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School Counsellors for Gifted and Talented Students

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Education
Wordcount: 5399 words Published: 22nd May 2017

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This paper critically reviews previous studies that have explored the role of school counsellors for gifted and talented students. School counsellors in Saudi Arabia receive little specific training in the needs of gifted students, and it is very rare for counsellor training programmes to require counsellors to take courses on gifted students as part of the degree requirements. Therefore, this article considers theories of counselling, and the role of school counsellors, and gifted student programmes in the USA, the UK and KSA. This review considers the counsellor’s role in different contexts and discusses it in the Saudi context. In doing so, the psychological, educational and professional skills of counsellors need to be understand in order to meet the needs of gifted and talented students so that they can live up to their ambitions and aspirations.

Background of the study

The role of the school counsellor is complicated and one of the most demanding careers when compared with other educational professions. It involves interaction with students from different cultural, economic and social backgrounds.

The primary responsibility of the school counsellor is to develop the skills that will enable them to meet the challenges of this technological era. In the era of globalization, this objective is more important than ever, where we have to search for and develop the skills of talented students. In 1981, the Ministry of Education in Saudi Arabia established the General Directorate of Guidance and Counselling for Gifted Students. Since that time, guidance and counselling has become formalized and recognized as a profession, and counsellors have been appointed to deal with psychological, social, educational and vocational problems and to deliver protective counselling (Ministry of Education in Saudi Arabia, 1999). For this reason the current paper will highlight the historical background of school counselling and counsellors of the gifted and talented in the USA, UK and KSA.

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In the 1955 Yearbook of Education, reference is made to counselling as a process of helping individuals through their own efforts to discover and develop their potentialities both for personal happiness and social usefulness (Hall & Lauwerys, 1955, cited in Milner, 1974). A more recent definition is that counselling is to help an individual to make his own decisions and choices in the light of his feelings and needs (Milner, 1974).

Jones (1970) suggested that counselling Is an enabling process, designed to help an individual come to terms with his life as it is and ultimately to grow to greater maturity through learning to take responsibility and to make decisions for himself. The American School Counsellor Association (ASCA, 1999) defines counselling as an interactive process as follows: it is a confidential relationship in which the counsellor meets with students individually and in small groups to help them resolve or cope constructively with their problems and developmental concerns. In Corey’s (2002) words, the central function of counselling is to help clients recognize their own strengths, discover what is preventing them from using their strengths, and clarify what kind of person they want to be. Counselling is a process by which clients are invited to look honestly at their behaviour and lifestyle and make certain decisions about how they want to modify the quality of their life.

McLaughlin (1993) mentions that effective school counselling has three elements: an educative function whereby attention is focused on the social development of the student within the school context; a reflective function which explores the possible impact of the school practices and societal conditions on the personal and mental health of the student, and a welfare function which is concerned with planning for and reacting to issues that affect the student’s welfare.

Saudi Arabia has conducted research to find out the best approach to gifted education, but of course for females who are severely restricted in the subjects they are allowed to study, these moves are somewhat ‘academic’. An interesting survey of computer use in Arabic countries was made by a Jordanian, Subhi (1997). He recommended that gifted pupil’s records should be computerised for easier monitoring of their progress, and he has designed a programme to help this. The problem, he found though, is that although there are computers in Jordanian schools, there are very few of them and the teachers do not generally know how to use them.

It looks as though most, if not all, Arab countries are willing to recognise and help the gifted, and several have made forays into out-of-school activities, but the overall outcome is still difficult to define.

Some authors (such as Sternberg et al., 1986, Ziegler and Heller, 2000) believe that a consensus is yet to be reached on what is meant by the term (gifted), and yet multiple efforts have been made to establish criteria for this, which include components such as motivation, creativity, task commitment, and problem solving. However, personal talent is described by Renzulli (1999a, p.4) as “exceptional ability to select and achieve difficult goals that fit one’s interests, abilities and social contexts”. In his view, personal talent is a capability developed in the field of self-management that is concentrated by the individual in the direction of selected outcomes that contain well-being, happiness, personal relationships, hobbies as well as career achievements. He proposes that personal talent can be referred to as a range where those in the centre of this continuum can be explained as personally competent, while those at the high end of the range can be categorized as personally talented.

