What is known, though, is that many school counselors continue to be underutilized by the very stakeholders who stand to gain the most benefit from their services, and in many cases the professional services rendered by school counselors is incongruent with the ACSA National Model. For example, in their study, "School Counselors Walking the Walk and Talking the Talk," Scarborough and Luke (2008) emphasize that, "Research has continually found that school counselors are not spending their time as they would prefer, and much of what they do is not reflective of what is currently advocated as best practice" (37). As Walsh, Barrett, and DePaul (2007) noted, even the most ambitious counselor committed to the implementation of the ASCA National Model is limited in his or her abilities to fulfill the counselor role effectively if the other key stakeholders, especially teachers, fail to support the adoption and implementation of the ASCA National Model. Moreover, as Poynton, Schumacher and Wilczenski (2008) emphasize, "An important part of the ASCA National Model is that counselors need to assess how their work impacts students and families, something that many counselors report is not valued or expected in their work" (37). Therefore, it is important to begin developing a body of evidence-based research that determines how teachers perceive changes of the guidance program since the implementation of the ASCA National Model.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of the present study is to evaluate the perceptions of teachers regarding the school guidance program since the implementation of the ASCA National Model by comparing these perceptions to their opinions of the school counseling framework used in their school settings prior to the implementation of the ASCA National Model. Specifically, the researcher is interested in determining whether teachers feel that the ASCA National Model and the new paradigm of counseling it has introduced have been effective with respect to improving students' personal, social, academic, and career skills and prospects.
The research question that guides the study asks: "What are the perceptions of teachers in the Piscataway School District in Piscataway, New Jersey regarding the implementation of the ASCA National Model in their school district?" Specifically, the researcher is interested in answering the question whether there are significant, observable differences between the perceptions that teachers held of school counseling program prior to the implementation of the ASCA National Model and the perceptions they hold of school counseling program since the implementation of the ASCA National Model.
Significance of the Study
The study is important because teachers have traditionally served as the gatekeepers who either facilitate or frustrate the referral of students for counseling services within school settings (Zwaanswijk, Van der Ende, Verhaak, Bensing, & Verlhulst 2007). The ASCA National Model introduced a dramatic reorientation of the roles of and relationships with counselors in the school setting, requiring them to work more closely than ever with teachers, parents, and school administrators to plan for and respond to students' needs. The changes were substantial for counselors, but also affected teachers significantly. Nonetheless, researchers have not investigated how teachers have responded to the implementation of the ASCA National Model in general. The school district that serves as the setting of this study has not undertaken any evaluation to determine how teachers perceive the utility, efficacy, and functionality of the new counseling program.
The research that has been conducted to date on the ASCA National Model has focused on the effectiveness of the counseling framework via quantitative and qualitative assessments of students' perceptions, experiences, and academic outcomes. This study expands upon the existing body of literature, then, by examining the perspectives and experiences of teachers. The result is a qualitative examination of the ways in which teachers perceive the changes precipitated by the school guidance program's adoption of the ASCA National Model.
Rationale for Study
Throughout the researcher's time at Prescott College, the main focus of the school guidance program has been on implementing the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) National Model and assessing its effects on students. This topic was selected because the author wanted to determine if there was a discernable difference in teachers' perceptions regarding the changes in the school guidance program prior to the implementation of the ASCA National Model and following the model's implementation.
The study is both timely and relevant because the ASCA National Model is a relatively new school counseling paradigm that is in the process of being implemented voluntarily in schools across the country. Although the ASCA itself contends that the National Model is a more effective and viable school counseling schema compared to the old model of school counseling, little research has been conducted on the subject. Even less research has been conducted in which the effects of the ASCA National Model on various stakeholder groups have been examined.
Yet, as program evaluation experts have pointed out, a program must be evaluated by examining the perceptions of all stakeholders who are affected by the program. While it is beyond the scope of the study to examine the perceptions of each of the stakeholder groups affected by the ASCA National Model, the researcher intends to study teachers' perceptions, as this stakeholder group and its perceptions of the guidance program have been overlooked by the research that has been conducted to date about the ASCA National Model (Schwalle-Giddis, Maat, & Park 2003). While it is important to examine how counselors, students, and parents perceive the outcomes of the new model of counseling in schools, it is also critical to collect teachers' impressions and experiences, as they are the key gatekeepers who facilitate relationships between students and counselors (Schwalle-Giddis et al. 2003).
Implications of the Study
By examining teachers' perceptions of the changes of the school guidance program and its utility and efficacy in their school system, the researcher intends to expand the available data about stakeholders affected by the new model of school counseling. While the results of the study cannot be generalized beyond the population being studied, the insights it yields may prove valuable in aiding school counseling programs to understand the perceptions of teachers regarding the changes of the school guidance program.
Assumptions of the Study
The researcher has made several assumptions in the development and implementation of the study. First, the researcher assumes that studying the perceptions of teachers is a worthwhile subject of study, an assumption that is made based on Varcoe's (2005) assertion that program evaluation must include the assessment of effects upon all stakeholder groups affected by a program. Second, the researcher assumes that the teachers who are selected to participate in the study will participate honestly and to the best of their ability. The researcher is aware that study participants are susceptible to producing erroneous data because they are concerned about potential risks they may suffer as the result of participating in the study. For this reason, the researcher must follow ethical guidelines strictly to protect the identity of the individuals who participate in the study.
Third, the next step in developing an effective research project is determining which methodology is best suited for a given task. In this regard, the researcher assumes that the methodology and research design that have been selected the study are adequate for assessing the construct that is being studied. Although quantitative research is often considered the gold standard of scholarly inquiry and investigation, qualitative research and, increasingly, mixed methodology studies, have been deemed to be appropriate and effective methodologies for studying a subject that has not been explored sufficiently or which is just beginning to receive research attention (Johnson & Onwuegbuzie 2004). Qualitative research is also particularly advantageous when studying small samples and collecting data regarding stakeholders' impressions, experiences, and perceptions. For example, Jankowski and Jensen (1991) report that, "Recent years have witnessed a significantly increased interest internationally in applying qualitative research methods to the study of social and cultural processes" (1). Likewise, Crowley (1994) notes that a qualitative approach is especially valuable for many types of educational studies and emphasizes that, "During the past two decades researchers have increasingly used qualitative research methods to access traditionally unavailable data" (55).
Furthermore, although it is possible to employ strictly quantitative research methods when studying people, understanding how and why they do the things they do in real-world settings frequently requires more than a quantitative approach. For example, Hammersley (1990) points out that, "Human behavior is complex and fluid in character, not reducible to fixed patterns; and it is shaped by, and in turn produces, varied cultures. Qualitative method often involves an emphasis on process rather than structure in the social world" (2). Qualitative methodologies, though, are not without their detractors. For instance, Crowley (1994) reports that, "Some researchers argue that qualitative research is unscientific and that quantitative methods remain the methods of choice for serious-minded, social-science researchers. These researchers deny the value of any method that departs…