Counseling and Special Education
Federal Grant for School Counseling
M.Ed. students celebrate school counseling week

(From left) Shiori Meadows, David Gorman, Zannatul Ferdous, Alexis Frederick, Annaleigh Broad, Patrice Gray, Ena Logan

The goal of this grant is to prepare school counselors-in-training to integrate evidence-based interventions from both counseling and special education disciplines in serving as related service providers for students with disabilities. The Collaborative Model of Preparing School Counseling Students as Related Service Providers to Students with Disabilities consists of integrating research on self-determination and Social Cognitive Career theories to prepare school counselors-in-training to address academic, behavioral, and social needs of preK-12 students with a specific focus on transition planning for postsecondary opportunities with secondary students with disabilities. Collaboratively, counselor and special education graduate program faculty will deliver, supervise, and evaluate content, experiences, and outcomes of the program.

Based on CACREP (2016) counselor training standards, the ASCA National Model, and comprehensive, developmental guidance program standards, preparing school counseling students to serve as related service providers to students with disabilities should be a developmental approach. This grant project reflects an integration of self-determination and SCCT theories and practices that emphasizes knowledge in development and career counseling theories and evidenced-based practices that will promote the academic, social, and career/transition self-efficacy of students with disabilities. The component elements of self-determined behavior will be built within regular programming and prescriptive elements of the services that school counselors provide. These include: choice-making skills, decision-making skills, problem-solving skills, goal-setting and attainment skills, independence, evaluation and reinforcement skills, self-instruction skills, self-advocacy and leadership skills, internal locus of control, positive attributions of efficacy and outcome expectancy, self-awareness, and self-knowledge (Shogren & Wehmeyer, 2015). Grant project scholars will learn a specific developmental perspective that emphasizes the self-determination and SCCT constructs that will affect self-efficacy development positively in students with disabilities. Additionally, school counseling students will implement interventions that will target this development and evaluate the effectiveness of these interventions. The following competencies will be obtained by each student scholar through coursework and supervised field experiences:

  • Competency 1: Knowledge and understanding of disabilities, behavior supports, classroom management, and transition strategies for postsecondary opportunities for students with disabilities.
  • Competency 2: Knowledge and experience in providing individual, small and large group counseling services to students with disabilities;
  • Competency 3: Knowledge and experience in providing specific related service components (i.e., IEP facilitation, behavioral consultation to teachers and families) to students with disabilities and their families;
  • Competency 4: Knowledge and experience in developing, implementing, and evaluating evidenced-based counseling interventions based on knowledge gained from self-determination and SCCT theories in providing related services to students with disabilities. These interventions will focus on academic, interpersonal, and career self-efficacy;
  • Competency 5: Knowledge and experiencing in developing, implementing, and evaluating evidenced-based transition and career planning services to secondary students with disabilities.

These competencies reflect the conceptual framework of this proposed grant project and is a foundation for training coursework offered in collaboration by the counselor education and special education graduate programs at VCU. Experiential components of the project will be created collaboratively between the director and co-director of the grant project. Evidence-based interventions implemented by scholars will be based on research reflecting both self-determination and SCCT theoretical constructs, and effectiveness of use by school counseling students will be evaluated.

How to apply

All applicants will need to submit admission requirements to enter the Master’s of Education degree in Counselor Education with an emphasis in school counseling, which offers the majority if not all courses in the evenings. This requires prospective scholars to submit:

  • A transcript documenting an earned bachelor’s degree with a 3.0 GPA for the most recent 60 hours completed;
  • A combined GRE score of 290+ or MAT score of 386+;
  • Three professional references;
  • A personal written statement.

Counselor education faculty members will interview counselor education applicants that meet these requirements. Only admitted applicants to the counselor education program will be eligible to apply to the grant project. For the grant project application, school counselor education students who are fully admitted to the degree program will need to submit the following materials to be considered for an interview that will be conducted by Drs. Gibson and Scott (Project PD and CPD) and Drs. Colleen Thoma and Donna Dockery (grant-specific faculty) before final selection of grant project participants is made:

  • Five page, double-spaced composition outlining the following: Background on self, interest in specialized training, how training will be utilized in role of school counselor, need for training, and commitment to the training process.
  • Two references from professionals that know either the applicant's educational/learning skills and/or work skills that will address the appropriateness of the applicant receiving the grant and becoming trained in this area.
  • Undergraduate transcript and endorsement of at least one of the professors of classes taken in the school counselor education program (if applicable).
  • A signed Service Obligation of Agreement in which the student agrees to provide 2 years of service for every year of funding on the grant. The letter will also inform the student that they will not be required to work as a condition of being on the grant. The letter will also stipulate that (a) students will not be accepted into the grant program if they do not agree to the terms, and (b) students must pay back all grant funds if they do not fulfill the terms of service.

Once the student scholars are identified, they will be contacted by the Project Director to confirm their participation. Each scholar will be assigned to an advisory team consisting of either the Project Director and Dr. Colleen Thoma or the Co-Director and Dr. Donna Dockery so representation of both counselor education and special education is included in the advising processes throughout the scholar’s tenure at VCU. In addition to regular advisement for degree requirements, the Project Director and Co-Director will mentor the student scholars throughout their coursework and field experience from admission to graduation. This mentorship will be offered during a seminar that will be offered monthly during each semester throughout the duration of the project.

Related links

Secondary education/transition to adulthood supports for individuals with disabilities
Transition to Adulthood
Transition Planning for Individuals with Learning Disabilities
National Center on Secondary Education and Transition

Other links
National Technical Assistance Center on Transition
National Post-School Outcomes Center
The IRIS Center