On the other hand, Masten et al. (2002) argue that resilient individuals learn how to overcome obstacles in order to achieve their anticipated goals, and that this can be described as personal talent. Also, Bland et al. (1994) refer to specific characteristics of resilience as an indicator of exceptional abilities and talent regarding children from poor backgrounds. In this regard, Marker et al. (1996) propose that numerous of the principles of distinguishing curriculum for gifted and talented learners support the development of personal talent. They refer to learning environments that foster independence, flexibility and high mobility as being potentially more promising for fostering personal talents than the more traditional teacher-centred classrooms that concentrate on lectures with academic content. However, some researchers regret the fact that research on giftedness has been somewhat biased, having mainly concentrated on IQ-related abilities that address academic skills, and by-passing or simply ignoring other basic skills such as vocational skills (Bals, 1999), practical intelligence in everyday life (Sternberg, 2000), and, most importantly, social skills (Persson, 1997). Motivation is another issue that has been the focus of research with regard to gifted children. According to Sternberg (2000), some theories depict motivation as an assisting internal factor in the expansion of giftedness. One of these theories is Gage’s dynamic theory of giftedness which depicts motivation, volition and self-management as interpersonal catalysts that help convert gifts into talents. However, these theories have failed to provide guidance in assisting youths of high ability to develop motivation. For this reason, some researchers (for example, Colangelo et al. 2000; Alrasheed, 2001) believe that talented students should be identified and given tasks at a higher level than the normal school curriculum. Renzulli (1999b) is of the opinion that gifted students should be producers of knowledge rather than mere consumers of existing information. He believes that specific programmes and services for the talented and gifted are the only solution to allow them to live up to their potential. This idea is further supported by Reis et al (1995) who argues that it is not fair to make a gifted child sit in a classroom where learning something new will not happen until the second half of the year.

According to Alhossaini (2000), the effectiveness of the educational process could be seen in table (1):

The above figure of methods of interactions could be interpreted in this table.

If these roles are all positive, we get the creative outcome. And it is mines, mines, mines, it is less creative.

Pattison (2006) suggests that, counselling is an activity that takes place behind closed doors in privacy, the nature of client confidentiality requires this. However, this can make counselling practices and processes mysterious and misunderstood. In placing this research in the public arena, it is hoped that counselling practices and processes have been made a little more transparent and that the case for including young people with learning disabilities in counselling has been strengthened. Bor et al. (2002) state that school counselling is an interaction in a therapeutic setting, focusing primarily on a conversation about relationships, beliefs and behaviour (including feelings), through which the child’s perceived problem is elucidated and framed or reframed in a fitting and useful way, and in which new solutions are generated and the problem takes on a new meaning .

Research Problem

There have been few programmes for gifted students offered in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Even though there has been programmes existing, it is new and is for further evaluation to be able to develop it more for the students. It has been believed that if there has been more developed programmes for gifted children then they will be more enhanced and so, benefiting the country.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have put up programmes for gifted students but is new and rare. There has been studies regarding the support of the authorities in the schools on how to support gifted students.

1.5 The research questions

Based on the aims articulated in the previous section, the following specific research questions have been formulated:

How does the Ministry of Education in Saudi Arabia support gifted students?

Does the authorities in the schools help in the development of the programmes?

How do we determine the effectiveness of the programmeswith the school counsellor, principal, and teacher’s help?

1.6 Sub-questions

Two sub-questions will also be explored:

Do the teacher, student counsellor and principal who work with gifted students have special qualifications?

What is the level and nature of the response of gifted students to these programmes?

Historical review of school counselling in USA

Schmidt (1999) suggests that the development of school guidance and counselling in the United States has its roots in the vocational guidance movement, which started in 1898 when a Detroit school principal, Jesse Davis, introduced a guidance curriculum that was delivered in each English class in his school to help students develop character, avoid problem behaviour, and relate vocational interests to the solution of their vocational and social problems. Gysbers (2001) argues that in the 1920s and 1930s, the concept of guidance evolved from vocational to educational guidance. Educational guidance was viewed as a set of activities that would address not only occupational concerns but also the personal and educational aspects of individuals.

However, although school counselling remained focused on secondary schools, counsellors were beginning to appear in some elementary schools in Boston in the 1930s. Yet, it was not until the 1960s that the need was generally recognized and funds were provided for the training of counsellors in elementary schools (Schmidt, 1999). However, Baker (2001) suggests that despite the progressive movement of the 1960s, school counselling did not fare well in the 1970s. During the 1970s and into the 1980s, a number of school counselling positions were eliminated and fewer jobs were available for newly trained school counsellors due to school budget cuts and financial problems across the US. At the same time, concern was being expressed about the programmes of guidance and counselling and the services offered by counsellors in school (Baker, 1996; Schmidt, 1999). On the other hand, Herr (2001) says that attempts to define the role and functions of the school’s comprehensive developmental models were better suited to meeting the development needs of students. In 1997, the American School Counsellor Association (ASCA) (1999) adopted the National Standards for School Counselling Programmes. According to these standards, school counsellors are required to address the needs ofstudents comprehensively through the implementation of a developmental school-counselling programme.

