Key competencies: How school guidance counsellors contribute to student learning

Funding year: 
2 years
University of Waikato
School sector
Project start date: 
January 2012
Project end date: 
June 2014
Principal investigator(s): 
Kathie Crocket
Research team members: 
Elmarie Kotzé, Waikato University
Research partners: 
Colin Hughes,Trident High School; Judith Graham, Whakatane High School; Alison Burke, Edgecumbe College

Project Description

This project focuses on student learning in the context of counselling conversations. School guidance counsellors worked alongside university researchers to investigate counselling practices for their potential to contribute to students strengthening and using key competencies, within the particular context and curriculum of the counselling room and relationship.


This project aims to investigate how school guidance counselling contributes to students developing, strengthening and using key competencies, and thus how counsellors participate and might further participate in the implementation of the New Zealand Curriculum. Two key competencies have been selected for particular focus: managing self and relating to others.

Why is this research important?

Schools are currently working through the implications of the NZ Curriculum and its translations into practice. To date there has been little discussion of the contributions of school guidance counselling. For learning and teaching to become a collective, whole-school endeavour, Cowie at el., (2011, p.11) suggested, “cross-fertilisation of ideas and experiences” and “lateral innovation” are needed. It is timely, therefore, to investigate the particular and potential contributions of school guidance counsellors to Curriculum understandings and implementation, for the benefit of both individual students and the wider school community.

What we plan to do

We plan a series of action/reflection cycles based on ethnography and practitioner research. Each action/reflection cycle will involve the school guidance counsellors in practice observation, from a different perspective, of key competency development and use in the context of their own counselling practice with young people. The perspectives of teaching colleagues, young people and families will also be invited at particular points in the study.


Each action/reflection cycle will generate a unique set of data: counsellor field notes, written and voicerecorded; research team meeting/inquiry notes, and voice recordings; consultation notes and voice recordings from consultations with others in the school community; transcripts of some recordings; overview grids of counsellor practice.


The action/reflection cycles form four phases, each of which will involve a particular analytic approach: appreciative inquiry; outsider witnessing; narrative and discursive analysis. From these analyses, the research team will compose two forms of counselling stories: practice vignettes as counselling stories, and case studies as counselling stories.

Project Contact

Kathie Crocket
Wilf Malcolm Institute of Educational Research
Faculty of Education
University of Waikato