This post is the second in a series about intentional group counseling in schools. Last time, I wrote about intentionality in developing the objectives and content of the group. Today’s post focuses on measuring the success in our groups. If we’re going to devote a lot of time to servicing students in small groups, we should make sure they are effective. Group counseling data is important! This helps us make sure it’s an effective use of our time AND it helps us to advocate for doing more of them. Data is a language that our administrators and our teachers can understand.
The most common method of measuring the effectiveness of our groups is through pre/post surveys. Some counselors choose to give a pre/post survey to your students. I recommend only doing that if they’re 5th grade or above. When I delved into the research, I found that there were very few self-report measures that were reliable and valid for children under age ten. One thing I noticed that happens in doing pre/post surveys with students is that they are often less aware of their issues when the group begins, and they indicate few concerns on the survey. Then the group brings awareness to them and they end up scoring themselves lower on the post-survey. It’s not because their behaviors or emotions or social skills have gone downhill, but because they understand the concepts better. Surveying students can still give some great information about what the students are thinking and what they want to get out of the group. Self-report surveys just aren’t great for measuring group effectiveness in the under ten crowd.
What is helpful for seeing student changes in the group is to use a pre and post survey with the teachers. Remember your overall group objective(s)? And the skills, attitudes, and beliefs you were hoping to develop? Those should guide your survey prompts. I recommend picking response options based on frequency of degree. This gives you a better opportunity to see growth than a “yes/no” option. There are three sample surveys below. The first is from a K-2 social skills group designed to impact emotional expression and regulation, self-control, and friendship skills. The second is from a 2nd-5th group aimed at increasing healthy friendship behaviors and decreasing relational aggression.
Your group objectives might be tied to school data. Maybe you want to decrease behavior referrals. Or maybe it’s a group meant to increase attendance. Or it could be a study skills and motivation group for students underachieving, and you want to examine their grades or test scores before and after the group. This outcome data is really powerful. I think it is tough for group counseling to directly impact some of these things – especially if the group is the only intervention at play. At the same time, I think it’s very useful to track this data for the students you see in group. Any positive impact here is worth celebrating and sharing with admin. Below is a group roster sheet to use for tracking this data (included in this group counseling documents pack but of course you could whip up your own pretty easily!):
As we move more towards aligning our work with the RTI or MTSS model, the more important data-based decision making becomes. Progress monitoring is one way to measure the success of the group and also give you information as the group is progressing. It helps you decide whether or not to change interventions. And it helps you determine whether or not a student is ready to “exit” the group. There are some counselors who do progress monitoring through FASTBridge (an online platform many schools use for their academic screeners and progress monitoring). You could also create your own measure (I recommend just 3-4 questions) that you give teachers each week or biweekly. These prompts could just be a condensed version of the pre/post-survey. Or, they could be specific to whichever skills you’re focusing on in group during that time chunk. For example, if you’re doing three sessions in March on conflict resolution, you would give a survey specific to those skills from maybe mid-March through mid-April.
Progress monitoring data in a group with behavior improvement objectives might look like the points charts used in Check In/CheckOut. Whether or not they see a mentor or receive any specific reinforcement tied to the points, a chart like this provides you (and the student) with quick snapshots of how each day went.
You can also create your own mood or behavior tracker specific to the group foci for the teacher and/or student to fill out each day. Here are some examples of prompts you might use for this:
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how worried did you feel today?
- How many times today did this student use a coping skill (that you could see) to take care of their feelings?
- Today, this student interacted positively with peers…all of the time, most of the time, some of the time, or rarely.
What are you doing with your groups? How are you measuring the success of the group?
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