Historical review of school counselling in the UK

School counselling in the United Kingdom dates back to 1913 when London County Council appointed a psychologist to examine backward children and advise their parents and teachers on methods of treatment (Milner, 1974). However, it was not until the 1960s that school counselling began to emerge as a discipline in its own right (Bor et al., 2002). At the time, the American school counselling model which was based on the client-centred approach proposed by Rogers (1961) was influential. Rogers produced a report in which he recommended that counsellors should be appointed to look into the needs of low achieving children. As a result, counselling courses were set up for experienced teachers, and several hundred counsellors were employed by local education authorities throughout the country (Bor et al., 2002). However, according to the Department of Education and Science (1989, cited in Bets et al. 1995) pastoral care is concerned with promoting pupils’ personal and social development and fostering positive attitudes. Confronted with pervasive and traumatic social problems such as the collapse of the extended family and increases in rates of violence, the need for school counselling attracted the attention of local education authorities. However, in the light of limited budgets, the 1980s witnessed a shift of emphasis on counselling, and it was felt that counselling should be integrated into teaching practice, so that teachers themselves should take responsibility for pastoral care (Bor et al., 2002; Mclaughin, 1999).

Jones (1970) says that, in the absence of government backing, enthusiasm for counselling courses began to fade, and the majority of schools were left without counsellors. To exacerbate the situation even further, cuts in education funding at thehands of the Conservative government in the 1980s resulted in a reduction in the number of existing counsellors (McLaughlin, 1999). According to one estimate, only fifty counsellors were left in schools in England and Wales following the introduction of the local management of schools in 1987 (Robinson, 1996). Bor et al. (2002) argue that since the 1980s and despite heavy workloads, growing social problems and immense psychological pressure, teachers in the United Kingdom still continue to play a major role in counselling their students. To add to their problems, they have recently fallen under pressure to fulfil all of the criteria of an over-demanding National Curriculum. As a result, teachers now find it difficult to fulfil a pastoral role, and schools are beginning to feel the need to employ counsellors to meet the educational, psychological and emotional needs of students. To provide teachers with the necessary counselling skills, a sizeable number of studies in the field of pastoral care began to appear (e.g. Raymond, 1985; Watkins, 1994; Hamblin, 1984; Marland, 1989). In general, these studies focused on good student-teacher relationships (Mclaughlin, 1999), emphasized the importance of assisting children to improve their lives, and used study skills to guide them in making their own decisions (Raymond, 1985). Nonetheless, although the literature on counselling and pastoral care in the United Kingdom is vast, it is still not integrated and provides only a few guidelines on practice (Al-Rebdi, 2000). On the other hand, some still argue that teachers have to manage complicated and demanding situations, channelling the personal, emotional and social pressures of 30 or so youngsters (Black et al., 1998).

The debate is still raging between those who argue that counselling should be provided by specialists and those who suggest that teachers should bear the burden. Inthis context it is worth listing the duties and responsibilities of the school counsellor as outlined by the British Association for Counselling (1997). These are:

· To offer pupils, parents and staff individual or group counselling.

· To provide information on the counselling service, the role of the counsellor and boundaries of confidentiality.

· To cooperate with head teachers, governors, parents and, where appropriate, the local education authority, in setting up a suitable appointment system.

· To keep suitable case records of counselling conducted in a secure place.

· To report back to management on a regular basis on the numbers that use the service and to give a general overview of the types of problem encountered.

· To liaise with the pastoral management team, year tutors, class teachers, governors, parents and caring agencies.

· To network with personnel from other agencies with a view to easing referrals and accessing specialist consultants.

· To devise and, where appropriate, deliver a programme of training to support and develop the counselling service.

· To attend supervision with a suitably qualified supervisor.

