, decrease discipline referrals by 10% or decrease 5th grade discipline referrals for bullying by 20%  or  increase student awareness of upstander strategies by 20%.
Identify your standard(s): Refer to the ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors
Choose Curriculum and materials
Implement the Lesson(s): Collect pre-test/survey data, conduct your lesson(s), collect post-test/survey data
Collect Process Data:  What you did for whom, for example: 8 third grade boys, 5 sessions, 30 minutes each or 2 classroom lessons on upstander strategies for 48 5th graders for 45 minutes each.
Analyze Perception Data: Review and analyze student attitudes, knowledge, and skills before and at the conclusion of your group sessions or class lessons using pre/post-test data. For example: pre-20% of group members knew 3 or more calm down strategies, post-95% know 3 or more calm down strategies. Or pre- 35 % knew 2 or more strategies for being an upstander, post- 85 % knew 2 or more strategies for being an upstander. But maybe your Upstander Strategies lesson didn't show a positive data change. That’s important data too.  Is it time to re-work the lesson?  Find a new lesson?  We don’t want to waste our time doing lessons, even though we may enjoy them, if they are not benefitting our students.
Review Outcome Data: For example: reports of bullying have decreased from 72% to 40%, discipline referrals are down from 50% to 35%
Implications:  Review all your data and procedures, reflect on lessons for the future. ASCA even has a results report if you are interested.
Share:  Make your results known to EVERYONE!  It doesn't have to be formal, it could be you get 5 minutes in the hall or the cafeteria with your principal.  Put it in a memo, the school newsletter, faculty email,  maybe you get 2-3 minutes at  faculty meeting, or a chance to share informally at grade level PLC meetings. Let your administration, faculty, and staff know of your success!  And course be sure to share, celebrate, and encourage your School Counselor colleagues who may be watching how this works out for you.

Feel empowered yet?  Still think you can’t use data to drive your program and show the value of what you do?  The flashlight approach is an easy and simple way to put you on the path to building your data stamina and confidence. Our goal as practicing Professional School Counselors should focus on building a comprehensive school counseling program that is totally data driven.  A program that allows us to provide services to all and intentional programs to close the achievement gap and meet the social/emotional, academic, and career needs of every student.  A program where clerical and pseudo administrative duties are taboo.  A program where our skills and services are valued and no longer in danger of being reduced or eliminated.

I know what some of you are thinking.  This will never work with my principal, or I’m in 2, 3, or 4 schools how can I do this?  Or, they’re never going to let me out of ____________ (bus duty, cafeteria duty, testing coordinator, etc.) not ever!

Have courage.  Begin small.  Take the “flashlight” and shine it on ONE thing, just ONE thing you do.  Show its value. Share. Repeat. Repeat and repeat until you find the support you need to give your school the type of comprehensive school counseling program all students deserve.  A program that is a reflection of the unique needs of your student population, one that allows you to practice your skills as a Professional School Counselor. Just as there are hundreds of things we do and lives we touch that can NEVER be measured with data, there are hundreds of things we do that can be measured. We see the value in all those things each day.  This is a way to help others see that value too.

Next time, The Comprehensive School Counseling Program vs. Random Acts of Guidance


  1. I love your post. So encouraging!

  2. Thanks Lauren! Hope all is well with your little family!

  3. So I'm reading this and feeling so inspired yet again. Thinking this counselor got it down (and you do). Then I look at the name and it's you, Jeannie! You rock as a counselor. Anticipating doing this next school year.