School Counselors’ Perspectives on the Social and Emotional Development of Students

There is growing consensus among educators, policymakers, and researchers that K–12 students’ social and emotional (SE) skill development may be nearly as important as cognitive ability for education and workplace success.

SE development has been linked to improved learning, increased graduation rates, improved school climate, increased attendance rates, and a decrease in disciplinary referrals. School counselors are pivotal in helping students develop these SE skills, collaborating with classroom teachers to provide SE curriculum, identifying interventions that support students’ SE development, and referring students to resources that can better meet their SE needs. 

ACT collaborated with the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) to identify school counselor perspectives, needs, and challenges related to students’ social and emotional development. We also wanted to identify best practices that work for school counselors as they help prepare students for academic and career success. This research was undertaken prior to and during the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic. To gain a broader view of the school counselor context, we surveyed school counselors, school counselor educators who prepare school counselors, pre-service school counselors in training, and district directors with decision-making responsibility for school counselor staffing and resources. Survey items, tailored to each of these four participant groups, focused on SE perspectives, standards and frameworks, practices, and professional development.