Historical review of school counselling in the KSA

Initially, in 1981, the Ministry of Education established the General Directorate of Guidance and Counselling. Since that time, guidance and counselling has become formalized and recognized as a profession, and counsellors have been appointed to deal with psychological, social, educational, and vocational problems and deliver protective counselling (Ministry of Education KSA, 1999). It should be mentioned here that the model for and practice of guidance and counselling in SaudiArabian schools was derived from western sources, mainly the United States. More than two decades have passed since the guidance and counselling programme was established in Saudi schools. Its development has progressed at a slow rate and, currently, it faces various problems. The major difficulty relates to the definition of the role and function of the school counsellor (Al-Gamdi, 1999) which is unclear to principals, teachers, parents, students and school counsellors themselves. Due to this problem, counsellors have found themselves overly involved in paperwork and administrative tasks and duties not related to school counselling. Additionally, counsellors often complain about lack of support and cooperation from others involved in the counselling service, especially parents (Al-rebdi, 2000). In this situation, if school counsellors in Saudi Arabia are to provide better services for students, their role must be clearly defined. It is also necessary for those involved in counselling to have a clear view of what counsellors should and should not do. Added to this, counsellors must choose carefully how they spend their time and energy. As the role and functions of the school counsellors become clearer, they should be able to respond better to the needs of their students. Furthermore, in 1981, following decree number 216/k issued by the Ministry of Education, the Social Educational Administration was replaced by the Student Guidance and Counselling Service, and guidance and counselling in Saudi schools became formalised. That same year, the name was changed again to the General Administration for Guidance and Counselling (Ministry of Education, 1999).

The responsibilities of this administration are as follows:

1- To plan, prepare and develop the programme and services of guidance and counselling.

2- To provide professional staff who are capable of delivering such services to all students at various stages of education.

3- To provide students with the appropriate care applicable to their ages and their psychological, educational and social needs.

4- To assist students to develop their capabilities, potentialities and talents, to allow them to face their problems and to help them feel comfortable with themselves and with the community in which they live.

5- To attain a high standard of mental health in a way that reflects the targets and goals sought by educational guidance in general (Ministry of Education, 1999).

Saleh (1987) pointed out that, due to the immediate need for professionals to monitor and guide the counselling service in schools, the Ministry of Education sought personnel from among the existing social education supervisors to act as the supervisors; counselling and guidance programmes in addition to carrying out their normal duties. The Ministry of Education also sought personnel from within the existing teaching force, provided they had the relevant experience, to work temporarily as counsellors in schools. To meet the need for school counsellors in all schools, the General Administration for Guidance and Counselling allowed those with a Bachelors degree in psychology, social work or sociology to perform the role of the school counsellor until enough trained professional counsellors could be provided. In order to meet the need for trained full-time counsellors to work in schools, universities in Saudi Arabia were requested to offer guidance and counselling programmes at masters’ level. Statistical information for the year 2000 shows that there were 229 counselling supervisors and 3381 school counsellors overall (Ministry of Education, 2000). By 2003, the number of counsellors had increased rapidly toabout 4000(Al-Rebdi, 2004). The Ministry of Education (1999) defined the term counselling as the interactive process though which the counsellor assists the student to understand himself and recognise his capabilities and potentialities and gives him a more enlightened approach to his problems and how to face them. Counsellors also help students to enhance their responsible behaviour and to show conformity with their community.

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Counselling gifted students

Landau (1990) noted that gifted students might become isolated and alienated. Moreover, Rogers (1983) pointed out that in an egalitarian system children not only lack the opportunity for confirmation and social acceptance, but they also often lack the freedom to learn. The need for confirmation and emotional support is well known in the literature which focuses on giftedness and talent (Csikszentmilalyi et al., 1993; Kelley, 1999; Stednitz, 1995). Donna (1999) suggests that teachers and counsellors need to encourage minority students to consider a teaching career in general and gifted student education in particular. Ford (1995) however, believes that from an historical point of view, the counselling of gifted students has not been an important part of educational and counselling discourse. He points out that misconceptions and stereotypes of gifted students as being immune to social, emotional, and academic problems have contributed to the lack of counselling for these students, and in cases where counselling is available it is only limited to academic, assessment and placement issues.

According to Ford, the fact that more children are entering school with serious personal and academic problems should entail an expansion in the responsibilities and roles of counsellors to meet the needs of all children who seek guidance andassistance. But nonetheless according to Alrasheed, (2001) the limited availability of counselling services has failed to meet the enormous need for counselling services and research regarding gifted individuals. In this respect he endeavoured to provide counsellors, classroom teachers and educationalists as well as parents with advice regarding the understanding of the academic and social needs of gifted and talented students. Persson (2005) considers mentorship as a possible solution to aid the immediate psychological and intellectual needs of gifted individuals, particularly received mentorship. According to Person, mentorship could be direct or indirect by cooperating with the student to find a mentor of his choice, given the fact that not all gifted students would be likely to choose their counsellors to be their mentors. Person expresses the conviction that mentorship is the only viable counselling solution in an egalitarian context, which lacks recognition and particular provision for gifted individuals. Ford (1995) outlines the goal of counselling as that of promoting healthy self-concepts and ensuring psychological growth. Bearing that in mind, counsellors must have an awareness and understanding of the many issues that hinder gifted students and affect their psychological, social and emotional well-being. He recognises the role of counsellors in ensuring that such students remain in gifted programmes once identified and placed.

