At last! The school year is in full swing and this means that all the My-schedule-is-wrong conferences are done and the I-miss-my-mommy tears are wiped…so we can finally turn our attention to getting some guidance curriculum tasks in order! Of course, counseling groups and guidance lessons must start with a needs assessment to identify exactly WHAT lessons or groups are needed. So, in this post, I will discuss how to create and use needs assessments in your school counseling program! Let’s jump in!
Needs Assessments in School Counseling- Why they are important
Needs assessments (NA) are crucial to your school counseling program because the results will inform you, in part, on how to build your program- what topics students need to learn in guidance lessons, what kinds of counseling support groups your students most need, etc. The American School Counselling Association (ASCA) recommends using needs assessments to collect data before implementing services so that you are supporting kids and families with what they actually need help with (ASCA National Model, 2012). Needs assessments allow school counselors to collect data on the issues that students feel they need support on and that parents want support on. Additionally, campus staff members such as classroom teachers interact with students on a daily basis, which means that students are most likely to confide in these teachers about their problems. This often leads to staff members being the first to know what students need most!
Needs Assessments in School Counseling- how to create them
When I create my needs assessments, I make sure that 3 of the school counselor delivery components are covered in the needs assessment- guidance curriculum, responsive services, and individual planning. That way, as students, families, and staff complete the needs assessment, they are simultaneously getting an idea of how I support kids through our school counseling program. Counselors should begin their needs assessment creation by identifying the goal/s of the NA such as: to identify the topics students need to learn in guidance lessons. From that goal, the counselor can create several types of NA questions- such as demographics questions, Yes/No questions, and open-ended questions. An example of each is provided below.
- Demographic Question- I am in ____ grade.
- Yes/No Question- If you have an emergency, do you know how get counselor help? YES NO
- Open Ended Question- What do you need/want to learn about most in guidance lessons? ___________
Needs assessments in school counseling- how to conduct them
At this point, it is time to determine how and to whom the NA will be administered. It is important to allow all stakeholders to complete a needs assessment- students, staff members, and parents/community members. In my case, we import all our questions into Google Forms and then administer the NA to staff and community through email. Alternately, we have students complete the Google Form through a guidance lesson in the computer lab or during lunches (we just bring the laptop carts with us and set them up at an empty cafeteria table and then call students over to complete the 5-10 question NA by class). We conduct our NAs at the end of the school year in order to be able to combine with them with guidance curriculum posttests (students) or end-of-year surveys/evals (staff/parents)- these additional questionnaires (surveys and posttests) combine naturally with our NA and also allow us to measure the success of our comprehensive school counseling program. I combine all of these assessments together so that I don’t have to give multiple questionnaires to the same groups of people. However, it is also fine to conduct your needs assessments at the beginning of the year. As mentioned, I use Google Forms to administer the needs assessment at end of the school year during the last month of school. I have also done paper-based surveys which work well too, though it is much more time-consuming to analyze and compile paper-based data. Here is a link to a page of my website that has an example of a student needs assessment that you can download for free. If you would like the full array of all my needs assessments combined with guidance pre/posttests and program surveys, check them out here.
Needs assessments in school counseling-how to analyze and share them
After you have implemented your needs assessments and collected the data from them, it is time to analyze this data so you can use it to direct your counseling program. This is where using Google Forms really makes life easy. In my counseling program, we let Google Forms turn all our data into various graphs so we can identify key findings in our NAs. We then use these findings to select our topics and activities to be addressed through guidance lessons and group sessions. As the year progresses, we measure the success of these topics/activities through mid-year and end-of-year audits in order to continually improve our comprehensive school counseling program. We also present the results of our needs assessment to campus stakeholders during leadership meetings throughout the school year, so they know that we are letting the NA results direct our guidance curriculum topics and activities. Furthermore, we share the NA results with staff through PowerPoint slides at our beginning-of-year presentation. We also share the NA results with parents/community through parent presentations and counseling office website content. Below is a picture of our counseling professional learning community (PLC) meeting where we are analyzing our NA data. The second picture is of our presentation to staff about the needs assessment.
That brings me to the end of this October needs assessment post. Please leave a comment because I’d love to hear about how you use needs assessments in your program! Catch up with me again in November for my monthly counseling post that I share during the first week of every month!