Finally the concept of counselling needs to be defined within a context where it is not a task assigned merely to a particular group. Instead, as Brown et al. (1992) suggest the task has expanded from an initial concern with educational and vocational guidance to the remediation and prevention of personal, interpersonal, vocational and educational concerns. Consequently, according to Persson (2005), the aim of the intervention is for the individual to gain an understanding of self and context, in which case individual differences become a sensitive and even problematic issue, particularly in cases where gifted individuals are involved.

Research Design

The design of the study is intended to determine: first, the relationship of the roles of student counsellor, teachers, and principals to the performance of the gifted students; second, the effectiveness of the programmes in developing the capacity of the gifted students.

Instrumentation and Data Collection

The researchers visited the [Insert name of University Library or City Library] for journals, articles and studies needed for the research paper. The researchers gathered time-series data from different physical training institutions to assure of its validity and consistency.

The primary data will be gathered using quantitative method, as this is best useful with questionnaires. The use of quantitative method will be appropriate for the research because the results in the questionnaires consist of numerical information, mostly based from the ratings included in the questions. Quantitative methods are used to provide reference to numeric calculations and are often used with questionnaires that have a specific goal and a target to achieve. This is helpful in the research, and its instigation in the process needs to be further culminated so that the problem is solved with efficiency and precision.

In gathering data, the researcher would like to clear certain ethical issues that might hinder the processing of data. First, confidentiality will be kept at all costs. As the main reason why questionnaires will be used in the research is for the respondents to feel secure and to be assured that their answers will not be related to who they are. There may be instances wherein the respondent will divulge information that will be detrimental to the company, or to its competitors, depending on the case. Hence, there is a better chance at more responsive respondents if they can be assured of their confidentiality.

Second, the Data Protection Act will be followed at all costs. The compliance with the act will be transparently said to the respondents so that they are further assured that anything they say in response to the questions asked them will only be used for the benefit of the research and not in any other practices. It should also be clear to the researcher that any information regarding the respondents cannot be released to anyone who is not immediately connected with the research unless permission from the subject respondent has been secured beforehand.

Third, the research must always bear in mind the objectives of the study and never stray away from them. A researcher who has no definite purpose in doing the research is going nowhere and is exerting effort in a research that is not delimited properly and punctually. The purpose of the research is explicitly stated at the beginning of the research and is implied in every step of the realization of the research so as to not delineate the researcher from his goals.

Lastly, the researcher must opt to practice objectivity. As the researcher, he is expected to keep an open-minded approach to the topic, keeping from his mind and personal bias in the subject matter or on the people involved. The reason for doing research is to test existing information, validate, prove or disprove existing ideas, or to test the limits of a certain prospect. Given this simple definition, it is clearly seen that in no form is the personal opinions of the researcher expected to hinder in the subject. Any act that might be biased or subjective will hint of the research’s failure to achieve its goals.

Planned Method of Analysis

The researchers plan to analyze the different test conducted through constant evaluation of the gifted students and how they perform. There will be a weekly evaluation in terms of how the programmes and the role of the authorities, and the effect of it to their performance. The performance in the field will be evaluated by the gifted student’s progress and development.

Time Schedule

Literature Review

History of programmes for gifted students in KSA



Evaluation of performance

Analysis of performance of the students

Findings and Recommendation



The role of school counsellors for gifted and talented students has been discussed widely in the literature. However, school counsellors urgently need to be provided with the appropriate skills in the areas of education and psychology so that they are capable of providing guidance to talented students and thereby respond to their needs in a way that will boost the educational process in the school. Counselling gifted students and their relatives is one of the mainly challenging and satisfying functions for a counsellor. Gifted students have wonderful variability, not only in their cognitive capability, but in their affective progress. While there are obviously frequent themes in the social-emotional issues tackling gifted students, there are also reflective individual differences amongst them. The talented student faces numerous problems that make life hard for him at school.

However, anxiety and tension may affect his social life as well as forcing him to live in isolation. Moreover, decisions in relation to gifted learners should be part and parcel of a wider programme. This implies the identification of the task as being one which helps children conform with their culture, or empowers children to advance in their society, or challenges social, political and economic inequalities. Schoolcounsellors receive little specific training on the affective needs of gifted students and it is rare for counsellor training programmes to require counsellors to take a course on gifted students as a degree requirement. The role of the school counsellor is to develop the skills of the pupils in general, giving special attention to those who are talented and innovative by discovering their areas of interest, and by responding to their needs in a way that will achie


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